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There’s something in the air that makes the first 2000trees since 2019 feel extra good. Maybe it’s the long-delayed return to the picturesque Cotswald landscapes; maybe it’s the announcement of Boris Johnson’s resignation as Prime Minister that lifts the spirits; whatever it is, it gets hold of you. Even some unforeseen transport issues getting to the festival site aren’t much of a dampener, though that might also be a case of Kneecap leaving the sort of cratering first impression you want. Irish hip-hop rapped in the Irish language is in no way indicative of anything else to come over the next couple of days, though the attitude and authenticity most definitely is. This isn’t a House Of Pain situation of pretending to be Irish for some thinly-veiled gimmick; it’s important to what Kneecap are, and it’s all the more electrifying for it, paired with a decent variety of beats that a frankly stellar stage mix does wonders for. Between MCs Mo Chara and Móglaí Bap, they’ve got buckets of irreverence and humour that always lands (a lot of it falling in the anti-Conservative, anti-monarchy realm that this crowd specifically laps up), capping the perfect meld of stage presence to make for a pretty high watermark indeed.
Despite hailing from a Northern town and frontman Conrad Ellis’ Gallagher haircut, The Luka State don’t exactly fall into the ‘every indie chancer ever’ mould. Well, they kind of do on pure sonic profile—it’s all big hooks and guitars that are pleasing to the degree this sort of thing usually is—but there’s a bit more energy and liveliness on the whole. The smaller stage they’re on helps, if only to condense the rock ‘n’ roll energy they’re looking to inhabit, and though it’s never mind-blowing, there’s enough about them to enjoy nonetheless. It’s the sort of offhanded festival set that might pique some interest more than light a full-blown fire, but that’s not nothing in itself.
Over a year on from the release of their last album, Tigercub come across like the sort of band for whom late-pandemic ennui has hit hard. They’ve got a Main Stage slot, but they feel like a band deeply caught between release cycles, as if the window they’re supposed to be in has closed on them without them knowing. It adds up to a set that isn’t bad, but could do with a severe jolt of excitement to do much of anything. If nothing else, their own cadre of bluesy garage-rock riffs have volume, and that does appear to go in their favour. They’re clearly a liked band, but even the ever-craved boon of good will feels a bit futile here. It leaves a set that’s serviceable for this point in the day; hopefully Tigercub can show they’re capable of more when a more opportune time arises.
You’d never believe that Holding Absence were only announced to be playing this festival at all about a week ago. You’d doubly never believe it when they’re here as a replacement for No Devotion, a band whose current buzz exists at severely lowered frequencies by comparison. But here they are, in front of a tent that’s dutifully packed to continue riding the sort of high that doesn’t even seem close to petering out. Celebration Song’s opening roar of “I’m alive!” has reached a point of a towering, defining statement of triumph that not many bands have come close to matching, such is the might with which Holding Absence launch it out, and the rapture with which it’s reciprocated. On the whole, theirs is the sort of post-hardcore that’s effectively a softball for a great festival set—sounds huge; gets a huge reception; never falters on either front. To nitpick the most miniscule of issues, the vocal mix can sometimes be not entirely complimentary to how grand Lucas Woodland’s vocal performance is (still not very often, mind), but there’s the composure and will of a band on the absolute top of the world. Main stages for the rest of time now, yeah?
The logic of having The Get Up Kids hit the Main Stage on the same day that Jimmy Eat World are headlining is pretty immaculate, honestly. Both have had a hand in shaping emo and alt-rock during roughly the same period, to where the crossover between audiences is not only easy to picture, but effectively guaranteed. But while The Get Up Kids are important in the grand scheme of emo, they aren’t on the same tier of festival ready-ness; they don’t have the catalogue of hits to draw from, nor do they even have anything new that could make a worthwhile parlay into a set like this. They impress more in terms of consummate proficiency and performance than anything greater, and how they’re still clearly happy to be here. And even then, it’s still good to hear a long-standing institution in modern emo still sounding this switched-on when it comes to performing. Maybe to want something a bit more exciting is missing the point then, but it’s also not an excuse that holds water for too long.
Can’t Swim’s momentum has never been as highly publicised as it arguably should’ve been, but regardless, they’ve trodden enough boards to become something of a reliable staple within the rougher, rowdier side of post-hardcore. Here is no different, largely replicating the sweltering energy of their 2019 set to a packed tent, even if it does take a little time for said energy to pick up to the expected value. Nevertheless, Can’t Swim’s formula is one they’ve duly nailed down at this stage, in how Chris LoPorto’s rasps and snarls are still pretty unique in a stylistic department, and when the band get heavier for Sense Of Humor and Set The Room Ablaze, the hardcore fire that’s always simmering away becomes more palpably dangerous. Even if it’s basically the same as usual, the bar is high enough for that not to matter, and Can’t Swim exercise a skill that continually makes that feel exciting.
The frankly enormous crowd gathered for Dinosaur Pile-Up speaks to a popularity that, speaking honestly, has never felt that apparent. Their high Main Stage billing today does the same, but when you consider how long it felt like they were treading water album over album—really only reaching a noticeable uptick on 2019’s Celebrity Mansions—it does bring into question why such a turnout mightn’t have translated elsewhere. An answer does soon reveal itself though, specifically for as much fun as Dinosaur Pile-Up seem to be having, and for as levelling as the grunge riffs they’ll peel out are, they’re still a bit of a one-note case. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing though, as they own what they’ve got perfectly well; for a straight-ahead rock band to be more engaging is difficult by design, and whether it’s in how much force the sound brings or the admitted stickiness of Matt Bigland’s hooks, there’s something qualifiable there. Saying that though, it’s not really a surprise that its presence is more noteworthy on Stupid Heavy Metal Broken Hearted Loser Punk or especially a concrete-smashing closer in Back Foot, the newer songs that heralded the band’s galvanisation in the first place. Otherwise, it’s a good showing that could see Dinosaur Pile-Up as a cut above others in their field, though it’s probably best not to hinge on that too much.
As one of the bands who were always a cut above the Britrock chaff but didn’t receive nearly as much due credit, it’s heartwarming to see how strong the turnout for Lonely The Brave is. Granted, that’s a factor of 2000trees that applies to pretty much everyone on the bill to a certain extent; what’s hanging overhead more is Jack Bennett as a new frontman, previously with limited opportunities to really sell himself in the role, but now going in all guns blazing in what’s a reinvention of Lonely The Brave that’s almost antithetical to where they once were. Of course the songs are still great, with heaving powerhouses like The Blue, The Green and Victory Line losing none of their burliness over time, but Bennett upfront brings a gusto that was never there. Some of the enigma that David Jakes’ reclusiveness brought is lost, but the newfound energy fills the gap amply. Not perfectly, in what has to do with Bennett not having quite the same quaking gravity (a trade-off that, let’s face it, was always going to happen), but he’s also responsible for a live galvanisation that Lonely The Brave need after being so relatively quiet for so long. It’s no exaggeration to say that, from personal experience, this is one of the most enthused audiences this band has drawn, and it’s deserved too. It’s always been deserved, and while this hardly seems to herald a renaissance or delayed burst of notice, any little bit of good helps.
So, when Hannah Greenwood comes out from backstage in a bloodstained wedding dress for her solo performance of Crickets, it begs the question—if Creeper are currently incorporating full-blown costume changes into their regular festival sets, why are they still not playing the venues would let them play around with whatever ideas they do have? They’ve just announced their biggest headline show to date at London’s Roundhouse (done so onstage by a vampire man at the end of their set, because of course it is), but they’re easily capable of hitting arenas by now, because against all odds, they’re still getting better. Right now, that comes most noticeably in how tightly everything has been honed; festival main stages are nothing new for them anymore, so it’s a case of upping the theatricality and glamour that’s so often been the crux of where that live prowess lives. They’ll bash out punk cuts like an opening pair of Suzanne and Born Cold with just as much aplomb, of course, but when they lean into gothic romanticism on Poisoned Heart or utterly spellbinding heartland rock on Midnight, that’s where they’re their most special. Will Gould is as magnetic a performer as ever, be that in Elvis- or Davey Havok-mode, and the band are given what’s been a consistently strong Main Stage mix at its crispest and most open to letting their dynamics fly. Whole fields screaming along to Misery are what festival moments are made of, and right now, that’s exclusively what Creeper are bringing. Practically flawless.
The expectation with bands like Anti-Flag performing festival sets don’t have a ton about them. Usually it’s a case of taking a long-running punk band with a deep enough catalogue and getting a decent greatest hits set out of them, which is basically what we get here. Credit to them though, for a band well past the 30-year mark, they’ve lost no sense of ferocity or drive, and with yet another flattering mix that sharpens Justin Sane’s barks even further, it’s so easy to get swept up in it all. Clearly that’s a common thought process among a kinetic crowd, where there’s a straightforward punch to The Press Corpse or This Is The End (For You My Friend) that’s kept them high among the modern punk oeuvre for this long. There isn’t a great deal else to say about a typically strong band pulling off a typically strong set, albeit one with so much more going for it than such a reductive oversimplification would imply.
As one of the primary holdovers from 2020, Jimmy Eat World’s headline slot comes with a feeling of relief tantamount to that of excitement. The fact they’ve never headlined a festival is one thing, but their UK visits feel so rare these days, something that a rather exhaustive comb through their catalogue in the setlist aims to rectify. And that’s where the two minds around it come to play, because as is sometimes the case with 2000trees headline sets, there’s definitely an element of catering to the diehards rather than crafting what would be ideal for this environment. It leads to a bit of a slow-burn set at times, counterbalanced by the fact that Jimmy Eat World are one of the most melodically satisfying bands on the planet, and what they lack in flashy presentation is more than made up for in determination. The tremble in Jim Adkins’ voice is what gives their emotional payoff the resonance that sends them over the top; there’s a particular lull in terms of where their brand of emo goes some way through, but there’s at least the swirling lushness that keeps it held together. Though, to say it’s on par with wheeling out some of the 2000s’ heaviest alt-rock hitters would be very misleading, and very wrong. As glib as it sounds, when Jimmy Eat World treat this like a festival set, they positively skyrocket; the pairing of Pain and Bleed American set a tone nice and early; Big Casino and Sure And Certain bring in a jangle that’s lovely against the setting sun; and, of course, The Middle is as much of an all-time classic as all-time classics come. So a bit of a mixed bag ultimately, but the sort where the highlights stand out so vividly that they set the tone throughout, and where the universal likability of Jimmy Eat World is such an intensely prevailing factor.
Words by Luke Nuttall
Photographs by Jez Pennington (Website|Twitter|Instagram), Joe Singh (Website|Twitter|Instagram), Gareth Bull (Website|Twitter|Instagram) and Mac Praed (Website|Twitter|Instagram)