Neil Dowd looks back on his visit to Upcote Farm, for a festival renowned by many in the British Rock community as being the nicest midsize festival of our time… 2000 Trees!
It’s true what they say: there is no other festival quite like 2000 Trees. No other festival can make a bill compiled with some of the biggest acts in the modern rock scene feel so intimate and communal. Where even folk-punk headliner and avid enthusiast of 2000 Trees Frank Turner can be seen, with an acoustic guitar in hand, having a singalong with the attendees, just steps away from their tents. There are even fewer places where you can see a mosh-pit, orchestrated by a generation spectrum of rock lovers and the sight of children freely and safely playing in the ‘fun area’ in the space of a few short glances. Whatever your age, gender or demographic, the effort from the organisers to provide something for everyone did not go unnoticed and the end result created a diverse community of people, all bound together by their passions of alternative music.
It matters little if you are a first-time attendee or a seasoned veteran at 2000 Trees, as the close proximity between each of the stages allows you to seamlessly wander from stage to stage, without missing any of the incredible bands the weekend had to offer. The easily accessible nature of each of the stages led to the discovery of a vast range of bands that it would’ve been quite easy to have missed, given other circumstances.
The stab-driven, rhythmically bouncy opening riff of ‘Reasons’ drew me into the Neu stage for The Bottom Line, whose captivating, hook-driven choruses and electrifying stage presence played a pivotal part in diversifying the weekend in terms of musical genre. Pengshui’s unique concoction of rap, grime and thrash-punk made for a sonic experience unlike anything else out there right now, and Orchards’ blend of alt-pop and math rock made for some remarkable moments especially in the wake of their last song, wherein the cheers from the audience saved them from being prematurely kicked off the stage.
The festival headliners allowed us to bask in the ever-changing sounds and styles of some of British Rocks finest bands of the 21st century. You Me At Six used their set to celebrate their fifteenth anniversary of being a band in style, with a set that perfectly intertwined their youthful, pop-rock beginnings with ‘Save It For The Bedroom’, playing it immediately after the groove-driven, 80’s inspired behemoth that is ‘3AM’. As always, the dynamic journey their set provided was unparalleled, with ‘Take On The World’ and ‘No One Does It Better’ providing the stripped back, nostalgia-inducing singalongs that every headlining set needs. This was contrasted with tracks like the iconic set closer ‘Room To Breathe’, which harpooned back to the high-intensity, gritty, roaring guitar-driven sound found in the rockier era of the band’s existence. Like them or not, it was easy to see that they were able to celebrate their impressive anniversary in style, with a set that oozed with the feel-good vibes that every headlining set needs
Saturday night headliner Deaf Havana showcased their development, delving straight into the new with more than half of their set being taken from their two most recent albums – ‘Rituals’ and ‘All These Countless Nights’. Whilst tracks like the heavily Springsteeninspired ‘Boston Square’ and folk-rock singalongs ‘Hunstanton Pier’ and ‘These Past Six Years’ paved the road down memory lane, the majority of their set was tailored towards the new, with the use of backing tracks taking their performance to heights unseen from this band before. The happiness and confidence which radiated from frontman James Veck Gilodi on newer songs such as ‘Worship’ and ‘Ritual’ was completely contagious. His departure from performing solely with a mic stand and guitar was executed with a sense of poise and ease which would have been unimaginable only a year or two prior. ‘Sinner’ was the obvious and only choice when it came to closing this set, with the gospelinspired backing vocals and unforgettable chorus of this track offering an uplifting send-off.
With all of this said, 2000 Trees has more to offer than just the music, with The Word tent offering a programme of debates, comedy sets, yoga, and poetry. To loosely quote the lead guitarist of Deaf Havana, Matthew Veck Gilodi, 2000 Trees is a festival that “gives a shit” and the highly prominent presence of organisations such as Safe Gigs For Women and Heads Above The Waves (an amazing non-profit aiming to raise awareness of depression and self-harm in young people) only proves the validity of Matthew’s statement. Additionally, the festival’s focus on ecofriendliness is certainly worth remark, with the £2 plastic cup initiative at the bars and array of recycling facilities at disposal resulting in very minimal littering across the entire site.
Lead Booker for the festival James Scarlett stated, “Anyone that has seen our Forest Sessions stage will tell you that it is a unique and wonderful place to watch music”, and I honestly couldn’t agree more. Hidden through an alley of trees, the intimate, hut-like stage hosts a vast range of acoustic performances, even from the festival headliners, with the audience members being encouraged to sit on the floor and watch the acts from within the trees lit with candles and fairy lights.
2000 Trees has managed to achieve the impossible and has managed to grow on a yearly basis whilst still maintaining that intimacy as a small festival. It has acquired a high number of loyal attendees throughout the years and continues to add to those numbers with the unique fine details which makes it such an amazing experience. It was a thoroughly refreshing experience to attend a festival with such a strong heart and I encourage anyone who is on the fence about attending 2020 to buy their tickets now!