Situated in the idyllic Cotswold countryside just outside Cheltenham, the 2000 Trees Festival offers a unique experience. The five primary stages are conveniently located nearby, allowing folks to spend more time enjoying performances rather than walking across vast expanses. Since its inception in 2007, this festival has been a trailblazer in the independent music scene. There is none of the corporate bullshit, along with a massive list of dos and don’ts; it’s a festival where you go to have fun, kick back and watch bands. They have their fingers on the pulse with acts, and this year’s lineup promises to be no exception.
The 2000 Trees Festival has earned its reputation as the UK’s leading mid-sized festival through its diverse lineup, which this year includes over 100+ bands performing across the five stages. The festival focuses on budding artists while welcoming back some iconic names and presenting stellar headlining acts. The crowd is mainly in their 20s to 30s, with plenty of diversity, but even us older ones are more than welcome. Staff are friendly, and there’s always someone to help with issues. You can bring your own alcohol to the campsite and the arenas, which can help save a few pounds, but they encourage you to buy a few drinks on-site to help with the running costs. The festival is 100 per cent independent; let’s hope it stays that way for years.
There are limited tickets for the opening on Wednesday, but well worth trying to grab yourself one so you are settled in for the main start on Thursday and also get to witness some cracking bands on the Forest Sessions stage.
SNAYX kick things off, and the 4pm start doesn’t stop the energy of the band or the crowd as they smash into each other as the band blast through some corkers, ‘Boys in Blue‘ and ‘Body Language‘, fan the flames even more.
Delaire The Liar and Press To Meco keep that adrenaline pumping, maintaining the high-octane atmosphere that has everyone hooked. Then Saint Agnes storm in, absolutely annihilating the stage and giving us a tantalising glimpse of their forthcoming album, including the fierce as fuck ‘Bloodsuckers’. Vocalist Kitty Arabella takes things up a notch as she dives into the pit, riding the wave of the crowd for their final number.
Tiger Cub and Holding Absence return to Trees, familiar faces that know how to get the crowd jumping. The fans reciprocate the love for both sets, the air filled with reckless abandon and overwhelming crowd surfing. As the sun sets, Bob Vylan strides onto the stage, wrapping up the day in their signature unrivalled punk rock flair. They deliver a set to die for, concluding with a mind-blowing cover of Nirvana’s classic ‘Territorial Pissings‘.
Thursday, I kick off with four Brighton bands, as you’ve gotta support the home team. Beach Riot and Gaffa Tape Sandy both drop entertaining sets on the mainstage; “Projector” are pure class over on the Axiom stage and dig into some new material, while later on the Neu stage, the Lambrini Girls show what all the fuss is about with an in-your-face garage punk set. They drive home a message on identity, police corruption, abusers in the music scene and trans rights while still making it fun, which would be challenging unless you’re the Lambrini Girls. Still keeping it local with a riotous set from Kid Kapichi chock full of bangers, ‘Rob the Supermarket‘, ‘Glitterati‘ and ‘Working Man’s Town‘ shine from a faultless set.
Meanwhile, Guilford’s BEX re-energises the crowd at the Neu stage with a rip-roaring set. Some early technical difficulties don’t stop them from proving they’ve got the stamina to keep the crowd bouncing.
It’s Bob Vylan time again, this time main stage, and it’s even bigger, badder and louder than last night. It’s not long before Bobbie is in the crowd held high above their heads.
At the Forest stage, a pleasant surprise awaits as Haggard Cat steps in as a late substitution for July Jones. Their blistering set, characterised by some of the most powerful drumming of the festival, shreds the stage. The crowd responds with infectious energy, forming circle pits and diving headfirst into the photo pit.
I rush back to catch Dead Pony, having heard only glowing reviews. They do not disappoint, delivering a high-octane, danceable indie punk set with the dynamic Anna Shields leading the riot.
Skindred wreaks absolute havoc on the main stage, with a searing set of heavy hitters sending the crowd into a frenzy. Benji Webb, one of the most entertaining vocalists in the scene, fronts their powerful, fun rock performance.
Eagles of Death Metal offer up an effortlessly classy performance at Axio, sprinkling in a dazzling cover of Bowie’s ‘Moonage Daydream‘. Over at Neu, Bad Nerves delivers a relentless onslaught of 70s melodic punk tunes at a breakneck pace, one of the festival’s standouts.
Headliners Soft Play makes a triumphant return, proving they’ve lost none of their punch. Their drum and guitar duo inspires a wave of crowd surfers, with Bob Vylan joining the fray for an extra dose of adrenaline, capping off the night in style. But I can’t resist a detour to the forest stage to catch Mimi Barks’ thunderous set of brutal hard electronica – an experience worth the trek, leaving a searing imprint on the memory.
Friday hits us with blistering heat, prompting a catch-up with friends and a much-needed retreat into any available shade.
Heriot takes a daring stride onto the main stage, and damn, do they own it with their ferocious metal set. The crowd echoes their intensity, waving their makeshift swords in the air in wild appreciation. Lost Alone cranks out the alt-rock with a sprinkle of emo, a concoction that resonates with me on all levels.
Militaire Gun rolls out their performance at Axiom, but it doesn’t quite strike the chord I’m hoping for. So, I take the chance to conserve energy for the mayhem yet to unfold.
Later, Brutus returns, rocking out their signature symphonic hard rock despite the scorching heat. Dublin’s own Gurriers takes the stage, a band on my radar since missing them twice at this year’s Great Escape Festival in Brighton. This time, I’m prepared, and their electrifying post-punk set proves it was a decision well worth it.
At Axiom, XCerts bring their infectious brand of indie rock while As Everything Unfolds draws a sprawling crowd to their Neu stage set. Dinosaur Pile-Up returns to the main stage after last year’s killer show. The crowd is ready, packed with inflatable dinosaurs bobbing in time to their grunge-inspired set of crowd-pleasers.
Empire State Bastard comes out of left field, their lineup featuring the talents of Simon Neil of Biffy Clyro, Mike Vennart on guitar, and Naomi Macleod on bass. Their sound is a wild, chaotic blend of rock that dances on the edges of free-form jazz – a standout set of the day and a band I can’t wait to see again.
As the sun finally begins to relent, headliners Bullet For My Valentine seize the stage, laying absolute waste to the largest crowd I’ve seen at the festival with a flawless set of melodic metal favourites. The energy is palpable; the ground seems to shake with the weight of the crowd’s excitement. It’s a high note to end on – a day etched in sweat, sun, and banging sounds!
Saturday slams us with rainstorms, but there’s no dampening the spirits here. The clouds relent for Witch Fever, whose doom-drenched riffage dominates the main stage. Straight from Colchester, Pet Needs slay at the Axiom, pounding out the best renditions of ‘Toothpaste‘ and ‘Get Off The Roof‘ I’ve ever heard. This band is a force, their kinetic energy charging the atmosphere.
Taking the advice of Pet Needs frontman Johnny, I stick around at Axiom for Ways Away and find myself captivated by their sweet yet gritty brand of punk-infused rock. It’s their debut in the country and first show at Trees, and they’re killing it.
Over at the Neu stage, Enola Gay holds the crowd captive with their blistering post-punk set. It’s raw, intense, and everything we’re here for. Circle pits open up, and bodies surge through the air, crowd-surfing in droves. Is this the best performance today? Just might be.
The festival atmosphere kicks up a notch when Electric Six roll out their iconic hits from a 25-year-spanning career. ‘Gay Bar‘ incites one of the most joyous circle pits of the festival, beach balls ricocheting off the crowd, while ‘Danger Danger‘ pushes the party to new heights.
Up next is Brighton’s Black Honey at Axiom. As always, they’re impeccable, Izzy B Phillips commanding the stage like no other. Holding Absence return for a second time this festival, delivering a mesmerising performance that proves they belong on the main stage.
The rain returns with a vengeance during Deaf Havana’s main stage set. Ponchos are donned, and some shows are regrettably missed as we seek shelter. But the crowd rallies for Hundred Reasons, whose electrifying set – featuring Rou Reynolds of Enter Shikari for ‘Silver‘ – is a total knockout.
Over at the Cave, Pitchshifter is back for only their second show in five years, and they’re still on fire. Joined by guest vocalists, including Kitty Arabella from Saint Agnes and Mikee Sikth, it’s a performance not to be missed.
Closing out the festival in a storm of sound and fury is Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes, who deliver an absolute banger from the first notes of ‘Kitty Sucker‘ to the final echoes of ‘I Hate You‘. Despite the rain-sodden conditions, the crowd bounces along, fully immersed in the energy.
2000 Trees is an independent festival with a die-hard spirit and plans to remain that way for the long haul. Trees was my festival of the year in 2022, and it’s looking like it will be way up there again this year. Next year’s tickets are already on sale HERE, so gear up for a riot under the trees!
Photos and Words by Cris Watkins – punkinfocus.com