FESTIVAL REVIEW: 2000trees Festival 2023 – Saturday

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The final day of 2000trees kicks off with congratulations, as in that’s both the band’s name and the affirmations awarded to them. They’re easily the most distinct opener we’ve had all weekend, clad in their tasseled, custom-made jumpsuits of individual colours, and with a sound akin to if At The Drive-In had the smirk of the modern post-punk waves. It’s a lot of fun to see their exuberance play out, where each member isn’t afraid to take a big swing in terms of energy or activity. And even if the emblazoned image of these colourful characters does last longer than the music outside of specific stylistic beats, there’s enough to make congratulations worth checking out on first impressions alone.

Loose Articles performing at 2000trees Festivals 2023
Loose Articles (Credit: Jez Pennington)

With the rain lashing down at this point, Loose Articles are clearly up against it. Not only do they have a pretty paltry crowd willing to brave the elements at the Main Stage, but you can tell that they were clearly preparing to do a bit more and surge past the notions of post-punk inevitability. But it just isn’t their day, and that leaves them both physically and figuratively dampened. They’re offered a pretty shoddy sound, for one, where the vocals only have any presence whatsoever when they’re yelped enough to physically cut through. At least they’re pretty charismatic between songs, and they’ve got the eye-catching colours to pop out among the grey landscape around them in all directions. Unfortunately, it’s likely Loose Articles’ most memorable quality today.

To make the absolute most baseline observation possible, Going Off really do…go off, don’t they? Understandable when they’ve been among this year’s most lauded acts in British hardcore, which is an accolade that’s clearly not for nothing. Frontman Jake Huxley might be the obvious focal point—a lanky, heavily-tattooed ball of perpetual motion—but the pace and brevity of it all means there’s never a slouching element. Said brevity is never a problem either; if anything, it makes the brutality of gigantic, skull-crushing riffs hit all the harder, even when accompanied by brief explanations about each that never interrupt any kind of flow. As far as heavy hardcore goes, Going Off’s ‘get in and get out while still thoroughly cratering the earth’ approach is tough to complain about.

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

Another downpour is being threatened—is it being summoned by Witch Fever, or maybe just anticipated in incredibly apt fashion? Whatever it is, it’s the ideal backdrop for some increased doom that’s now pretty much on balance with their punk side. The result is a band who couldn’t be more ready for main stage domination, bearing a unique sound and application of it that just seems to get better every time. Just take Congregation as the ultimate example, in how giant and reverent it is, and how the awareness of that makes the crumbling down of the monolith so much more impactful. Amy Walpole carries a similar size and presence, both in how cavernous her vocals are, and the weight of perspective that her and her band bring; she talks about award show hosts in the alternative scene that continue to joke about abuse and grooming, and feels genuinely righteous in doing so. Overall, it’s another few rungs up the ladder deftly leaped up by Witch Fever, a band steadily growing into an unavoidable punk powerhouse, completely on their own terms.

Modern Error performing at 2000trees Festival 2023
Modern Error (Credit: Gareth Bull)

Modern Error feel like they’re ready to take on the world. Even when bundled away in a tent on the bottom half of the day’s lineup, they’re ambition really can’t be kept stored. Namely, the desire to be a new Bring Me The Horizon-shaped force is evident, in a dense, hard-edged post-hardcore sound that leans further into some of its industrial qualities, and frontman Zak Pinchin’s stage demeanour echoing Oli Sykes’ rather closely. And hey, if you’re going to hop into anyone’s lane, it might as well be the best. The beefed-up soundscape rings much heavier and coarser than on record, with flickers of how sweeping this could be in the right environment being hard to miss. Modern Error totally own it too, to where, with the right-sized stage and visual budget, there’s something potentially planetary ready to break out.

High Vis performing at 2000trees Festival 2023
High Vis (Credit: Gareth Bull)

The gratitude in Graham Sayle’s voice is palpable, as he and his self-professed “knobhead punk band” High Vis look out from the Main Stage on a bustling, burgeoning crowd. The moment they’re undergoing currently has pegged them among those launching the genre into bright new skies, something that a simple, straightforward half-hour couldn’t make clearer. Sayle is a tremendous presence, as his Scouse accent breaks through with intensity on opener 0151, but also humanity and vulnerability that’s so key to High Vis. There’s nothing flashy or showy about them; it’s humanity that finds them barrelling forward, vital in the same way as The Menzingers or Spanish Love Songs are, but salted with rougher British form. Thus, the Britpop ripple on Talk For Hours sees it go back for miles, and Trauma Bonding is genuinely affecting in the power it’s delivered with, with a lack of sincerity nowhere in sight. Even for what might be ‘low-key’ as far as festival sets go, the command that High Vis have means you won’t forget them in a hurry.

Look, they can’t all be winners. Chances are that Dead Poet Society were booked out of genuine hope for a good inclusion, but that ends up being pretty far from the case. To start them off on a solid foot, they’ve got a solid command of groove with grungier impulses and a quaking bass tone that’s actually rather good. But when they’re unable to spiral off into anything else, what’s left is staid quasi-hard rock that gets really dull in a hurry. The most interesting thing about them is how Jack Collins plays with a headless guitar; otherwise, they’re wading through a shallow, muddy garage-rock swamp that can’t spin itself a way to highlight something other than their own sluggishness. It’s all so one-paced and bottom-heavy, creaking under an artificial weight presumably put on to meet the demands of a ‘metal’ festival. Little do Dead Poet Society know that those concessions aren’t really needed, though they likely wouldn’t fare much better even without them.

When your band is named after the first aircraft to drop an atomic bomb in warfare, that sets up some pretty loaded expectations. And indeed, Enola Gay—or, as overheard by one punter this weekend, “the musical branch of Sinn Féin”—are well-equipped to bring some decimation. They may just be one of the most feverishly anticipated new bands that 2000trees has to offer, if a full tent laced with the energy of a sweaty club show has anything to say about it. It’s a thrilling sound too, a fat, steamrolling post-punk heaviness, where the inadvertent squeals of feedback only add to the experience. The melodic icepick wedged into it is what brings everything together; the sturdy bass and punk’s lack of frills are the foundation of the roughneck noise emblazoned with a readiness to brawl, but punch with precision. Scrappers is already a big moment in terms of a killer hook and the feverish reaction it elicits. Meanwhile, frontman Fionn Reilly is hunched over and stalking the stage with a particularly carnivorous stance. All the while, the exhilaration is packed into every corner of sound produced, as Enola Gay’s firepower is already at the temperature of the sun. The bomb’s been dropped; no prizes for guessing the result.

Electric Six performing at 2000trees Festival 2023
Electric Six (Credit: Gareth Bull)

So, Dick Valentine claims that Electric Six have 17 albums, which is later revised to 21 partway through their set, but it’s precisely two songs among all of them that anyone actually cares about. Yes, Gay Bar and Danger! High Voltage! are the only ones that get any significant reaction, from a shockingly huge crowd that’s clearly been swept up a wave of novelty embrace. But the thing is, while their respective suits may suggest something closer to that novelty touchstone, Electric Six wind up as little more than a competent but unremarkable dance-rock band. Maybe that’s not the intent, but in the way that Valentine’s humour almost always fall flat, that’s where they are.

It’s generally harmless though, more akin to a bunch of dads jamming out at a local function rather than a ‘proper’ festival band. Hell, Valentine introduces his bandmates one by one because he saw Rick Astley do it at Glastonbury; if that doesn’t say it all, what does? And even despite his voice being absolutely shot, it’s all fine for what it is, in the bits of disco and down-the-middle rock that aren’t objectionable even if they are totally ephemeral. It all belongs in the certain small pocket of enjoyability that Electric Six can call their own, and little else. Besides, they do do Gay Bar and Danger! High Voltage!, and people seem to enjoy them—surely that makes it all at least a bit worthwhile, right?

As far as raucous, straightforward punk goes, The Oozes are basically set, even at this relatively early point. They’re vicious, uncompromising and ground-level to a fault; Tom Gilbert radiates personality (or is ‘oozes’ too on-the-nose?); and a satisfyingly fast and heavy playing style zeroes in on exactly what this sort of punk needs. The visual element is also fairly far forward—Gilbert especially stands out, parading in his red-and-white striped suit and lacy cape—but it doesn’t overshadow the meat that makes The Oozes connect so wholeheartedly. The chant they lead of “protect trans kids” is absolutely indicative of their defining ethics and characteristics, and why their inevitable rise will be so gratifying to watch unfold.

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

In a single weekend where Holding Absence have delivered two incredible sets, topping the bill in the coming years feels more on the table than ever before. It really couldn’t not be at this stage; they’ve just got it, through and through. It’s why there’s functionally no difference between this set and their one in the Forest a few days ago, other than the size of the stage. Not that that even matters, when they have the sound and confidence to legitimately make a pass for being the biggest band in the world. While this is clearly being positioned as ‘the big one’, replete with their grander cache of hits (Lucas Woodland makes a point that they’ve now played every stage at 2000trees, so the sense of accomplishment is understandable), their catalogue of anthems is the deepest it’s ever been now, and literally anything they choose would make for a world-class festival song. It just so happens that they’ve got songs like Gravity and Beyond Belief to scratch the apogee of spacious post-hardcore, where the clarity in sound can’t be overstated in how it ignores some temperamental festival sound completely. When Afterlife isn’t even the closer this time—a song that’d be the go-to haymaker for practically anyone else of their size—there’s a mettle on display that’s borderline unparalleled. Headlining is now a case of ‘when’, not ‘if’.

Dream State performing at 2000trees Festival 2023
Dream State (Credit: Gareth Bull)

Although the reception to Jessie Powell joining the Dream State fold hasn’t been the warmest in the outside world, you’d never be able to tell here. She outright says that the heaving tent is the biggest crowd she’s ever played to, and though some aspects betray how daunting that can be, you’ve got to look for them to even notice. In truth, Dream State feel as ready and raring to go as they ever have, with their calamitous post-hardcore sound that hasn’t gone anywhere, or even dulled upon the change of personnel. If anything, Powell brings heaviness into the fold in some fantastic screaming like on Chin Up, Princess, now verging on locomotive metalcore with the size and gallop of it all. But among the regular Dream State oeuvre, it slots without a hitch; the power hasn’t gone anywhere, nor has the capability for some mammoth swings that always connect. Great stuff.

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

There’s a guy sitting on someone’s shoulders wearing a set of inflatable antlers, and trying to convince others below him to toss plastic rings onto them. All of this is happening during Deaf Havana’s set, which feels as though it says a depressing amount about how much their stock is worth to some. It really is a shame too, because they remain to be a reliable festival band; even after dropping down the ranks from being a previous headliner, they’ve got one of the most unflappable catalogues in Britrock and pop-rock that can still pull it out the bag. In keeping pace with their current momentum, they’re on almost exclusively the heavy hitters from their recent works. Therefore, Worship or On A Wire bristle with singalong quality and festival readiness, buoyed by polished keys and Deaf Havana’s omnipresent grandeur.

There’s definitely humility at play too, particularly when you look outside the music, but Deaf Havana have always been good at channeling their own sweep from that. As such, their newest songs have been fully ingratiated among the canon of hits, especially after a good year of airing that’s fully broken them in. There’s also the piano version of Holy taken from their most recent tour that’s seemingly a permanent inclusion, featuring the vocal power and dexterity of James Veck-Gilodi on full display that’s often an undervalued commodity. Granted, all of that appreciation can ease back a bit when the heavens open during a fittingly stormy Hell, which leaves the remainder a bit more high-and-dry, as it were. Still, Going Clear and Sinner aren’t going anywhere in the rankings of pop-rock bangers, and Kids is the triumphant closing note that feels like Deaf Havana at their proper peak.

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

You’ve gotta love the diversity at 2000trees. In the Cave, Chelsea Grin are currently doling out some deathcore punishment; a few hundred yards away in the Forest, Lynks is getting a piggyback from one of his dancers to his unashamedly queer pop tunes. Honestly, one of those seems like way more fun than the other, and it’s not the one where ceaseless bludgeoning is the main event. And because Lynks is a total riot, every inch of this tiny stage at his disposal is put to use, even throwing a black, glittery couch behind him to presumably just jazz up the place. He and his dancers are the main event though; in his black-and-white dungarees and polyester gimp mask, he’s hard to miss, and even more so in some surprising tight, varied choreography the onstage troupe have going for them (“I bet Bring Me The Horizon don’t do the worm at their sets!” he declares). The rain is still hammering down, to where a full-on gully is being carved out of the hill where everyone’s standing, but no one seems to mind too much. The tightness of the spectacle and an absolutely banging set of songs have the bouncing throng transfixed, and so they should. Lynks can pull that off like it’s nothing.

Hundred Reasons performing with Rou Reynolds at 2000trees Festival 2023
Hundred Reasons & Rou Reynolds (Credit: Joe Singh)

Let’s not beat around the bush—Hundred Reasons are on blazing form. And that’s so incredibly good to say, considering they’re a band whose recent existence has been notoriously stop-and-start, but finally seem to be reaching some stasis. They’re an important band to have around, too; their influence in alt-rock and post-hardcore has permeated from the early 2000s to now, and in ways noticeable even in this very set. Marmozets’ Jack Bottomley is currently on guitar for them; Rou Reynolds from Enter Shikari makes a whistlestop appearance to sing on Silver, and looks positively elated to be doing so. And as for Hundred Reasons themselves, the band at the epicentre of all of it, they’re still keeping pace. Or more accurately, they’re keeping pace with the forefront of the movement they originated. With an enormous sound, and songs whose infectiousness really doesn’t strike properly until you hear them live, it’s a remarkable showing.

It helps that the everyman energy they bring gives them such an approachable profile. They themselves cast such an unassuming silhouette, but that’s what gives the thrust to Colin Doran’s spryness and titanic vocals, or the crunch in Larry Hibbit’s guitar. And of course, the songs themselves are all-timers, as No Way Back and the perennially enormous If I Could (and, let’s not forget, a lovely snippet of Taylor Swift’s Style during Falter) feel fresh out the box in terms of pure hit potential. All of this comes while the rain is still driving, and Hundred Reasons have the intense wherewithal to power through with next to no consequences. The only fault is that there isn’t an actual glorious sunset to back that particular song; otherwise, it’s as close to flawless as you can get.

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes performing with Lynks at 2000trees Festival 2023
Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes & Lynks (Credit: Gareth Bull)

When you look back at them, the last couple of Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes albums have felt like audition reels to be festival headliners. Back at the genesis of this project, starting out as Carter’s return to the hardcore punk of his Gallows days, it would’ve been unthinkable; now, the transition to full-blown arena-rocker has been made. And to Carter’s absolute credit, he carries himself exactly as that role allows. He’s got charisma to burn, clearly more comfortable with nudge-wink cheekiness than verbal evisceration of any kind or intensity. It can be a good look on him too, be that in how his own self-acceptance plays into Tyrant Lizard King, or the call for a “ladies and non-binary moshpit” before Wild Flowers that always goes down a treat. And there’s still a shred of scrappy punk-ness present, as he’s already crowd-surfing by the third song Crowbar, in what’s clearly become his tradition of getting off the stage whenever necessary.

The songs are definitely good too, though maybe lacking the punch a more trimmed version of this setlist would’ve had. There’s some particular sag in the mid-section that could afford to be tucked in, mostly in how Carter’s garage-rock impulses have steered to some less-memorable moments in the past. He’s become something of a singles artist across most of this career leg, and though some glaring omissions feel like an attempt to paper over that notion and say otherwise (no Sticky? No Vampires?), they’re glaring all the same. But with the uptick in energy Lynks brings from presence along on Bang Bang and Go Get A Tattoo, and the call for a “fucking ballroom” for Love Games, you can’t really stay too frustrated. Because at the end of the day, Carter knows exactly what he’s doing. You can feel it emanating from the stage at all times, when the columns of pyro shoot up or the curtains of confetti drop. This is Frank Carter in complete, total rockstar mode, reaching what’s clearly a career high and striving to own it. On the whole, he does a pretty fine job of that indeed.

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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