Thursday, 22 July 2010

2000 Trees Festival - Cheltenham Upcote Farm - Friday 16th & Saturday 17th July 2010

I’m under no illusion of the fact that many of you reading this blog won’t have the first idea about 2000 Trees Festival. Where it is? What it is? Who are those bands on the line-up? That sort of thing. Well firstly, 2000 Trees is located on the wonderful Upcote Farm in Cheltenham and is a music festival catering to around 2,500 people each year. Those bands on the line-up are a varying concoction of rock, folk, indie, instrumental goodness, etc, etc and many of them are absolutely awesome. Right, now let’s crack on with the music reviewing.

Having spent ages queuing and longer putting the tent up than first anticipated (let’s be honest Matt, it was never gonna fit in between those other two tents), the first band I have the undoubted pleasure of witnessing at 2000 Trees 2010 is Tubelord (7/10). Being a band I have already seen and enjoyed numerous times my expectations are high but, for whatever reason, their spiky math rock doesn’t seem to light up in the same way as it usually does. It’s still pretty good stuff though and the crowd gets going into its first moshpit of the weekend during the always fun ‘Night of the Pencils’. Coming up next on the main stage are Northern Ireland’s finest in the shape of instrumental post-rockers And So I Watch You From Afar (9/10). This is a band that has just come off a support tour with supergroup Them Crooked Vultures...and I bet they rocked much harder every single night. The pure energy on stage during an ASIWYFA performance is always extraordinary and they’re on top form here. They’re also seriously loud...and that’s a seriously good thing. The Xcerts (8/10) are a band that is definitely going places. Having a bunch of seriously catchy tunes is well and good but the ability to meld them with proper rock bits and wonderfully delicate quite moments is what will make them a much bigger band in years to come. Although this set lacks the superb ‘Aberdeen 1987’ (“it’s too slow for a festival” frontman Murray Macleod says), the songs on display win over any doubters in the crowd with new single ‘Slackerpop’ especially standing out. Their set does seem a bit short however. If you haven’t seen Pulled Apart By Horses (10/10) live yet then you need to get to it. This band is enjoyable on record but live they’re a totally different prospect. Don’t expect bouts of melodic clean singing, Tom Hudson’s just gonna scream at you all the way through and don’t expect James Brown to complete a back flip either; to be fair, he makes a very worthy attempt considering he’s supposed to be playing guitar at the same time. Marking the most riotous crowd participation of the weekend, PABH’s set is the highlight of Friday’s action. Future Of The Left (9/10) run them close however despite numerous technical difficulties. The keyboard totally dies on Falco and co, whilst the frontman himself breaks the strings on two guitars. Good news includes the seamless transition that has seen Steven Hodson (of Oceansize and Kong) pick up the bass player position vacated by Kelson Mathias. Whether it is to be permanent or not remains to be seen but he certainly fits in perfectly, readily committing to the onstage banter that FOTL are known for. More good news comes in the shape of new songs, which are really good, especially closer ‘Dry Hate’. After the rocking action earlier in the day Errors (6/10) are a little bit of a buzz kill. They aren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, they just sound out of place after FOTL on the bill. Their post-electro is enjoyable but a little dull in the live festival setting unless you’re really into it. Goldheart Assembly (7/10) in the Leaf Lounge are also pretty enjoyable and their 60s pop is far more refreshing than their bassists’ flowery shirt. An excellent cover of Tom Wait’s ‘Clap Hands’ is the highlight of their set. Frank Turner (9/10) headlining a festival doesn’t sound right...but it feels right. 2000 Trees is his self-confessed favourite festival and, after dropping out last year, he seems delighted to be back for a set that includes all the hits alongside b-sides like the superb ‘Nashville Tennessee’. The crowd scream along to what seems like every word and a special highlight for one Kyle Gill is provided when Frank gets him up onstage to play harmonica on ‘Dan’s Song’ to celebrate his birthday. Frank has turned into a great performer and yet he still retains the bond with his fans that made him so special in the first place. An encore of ‘The Outdoor Type’ and ‘The Ballad Of Me And My Friends’ sees him sign off his first festival headline slot in fine style. The only reason why Frank’s set isn’t perfect is the simple fact that his songs, great as they sound with 2,000 people singing along, aren’t made for such a large audience but for pub crowds and total intimacy. It’s hard to begrudge Frank his success though; if any folk punk troubadour deserves’s him!

After a long morning (why did I have to wake up at 7.30am?), which includes a top quality nature walk (7/10), Saturday’s action is kicked off by alternative metal quartet Left Side Brain (7/10), who make sure the crowd are awake with their bruising off-kilter Therapy?-esque riffs. Noticeably however they seem a little uncomfortable on such a large stage in front of a larger crowd. Furthermore the vocals occasionally get lost in the mix but they still have some great songs and get the rock off to a good start for the day. Following them are the indie popsters Skeletons And The Empty Pockets (6/10) who are very energetic, especially the frontman who’s a great showman, but they just aren’t really my thing. Still, they’re not a bad band by any stretch. Neither are Flashguns (6/10), who would be a damn site better if they weren’t such cocky bastards considering their material. Their frontman ruins their last song, which is by far the best they play, by playing his guitar solo whilst strutting around like Matt Bellamy at his most “oh look at me I’m in a stadium band now and am going out with someone more famous than me”. Most of their songs are quite generic but they are a band with promise. I expect the NME will catch onto them soon and ensure they turn out quite badly after all. Three Trapped Tigers (8/10) take a while to get on stage after a light hits Matt Calvert in the head just before they are scheduled to go on. This is one hell of a band when it comes down to it. The drumming especially from Adam Betts is right out of the top draw. Their set provides plenty of complex electronic enfused post-rock for the crowd to get their paws into, no doubt especially appealing to 65dos fans. Meanwhile over at the Greenhouse The Oxygen Thief (8/10) is busy getting his crowd to ROCK (\m/) with his acoustic lullabies. A highlight is provided with a cover of Spandau Ballet’s ‘Gold’ which he somehow manages to turn into an acoustic metal sing-along. Epic, I just wish I’d seen the whole set (Matt Calvert’s fault). Unfortunately I see the end of Sonic Boom Six (3/10). They’re a bizarre blend of reggae and ska punk which, whilst imaginative at least, makes them sound like Sonic Boom Shit to me. I and Matt have been waiting for Twin Atlantic (10/10) to hit the stage all weekend. One of the best live bands I’ve ever seen and they don’t disappoint. Their songs may not be perfect but they are so often so catchy and the time signatures are joyous as well. Despite sound that’s far from top-notch and the fact that frontman Sam McTrusty makes a few mistakes while guitarist Barry McKenna breaks a couple of strings; they are an infectious band when they take the stage. Sam interacts well with the crowd as well, especially a cuddly turtle called Lucinda and Dave? the guy in the chicken suit who joins the band onstage for a final run through ‘Audience & Audio’. Whilst drummer Craig and bassist Ross leave the stage relatively quietly, the two guitarists set about getting some feedback out of their guitars whilst Sam chucks his Tele into the crowd; this causes much difficulty for tour manager Andy – who has to get it back. After a break from the action, it’s time for 65daysofstatic (10/10), who arrive 20 minutes behind schedule and therefore play just a brief 40 minute set. The crush that follows the opening scream of “THIS NEGATIVE ENERGY MAKES ME STRONGER. WE WILL NOT RETREAT, THIS BAND IS UNSTOPPABLE!” is far bigger than I, for one, was expecting but it’s awesome. Their more recent material doesn’t dim the energy at all with the danceable electronica of ‘Crash Tactics’ and ‘WEAK4’ seeing flailing bodies down the front. ‘Radio Protector’ maintains its status as probably the most epic song of all time and after a mammoth effort for such a short amount of time, the band leave the crowd chanting for more; thus shocking several Bombay Bicycle Club fans who arrive soon after. Directly after 65dos are Vessels (9/10) in the Leaf Lounge. Something of a halfway house between ASIWYFA’s near punk like energy and Three Trapped Tigers’ more measured approach, the band show their ear for epic melody alongside that for cultivating massive moshable riffs. They also deserve credit for managing to fit all their equipment on the tiny stage! Acoustic trio Orphans And Vandals (5/10) kick off their set with a song that seems to be mostly about tearing someone a new asshole. Then they progress, subject matter wise, to talking about a cottage by the sea with their mother. It’s not bad I suppose, it’s just really fucking weird lyrically. The Subways (5/10) are probably awesome if you love their music and are down the front. For anyone else though they just sound like what they are, a band that shouldn’t be headlining a festival, even one this size, because all their songs are pretty much exactly the same. Only closing song ‘Rock And Roll Queen’ is truly memorable to the casual bystander. Thankfully Leaf Lounge headliners Kill It Kid (7/10) are more interesting. Their singer’s voice is perfectly bluesy and looks totally out of place coming out of his mouth. Their indie folk stylings aren’t unique but are quite lovely.

So, overall, 2000 Trees provided a weekend full of great bands. It has a great atmosphere and it costs only £50. Basically, you should go next year...yes, you!

1 comment:

  1. Awesome festival! You saw a lot of mainstage stuff last year, I spent most of my time at the leaf lounge. What do you think of the bands this year?

    Such a relaxed atmosphere that makes this festival beat any others hands down