Bit of a hot one today, isn’t it? The heat wave that’s been blanketing the 2000trees site (and, indeed, most of the UK) hasn’t let up in the slightest, much to the chagrin of anyone who wants an even remotely comfortable experience in the open. If nothing else, there’s the kernel of positivity that Avalanche Party’s heady, psychedelic post-punk has a suitable atmosphere around it, though on their own, there’s still a solid amount to like about them. It’s mainly in the wall-of-sound approach yielded from thick basslines, wheeling synths and blasts of saxophone, adding up to a whole that’s not entirely out of the ordinary for post-punk, but that’s also a bit more freewheeling. Nothing particularly world-changing, then—the sound winds up more intoxicating than any actual songs that it produces—but it’s pretty good all the same.
The brand new names worth checking out don’t come much more worthwhile than Cherym. Clearly that’s not an opinion that’s lost when the band have the good fortune of opening the NEU Stage with a pretty sizable crowd, where they bear a pop-punk zest and effervescence evident of a band with something very special ahead. They’re brimming with charm from the off (they do come on to a collage of Mean Girls clips, after all), and can parlay that into indie-punk hooks that really maximise a sweetness, often tamped down in a live environment but not here. It’s actually quite astonishing to see how comfortable and confident they seem as such a new band, particularly in vocalist / guitarist Hannah Richardson who’s commanding singalongs and geeing up an invested crowd with incredible ease. Definitely one of the weekend’s highlights as far as likability goes.
Dream Nails feel like a band for whom no other stage would be appropriate for than the Main Stage. For starters, they’re visually striking in their individual outfits, and Leah Kirby has a stage presence that frontpeople would kill for in how swift and lithe their energy is. But beyond that, there’s a size to Dream Nails’ vision that sees them right at home here, not only in Kirby’s tremendous voice or how guitarist Anya Pearson will indulge in some proper shredding, but in how staunchly their message travels. They aren’t the first band this weekend to call up women and non-binary people in the crowd to the front rows, nor are they the first to dive into themes of fetishisation and violence against women, but while they have the platform to do it, it’s genuinely potent stuff. It goes without saying that the songs themselves are great, the sort of wide-reaching indie-punk unafraid to toughen up its edges for some real punch. Really good stuff, as has always been Dream Nails’ norm.
On a stage that’s catering more towards the indie end of things today, it’s no wonder that there’s a bit of a disconnect with Lizzy Farrall. Not in terms of her personally; she’s wonderful, mostly in terms of presence as she struts across the stage with genuine pop star aplomb. More so, it’s the fact that she’s not left with much to work with, in a blip in sound that her big, high-gloss alt-pop doesn’t seem equipped to deal with. She tries to fight through it but her vocals are nowhere near as powerful as they should be, instead getting caught in how loud and blocky the contributions of her drummer and guitarist are. To be fair, it doesn’t hinder how catchy these songs are (at least not for the most part, when Games is more stodgy and lumbering), and a spellbound crowd seem to be generally elated. It’s just that there’s a great set getting tangled up in an okay one, and it’s disappointing to see how straightforward the fix for that is.
If Mannequin Pussy don’t quite have the same all-encompassing hit at their punk compatriots on the Main Stage, it’s not a case of them not trying. Rather, they’re another victim of some less-flattering production that makes Missy Dabice sound either unfortunately shrill, washed-out, or borderline inaudible. It’s overall less kind to their particular leaning within hardcore, where their energy comes across as more scrappy, but also more liable to get lost in the sound. And that subsequently leaves Mannequin Pussy struggling, unable to really plant their feet down or lock into a comfortable groove, and ending up reliant on their own vigour to carry them across the finish line. At least their guitar snarl largely carries through, and there’s a pocket of the crowd up front that are clearly looking past the logistical quibbles and having a great time. That’s something anyway, even if Mannequin Pussy can struggle to win over elsewhere.
The best way to sum up Kid Kapichi’s set comes during New England, when Bob Vylan’s bridge is about to start, and rather than getting the man himself onboard (who played this very festival just yesterday, FYI), it’s just a recording. In other words, it’s still good, but there’s an air of anticlimax that surrounds it, true of Kid Kapichi as a whole today. They’re still not bad, and there’s enough to spark singalongs with Glitterati or stripped-down newer one Party At Number 10, but not a lot really pops out besides their own proficiency. They’re more tied to the motorik, bass-driven form of post-punk with a bigger alt-rock edge bolstered on, something which they do well, if not with the strike that a band forwarded among the UK’s best upstarts should have. Though more a sign of a band finding their feet going into an openly more ambitious era for themselves, it’s a bit of a shame nonetheless.
It’ll be amazing when Gen And The Degenerates finally break out. They feel as though they’re on the cusp of it now, what with a big festival set that’s pulling a decent if not immovably dense crowd, though even then, they’ve already got what they need to go over the top. Live, they’re much more punk-focused than the down-the-middle rock leanings of their recorded output, and that’s just what’s needed to turbocharge a song like Girl God Gun into a proper rager. That’s effectively where their live mindset is, fronted by the effortlessly charismatic Gen Glynn-Reeves who’ll skulk and bend over the barrier, more cabaret than rock show at times. That’s where so much of Gen And The Degenerates’ fun comes from; they’re clearly having a terrific time, and it rubs off unfailingly. But there’s also provocation and importance, of a band trying to navigate the political wasteland that—let’s face it—isn’t looking any more fertile when you see what’s still down the pipeline. Right now though, in the moment, you’d be foolish to deny Gen And The Degenerates’ bids to take over.
In one of the least surprising turns of the weekend, Nova Twins prove to be very, very popular. They’re currently riding a high that’s showing no signs of even thinking about slowing down, one that’s definitely evident in their music, but sets itself in stone permanently onstage. Before even a second of sound, the look is phenomenal, as a means of really filling out their stage visually, if not physically. Besides their drummer, it’s only Amy Love and Georgia South here with no auxiliary presence, able to craft their buzzsaw garage-rock unimpeded and unlimited. It’s the coolness factor that seals it together, the absolute peak coming when they dial up the swagger to overdrive levels, and the bass and drums are pumped up to strut at even greater levels. That’s probably felt most in Wave, entirely comprised of rhythm section for the hip-hop elements to peel out in one of many displays of Nova Twins being the coolest band on this entire bill. They clearly know that too for how hot and fast Antagonist and Choose Your Fighter come out; the heat hasn’t let up, and it’s partially down to how much firepower is brought here. Even with any (admittedly legitimate) critiques of sameness that could be made about their material, that’s sidelined more or less out of the gate in a display of myth-making that’s hard to dispute. They’re just that undeniable.
We’re still out in the sun and soldiering through the sunburn, because Knocked Loose are providing today’s biggest Main Stage shake-up. They’re by far the heaviest band to take to the open air this weekend, a fact that’s always going to put them in good stead on a somewhat metal-lite incarnation of 2000trees, though the appeal of one of metallic hardcore’s most vaunted acts shouldn’t be reduced to just that. Granted, they seem as though they’d be more comfortable in an environment where they could stage dive without a ten-foot chasm in front of them, but they’ve got buckets of energy and a knife-sharp snarl that translates surprisingly well here. It’s all about the high-octane heft and Bryan Garris’ sneers and roars, and how meteoric that sounds when Belleville or Billy No Mates come crashing down. It’s the most pure viciousness of the weekend for all involved, a banner that Knocked Loose can wear proudly.
It says a lot about a band when you see how they can handle adversity. For Blood Command, that comes midway through their second song Cult Drugs as the power cuts out, a snag that, honestly, doesn’t seem to bother them. After all, why would it? They’re currently riding high of the back of a stellar new album, and in Nikki Brumen, a new frontwoman looking to make as clear an impression as possible, as quickly as possible. To say she’s the obvious focal point would be diminishing how much she wants that to be the case, as she takes periodic swigs from her bottle of vodka and gyrates and twerks against the drum kit. It’s very clearly playing up an image (if the exclamation of “Goddamn, you’re making me wet” was too subtle), though you can’t say it’s not a totally riotous one. There’s glee and malevolence and everything in between, exactly the sort of emotional range a band like Blood Command should inspire, across their mashup of screaming post-hardcore and sweltering dance-rock on Quitters Don’t Smoke or A Questionable Taste In Friends. Perhaps Brumen is a bit drowned out vocally from how blasted-out her compatriots’ parts are, though if there were a band for whom that could be more or less overlooked, it would be Blood Command, the poster children for loudness and brashness warped into excellence. It couldn’t be more true today.
Gotta be honest—it’s a bit disorienting to see a crowd reaction this vigorous for Lauran Hibberd already. She’s still a new artist who’s debut is on the way but still with a bit to go, but this already seems like it might be something more than the usual, perfunctory cycle of hype meted out to indie-pop’s new names. Time will tell, no doubt, but off this evidence… yeah, there could be something here with the time taken to build it up. Straight away, Hibberd is an incredibly warm, affable presence, clearly a bit overwhelmed at being placed this high at a rock festival (it’s kind of sweet how she politely asks for a circle pit), but endearing nonetheless. As for the songs themselves, they’re pretty good, catchy enough to make a solid festival set though not much that falls into anthem status just yet. It’s honestly Hibberd’s personality that’s doing the heavy lifting at this stage, beaming across the stage with an energy that can be genuinely infectious. It’s enough to at least warrant giving the album a go when it’s here, if only to see how much of that light is in it.
Given how many Idles t-shirts have been making their way around the festival site, it seems ever more unlikely that You Me At Six—previous headliners of the last 2000trees in 2019—have been brought onboard to shore up a crowd presence on uncertainty. Rather, it feels like a much more good-faith decision, where one of the biggest, more perennially successful alt-rock bands the UK has produced in the 21st Century can—believe it or not—pull out a good festival set. And this is good, even if it’s nothing out of the ordinary from past appearances like this. It’s more or less the same setlist they’ve been wheeling out for festivals for a good few years now, obligatorily substituting songs to reflect new releases, but rarely changing that much. It’s undoubtedly playing it safe (especially when they’re teasing a new song and album around the festival grounds but choose not to play it), but You Me At Six can still achieve a lot through ironclad populism. Loverboy and Underdog as respective opener and closer elicit the exact reaction that big, radio-ready, singalong-friendly rock always does; it’s the same with Reckless, and Bite My Tongue, and Room To Breathe. It’s cut-and-dry, but when you’ve got the band clearly trying and Josh Franceschi continuing to play up his rockstar ringmaster role (expected quotes and all), it’s still fun to have around. At a festival like this, it’s the equivalent to going to McDonald’s—it’s hardly nutritious and there are so many more diverse and unique flavours on offer all around, but every once in a while, on the right day, it just about hits the spot.
A festival headline set from Idles was an inevitability. Few bands have clung to a foothold in British rock in recent years like they have, and though they don’t entirely tessellate with the crowd or subsequent scenes that 2000trees tends to court, there’s enough there for it to work. Further still, they’re the de facto flag-bearers for what many in the wider world see as ‘punk’ today, and a 21-song gauntlet across their already-extensive back catalogue reads as a band truly trying to make a positive impression. On top of that, it’s really only in the context of a headline set where the breadth of Idle’s recognisable canon becomes apparent; sure, a lot of the slogans and references help, but this is, indeed, a fleshed-out, headline-worthy catalogue of songs that emphasises how big Idles as a prospect are. On a stage like this, at the end of a weekend like this, they’re still able to feel gargantuan and exciting, as the thunderclap of bass and drums and Joe Talbot’s sardonic, weighted vocals make a genuine, profound impact on those here. And for as much as songs like Never Trust A Man With A Perm or Television have their belt-along, standout lines (which do sound fantastic, by the way), sinking into the dirges of Car Crash or The Beachland Ballroom snap into place a bit more resolutely, to where the appreciative shoutout to Mclusky on the same bill makes a lot of sense. But at the end of the day, Talbot and Idles are still showmen, and at a level to where they know how to work a headline set. They’ll initiate multiple walls of death, as early on as the first song, and go into a medley of Love Lift Us Up Where We Belong, You Spin Me Round and All I Want For Christmas Is You, because when would the opportunity arise again? Even right towards the end with bigger hits like I’m Scum and Danny Nedelko (side note: the vocal on the latter is absolutely flooring in a festival setting), it’s indicative of how, despite the snark and comments that tend to follow them, whether justified or not, Idles can be the real deal when they want to.
Words by Luke Nuttall