FESTIVAL REVIEW: 2000trees Festival 2023 – Thursday

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Kite Thief performing at 2000trees Festival 2023
Kite Thief (Credit: Jez Pennington)

Despite arriving pretty much as unknowns, Kite Thief do leave something of an impression. Not a huge one, mind, but any band who bookends their set with Dragostea Din Tei over the PA is asking to be remembered in some capacity. It’s a fun vibe that they can pay off reasonably well, mostly through the more fun, buoyant vibe; there’s a good amount of self-assuredness and animation—particularly from vocalist Elin Allan—to make up for an alt-metal sound that hasn’t quite come into its own yet. Even so, there’s enough to suggest they’ll be barrelling towards that before long.

By now, it’s a given that the newest Alcopop! darlings will be given a slot at 200trees. Beach Riot seem to be getting the lion’s share of the attention too, when they’re the ones to bring out label-boss Jack Clothier’s baby in front of the Main Stage crowd. Obviously that’s their set’s most memorable moment—it would be for most bands, let’s face it—but it sinks in even deeper when Beach Riot can struggle to hold onto something more gripping. Their appeal in garage-pop doesn’t go unnoticed, though between being tied to one sonic mould and an extremely no-frills presentation, it struggles to crystallise all the way. Some solid jumpiness and the odd pop hook will only go so far when they wear themselves out pretty quickly.

At a festival more wholly aligned with metal and heavier fare, Cage Fight would utterly wreck house. As it stands, they deserve a crowd that’s more familiar with the intersection of hardcore and death metal that they hit, but they’re on blistering form regardless. Vocalist Rachel Aspe is an utter marvel with how crushing her range is—honest-to-goodness pig squeals are back, baby!—and paired with a levelling metal backdrop actually left alone by stage mixing is even better. It all just clicks into place so quickly, a powerhouse unit for whom moments of respite simply aren’t a done thing, and who get by on flooring force alone. Today, you couldn’t really ask for more, or better.

Leave it to Carsick to fully recontextualise what ‘festival-indie’ can mean. There’s no pejorative jab towards a blank interchangeability in that statement, not like what it can often mean; rather, it’s fun and rousing, and sold with the boyish energy that a free-flowing unit like this get so far off on. They’re actually a surprisingly decent draw for such a new band, but that could also be because their accessibility is through the roof, and they know how to sell it in such an affable way. With the flecks of hip-hop bounce and golden pop appeal, it’s unwavering in how lightweight it is, but that’s also why Carsick’s charm is through the roof.

Ithaca performing at 2000trees Festival 2023
Ithaca (Credit: Jez Pennington)

This feels like kind of an important one for Ithaca. They had to bail on their set last year due to travel issues, and so comes the fact that this not only feels like the make-up attempt, but it’s been fast-tracked to the Main Stage too. And really, theirs is the sort of hardcore with an ambition that couldn’t be anywhere but the Main Stage. There’s a grandeur in how far they fire, coupled with the fact that no concessions are made in terms of keeping the angles acute and the power heaving. It’s just a shame they find themselves saddled with less-than-ideal mixing; especially for a band like Ithaca where the depth and intricacy of fidelity is key, it’s not quite the slam-dunk it could otherwise be. But this is also Ithaca we’re talking about, the kind of band whose transfixing aura is plainly there no matter what. Of course, you can funnel that entirely into Djamila Azzouz, a powerhouse frontwoman who stands visually stark from the all-white of her bandmates (and with her now-customary Crocs on), and just carries an enormous vocal presence all on her own. Even if true, unfettered greatness is slightly scuppered overall, the makings of it are as clear as day.

Lambrini Girls performing at 2000trees Festival 2023
Lambrini Girls (Credit: Joe Singh)

“Who’s ready to fuck?!” screams Lambrini Girls’ Phoebe Lunny, presumably to set the tone for what’s to come. As in, the kind of punk show where very little is tied down, and where all the loose wires are left showing, but where that’s invariably where the charm comes from. After all, she’s deep within the crowd by the first song; by the second, she’s playing on an audience member’s shoulders; by the third, she’s being held aloft to surf while singing. For a fairly brief set, Lambrini Girls pack in every hint of scrappiness you’d want from punk like this, complete with the snark and snipes that only reinforces it. Just a few days prior, they were involved in a Twitter spat with writer / notorious transphobe Graham Linehan, and the solidarity that comes with them as it’s recollected before Terf Wars is glorious to behold. Just a wonderful band all around.

Graphic Nature performing at 2000trees Festival 2023
Graphic Nature (Credit: Gareth Bull)

If Graphic Nature are going to be the flag-bearers for nu-metal going forward, they’re going about it in all the right ways. An excellent debut this year is a great start (even more so when it’s only gotten better), and the fact they’ve got such an imposing live presence to match up to it points towards what’s already on the cusp of the finished article. And when you can make the comparisons in sound to early Slipknot in how feral and unwilling to skimp on the heaviness they can be, that’s just icing on the cake. Even if their stage presence is a bit more in line with their metalcore end (i.e., slightly more conservative at notable junctures), it’s not easy to replicate that kind of unhinged intensity, and it’s not like Graphic Nature don’t try either. When even the drum ‘n’ bass interludes and window-dressing go unreasonably hard, that in itself points to a heavy force that’s working like gangbusters.

Prince Daddy & The Hyena performing at 2000trees Festival 2023
Prince Daddy & The Hyena (Credit: Jez Pennington)

When Prince Daddy & The Hyena kick off with the first few songs bashed out in rapid succession, you kind of know what you’re getting from then on out. It’s the DIY alt-punk way, after all, and doing it with the character and approachability they’ve got makes it much easier to sustain. It seldom dips too, though they also feel distinctly in a pocket rather than trying to wow; it’s not a huge crowd they’ve amassed, but it’s likely the already-converted. Regardless, it’s incredibly easy to get onboard with from any angle, with hooks upon hooks and a command of emo buoyancy that’s always well away from faltering. It speaks to their eagerness when frontman Kory Gregory will peel out the opening bars of Weezer’s Undone – The Sweater Song at the behest of an audience member, or how they’ll dip into a jam session of Come Together to mask some mid-set technical difficulties. It’s just a lot of fun, exactly as it should be.

Kid Kapichi performing at 2000trees Festival 2023
Kid Kapichi (Credit: Mac Praed)

This feels like something of a big deal for Kid Kapichi. In the year since they made their 2000trees debut, they’ve racked up some considerable miles, in no small part down to their second album Here’s What You Could Have Won that’s taken them to a bona fide main stage act. And in that time, they’ve clearly tightened some screws to become a far better live act. There’s just so much more presence this time around, as the hard-as-nails guitar and bass tones form their amassed cache of ironclad post-punk hooks. Seriously, INVU sounds utterly tremendous in its dance-punk sizzle, and as a darker, stormier closer, Smash The Gaff really knows how to throw its climactic weight around.

Not just that, but there’s also charisma to burn from frontman Jack Wilson. He’s got a laddish attitude that’s very much an extension of songs like Party At No. 10 or New England (side note: the Bob Vylan omission is even more egregious this time considering they’re literally the next act on this stage), and it’s all as jovial as you’d want from big-stage festival banter. The likability factor actually runs surprisingly deep; there’s clearly know-how when it comes to filling a space like this, when you get an inflatable burger tossed out at the start, or chocolate bars thrown into the crowd in their game show-style interlude Here’s What You Can Win. As it stands now, Kid Kapichi have formed a very well-rounded festival identity for themselves in the most important respects—ample character on display, but a cracking set of songs as the glowing centrepiece.

Svalbard performing at 2000trees Festival 2023
Svalbard (Credit: Joe Singh)

So, everyone knows that Svalbard are excellent, right? That doesn’t really need reiterating more, but you can’t help yourself when they continue to dazzle. Even live, when some of the enormous scope of their black-metal / hardcore hybrid gets a little drained by the enclosed festival tent, the elegance stays thoroughly intact. What’s more, the juxtaposition between sonic burns and chills comes out so resolutely, with how robust of a sonic package they’ve got. And with Serena Cherry at the helm, who’s already such a definitive icon in modern heavy music and makes these guttural, wrenched-out roars look effortless, you’ve got a band who continue to shoot for the moon and never miss.

No Devotion performing at 2000trees Festival 2023
No Devotion (Credit: Gareth Bull)

As Geoff Rickly states, this is the third time that No Devotion have been booked to play 2000trees, and the past two never panned out. Now to be fair, that was during the pandemic era when the festival’s will-it-won’t-it status was very much up in the air. But just as ‘trees is back and stronger than ever, so are No Devotion, and to a pretty alarming extent. Clearly whatever shoegaze shackles that had them previously have been broken, and this current incarnation thrives as an absolutely titanic rock band. Maybe it’s a little impenetrable for a Liam Gallagher-cosplaying Rickly to push his vocals through sometimes, but it’s hard to deny how frequently they nail the bleary, apocalyptic feel within a series of slow burns. The rhythm section is especially throttling, in bass from Stuart Richardson and drums from Phil Jenkins (of Kids In Glass Houses) that really are the heart and soul of what No Devotion are about. But there’s also light and triumph too; it’s felt by how colossal all of this is, but also in Permanent Sunlight’s darting synths and the beaming smile plastered on Rickly’s face. It’s the look of a man who’s finally reached an apex that uncertainty has marred the way to for so long, as No Devotion come out on the other side swinging.

The Wonder Years performing at 2000trees Festival 2023
The Wonder Years (Credit: Joe Singh)

By now, there’s never a doubt that The Wonder Years are going to crush whatever stage they set foot on. They were the shining lights of 2010s pop-punk; they were equally as blinding in emo in the latter half of that decade; and now, drawing on both, the conclusion writes itself. Even with the announcement of a UK tour to celebrate the tenth anniversary of The Greatest Generation (the best pop-punk album of the 2010s, let’s not forget), it’s just one isolated high point in set that’s pretty much exclusively them. After all, The Wonder Years come bearing the resoluteness and blood-wringing emotion that signifies a band at their peak, topped off by heft and grit within it all that’ll never not be impressive.

Theirs is a setlist laser-crafted to touch upon every facet of this band’s character and amplify them, even with a slight emphasis on their newest material. It’d be nice to get a couple more of their already-canonised slobberknockers, but let’s face it—it’s only a matter of time before Low Tide or Old Friends Like Lost Teeth join them. And besides, it’s hard to dispute how electric Local Man Ruins Everything, or Passing Through A Screen Door, or an unbeatable closing salvo of Came Out Swinging sound bathed in the setting sun. And of course Dan Campbell sounds tremendous belting them out as if he’s just experiencing these emotions for the first time again, but when it’s echoed back by a chorus of plenty more on the other side of the barrier, that’s where the real magic is. For The Wonder Years, may the magic never die.

Skindred performing at 2000trees Festival 2023
Skindred (Credit: Mac Praed)

Imagine going into a Skindred festival set with doubts. Couldn’t happen, could it? Well, seeing as they pull probably the biggest crowd of the day, the answer for many is already a resounding ‘no’. After all, they’re one of the most esteemed live acts going in the metal sphere, who’ve bypassed any tends or fads on the basis of being a riotous live act; even their old ragga-metal self has generally been shed for something more all-encompassing of a genre-clashing party. So when they come out to a remix of the Imperial March, with Benji Webbe clad in a sparkling black waistcoat, that exact party mood is set, right then and there. And it’s pretty much all Webbe’s doing; he’s genuinely hilarious in his banter and jabs, with magnetism and stage presence that towers over pretty much anyone else.

As secondary as the actual songs can feel to the overblown personality and mood, they still aren’t unimportant. Skindred have got a remarkably sticky set of hooks at their disposal, to where there’s never any kind of dip or rockiness that their uneven recorded counterparts might suffer. Set Fazers or That’s My Jam might be featherweight on record, but fire them from a festival main stage, and they’re utterly perfect late-afternoon party fodder. It’s the same with Nobody or Kill The Power, though they’ve already got the surging alt-metal meat to them, to where the fat guitar rumble here is just a great recreation. And naturally, Warning arrives to end things on a bang, with the iconic Newport Helicopter on the go to fully reassert Skindred’s kingship among metal’s party-starters. As Carly Simon sings in the outro music, nobody does it better.

Eagles Of Death Metal performing at 2000trees Festival 2023
Eagles Of Death Metal (Credit: Joe Singh)

It’s an odd booking, Eagles Of Death Metal. Maybe when they were at their peak, it could’ve flown (har har), but even then, their place in rock history was solidified by Josh Homme on drums, a feature which obviously isn’t in play today. Without him behind the kit…well, it doesn’t lose weight, but you’d maybe feel the magnitude more if he were there. So really, it’s up to Jesse Hughes to paper over any existing cracks that might remain by himself, and he does a frankly stellar job at it. With the rockstar look he’s sporting—the heavy tatts; the aviator shades; the handlebar moustache—and his opening hype music of The Time Warp, the awareness of a cartoonish, empty-calorie rock ‘n’ roll experience is all but outright stated. And that’s where a lot of the fun is, in how Hughes and his backing band play to that idea, but still do it really well. This setlist isn’t just ‘I Want You So Hard and associates’; there’s equal energy and elasticity across the entire run, all in aid of both band and crowd alike clearly having a blast. A cover of David Bowie’s Moonage Daydream pretty much solidifies the whole ‘rockstar power fantasy’ of it all, but Hughes’ ebullience and gratitude towards it hardly makes that a bad thing.

The Bronx performing at 2000trees Festival 2023
The Bronx (Credit: Gareth Bull)

If it were your average Johnny No-Names coming onstage to Darude’s Sandstorm, you’d have enough to write it off then and there. But for The Bronx, on the other hand, there’s willingness to let the off with it. Their reliability is legendary now, after all, to where you know exactly what to expect before even hide or hair of them has shown itself. Namely, the sort of punk roughhousing that’s immovable in terms of how hard The Bronx are willing to go. It works in the way that the output of punk’s other eternal does, where slowdown is negligible and drive hasn’t diminished. Thus, as they launch into White Shadow with reams on reams of thuds to the temple to follow…it’s a Bronx show, y’know? Though, it is mixed incredibly fully, and the rasp and churning gravel in Matt Caughtran’s voice is excellently sharpened. It’s all as expectedly great as it can be honestly, between a gleefully pitting crowd and band whose energy totally reciprocates without even stepping towards burnout. If anything, they’re only getting brighter.

Mimi Barks performing at 2000trees Festival 2023
Mimi Barks (Credit: Joe Singh)

Tonight’s headliners might have been and gone, but we ain’t done yet! For in the Forest stomps the ghoulish figure of Mimi Barks, proponent of late-night entertainment that wouldn’t be fit for any other environment. For one, Barks herself casts a fittingly unsettling image, pasty white with green hair and blood-red contacts and grills, and wrapped in cybergoth chic that screams ‘alternative’ in a way that only this crossover end of hip-hop does. Her spurious, self-coined subgenre is ‘doom-trap’, which tends to fall into the same ‘heavy bass and oppressive atmosphere’ camp as most others, but she and her DJ can certainly sell it. When there’s precedence give to aesthetic and vibe, it’s easier to do that, though that’s not to detract from how, be it in rapping or screaming, Barks is fairly formidable. Seeing it live does bring out more intrigue, and compared to other trap / metal mashups, there’s something about this that clicks more easily. Enough to bring it out from among the woods and into the daylight proper? Well, you could, but that’s kind of missing the point, isn’t it?

Words by Luke Nuttall

Photos by Jez Pennington (Website|Twitter|Instagram), Joe Singh (Website|Twitter|Instagram), Gareth Bull (Website|Twitter|Instagram) and Mac Praed (Website|Twitter|Instagram)

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