FESTIVAL REPORT: 2000 Trees 2019

FESTIVAL REPORT: 2000 Trees 2019

“They said we couldn’t do it again but here we are! Well, actually they asked us to do it again, but you get what I mean…” 
 
Jamie Lenman is in celebratory mood, having spent the last week on tour with a handpicked lineup, all building up to this, Lenmania 2, an entire day on the Axiom stage at 2000 Trees 2019 opened and closed by Lenman himself. The former Reuben frontman is something of an institution at Trees to the extent that his former band even have a campsite named after them. His early acoustic set is packed with a mix of Reuben songs, covers from Madness’ ‘It Must Be Love’ to Erasure’s ‘Love to Hate You’ and special guests like his wife on ‘It’s Hard To Be A Gentleman’ and Jen Hingley from False Advertising on ‘Good Luck’. He closes the set with the song he wrote for the festival last year.
 

The festival have really pulled out the stops with making sure people get here early this year. Hingley isn’t off the stage for long as False Advertising power through a blistering set. They’ve dispensed with their usual instrument swapping antics for this set, which lends an urgency to proceedings, especially for the heavier newer material they close the set with. An early highlight comes from Nervus, who arrive onstage to Fountains of Wayne’s ‘Stacey’s Mom’ and promptly announce they’ve got a new album coming our in September. Before new song ‘They Don’t Keep You Safe’ singer Em Foster splits the crowd into cops and not cops, asks the cops to leave before she splits the crowd down the middle for a call and response. It’s followed by ‘The Way Back’ with its incendiary refrain of “If I can learn to just accept myself then fuck everybody else”. Before closer ‘It Follows’ they bring on Milk Teeth and Petrol Girls and invite everyone from the crowd to join them as well. By the end of the song there are so many people onstage that security soon looks worried about whether the stage can take it.
 

When Petrol Girls return for their set, they dedicating a song to No Borders No Binaries and “all the anti fascists”. Singer Ren Aldridge’s shorts might be sequined but her voice is razor blades. She asks for donations for her defamation case against an unnamed party in the music industry before launching into the incredible blistering post-hardcore of ‘Touch Me Again’, with its scream of “It’s my body/And my choice” leading into the heart wrenching refrain of “Touch me again and I’ll fucking kill you”. Their last song ends with a rallying cry of “We’re not finished and we never fucking will be”.
 

The Axiom is already overflowing as Jamie Lenman starts his second set with a cover of ‘Killer’ by Adamski. Things really get going with the Nirvana-alike ‘Keep It To Yourself’. New single, Cyndi Lauper cover ‘She Bop’ is the perfect halfway point between his hardcore material and the more classical songwriting-influenced material, which makes it make perfect sense as a segue into ‘I Ain’t Your Boy’. It’s followed by a real treat, as he’s joined for ‘No One Wins the War’ by former Reuben drummer guy Davis. He again closes with a heavy version of ‘Two Thousand Trees’.
From one Trees regular to another. Frank Turner closes the main stage with a more old-fashioned set of singalongs. He declares this show #2364, and reckons 2000 of those have been here. Whether this justifies mandolin solos is a different matter. It’s a crowd pleasing set of breezy indie rock, a song about death, a song about being on tour, a song about death, a song about writing songs, a song about death. There are a lot of songs about death. Are you OK Frank? The band leave the stage for him to play a song about Sister Rosetta Tharpe, acknowledging the debt he owes to her for inventing rock and roll. It’s nice enough, but it’s impossible to ignore that the chorus sounds like another song we’ve heard today: ‘Stacey’s Mom’ by Fountains of Wayne.
 
Friday sees No Violet open the Forest stage at the ungodly hour of 10:30. Soothing silent disco-induced hangovers, they suit being pared back to acoustic instruments, singer Ellie’s fragile, quavering voice the focal point. It gives them a vibe more akin with Alanis Morisette than their usual Sleater Kinney. They’re followed in the forest by Elliot Falla & the Blue Valentines. They make Tom Waits-y whiskey-soaked blues, singer Falla’s voice a baritone that’s almost comically deep for his unassuming frame. It’s the interplay between the guitar and piano that makes it, so much so that the more acoustic guitar-led material suffers in comparison.
 
There’s been some changes made to the layout this year. Aside from the slightly weird decision to add a Ferris wheel and a teacup ride, the main stage area has got slightly smaller this year, with food trucks brought around the far side of the entrance to fill in some of the space that’s usually dead to the side of the stage. It gives the main arena a more intimate feel, which chimes well with the rest of the changes to the site, like bringing a covered area with bails of hay into the main site to give more seating by the bars and most of the food stands and a sort of chill out area, the Retreat, behind the main stage.

 
The Retreat area hosts a selection of comedy, spoken word, talks and workshops from the likes of Safe Gigs for Women and Extinction Rebellion. Extinction Rebellion host a Q&A early on Friday, fielding questions on their stance on veganism and their targets for direct action. Unfortunately their representatives, as enthusiastic as they seem, struggle to answer queries about a recent GDPR breach, referring to statements on their website without being familiar with them. As noble as their cause is, this awareness-raising effort has somehow made them look inexperienced to the point of naive.
 
Friday on the Axiom stage sees Xtra Mile Records curating. Oxygen Thief are an early highlight, introducing several songs are introduced as being about telling racists to “fuck off into the sea”, with the explanation being that it’s a catchphrase he’s working on in the hope that they become so mainstream he can get a job presenting Strictly Come Dancing to tell racists to fuck off into the sea on live TV. ‘Graffiti’, with its dig at blue passports and imperial measures is the pick of the bunch. It’s the sort of song that’s seen Future of the Left crowned as one of the least likely Strictly hosts around, although I don’t think they’ve ever segued into ‘Pass Out’ by Tinie Tempah.
 
Over on the tiny Neu stage, itoldyouiwouldeatyou begin gently before swelling into the sort of heartfelt emo that Johnny Foreigner have been carrying the standard for the past decade, appropriately enough considering they share a guitarist in Alexei Berrow. Frontperson Joey Ashworth is made in the classic emo vein, all stage stalking and passionate pointing. They confess to crying during Nervus’ set yesterday after a particularly emotional ‘Almost Zero’, and ask that we give money to our trans mates and donate to Petrol Girls’ legal fund. The set ends with the whole band singing the “I’m no boy” refrain to ‘Greek Fire’ almost a capella and Berrow holding a handwritten sign saying “I’m sorry you feel that way”. They veer from American Football-twinkle to Taking Back Sunday-heaviness with ease, but they’re no pastiche; they’re the band of the weekend.
 
Pulled Apart By Horses have leveled up this year to the main stage. The crowd might be a bit sparse for them but they play like headliners. Following early song ‘Meat Balloon’‘s cry of “Yeah! Fuck yeah whatever!” with new song ‘Is This Thing On’‘s “Hey, yeah, come on” is a bit of an on-the-nose comparison of how their songwriting has developed in their decade-plus of being in a band, but who cares? It’s dumb punk, it’s always been dumb punk, the main thing is it’s still good fun. The Wildhearts tear through a breakneck set of classic pop punk, pausing only to bring on Frank Turner to let out a bloodcurdling scream during ‘Let ’em Go’.

Speaking of bloodcurdling screams, Rolo Tomassi are a tornado of noise rock energy, encapsulated by singer Eva Spence’s unique combination of interpretive dance and mad thrashing and, of course that voice going from terrifying to melodic in the blink of an eye. All the while the music contorts from explosive riffing to Vangelis-inspired expansive prog.
 
Saturday starts off grey and overcast but as soon as Slingshot Dakota arrive onstage in a glittery robe with a banner saying HOORAY strung between the keyboard and drums, the sun comes out. For such a stripped back setup, the sound is huge. They keep joking about melting our faces off, but the distorted keyboard feels like it really could. They’re on tour with Fresh at the moment, who they say chant “shit band no songs” while they’re setting up every night, so this song is about cutting bad friends out of your life, before saying how excited they are to play in “Cheltingham”.
 
Cleopatrick‘s set on the main stage is watched by a fridge and the Jamaican bobsleigh team. Both of them go on to win prizes, the Cool Runnings group winning a lifetime achievement award for winning prizes for fancy dress five years in a row and receiving free tickets for life. Unfortunately that’s the most interesting thing about the band. Back on the Neu stage Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam kick things off with “a trio of songs all about kitchenware”. At one point a song strips down to just yelled vocals while the drummer and keyboard player switch instruments. Singer declares them “bloke emo” before spitting beer in the air and leading a brief singalong of DJ Otzi’s ‘Hey Baby’ into ‘Totally Average’. They end on a new song, all three guitarists soloing away at once.

 
Muncie Girls have grown to fill the main stage, blasting through their first three songs in quick succession. ‘Jeremy’ is dedicated to singer Lande Hekt’s “favourite person Jeremy Clarkson, I hope you’re having a shit day”. ‘Isn’t Life Funny’ in particular bursts from the speakers, sparking spontaneous dancing at the barrier. They dedicate ‘Picture of Health’ to all their friends here before starting in the wrong key and explaining it’s just a practice start. They close with ‘Respect’, but not before an intro where Hekt talks about how sexual violence disproportionately affects women, queer people and trans people and it’s more often than not men who are committing these acts.
 
A are as daft as ever, long on the comeback trail, but unfortunately even the prospect of Dougie Poynter from Mcfly on bass is enough to pull a decent crowd to the main stage. Jason Perry’s voice has slightly more of a rasp and for some reason he’s wearing a sun visor and Just Eat jacket. He runs offstage after two songs to give his little girl a kiss, and says it Chris Martin did that everyone would think he was really cool, and that if he was as cool as Chris Martin he wouldn’t have to wear clothes like this to get attention. It’s time to go, and not just because Martha are due on.
 
In contrast to A’s weird attempts at connecting with a festival crowd by acting like their main connection to pop culture of the last 15 years has come exclusively from watching the BBC’s Glastonbury footage the other week, Martha’s sheer enthusiasm is infectious. It goes to show that the secret to great pop punk is sincerity; where A are trying desperately to show how relevant they are by pointing out former bassist Daniel P Carter watching from side of stage, Martha are more interested in knocking out banger after banger: ‘Chekhov’s Hangnail’, ‘Curly & Raquel’‘Love Keeps Kicking’. They even pay tribute to the miners gala that’s also taking place today in Durham with deep cut ‘1978, Smiling Politely’.
 

The St Pierre Snake Invasion tell us 70% of their reviews of new album Caprice Enchante call it a modern hardcore classic before launching into banging lead single ‘Casanovacaine’. Frontman Damien Sayell brings out a melodica and asks if anyone has a kazoo in the crowd, only to bring on a small boy called William from the crowd for ‘I Am the Lonely Tourist’. It’s a hell of a moment, little William looking somewhat overwhelmed at first but soon getting into it as the crowd chants his name. ‘An Idiots Guide To Music’ makes it clear why Sayell has been asked to play with a reformed Mclusky; it’s not a million miles from their ‘Dethink To Survive’. TSPSI are a worthy successor to those post-hardcore heroes. Don’t sleep on them.
 
This is Every Time I Die‘s only UK show and they’re making the most if it, playing 2003 album Hot Damn in full. Their aggressive New York hardcore is pummeling, bludgeoning eardrums into submission. But it’s also offset quite sweetly by the family in front of us with three young children in ear defenders chasing around and play fighting like it’s an Early Learning Centre mosh pit. ‘Pornogratherapy’ is introduced as probably the only time we’re going to hear it live, only for all the mics onstage to conk out leaving for an anticlimactic close. Someone in an enormous Tigger costume is crowdsurfing. His head falls off and ends up onstage, mounted on the amps like a trophy, like hardcore punk big game.
 
It’s a sign that really, Every Time I Die should be headlining tonight, rather than Deaf Havana who have a more memorable lightshow than any of their songs, somehow being more dull than the previous night’s You Me At Six pop rock professionalism. The lack of headliners is a pattern that has characterised the last few years of 2000 Trees lineups, but there’s always the stunningly beautiful Forest stage and the fun of the silent disco after hours, not to mention the undercard lineup that’s simply unparalleled. That 2000 Trees remains one of the best festivals in the country despite the lack of killer headliners speaks volumes for the strength of the rest of the lineup and the sheer sense of community.

Images by Dominic Meason, Ben Morse, Joe Singh, Gareth Bull

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