LIVE REVIEW: 2000 Trees Festival 2019 @ Upcote Farm, Cheltenham – 11th-13th July 2019


We’re kicking things off at the Cave tent this year, and it’s difficult to think of a band more perfect to begin our 2000 Trees weekend with. Nervus (8) take the stage to a hero’s welcome and right from the first song prove that they’re on a potentially career-best form. The debuts of three new songs (including just-released single Flies) all sound fantastic and more openly politically charged than ever in case of the self-explanatory They Don’t (Keep You Safe). Trademark angular guitars lead the charge with Nobody Loses All The Time and Sick Sad World getting bodies leaping and heads bobbing, while the audible crowd reactions to the set’s participatory moments and the anthemic choruses always delivered with such zest really demonstrate the sense of community these songs spark. Everyone chuckles along with Em Foster’s between-song banter and cheers for Paul Etienne’s impressive dorky dance moves are so loud the cows two fields over can probably hear. It’s a half-hour ‘How To Play A 2000 Trees Set 101’ class, and the bar is well and truly set for the rest of the weekend. • GJ

For all the feelings of risk that come with putting a band like Le Butcherettes (6) on a festival main stage – namely the fact that they’re an incredibly niche act pitted against far bigger and more universal draws – it can’t be denied that they’re capable of bringing a spectacle. It’s mostly all down to frontwoman Teri Suárez Cosío, hunched over her keyboard and unleashing the sort of volatile shrieks and spasms posted somewhere between an electric shock and an exorcism. The band’s particular stripe of garage-rock gets lost on a stage like this to the point where it’s not nearly as interesting, but Le Butcherettes have made their presence well and truly known if nothing else. • LN

Orchards (Credit: Ben Morse)

There’s genuine joy in seeing a band like Orchards (7) pull a big crowd, especially when they’re still very much in their infancy with little more than an EP and a handful of singles to their name. It’s not like they’ve not earned every one of those bodies in front of them though, delivering the sort of sun-dappled alt-pop bliss that really hits a wonderful mark. Age Of You and Luv You 2 already feel like bona fide hits, and Lucy Evers has a magnetic pop-rock energy onstage that gives an already heady pop mix another shot in the arm to keep it bouncing along. Maybe it’s not quite as consistently buoyant as would be liked, and Orchards could do with one or two more real smashes to bolster their arsenal further, but for a band carrying an early festival set with the gusto that they have, this is an easy win. • LN

The Main Stage has a pink hue and a spooky-looking backdrop – it can only be Puppy (8). They’re regulars at 2000 Trees and the field is packed with expectant punters fueled by knowledge of acclaim. While the Ghost comparisons definitely aren’t original by now, they’re incredibly apparent today with cuts from debut album The Goat (until the extremely British between-song crowd addressing) particularly soundalikes Poor Me and World Stands Still. The volume and scale these songs have is brilliant – the thunderous riff of Entombed and titular belts of Black Hole wash over the Gloucestershire fields gloriously, while still being universal to every person in this crowd regardless of their personal taste. This is a band who have more than risen to the challenge of a Main Stage debut that many others may not quite reach. Expect Puppy to become totally synonymous with Trees in the next few years. • GJ

Loathe (Credit: Dominic Meason)

By now, Loathe’s (9) repertoire is rather well-known – disgustingly heavy metalcore with a side of technicality that, given the right environment, can feel like the embodiment of everything exciting about the genre’s current state. It turns out that that environment is a packed-out Axiom, as this is potentially the sort of myth-making set that heavy bands dream of. It helps that Loathe knock it out of the park right away too, with Kadeem France’s guttural, earth-shaking roars complementing a down-tuned foundation that feels imposing in whichever way it’s presented. They don’t put a foot wrong here either, coming down with bludgeoning after bludgeoning in a way that could very well be indicative of one of the most vital heavy bands the UK currently has. Given this showing, that would be hard to deny. • LN

There’s absolutely no doubt that Milk Teeth (8) are in their strongest incarnation to date. The vitality and personality that Em Foster has brought to the fold has been mentioned time and time again, but that’s only because it becomes more and more salient with each showing. The punk edges feel sharper, the riffs connect with far greater force, and in general, there’s a more confident air that’s exuded from the entire band that’s genuinely wonderful to see. To top it all off, they’ve landed at just the right spot for all of that to feed into the songs themselves, particularly with something like Fight Skirt’s rowdiness bolstered by Petrol Girls and Foster’s Nervus bandmates for a UK punk love-in that hits all the right notes. It all feels like the next step in a band continuing to hone their greatness, and it’s thrilling to watch. • LN

Yonaka (Credit: Joe Singh)
Yonaka (Credit: Gareth Bull)

It’s always exciting to see a band fresh on their come-up and in the midst of lots of buzz, and it’s not hard to see why Yonaka (8) have not just a Main Stage slot, but a huge crowd made up of the enthused and intrigued to see what all the fuss is about in tandem. Straight away this feels like a band with something to offer – all members have a confident and sometimes even braggadocious presence that fits fantastically with the attitude in their songs, but frontwoman Theresa Jarvis is completely inescapable. It’s impossible to tear your eyes away from her swaggering and slinking around the stage, completely owning every single word coming out of her mouth. She brings appropriate drama to Awake and Rockstar and total badassery to Punch Bag and the particularly ballsy F.W.T.B. There might be a lull around the mid-point of the set with a couple of slower cuts, but these brilliant songs, the excellent showmanship and some genuinely hefty riffs for anyone doubting Yonaka’s credentials to be at this festival make this set a definite highlight of the Trees Thursday. • GJ

The general consensus about Conjurer (7) and their live show often revolves around a no-nonsense approach to the metal they play, ditching any frills and pretense in order to give their cavernously heavy sound the space it needs to really roar. As such, there’s nothing that particularly stands out here in any great way, but it’s hard to really criticise either; there’s a regality and poise in the air that’s yet to be seen, and it’s something that this more overtly powerful and – for lack of a better word – serious brand of metal fills in almost perfectly. Again, there’s no one moment that earmarks them as the modern metal greats that Mire did (perhaps the most noticeable casualty of a shorter set like this), but consistency always goes down well in settings like this, and Conjurer nail it. • LN

Palm Reader’s (7) reputation for being among modern hardcore’s most steadfast acts is well-known, and it’s something they seem keen to prove here. There’s perhaps more of an air of straightforwardness that might have initially been let on – in general, the energy does seem to be slightly toned down – but for hardcore with an onus on raw, rugged power, Palm Reader deliver in spades. The likes of Swarm and Coalesce make that perfectly clear in just how loud and violent this band can sound, and in Josh Mckeown, they’ve got the sort of screamer that brings power and passion over anything else. It’s hardly groundbreaking stuff, but Palm Reader are dishing out some of the most vital and pure hardcore in the game at the minute, and that definitely counts for something. • LN

Turnstile (Credit: Gareth Bull)

A leap to the Main Stage makes all the sense in the world for Turnstile (7), who’ve been a real draw for 2000 Trees for the last couple of years. While such a stage upgrade is what most bands are striving for, the larger, more open environment doesn’t fit Turnstile as well as the small venues and festival tents they’re now notorious for completely owning; the space ironically feels restricting, giving frontman Brendan Yates less of an opportunity to swing from rafters and be the total spectacle he’s now known for being. Regardless though, they still put on a great show. The more melodic and polished tracks from last year’s Time + Space record like opener Generator, slow-burning bomb Don’t Wanna Be Blind and fan favourite Moon are balanced with Drop, Gravity, Fazed Out and other riff-led older material that get the whole crowd bouncing. Turnstile know how to craft a set and the energy and fun they constantly bring is sure to keep them on larger stages for a long time. • GJ

This feels like something of a turning point at the moment for Blood Youth (7), where their reinvention as a darker, nu-metal-leaning act that took place on Starve finally comes to fruition, and they can break away from being simply another brick in the UK hardcore wall. And to their credit, they launch into their new guise fairly head on, pushing forward the meaty, slithering basslines and heavy atmosphere with much more force. It honestly sounds excellent, even if such a reliance is placed on it to sound slightly one-note, but the general heft and Kaya Tarsus effortlessly sinking into a natural, swaggering frontman role is already indicative of Blood Youth running much further with their sound than ever before. The NEU’s overspill would suggest that there’s already faith for this band to do much more, and the fact that they’ve proven it to this extent is only a good thing. • LN

Flogging Molly (Credit: Ben Morse)
Flogging Molly (Credit: Dominic Meason)

One of the best things about 2000 Trees is how certain bands, ones that have mastered too niche a subgenre to comfortably fit in many other musical places, are guaranteed a rapturous reception from hordes of passionate (and often drunk) music fans. The cheers Flogging Molly (5) get would be unprecedented at most other festivals in the world, but the vast majority of those gathered at the Main Stage this evening are clearly desperate for a bit of Irish folk rock in their lives. While the seven-piece are clearly good at what they do, it feels slightly underwhelming compared to other bands of their ilk. People in the crowd love these songs that are being played (they’re sparking many a jig all over) but there doesn’t really feel like much genuine fun or originality in them onstage – even a medley of classics songs including Aretha Franklin and Queen feels hamfisted. This is a band who have taken folk to huge crowds, so it’s understandable for songs and crowd patter to feel rehearsed and play by rules. But sadly it takes away from enjoyment unless you’re already infatuated with them, something not exactly ideal at a festival with so many joyful and exciting similar acts. • GJ

The theme with a lot of today’s heavier bands, particularly in hardcore, has been expectations being met to a sufficient degree, and with Comeback Kid (8), the same is true but cranked up a few notches. They’ve been one of the shining lights of hardcore for a while now, after all, and as they take to the Cave, that’s something they don’t hesitate in making known. The minimal trimmings feel like the definition of hardcore’s function-over-fashion ethos, but it’s something they can easily pull off, especially for a band nearing their twentieth year that still have buckets of incendiary energy, and with a vocalist like Andrew Neufeld who’s still more than capable of providing the indomitable roars of a band not even close to being done. There’s barely a foot put wrong throughout really, and while it does all feel very standard of a Comeback Kid show, that standard is still high enough to avoid disappointment in virtually any way, and the fact that this band is still chugging along with the hunger and firepower that they clearly have on display is a testament to how great they are. • LN

Tonight feels triumphant for Holding Absence (8). They’re in the midst of the cycle for their acclaimed debut album and have built up a dedicated following, many of whom are present for this headline slot at the NEU Stage. The Cardiff quintet have honed their live performance admirably over the last few years, including a three quarters-full Cave slot at last year’s Trees, but this show feels like a culmination of all of that work which is great to see. Lucas Woodland is impressive as ever, both with his beyond incredible vocals and electric stage presence. His storming urges to the crowd to give their all too while he belts standout album cut Monochrome, fan favourite Dream Of Me and the stunning Wilt definitely work, giving Palm Reader a run for their money for the Most Energetic NEU Crowd of Thursday. Multiple band members look like they can’t believe their luck playing to a packed-out tent so in love with their music, but judging by tonight they’d better get used to it – they’re surely going to be on larger stages at this festival sooner rather than later. • GJ

Jamie Lenman (Credit: Dominic Meason)

When you’ve got a campsite named after your old band at the festival you’re playing, the chances are you’re going to be met with a hero’s welcome, but Jamie Lenman (8) is such a well-liked figure in the scene as a whole that it was never going to be any different. On top of all that, his headline set at the Axiom comes as a closer to his curated Lenmania II all-dayer that’s taken place on this stage today, and so much of the pliability and diversity that’s been featured feels encapsulated by his appearance alone. The fun factor is easily the most overriding feature here, as Lenman darts through covers, originals and Reuben cuts with such a distinct twinkle in his eye, and all the effortless charisma and quips of a true larger-than-life character. But even beyond Lenman himself, the songs remain the most impressively consistent feature regardless of where they come from; renditions of Cyndi Lauper’s She Bop and Nirvana’s On A Plain are shuffled in among cuts like Hell In A Fast Car or the Reuben mega-banger Keep It To Yourself with barely a seam between them. And it’s that sense of variety that makes this set so great; Lenman has ample material to choose from at this point, and to see equally warm receptions for such diametric opposites the volatile hardcore of Popeye and the sweeter pop-rock of I’m Not Your Boy – all delivered with bursting charm and affability – shows a level of respect for the artistry that shows how much of a genuine connection there is between him and this festival. But with a finale of Two Thousand Trees, a song written specifically about Lenman’s love of this festival in particular, the kinship feels all the more real, and the payoff is absolutely excellent. • LN

While She Sleeps & Liam Cormier (Credit: Gareth Bull)
While She Sleeps (Credit: Dominic Meason)

Adversity is no strange concept to While She Sleeps (9), and with vocalist Loz Taylor having to unceremoniously drop off their current run of shows for personal reasons, that could’ve been all too likely to surface again to pile onto an already pressured situation of headlining the Cave. But in such a situation, it feels all too perfect for the band who coined the “you are we” mantra to call in some friends for the occasion, and what results is a genuinely special display of camaraderie within the metal and hardcore scenes that feels like a true, defining moment. And honestly, the fact that bringing in a round robin of vocalists to contribute goes off as well as it does drastically eclipses anything that could be seen as a shortcoming. Having SHVPES’ Griffin Dickinson as the de facto main frontman only highlights how he’s the least interesting of the bunch, and Holding Absence’s Lucas Woodland can feel drastically out of his element on Empire Of Silence, but Andrew Neufeld of Comeback Kid and especially Blood Youth’s Kaya Tarsus give knockout performances on Brainwashed and Seven Hills respectively, and there’s a rambunctious edge and bite that comes from Cancer Bats’ Liam Cormier handling the closing trio of The Guilty Party, Silence Speaks and Hurricane. What’s more, the band themselves are on the same top form as ever, particularly Mat Welsh in his weaving of vocal accompaniments that always seem to land regardless of who he’s paired with. It’s all met with the sort of elation that feels all too justified when a band lands so profoundly on their feet and delivers the best possible results with the tools they have, and for While She Sleeps themselves, it’s just one more bout of underlining how unstoppable they truly are. • LN

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls (Credit: Ben Morse)
Frank Turner (Credit: Ben Morse)
Frank Turner (Credit: Joe Singh)

Is there a more on-brand headliner for 2000 Trees than Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls (9)? They’re back for their 8th performance at Upcote Farm, and if he’s been consistent at anything through his career-long run of 2,300-ish shows, it’s that he’s damn good at putting one on. This Main Stage headline is a true greatest hits set. It’s anthem after anthem after anthem with no lapses in energy for the whole 70 minutes (even during brand new single Sister Rosetta people are openly singing or appreciative) and the reaction every single song gets is enough to give you goosebumps. The most special are undoubtedly the mass singalongs to The Way I Tend To Be and the final verse of I Am Disappeared which are moments of pure beauty weighed against the fervent but well-spirited dancing and moshing Turner’s own brand of folk punk songs like 1933 and Try This At Home incite. It can’t be stressed enough how well-balanced this set is, with something for everyone to appreciate – even those in the crowd unfamiliar with Turner’s songs can marvel at the true showmanship him and the Sleeping Souls possess. The ability they have to wrap a crowd around their little finger with camaraderie, personalisation of songs, giggle-worthy stunts (getting two people at their 50th and 100th Turner shows to crowdsurf to each other is genius) and bags and bags of energy is mindblowing. It’s a fantastic set people are bound to be gutted to have missed, but no bother, Frank and The Sleeping Souls are bound to be back in this field sooner rather than later. • GJ


Curiosity is the main air surrounding the Main Stage this afternoon, with The Wood Burning Savages (5) opening Friday’s proceedings. Their classic rock influences are obvious with impressive winding guitar solos and an anthemic quality clearly aiming for the biggest stages in the world, but it’s not very engaging at all or boasting much to really latch onto. The reactions the set gets from audience members that are actually visible are mostly subtle. Of course there’ll be some people hugely appreciative of what The Wood Burning Savages have showcased and the musical skill they possess, but for a Main Stage slot they didn’t quite cut the mustard today. • GJ

To see a crowd take so easily to an opening band like Pengshui (6) is an impressive sight on its own, especially when this is a band with only a few singles to name, and with the sort of sound that flies right in the face of any sort trendiness with the rap-metal of Hacktivist fused with the bass-boosted carnage of Ho99o9. It’s certainly a bit one-paced, not helped by the fact that this is a band without a guitarist, but the bass grooves driving the primary melodies are generally solid throughout, and for this sort of loud, uncompromising but enjoyable wake-up call, Pengshui manage to deliver. • LN

We’re starting our trips to the NEU stage this Friday with some shoegaze courtesy of Slow Crush (7), something bound to not only be a nice change for many audience members here, but for some a revelation. Slow Crush produce a beautiful, thick wall of sound that, although true to their sound on record, does seems to underutilise vocalist Isa Holliday. While it does make some sense to do so, she has a super pretty voice and to have it drowned out to the extent it is feels like a crying shame. That aside, the atmosphere the four-piece create inside the site’s smallest tent is simply stunning (only broken for the sweet moment the crowd sing Happy Birthday to Holliday unprompted) – the guitars throb and hit you like a force while still being able to wash over every person in the tent. It’s one of the more experience-led sets of the weekend, and surely most people would take the chance to do it again in a heartbeat. • GJ

Brand New Friend (Credit: Ben Morse)

Today’s Xtra Mile takeover at the Axiom has yielded the sort of fiercely dedicated crowd that Trees has developed a reputation for, and with the opportunity, Brand New Friend (7) certainly don’t disappoint. Their quirky, genial indie-pop is hardly groundbreaking, but rock-solid melodies, arms-aloft hooks and an overt approachability can do a lot in a context like this, and channelling that into this lighter mood makes for a set in which the energy and enjoyability remains high. And given the endearing reception they get, it’s generally just a win all around. • LN

Brutus (Credit: Dominic Meason)

They’ve moved up a stage every year for the last three years and received a better reaction every time, so this Main Stage debut feels like it should be a momentous one for Brutus (7). But while their anthemic post-hardcore seems to have ‘2000 Trees Main Stage’ written all over it, not all of today’s set completely lands with some of Stefanie Mannaerts’ wails seemingly getting carried in another direction by the breeze and not quite reaching the audience. When things go right though, particularly when she’s slamming the hell out of her drum kit while still keeping full-on belts going, it’s brilliant. The swells in the likes of War and Horde II where Mannaerts and bandmates Stijn Vanhoegaerden and Peter Mulders ebb and flow in and out of each others respective instrumentals are masterfully done, particularly in the material showcased from new record Nest. While the set hasn’t quite hit the high expectations of plenty of people in this crowd, it’s absolutely solid enough and there’s no doubt that Brutus will have more chances to best themselves at 2000 Trees in the next few years. • GJ

There’s a feeling of triumph that GroundCulture (7) have made it here after their extremely late cancellation last year, and they come across exactly as driven as they really should be. For a strand of hardcore that places a certain amount of emphasis on the heft and beatdowns as theirs, they prove surprising dexterous, especially with vocalist Roy Watson having a certain magnetic presence that feels imperative for a hardcore frontman to have. Beyond that, it’s all rather standard stuff, especially for this genre, but there’s enough here to ensure it’s never boring, and for what they bring, GroundCulture’s long-delayed Trees appearance goes down as smoothly as possible. • LN

Dream State (Credit: Gareth Bull)
Dream State (Credit: Gareth Bull)

A huge crowd has gathered at the Main Stage, and the reaction when Dream State (8) bound into view is the most excitable of the day so far. Their brutally honest post-hardcore has made plenty of waves with people – leading to an overflowing Axiom tent last year – and they look and sound fantastic in such a big space. Singer CJ Gilpin is an outstanding performer, sinking to the stage floor while still managing to capture all of the raspy emotion she puts across so well on record. She’s not afraid to really get in amongst it either, regularly jumping off stage to interact with those screaming the words back at her with just as much intensity and crowdsurfing so much she might have made an enemy of the mic techs. If this set has proved anything by the time the final chords of the epic White Lies ring out, it’s that they’ll undoubtedly return to this stage in the next few years – perhaps get an album under their belt and this festival will be their oyster. • GJ

One of the great things about a festival like 2000 Trees is the open-mindedness that comes from a real love of music. Tents will be filled out here for bands who’d barely get a shot anywhere else, something that’s especially heartwarming when it’s for itoldyouiwouldeatyou (8). Bear in mind that this is the sort of weird, progressive little emo band who’ve gotten this far from delving into their most personal and deep-seated neuroses, and to have a packed-out NEU tent reciprocating that passion and intensity really feels like a milestone moment for this band. And make no mistake, they do great work here as well, carrying themselves like a hardcore band with Joey Ashworth’s bleeding-heart expulsions front and centre, and the sort of layered, complex music as an equally tense canvas. Especially with a closing Greek Fire that’s only felt more like an anthem befitting of this sort of occasion over time, itoldyouiwouldeatyou feel like a band raring to do special things more than ever. • LN

It’s always a shame when a plan doesn’t come together, and given that The Dangerous Summer (4) have only just released what is possibly their best album to date, the feeling of disappointment when they struggle to deliver on it as heartily as they do is immense. Putting aside the fact that AJ Perdomo doesn’t sound quite as sober as he probably should, they really don’t give all that much to go on, and while there’s a certain melodic shimmer to Where Were You When The Sky Opened Up that’s remained intact, their warmed-over emo ends up really inert and unresponsive. Credit goes to Perdomo for at least trying to get things back on track with his rasps, but even they feel out of place in a set that ends up as rather threadbare from the very beginning. • LN

For the people in the know, it’s always felt like Hands Like Houses (8) have been unfairly slept on. They’ve been consistent with releases over the years and boast a brilliant vocalist in Trenton Woodley, but minimal media coverage and sparing trips to the UK have hindered the rise of their star in this part of the world. Last year saw them jump into more pop-tinged territories, a leap that this set focuses on today. Songs from 2016 onwards make up the majority of the set and it’s clear that the entire band is pushing to be even better than on record and even subvert expectations slightly. Matt Cooper and Alex Pearson’s guitars are beefed up in the likes of Sick and Introduced Species while Woodley’s voice is excellent as expected, giving a real edge to songs like Colourblind and Monster which wasn’t present on the latter’s uber-clean, ‘too-pop’ recorded version. Today Hands Like Houses’ enthusiasm has trumped their jet lag, and based on the strength of this performance they’re sure to have earned some more of the UK fans they’ve deserved for years. • GJ

Modern Error (7) are by no means the biggest band around, even in terms of those in the firing line of hype at this very festival, but they’re bringing a sense of vitality that could really put them up there. Their razor-edged, razor-tight post-hardcore has the grind and gristle to feel heavy enough, but there’s enough intrigue and melody in Zak Pinchin’s vocals to give them that sense of atmosphere, all compounded by the air of freneticism that feels so prominent and powerful. Honestly, at this stage, they could get by on that alone, and even if individual songs still leave a bit to be desired in the transition to the live stage, the fact that Modern Error are getting their foot in the door in such a way hints at a lot more to come. • LN

Jim Lockey & The Solemn Sun (Credit: Dominic Meason)

While to some, Jim Lockey & The Solemn Sun (7) are heralded as a forgotten gem of the early 2010s, the Axiom’s burgeoning crowd to witness their return clearly shows they weren’t that forgotten, and for as trite as coming onstage to The Boys Are Back In Town can feel, to some degree, they’ve earned it. This feels like a homecoming above anything else, with the band clearly elated by a reception of this magnitude, and the crowd providing the sort of warm welcomes and hearty singalongs fitting of the local heroes that this band are. It helps that, among a fairly sizable crop of folk-rockers treading the boards this weekend, Jim Lockey & The Solemn Sun have a command of nuance and layering that’s second to none, and even if they do peak early with A Song About Death, any rust is effectively nonexistent, and a return as consistently solid as this one is hard to beat at a stage like this. • LN

The sun is beaming and the Main Stage area is densely populated for Pulled Apart By Horses(8) set. They’ve not been the name on the tip of many peoples’ tongues for a while, but watching this set is a sledge hammer reminder of just how many great songs this band have. It helps that the scales aren’t tipped in favour of any one album – the songs or era every Pulled Apart By Horses fan in this crowd is represented. The Big What If and the title track from last album The Haze sound brilliant in the heat, while the erratic energy of opening one-two V.E.N.O.M and Hot Squash raise energy levels right from the get-go – levels airing a new song thankfully does nothing to deplete. They’ve been consistently dropping bangers of albums with those after debut Tough Love perhaps undeservedly flying under the radar, but if this set has shown anything, it’s that they deserve much more attention. • GJ

Drug Church (Credit: Gareth Bull)
Drug Church (Credit: Gareth Bull)

The number of their t-shirts doing the rounds around the festival grounds with suggest that Drug Church (7) are a pretty big draw this weekend, as does the heaving crowd awaiting their arrival in the Cave. That’s a fairly impressive feat in its own right; Drug Church can be a fairly divisive band, and for punk as abrasive as theirs, a crowd this size is nothing to sniff at. Even so, it seems about right that their sound is streamlined somewhat, but doing so and focusing on honing their energy makes this quite an enjoyable experience. Some of the perceived wow factor might be diminished slightly, but between the chainsaw guitar tone that really makes itself known on Avoidarama and Patrick Kindlon’s manic, slightly unstable energy ensures that it’s still left-of-centre enough to make an impression. That certainly appears to be the case, and even if Drug Church aren’t the enormous highlight that some might have expected, they’re able to get a lot done regardless. • LN

We’re in the middle of an Xtra Mile Recordings takeover at the Axiom (is there really any label more fitting to commandeer an entire stage at 2000 Trees for a day?) and Sam Duckworth, also known as Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly (7) and his band are here to bring a party. It’s a somewhat strange and disjointed set, clearly made up of newer, lesser-known tracks and old-school fan favourites a lot of people in this tent are only here to see – their lack of reaction for the former compared to the latter don’t help in making the divide throughout the setlist less obvious. Despite that though, everyone in the band is clearly having a great time. The recorded versions of songs from throughout Get Cape’s career feel revitalized with his live band accentuating the more secondary backing instruments like brass and electronics and making it much more well-rounded. Despite any disparities between crowd reaction and what’s going onstage for the first fourty minutes of the set, The Chronicles Of A Bohemian Teenager (Pt. One) is a fantastic closer, uniting the tent in joyful “ba da ba ba ba”s and leaving everyone with smiles on their faces and perhaps incitement to go and prepare more for the next Get Cape set they see. • GJ

The Wildhearts (Credit: Joe Singh)

Even a cursory glance makes it clear that The Wildhearts (6) have attracted a lot of Trees’ older contingent, though when it feels as though that age has started catching up on the band themselves, that can prove disheartening. There’s definitely plenty to like still; they still sound good with a genuinely formidable guitar tone that could flatten most modern Britrock bands with the greatest of ease, and bringing Frank Turner onboard for Let ‘Em Go makes for a genuinely fun romp. But that one moment is really the only thing of much note, and with a depleted sense of spectacle like this, the whole thing feels like the elder statesmen returning to knock one out, out of obligation. Surely that isn’t the case, but for a band who’ve been so consistently good to produce a set that’s just alright doesn’t really satisfy. It fills a hole, sure, but only a specifically Wildhearts-shaped one. • LN

Rolo Tomassi (Credit: Joe Singh)
Rolo Tomassi (Credit: Gareth Bull)

The general consensus about Rolo Tomassi (8) right now (regardless of how belated it is) is that they’re one of the most exciting bands in the rock world, and it’s hard to disagree on really any front. Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It was a remarkable feat of an album, but where any lesser band but struggle to take that lightning in a bottle beyond its original hit, Rolo Tomassi most definitely aren’t a lesser band. It’s their work with atmosphere that impresses most on that front, with the all-consuming prog guitars colliding with James Spence’s heavy, heady synth work in a way that sounds truly colossal, particularly on the extended, glassy passages of Aftermath that lose none of their wonderment in the transition to the stage. And of course, there’s Eva Spence, who remains one of the most invigorating vocalists in music in general thanks to such a stellar command of range, be that throat-shredding screams or crystalline cleans of which neither sound even remotely forced or out of place. Again, the focus on cultivating such a dense atmosphere over more traditional songs might feel off-putting for some, but regardless, Rolo Tomassi pull off their vision tremendously in almost every way. • LN

As It Is (Credit: Dominic Meason)
As It Is (Credit: Dominic Meason)

“We’re a band called My Chemical Romance,” declares Patty Walters, and that statement alone goes a fair way to putting some of the bigger worries about As It Is (7) to ease. On an album cycle that’s felt so self-serious and indicative of a band doubting their own talents – especially at a Slam Dunk set this year that ran The Great Depression into the ground – but it’s honestly amazing what bringing some levity and variety into the mix can do. Suffice to say, this is much better in almost every way, with clearer throughlines to the band’s pop-punk roots in Hey Rachel and Dial Tones, and an unexpected run through Austen that proves to be an unexpectedly inspired conduit between this era and the last. The balance can still feel a bit off with The Great Depression filler remaining prominent and a cover of The Postal Service’s Such Great Heights that really no one asked for, but the onstage energy and chemistry feels a lot more naturally dynamic, and something as simply as the golden hour sunshine that dapples the Main Stage just makes the mood feel a whole lot more uplifting. There’s still a way to go before this era of As It Is can be considered great by any stretch, but the fact they’ve made such a concise turnaround from total floundering to standing on stable ground is the sort of improvement that shouldn’t go amiss. • LN

Skinny Lister (Credit: Joe Singh)

We’re returning to the Xtra Mile Axiom takeover for one of 2000 Trees’ most adored stalwarts – Skinny Lister (8). There’s nothing about the sight of the six-piece walking onstage with Lorna Thomas ecstatically waving around their trademark flagon to lovingly set down for the remainder of the set. Tonight’s set is admittedly a slow start – although the energy is always there, of course aided by the brilliant crowds they attract, the first handful of songs focus on newer material that don’t quite bring the full party just yet. But as soon as Cathy, the first really big hitter, kicks in the tent erupts into the pure unadulterated joy Skinny Lister sets are known for, and the good times just keep on coming. Bold As Brass (and its glorious stomping buildup near the tailend), This Is War, Trouble On Oxford Street – it’s a soundtrack to an utterly joyful yearly event at this festival, and yet another example of why Skinny Lister are such an unmissable live band – they possess the warmth, hooks and absolute barrels of fun that Flogging Molly lacked yesterday. If you’re ever at 2000 Trees make sure to see Skinny Lister – they’ll make your weekend, guaranteed. • GJ

Indoor Pets (6) seem to be a name on many peoples’ lips lately, and judging by the rammed NEU tent and feverish reaction from many of those inside, this stage headline slot feels like something of an event for many people. Theirs is a package that is bound to get traction, their rowdy pop punk songs documenting trials and tribulations of being in a band, both personally and more generally in terms of the industry. Presence-wise, they’re super endearing, calling the audience pet names when addressing them and flanked by two “obnoxious” homemade signs bearing their name. Singer Jamie Glass’s voice is much more exaggerated than on record, often gravitating towards whiny and sometimes a little grating rather than the stylistic bratty persona that fits in with the vibe of their tracks, particularly on more belty or expressive ones like Hi or Teriyaki. It’s a set that’s loads of fun but takes some getting used to, something people will undoubtedly have plenty of chances to do in future. • GJ

Cancer Bats (Credit: Gareth Bull)
Cancer Bats (Credit: Gareth Bull)

Ah, the age-old dilemma when it comes to reviewing a Cancer Bats (8) live set – what more can actually be said? This is a band who’ve become legendary in the live arena for always bringing hardcore firepower to wherever they touch down at, and an hour-long headline set in the Cave feels like the perfect environment to do the exact same thing once again. And really, this is the exact same thing; the setlist hasn’t really evolved all that much, but when that’s the only complaint that can be made (and when the songs are as great as they are, it’s not much of one), there’s really nothing to be concerned about here. Liam Cormier is the dynamo of a frontman that he always is; the punk spirit is something that runs through this band’s veins to the point where they can make even a spacious tent feel intimate; and songs like Bricks & Mortar and the evergreen Sabotage cover still absolutely slam with no concessions. They’re such a consistent force that nothing more really needs to be said, and when that’s the case for a band who hits their mark and beyond every single time, that’s a special thing indeed. • LN

You Me At Six (Credit: Gareth Bull)
You Me At Six (Credit: Gareth Bull)

Friday’s headliners have probably been the most polarizing ones amongst this year’s Trees punters, and in ways they do feel like a slightly ambitious choice for Upcote Farm. Having moved onto festivals like Isle Of Wight and still chequered by their heyday which left a whole horde of fans at fever-pitch, people are waiting with bated breath to see what You Me At Six (8) pull out of the bag. This is a band whose fans know and mostly love so any glaring omission from the setlist will always be felt, but tonight they do a solid job of crafting one that encompasses everything You Me At Six are in 2019. Frontman Josh Franceschi offloads his odd bravado-fuelled stage persona when addressing the audience between track, dropping zingers that leave quite a few people cringing. Luckily, these songs speak for themselves. Opener Fast Forward from last year’s lukewarm VI album proves rock credentials straight away, something they ensure to pepper throughout among the youthful pop punk throwbacks (Underdog, Save It For The Bedroom) and surprisingly killer pop-tinged tracks from the aforementioned VI (3AM, Back Again). Any other band would be roasted for dropping three big ballads in a 70-minute set, and while it’s not hard to interpret Give, Take On The World and No One Does It Better as hamfisted, the sense of nostalgia and dedication of many You Me At Six fans make those moments feel more special than most people would feel just listening at home. Overall though, this set has been a resounding success, providing moments of pure joy like Fresh Start Fever and Reckless (still one of the best songs the band have ever written). While their scope is perhaps a little bigger than 2000 Trees at this point in their career, You Me At Six are sure to be welcomed back with open arms should they ever play here again. • GJ


It’s the first band of the Trees Saturday and peoples’ faces are melting. Unfortunately for Slingshot Dakota (4) who have tried to take the credit with multiple cringeworthy and misplaced shouts throughout their set, the boiling midday sun and crippling two-day hangovers are without a doubt doing more to make faces drip than the music coming from the stage. Much of the material being showcased is instrument-wise mostly led by Carly Comando’s keyboard rather than anything particularly bassy or abrasive (particularly to the point of face melting), but it’s not really much of substance in general. The duo’s addressing of the crowd is confusing too, with Comando opting for an uber-positive approach while husband and drummer Tom Patterson pipes up to shout Spinal Tap-esque nonsense every so often. While there’s some cutesy merit in songs like Paycheck and some endearing chat about talking politics at family dinners, it’s otherwise a pass on attending any other Trees sets Slingshot Dakota might play in the near future. • GJ

In the context of modern rock, it can be tough to see what Rival Bones (5) are bringing to the table. The riff-rock duo dynamic is fine enough if they can make something of it, but from a setup that’s immediately reminiscent of Royal Blood to a sound that has a decent amount of scuzzy guitar muscle but falls into garage-rock anonymity all too quickly, they aren’t exactly bringing it here. A solid technical pedigree saves this from being a total wash, but Rival Bones need a serious shake-up if they’re going to do really anything. • LN

Perhaps more so than most others, it’s genuinely great to see All Ears Avow (7) drawing in a big crowd. Their Skin & Bones EP last year was genuinely fantastic, but releasing it in mid-December did no favours, so to see it having so clearly resonated with so many is excellent, especially given that the band can suitably pull it off live. They’re clearly still working out the best way to climb the pop-rock ladder, but they’re honestly not that far off it, given the ease with which the thick bass grooves peel out alongside some decently chunky riffs. On top of that, Claire Sutton has the sort of naturally expressive, projecting vocals that tie everything into a neat pop-rock package, and considering how strongly everything comes together, All Ears Avow are currently hitting some high marks early. • LN

It’s weird to think that, at the start of this year, Dangerface (8) were pretty much unknown, but an ample crowd in the Cave is testament to what the right buzz and a strong debut album can achieve. Well, now great live prowess can be added to that list of accolades because they really do deliver here, with the sort of sweltering hardcore that’s obviously riffing on Every Time I Die and Cancer Bats, but has enough personality thanks to frontman Michael Myklebust being as hugely charismatic as he is. The energy is constantly up, and for a new band trying to make a name for themselves in the live environment, that’s a considerable hurdle leaped over right away, only bolstered by the fact that the songs have the snarl and intensity but also the playfulness to really connect within this brand of hardcore. For a UK debut, there’s barely a foot put wrong, and that sort of high bar is only going to serve Dangerface extremely well moving forward. • LN

Clichéd as it is, it’s always special to catch bands who are on the cusp of some kind of success live, and it feels like Cleopatrick (7) might be the Trees booking this year people will look back on fondly in a few years time. Their music fits in comfortably with the Nothing More brand of hard rock often recognised at the Grammys and sounds excellent in a live environment, particularly on a stage of this stature. Alongside that though, there’s a real heart. Their lyrics, in Hometown especially, have the emotional earnestness of a Britrock band (even though this quality is hard to decipher beneath the much louder instrumental ones in this environment), while their ability to casually drop a song like Sanjake simply about the band’s friends Sanjay and Jake is something that definitely seems more at home in a DIY punk band’s way of thinking. On the face of it Cleopatrick might seem like another face in the bland US radio rock crowd but beneath the surface there seems to be a lot more substance – it’s probably only a matter of time before audiences across the pond catch on. • GJ

For all the anticipation around Single Mothers later today, it doesn’t feel like much of that has osmosed into The Drew Thomson Foundation (5). It’s easy to see why at the end of the day; this is little more than a side-project for their frontman, after all, and in terms of delivering mild, breezy indie-rock for a mild, breezy day, it’s absolutely fine. But the generally mid-paced, no-frills nature of it all doesn’t leave much of an impression (if any), and when Thomson’s stories about his own sobriety and hearing about his grandmother’s passing just minutes before taking to the stage at Reading Festival have so much more resonance, the music can ultimately feel a bit perfunctory. It’s perfectly listenable stuff, but it doesn’t do much beyond the very immediate hit. • LN

Vukovi (Credit: Gareth Bull)
Vukovi (Credit: Dominic Meason)

If there’s one word to describe Vukovi’s (7) set, it’s excitement. It’s not just the enthusiastic crowd who have flocked to the Main Stage in their droves but the band themselves, with singer Janine Shilstone expressing her disbelief at the amount of people watching them play multiple times throughout their time onstage. Their pop-rock with bite sounds great and is more than enough to hold its own, but this is a set jam-packed with highlights that are sure to grace the Trees social media pages for the next year. Shilstone simply can’t contain herself when she spots a crowd member dressed as a fridge and incites a circle pit around him, and excitedly shrieks about getting in the dinghy another punter is waving around, something she stays true to her word on for closer La Di Da. If anything this is one that’s going to be more memorable for stunts than anything else, but that’s far from a negative when they’re this fun. • GJ

“Thank you for coming out to see us” Andrew Bullock of the brilliantly named Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam (7) tells the NEU tent. “This is our hobby and we love it so much, so thank you for giving us a chance to do it”. The last half hour has been oodles of fun, soundtracked by what sounds like the joyful lovechild of the Buzzcocks and Weezer and completely elevated by the most natural camaraderie between band members we’ve seen all weekend. On top of loads of endearing joking around and an obvious respect for each other, their audibly hard-earned tightness and the impressive way members will swap instruments between songs and go on as if they could play three instruments straight out of the womb is a joy to watch. Closing on a great new song (“because we don’t give a fuck”) has no effect on the level of interest the crowd has maintained the whole way through and as the final chords ring out, the band leave to sated applause and grins, armed with the knowledge they’ve just delivered one of the happiest sets of the weekend. • GJ

It’s easy to feel sorry for Lotus Eater (6) today. Technical hiccups delay their set by a not-insignificant amount, and while they make a valiant effort at trying to put everything back together again, it’s not something that they can properly achieve. And it’s certainly not for a lack of trying either; when they hit what’s closest to a stride, there’s a bounce and carving groove to their downtuned hardcore that’s really emphasised by Jamie McLees’ savagery in his vocals, but there’s also a generally truncated feeling that can leave the whole thing as kind of forgettable overall. Granted, this isn’t necessarily Lotus Eater’s fault, but it’s also a case that highlights the blows that bad luck and circumstance can cause. • LN

Muncie Girls (Credit: Dominic Meason)

With the disappointing amount of time rock media often spends on fad bands, it’s sometimes easy to forget the acclaimed acts slowly but surely improving and becoming more and more reliable with each release. Muncie Girls (8) fit this M.O. to a T, and this Saturday Main Stage slot is the perfect way to hammer it home to some of the most enthusiastic and dedicated UK rock fans. Last year’s brilliant Fixed Ideals record is firmly under the spotlight today and finally getting the sunkissed festival airing it was made for. Picture Of Health, Locked Up and Bubble Bath with its cute and catchy lead guitar / piano motif all sound particularly great, led by Lande Hekt’s sugary sweet vocals which sing lyrics that pack a punch. It’s extremely clear that activism is woven into who Muncie Girls are as a band – they don’t vaguely address social issues between songs for clout or use it as guaranteed audience interaction, which makes Jeremy Clarkson condemnations and speeches about respecting women impactful even though they’re not thrown in your face. It’s an admirable overall package for a band to have, and to witnessing it in full smiley force is a fantastic time. • GJ

With a reaction to opener The Corner’s Dilemma that’s often served for headliners at shows this size, it’s pretty clear early on that Free Throw (7) have already found their crowd at their Trees debut. It definitely shows in their playing, with Cory Castro being the clear star with his contorted, impassioned screams and intricate fretboard taps feeding into a brand of emo that has that classic feel that so many crave. Indeed, Free Throw really do succeed in creating that vibe, bringing their surging anthemia to the stage with very few hang-ups, but retaining the detail and depth that’s so regularly been a selling point for them. It’s all suitably strong stuff for a band with a following clearly this passionate, and while it’s still a couple of shades away from being truly great, it’s the sort of warm, wide-reaching welcome that Free Throw deserve. The smile that’s near-constantly plastered across Castro’s face says it all. • LN

The NEU tent has housed some of the most promising new talent in rock over the weekend and the tent is optimistically full for Cold Years(6) set. Opener Breathe is a storming slice of Britrock intensity which would lead any cynic to make an assumption about the band from the get go, but the rest of the half hour sees a switch to more Menzingers or Gaslight Anthem-tinged material. While these songs give everyone here the warm fuzzies, it doesn’t take more than ten minutes to wring everything you need to out of this set. This is a band with good enough songs, but not quite that special something to make everyone sit up and listen just yet. • GJ

There’s no real secret to why Higher Power’s (8) set works as well as it does. Given the proliferation of hardcore bands across the bill this weekend, it’s rather well-established at this point what goes down well, and a combination of fat grooves, a teeth-rattling guitar tone and, in vocalist Jimmy, the sort of magnetic personality that’s able to ride it all with ease is exactly it. It’s all probably most comparable to Turnstile in their embrace of classic tones, and while the comparisons are only reinforced by being in the Cave where that band delivered their flooring set last year (a comparison that, in all honesty, Higher Power aren’t quite capable of living up to), it’s the sort of natural benchmark that’s healthy to try and live up to, and with how fervent they evidently are about trying, the hunger really makes this something great. It’s yet another example of hardcore once again reinforcing its rude health, and Higher Power are a more-than-welcome addition to that scene. • LN

Can you believe that we’re well into the Saturday afternoon of this year’s 2000 Trees and we’re only just making our way to the beautiful Forest stage? So many artists have showed a different, more stripped-back side to themselves in this relaxed yet dedicated clearing, and it’s something that works quite well for Ducking Punches (7) today. With just Dan, Nelson, a guitar and a fiddle they create a lovely atmosphere encouraging crowd participation, chatting about injured feet and playing great songs. Big Brown Pills From Lynn sounds particularly good in this environment (even lending itself to a lovely singalong at the end), as does new song I Eat Cannibals. But the true showstopper is the heartbreaking Six Years, preceded by an important speech about men’s mental health which earns huge applause. People are sure to leave the Forest with new respect for these songs, and quite right too. • GJ

Even with new bands being the lifeblood of 2000 Trees, there hasn’t been one this year that have made as much of an impression as Delaire The Liar (8). That’s not some kind of throwaway journalistic superlative, either; there’s something instantly and undeniably magnetic about this duo, channelling a form of theatricality in Ffin Colley’s breadth of energy that spans from vulnerable and closed-in to unleashing the sort of violent, spasmodic convulsions that you’d expect from a mathcore band, and with the visible complexity exhibited in Joey Brayshaw’s drumming, there’s a true core of magic here as an onstage presence alone. As for the music, the duo have made no secret in the past about their ability to make Touché Amoré-style post-hardcore into an even more layered beast, but the minimal setup and wholeheartedly DIY aesthetic brings yet another fresh dimension to the fore, and when it comes to establishing Delaire The Liar as a unique identity, that’s unparalleled. When they get that one knockout song under their belts (though the some of the reactions within the NEU would suggest they’ve more than reached that point already), this is a band who’ll go onto tremendous things with no questions asked. Do not sleep on this one. • LN

A (Credit: Dominic Meason)

It’s fairly obvious that A (7) are something of a novelty booking, but it’s not like they don’t know that themselves, parading around McFly’s Dougie Poynter as their current bassist (for whom this is his final show), and having frontman Jason Perry constantly taking jabs at both the audience and the rest of the band for being old and acknowledging how his jacket emblazoned with the Just Eat logo is all just for attention. It’s not like all of that doesn’t scream ‘novelty’ either, but there’s a certain charm in how readily A embrace it, and for a set that, at times, can feel lacking in killer moments (i.e. when they’re not playing Starbucks or Nothing), it still feels enjoyable regardless. After all, theirs is a brand of pop-rock that’s about as shallow as it comes, but there’s enough in the way of melodies and unsubtle hooks to work, and despite the fact that Perry is clearly getting on a bit now, he has decent interaction and banter with pretty much everyone that can be unabashedly endearing. Maybe that’s all a bit too much praise for a band hitting what is effectively the bare minimum of competence for a Main Stage slot, but sheer enjoyment has to count for something too, and A bring that in spades. • LN

Can’t Swim (Credit: Gareth Bull)
Can’t Swim (Credit: Gareth Bull)

If there’s one band who know how to bring a no-nonsense rock show to the table and fly for absolute miles with it, it’s Can’t Swim (8). They’ve been riding a high for a while now, and coming out to a baying crowd really underlines how much their confidence here is deserved. That’s not to be confused with complacency at all though, especially with the thick, heavy rasps of frontman Chris LoPorto and the meaty gallop of songs like “sometimes you meet the right people at the wrong time” and What’s The Big Idea? that have a rumble that most post-hardcore really can’t achieve. And with the onus placed almost exclusively on the songs with little perfunctory chatter, there’s an almost punk-like energy that exudes from Can’t Swim in just how rough and ready they are. It helps that they come packing the throaty, skyscraping hooks that the Cave is more than game to partake in, but simply from the perspective of presence, Can’t Swim do cast an impressively formidable figure. It’s definitely as to-the-point as it comes, but when that has every drop of potential wrung out of it, that’s more than enough. • LN

The Skints (Credit: Gareth Bull)

Right from the start, it feels like The Skints (5) are out of their depth. Sure, they’re capable of drawing a crowd who are more than content to allow themselves to get swept up in the watery reggae-rock, and the Main Stage is as good a place as any to indulge in that, but for a forty-five-minute set that doesn’t show much sign of changing or evolving, there’s a very real chance of this running stale. And unfortunately, that’s exactly what happens, and while the warping bass and keys of Ratatat alongside the three-way vocal team of Marcia Richards, Joshua Waters Rudge and Jamie Kyriakides fits with the loose vibe, the distinct feeling of constant retreading old ground is one that’s hard to avoid, especially when it feels like the same slow-paced bass plunks keep popping up at every turn. At least the pop-punk of Learning To Swim is a solid break from the norm, and both the band and the crowd up front are clearly having fun, but there’s only so much that can really be gleaned from this before the luster is stripped away in record time. • LN

There’s a party going on at the Axiom. While the tent isn’t as rammed out as it has been previously this weekend, Dune Rats(7) crowd is more than up for a good time, using the Aussies’ FIDLAR-esque stoner punk as an excuse to really go for it. There are crowdsurfers aplenty, people ecstatically whipping out flattened Budweiser boxes before the first titular gang shout of 6 Pack even comes in and a wall of death cutting the full length of the tent in half, sparking everything from fever pitch enthusiasm to bemused smiles. While casual watchers in the latter category likely won’t remember much song-wise from Dune Rats, they’re sure to remember one of the most entertainingly raucous audiences of the weekend. • GJ

The St. Pierre Snake Invasion (Credit: Ben Morse)
The St. Pierre Snake Invasion (Credit: Dominic Meason)
The St. Pierre Snake Invasion & William (Credit: Dominic Meason)

For as good as so much of the hardcore this weekend has been, it takes something truly special to top it all and deliver the killing blow, and it feels like The St. Pierre Snake Invasion (9) are here to do nothing else. Their album Caprice Enchanté has already had the acclaim piled on, and between that and their tremendous live reputation, this feels like the culmination of everything a smart, exhilarating hardcore show should be. Hell, it’s not even strictly limited to the music, as frontman Damien Sayell positively overflows with charisma, hitting faux rockstar arrogance with perfect precision and offering some genuinely hilarious moments in the process. But of course, the music is what takes pride of place, and the raucous, gnashing riffs of Casanovacaine and Last Words Of A Bent Cop arrive with an urgency that never once lets up or sounds anything less than seismic. And as for William, the young kid brought onstage to play kazoo on I Am The Lonely Tourist (who has since been dubbed ‘William the Conquerer’, because of course), it’s the sort of moment that only reinforces the intimacy and lack of barriers that’s such a big part of The St. Pierre Snake Invasion, pushing them forward into the top tier of hardcore’s live environment and steamrolling over everyone in their path. • LN

Every Time I Die (Credit: Gareth Bull)
Every Time I Die (Credit: Joe Singh)

And yet, it’s rather ironic that when The St. Pierre Snake Invasion give permission to leave their set early to catch Every Time I Die (8), they ultimately deliver the superior set. Yes, despite running through 2003’s Hot Damn! in its entirety, with numerous songs that haven’t been given a live airing since 2013, as well as a number of hits strapped to the end for good measure, it’s still not quite enough to hit that bar. Though all of that is to say that Every Time I Die are still as brilliant as ever, flying over specifically for a one-off show and treating it like it’s the most important set they’ve ever played. Keith Buckley has all the showmanship necessary as a frontman to ensure that’s the case, and for a band like this whose trafficking in big, low-slung hardcore riffage is virtually nonstop, it makes for plenty of excitement on a near constant basis. Admittedly the second set of hits does come a bit more thick and fast, purely because whatever little fat was present is completely nonexistent here, but the one-two of Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space and We’rewolf just acts as another superfluous but welcome level of confirmation of just how great this band really is. What easily could’ve been dismissed as a throwaway side-show is given the same intensity and gravity as the biggest of events, and that dedication to the craft goes a long way. • LN

Murray Macleod (Credit: Dominic Meason)

The Xcerts are basically 2000 Trees’ house band at this point. The last two years have seen them cement their position among the festival’s most loved with secret sets sparking fever-pitch excitement and sunkissed Main Stage inductions, and while we’re not being graced with the presence of all three members this year, frontman and walking ball of charisma Murray MacLeod (9) is taking to the Forest to perform stripped-back versions of fan favourites. Right off the bat he sounds fantastic as Daydream soars across the clearing, a quality that never falters throughout the 45 minutes he’s onstage. As mentioned, MacLeod’s frontman game is unparalleled, and this intimate setting allows him to converse with audience members, react to the well-intentioned hecklers and share anecdotes about going to see Kiss with his dad and how getting The Xcerts’ Hold Onto Your Heart record into the charts last year has turned him into a monster, keeping the audience chortling every moment they’re not singing along. While Kids On Drugs and Feels Like Falling In Love undoubtedly feel special, the highlight of the set is Murray venturing into the crowd (taking and drinking any alcohol people hand him along the way) to sing Aberdeen, 1987 with the help of a couple of hundred voices instead of a microphone. The echo around his voice is the most goosebump-inducing moment of the weekend by far, a perfect way to (almost) cap off the weekend. Long live The Xcerts. • GJ

Frank Iero (Credit: Gareth Bull)
Frank Iero And The Future Violents (Credit: Gareth Bull)

It’s hardly surprising that Frank Iero And The Future Violents (7) are such a huge draw. That’s been the case ever since Iero began with his post-My Chemical Romance projects, and seeing as the buzz is evidently yet to fade, a headline set in the Cave feels like just the right place to sate the baying horde. It’s definitely intimate enough, and in embracing the scrappier punk streak that’s ran through all of his recent work, this is arguably the most ideal place to do it. And the response is, of course, great, especially with bigger, more hook-driven songs like I’m A Mess and Young And Doomed that come a lot more naturally, but the band themselves definitely feel tighter here, and it lends the sense of scale that made Barriers such a good album to even older material in a really gripping way. Granted, Iero’s solo work has always had a rather ramshackle quality to it, especially live, and a shakier vocal performance definitely gives the feel of a closer club show, but also displays the same limitations as it always has. Then again, that more lo-fi edge definitely bleeds through here in the ragged garage-rock guitars, and the stage presence and arena-rock experience undergoes a surprisingly smooth transition here. It’s not perfect by any means, but in the lane that Iero is clearly trying to inhabit, these sorts of medium-sized festivals feel like a good stomping ground, and an unsurprisingly great reaction suggests this won’t be the last time he hits a stage like this. • LN

Deaf Havana (Credit: Joe Singh)
Deaf Havana (Credit: Gareth Bull)
Deaf Havana (Credit: Gareth Bull)

For all the great hardcore and boundary-pushing alt-rock that’s become Trees’ bread-and-butter, it feels like the right decision to give a band like Deaf Havana (8) a headline slot. There’s definitely a cause to say that they’ve risen through the ranks and been pelted with more than their fair share of hardships in getting up to this point, but at the end of the day, they’ve got great songs, and it’s hard to think of anyone within the Britrock crowd who’d be better suited for a stage like this. And even if the response is a bit more muted throughout than would be liked (possibly a result of Rituals being as divisive as it was last year), this is clearly a band who’ve got the skills and arena-ready presence to tackle this head on, right from the opening stomp of Boston Square that sounds genuinely colossal in the open air. But even with all the gusto and greatness in the exuberant, bounding alt-rock of Mildred or Trigger, or the quieter but richer acoustics of Happiness and The Past Six Years (the latter maybe feeling the most redundant it’s ever been, may we add), it’s the electronic-driven material that shoots for the stars and sees Deaf Havana fully taking up the mantle of headliners more succinctly than anything else. Sure, bits and pieces do get lost in the open air, but the creeping pulse of Hell and the electro-pop stormers of Holy and Worship are among some of the best moments that Deaf Havana currently have under their belts, and closing out with the transcendent pop euphoria of Sinner is just the cap on a victory that’s been justly earned. And sure, for as difficult as the road to get here has been, and for all the self-deprecation that the band continue to indulge in, this is a turning point for Deaf Havana, and it’s wonderful to see. • LN

Words by Luke Nuttall (LN) and Georgia Jackson (GJ)

Photos by Joe Singh (Twitter / Instagram), Dominic Meason (Twitter / Instagram), Gareth Bull (Twitter / Instagram) and Ben Morse (Twitter / Instagram)

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