Whilst Download and Glastonbury grabbed the attention of festival fans across the country, 6 music loving guys were busy preparing for their own slice of heaven based at Upcote Farm in Cheltenham. 2000 Trees is an independent 15,000 capacity festival that has been showcasing not only underground bands, but a solid resume of big names in higher slots for 15 years.
The hype was strong for this one, having picked up numerous awards over the years, and overwhelming positive feedback from artists, media and attendees. The capacity had been increased for 2022, and Frank Turner’s “favourite UK festival” sold out leading up to the event. With Jimmy Eat World, Thrice, and Idles announced at headliners, and an extremely solid undercard including Creeper, Turnstile, and You Me At Six, it was clear that the chances were high that this would be one to remember.
Arriving on the Wednesday, it was clear that this was a completely different beast to the behemoth festivals that grabbed the headlines over the past few weeks. Approaching the site a mere 1.5 hours before it opened, the signage was non existent until the entrance, as was traffic. The walk from the car park to the entrance was completed within 10 minutes, and the walk from the entrance to an available pitch was even less.
Set amongst the beautiful rolling hills of the Cotswolds, the campsites have scattered acoustic stages for scheduled late night sing-alongs, and campers to rock up and perform on. Another wonderful aspect is the fact that the festival area and campsite are one site, with no gates separating for most of the event. Not only does this save time and space, but we all know what else that means; you can take your own food and drink into the main festival site.
However, the team at 2000 Trees do kindly request (although do not demand) that you limit the amount you take in, and try to spend some money at the bars and food vendors. This wasn’t a difficult compromise, as the bars had a great selection of local ale and cider, and the food on offer was reasonably priced and full of variety.
It was clear immediately that the hype was well deserved. The site is a very manageable size for both older and younger legs, which resulted in a large amount of families attending. The stages are positioned closed to each other, with carefully managed scheduling used to avoid noise crossover, whilst maximising the efficient use of space.
Wednesday evening’s entertainment was set across 2 stages. The Word Stage, which is used during the festival for comedy, poetry and talks, was home to acoustic acts for the night, with the highlight being a late night acoustic set from the InMe frontman and accomplished solo artist, Dave McPherson. Packed full of covers, it was a great set that had everyone entertained with the relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
The Forest Stage, which is one of the true unique selling points for 2000 Trees, is a beautiful wooden stage in a clearing in the woods. It was home to full band acts, and provides a truly great experience. Mosh pit in the woods during Pulled Apart By Horses? Yes please! Palm Reader and Pulled Apart By Horses provided the standout high energy acts for the evening. The only concern regarding full bands on this stage was that there was extremely limited space between the barrier and the stage, only enough for security staff. Maybe it was an oversight, but the crowd were extremely energetic, and with a mixture of crowd-surfers with nowhere to go, literal trees in the mosh pit, and the ground being littered with empty beer cans, it could raise safety concerns.
After a great start on the first day, Thursday was when the real action started, with the majority of attendees arriving on a standard entry ticket, and the Main Stage, The Cave, The Axiom, and Neu Stage all hosting acts. The performances we managed to catch were from Grief Ritual, Nervus, Anti-Flag (acoustic), Holding Absence, Dinosaur Pile Up, Anti-Flag, and Jimmy Eat World.
Performances of the day came from Anti-Flag and Holding Absence.
Anti-Flag provided 2 great sets, the first being an acoustic set on The Forest. A truly unique performance to match the environment, and their gritty political punk translating perfectly. Their set on The Axiom later that evening brought their familiar sound, and the crowd loved every minute of it, forming a huge circle pit around the tent’s central pillar. As well as playing a solid selection from their back catalogue, they also included a wonderful medley of classic punk covers spanning decades.
Holding Absence were a late announcement, replacing No Devotion, and they certainly capitalised on the opportunity. A packed tent let the post-hardcore group feel the full force of pent up energy. Crowd-surfers galore, the set ended with their biggest hit, ‘Afterlife’.
Headliners Jimmy Eat World delivered a solid performance, and even more so when you consider the band was formed nearly 30 years ago in 1993, although it was a step down from the earlier atmosphere.
Friday was our busiest planned day, with our route featuring Creature, Heriot, Petrol Girls, St Agnes, HECK, Kenny Hoopla, Rolo Tomassi, Bob Vylan, Turnstile, and Thrice.
UK metal/hardcore newcomers Creature and Heriot were both solid, despite early slots, and we look forward to seeing them rise through the ranks. The same can be said for St Agnes, who provided the first band member crowd surf of the day on Main Stage.
HECK were welcomed into the secret set, and boy did they deserve it. Returning after their split in 2017, with the Nottingham based hardcore band immediately dived into the audience, climbed scaffolding, encouraged a wall of death and brought the drum kit into the audience, which is a rare treat in a festival setting. Carnage is the only way to describe it, and everyone was all for it. Needless to say, their merch sold out within minutes of the set finishing, and was regarded by many, including us, as the set of the weekend.
Bob Vylan graced the Neu Stage, and their grime/punk hybrid generating a lot of enthusiasm, and a call for the audience to join them on stage made for an intimate treat, which is unlikely to reoccur if they stays on his current trajectory.
Turnstile, the Baltimore hardcore band, never fail to deliver. Hot off the heels of their hit record ‘Glow On’, which reached number 2 in the UK Rock chart, they had what appeared to be a larger crowd than headliners Thrice. At sub headline status, a lot wouldn’t think of Turnstile as a rising band, but I would expect them to headline when they inevitably return.
The final day of the festival, Saturday, and we managed to catch Defects, Dream Nails, Kid Kapichi, Nova Twins, Knocked Loose, The Chats, and IDLES.
The final 3 delivered the best experiences. Kentucky hardcore outfit Knocked Loose are renowned for their (consensually) violent pits, and the crowd were intent to represent the UK hardcore scene, despite being respectful to those who didn’t want to participate. Viscous screams and crunching riffs woke the crowd up well for a Sunday, with vocalist Bryan Garris expressing his gratitude for the reciprocated energy.
Australian punks, The Chats, widely known for the viral sensation ‘Smoko’ took to the stage with sheer punk attitude. Witty one line intro’s, extremely fast renditions of their songs, and no nonsense delivery made this a remarkable value set, as we walked away feeling like they’d fitted their entire discography into 50 minutes.
IDLES are a band that need no introduction, and perfect headliners to close out the festival. Much like all of the bands across the weekend, the Bristol post-punks were amazing. A special mention needs to go to the lighting engineer, as at a smaller festival with limited budget, they worked wonders to make it as visually pleasing as it was audibly.
Across the weekend there was very little to complain about. The cashless system worked quickly and effectively, vendors were plentiful and friendly, sound was superb across all stages, and virtually all bands provided truly great entertainment.
We did notice a distinct lack of stewarding however. In fact, we didn’t see any after entering the site. This didn’t cause any issues as the crowd generally policed themselves, however, the only high vis jackets we saw belonged to security. Security worked admirably, and given the joyfully rowdy crowd, they put in a gold medal performance.
The only other point of concern was that many of the bars were allegedly drunk dry by the Sunday. A positive note for the organisers given their “Heroes buy Beeroes” campaign, but a sour point for attendees looking to party until the last minute.
“Go to Trees” they said. “It’s the most chilled experience” they said. We wouldn’t necessarily described it as chilled, although that might be due to our hardcore/metal/punk route through the festival. We would describe it as absolutely fantastic though, and well worth checking out.