Upcote Farm, Cheltenham
5th to 8th July 2023
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2000trees festival review
Festival season is in full swing and rock fans once again descend on Upcote Farm in Cheltenham for 2000trees! A true music fans festival, this year there is an absolute smorgasbord of the best new and established acts to savour across three full days of relentless entertainment.
However, before the event proper begins though those with early entry have an additional evening of music on tap in the beautiful forest area. The ‘Forest Stage’ has always been a unique and special feature of this festival which is now on its fifteenth iteration.
The privilege of opening the festivities this year goes to Snayx who, despite playing whilst many are still pitching their tents, still attract an eager and excited crowd. The band are able to seize upon this excitement to whip the crowd up even further with their brand of punk rock. A benchmark is set for the weekend early here and thankfully the organisers have a bill curated to ensure that the quality never drops!
The other stage in operation today is the small ‘The Word’ stage which over the weekend will host various activities such as further bands, live podcasts, comedians and more. Over the next few hours we are able to catch delighted spots from B-Sydes, Masca, Polyanna and Gaz Brookfield.
Over on the ‘Forest Stage’ though, the handful of selected bands combine to deliver a highly memorable evening. Delaire the Liar are up next and are able to continue to build their growing reputation with another assured performance.
A real special moment follows as one of the most talented yet underappreciated bands of the last decade Press To MECO play their final show. Such a moment really deserved a bigger stage and longer setlist but those present are able to bathe in those glorious riffs one more time with an emotional ‘A Test of Our Resolve’ a highlight of the whole festival.
Next are a band just getting started. Saint Agnes are tipped as the future of rock music by some, and again on the evidence of their set tonight those people are very much correct! Debut album ‘Bloodsuckers’ can’t arrive soon enough; thankfully we only need to wait on July 21st!
The latest Tigercub album is already out and next up the band bring ‘The Perfume of Decay’ to life with a solid showing as the forest area begins to fill up in anticipation of the nights two headline acts.
Both Holding Absence and Bob Vylan will play two sets over the weekend but before gracing the main stage, they both thrill those packed into the woods! Holding Absence are first and they captivate the crowd with a cleverly selected mix of rarities and fan favourites. This band continues to grow and evolve and it’s scary how good they could be.
Bob Vylan also continue to elevate the game with their headline set tonight they bring carnage to the forest! A spectacular off the cuff collection of on point punk rock more than whets the appetite for their main stage appearance, even showing that they aren’t too far away from being able to headline the biggest stage next time they play the festival.
Each night the now infamous silent disco takes over the site as the party continues into the early hours, but come Thursday morning the arrival of the rest of the attendees ensure even the first act of the day, Blush Puppy on the ‘Forest Stage’ get a good turnout. The duo perform a delightful run-through of adapted favourites which starts the first full day off perfectly.
With the outdoor stage, three tented stages and the ‘Forest Stage’ all rotating throughout each day an avid music fan can fill their boots with live music and literally catch non-stop music for nigh on sixteen hours a day if they wanted to. We don’t quite have that stamina but we give it a good go and are rewarded by great sets from Kite Thief, Beach Riot and Gaffa Tape Sandy.
Following that run we then head to first catch recent ‘Discover’ New Music Podcast guests CARSICK over on the ‘NEU Stage’. The group proceed to smash through their set to the delight of those present with the likes of ‘Anaconda Frank’ showing real bite.
Another act to impress early in the weekend are Lake Malice in ‘The Cave’. The group have been winning over all who see them this summer and their future appears to be very bright indeed.
Lambrini Girls, Graphic Nature and the official debut of new group Unpeople who have formed from the ashes of Press To MECO all follow and continue to hot run of great sets. Unpeople in particular are able to really tease what is to come and make a fantastic first impression.
The main stage soon literally takes centre stage as first Kid Kapichi and then Bob Vylan deliver two of the sets of the weekend. Kid Kapichi are effortless in their delivery of impassioned punk rock which sees an endless sea of crowd surfers on an inflatable burger! Bob Vylan then reinforce the message that their headline set sent last night, that the duo are as advertised – the most important band in the world!
We then head back to the two larger tented stages, firstly for Jim Lockey and the Solemn Sun who preview their upcoming new album ‘Colour’. The record will arrive on July 28th and the band really do a good job of convincing those in attendance that despite the decade plus wait for a new album, the wait will be worth it. All the new material this evening sounds absolutely massive. Then in ‘The Axiom’, The Joy Formidable deliver a delightful little set that evidences the eclectic mix of rock music presented at 2000trees.
Soon enough it’s time for the final run of bands that will close out day one. Skindred are well established as a great live act and tonight they have the crowd at their whim. The Newport Helicopter needs no introduction either as the crowd make the most of the groups big finale.
Back in the big tent next for Eagles of Death Metal who give a festival friendly, crowd pleasing set including the likes of ‘I Only Want You’, ‘Complexity’, ‘Cherry Cola’ and ‘I Want You So Hard (Boy’s Bad News)’.
Finally it’s over to the returning Soft Play (the artists formerly known as Slaves) to close out the day. The duo pick up where they left off and play as if they’ve never been away. It’s great to have the band back and fans revel in the likes of ‘Cheer Up London’, ‘Feed the Mantaray’ and ‘The Hunter’.
Friday begins with an early run of Beauty School, RXPTRS, The St. Pierre Snake Invasion, BLACKGOLD and New Pagans all of whom play their rules well and make the most of their short sets.
After an overcast first couple of days, today is a scorcher and the heat is intense as LostAlone arrive on the stage. The band don’t let that phase them though as they pull out all the stops to get the crowd engaged. It’s mission accomplished by the time they deliver the double header of ‘The Final Call For Forever’ and ‘The Last Drop Of Forever’.
2000trees do very well to bring together the best new music from home and abroad and the next run of Militarie Gun, Zulu, Microwave and Kublai Khan TX shows the keen eye for upcoming talent that the organisers have.
It’s this mix of new with the established acts that perfectly balances out the line-up and Hell Is For Heroes are a great nostalgic party next on the main stage. The quality overall is again on show when you can then head immediately to the ‘NEU Stage’ for an excellently run set from As Everything Unfolds, before returning to the main stage for a very enjoyable Dinosaur Pile-Up show and then jumping straight to the always intense Cancer Bats in ‘The Cave’!
Bullet For My Valentine are the act who close out the night with a huge headline performance. Attracting one of, if not the biggest crowd of the weekend, the band are in confident mood as they showcase their headlining credentials. Older tracks such as ‘Scream Aim Fire’ and ‘Hearts Burst Into Flames’ naturally receive big reactions, but it’s telling newer tracks also are well received.
A surprise AxeWound reunion with Liam Cormier is another festival highlight before ‘Tears Don’t Fall’ and ‘Waking the Demon’ ensure that come the next morning everyone is talking about how great Bullet were tonight!
The festival has been a whirlwind as per usual for 2000trees and it’s a testament to the quality of line-up that to this point there hasn’t been a bad performance. Of course some ultimately standout more than others such as that headline set last night or Bob Vylan destroying the forest but the chilled out atmosphere amongst attendees is reflected by the respect the bands pay the crowd. The reciprocal ambience creates a synergy that elevates every aspect of this event.
Come Saturday the crowd may be sapped from the previous days heat but over on the ‘Forest Stage’ Xtra Mile Recordings acts (and previous ‘Discover’ New Music Podcast guests) Hannah Rose Platt and Guise are serenading the early crowd with their beautiful music. They are both well received despite the heat being supplemented today by a lot of the wet stuff!
Xtra Mile Recordings has a great relationship and past with 2000trees and new Xtra Mile favourites (and double Full Pelt Podcast guests!) PET NEEDS attract a big crowd to ‘The Axiom’ next. This is no doubt due to some guerrilla advertising from their fans, but everyone that ventures into the tent leave hailing the band as one of the bands of the weekend.
One of the elements that makes the ‘Forest Stage’ so special are the sets from acts playing on the biggest stages which are often acoustic and unique. Next, Electric Six frontman Dick Valentine does a great job of distracting the audience from the deteriorating weather with a highly fun acoustic set.
After catching Dead Poet Society and Enola Gay strutting their stuff we are then able to catch Electric Six themselves who attract another big crowd to the main stage. The crowd lap up the likes of ‘Gay Bar’ and ‘Danger! High Voltage’ as you’d expect, and the band do their job with aplomb.
One Step Closer then cement their hype in ‘The Cave’ before Black Honey demonstrate why they are one of the best newer live acts in the country. Tracks from new album, ‘A Fistful of Peaches’ sound massive as the band achieve another of those more memorable sets of the weekend.
The reshuffled Dream State then show that they still have a big future ahead of them in ‘The Cave’ before Deaf Havana battle through a torrential downpour which decimates their crowd at the main stage. We brave the rain until the end before heading into the forest for a short but very fun set from Lynks.
Talking to people across the site, the opinion is unanimous that this has been a spectacular weekend. You feel as the weekend comes to a close that it can’t get any better, but then Hundred Reasons deliver perhaps the best set of the weekend. The band get the audience onboard from opening number ‘I’ll Find You’ and never lose them despite more heavy rain. One of the moments of the weekend comes when Enter Shikari man Rou Reynolds joins the band for a superb ‘Silver’.
Jamie Lenman then plays his latest masterpiece ‘The Atheist’ in full over in the forest before Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes come out of hibernation to finish the festival with a welcome career-spanning set.
Whilst the band may lack a certain volatility of their early days they don’t lack in swagger or controlled ferocity when required. The final run of ‘My Town’, ‘Devil Inside Me’, ‘Juggernaut’, ‘Lullaby’ and ‘I Hate You’ is the perfect way to bring an incredible weekend of music to a close.
2000trees has established itself at the heart of the summer as a trusted and respected event. From their humble beginnings to now fifteen events later, the festival lays on the infrastructure but the audience makes the event the special weekend that it is!
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