FESTIVAL REPORT: 2000 Trees 2017, Cheltenham 8

FESTIVAL REPORT: 2000 Trees 2017, Cheltenham

2000 Trees is one of the finest festivals in the country, never mind the finest small festival. With a capacity of just 5000 and a choice of five stages hosting some of the most interesting underground DIY bands around, it has an incredibly friendly atmosphere. One couple are so comfortable they’ve brought their cat, which, even though they’ve dressed it in a bandana, we can’t possibly endorse without ear defenders.

Photo credit: Gareth Bull

Muncie Girls kick things off with songs about “feminism, conversation [and] budget cuts to prisons”. Their energetic emo is a lot more fun than that sounds, with ‘Nervous’ sparking the first of many chants of “oh Jeremy Corbyn”.

Muncie Girls 1
Photo credit: Dominic Meason

Pulled Apart By Horses acoustic show maybe not their finest hour. They seem to be aware of it since they cut their set short by a good 10 minutes. In contrast, they seem a lot more relaxed later that afternoon letting rip at full volume. A surprise cover of the Beatles‘Helter Skelter’ is an unexpected treat, and they close with the powerful one-two of ‘VENOM’ and ‘High Five Swan Dive Nose Dive’Mallory Knox‘s closing set sounds good, but not as good as the grilled cheese van’s stilton, bacon and pear toasted sandwiches.

Photo credit: Dominic Meason

Friday begins in the welcome shade of the Forest Sessions stage with Nish Goyal & the Happy Nihilists‘ stomping folk. Goyal explains that ‘Under a Tree’ was written right here two years ago, before accidentally knocking his mic over throwing tote bags to the crowd. That cat is still here, being carried past the tent where Weirds are sparking mild panic with their mesmerising noise rock. Their singer jumps off stage to march round the crowd, tangling people up in his mic lead if they’re not quick enough to react.

Back in the Forest there’s a huge crowd for Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes’ acoustic set, but at first Tom Dunne is (understandably) struggling to hold the crowds’ attention. When Carter does arrive he’s in excellent spirits, joking that he’s only just realised what a good singer he is now the guitar and drums aren’t drowning him out.

Over on the Main Stage, Skinny Lister put a lot of effort into their Pogues-y folk rock but it’s weirdly anaemic. When they concentrate on the ceilidh, as on ‘Bold as Brass’, they hit a solid vein of fun, but there’s a distinct lack of soul. Jamie Lenman, on the other hand, is all charisma. ‘Parties Break Hearts’ by his old band Reuben incites mass sing-a-longs as he pokes fun at his “super serious heavy rock songs”. In a break from the metal and screaming he dons a yellow Freddy Mercury jacket for a gender-equal version of ‘Fat Bottomed Girls (and Boys)’.

Photo credit: Joe Singh snaprockandpop

Personal Best‘s perky indie pop shines out of the Neu stage, all duelling guitars and overlapping vocals. ‘This Is What We Look Like’ is a brilliant power pop closer, its lyrics “It’s too rough around here to hold hands with you, my dear” a brilliantly simple dissection of feeling too unsafe to be entirely open about your sexuality.

Back on the Main Stage Frank Carter is scissor-kicking and grinning, dedicating ‘Juggernaut’ to the kids on their parents’ shoulders and stopping the band when someone falls over but then teasing them for not tying their shoes. He’s having the time of his life. Announcing that he “refuse[s] to let my daughter grow up in a world where she doesn’t feel safe crowdsurfing” he declares that ‘Wildflower’ is for women only. Friday fades away with the Silent Disco seeing more Jeremy Corbyn chants over ‘Seven Nation Army’ into the Jurassic Park theme.

Frank Carter 1
Photo credit: Dominic Meason

Kamikaze Girls open Saturday with fiery feminist polemics over sludgy guitar. By the time Lucinda Livingstone is yelling into her guitar pickups and dialling up the feedback at the climax of ‘I Don’t Want To Be Sad Forever’ the crowd is riveted. Milk Teeth seem nervous but their grungy pop punk gets the Main Stage crowd onside. Whether it’s the stifling heat or the back-to-back slow songs, the second half of their set lacks the energy of the first.

milk teeth 2
Photo credit: Ben Morse

There’s a man dressed as Poseidon dancing to ‘I’m Not Your Problem’’s spiky riffs at the front of Peaness‘ set. They’re clearly a bit nervous, awkwardly thanking the “big audience” for answering when asked if we’re having a nice festival. They’ve no need to be as ‘Oh George’ and ‘Ugly Veg’ light up the tent. The righteous rage of Petrol Girls then sets the Neu stage alight, playing samples of women’s experiences of sexual assault at festivals before ‘Touch Me Again’. Dedicating songs to DIY punk peers and antifa equally, Petrol Girls are the most hardcore band onsite. It certainly makes Gnarwolves claim to be Outsiders look a bit daft, but then dumb fun punk isn’t a hard sell. It’s bassist Charlie’s birthday, so they give him a cake and play ‘Fuck Your Party’.

2kTreesSATURDAY 48
Photo credit: Gareth Bull

Honeyblood are, it turns out, a lot heavier live than on record. As there’s only the pair of them, drummer Cat Myers triggers the electronic basslines and samples with a look of serious concentration and without missing a beat. ‘Walking at Midnight’ becomes huge, ‘All Dragged Up’ becomes a dance off. The drums are battered so hard for ‘Killer Bangs’ that the snare has to be replaced. Poseidon wins the dance off but he’s drunk and confused, ending up onstage air guitaring with his trident.

Photo credit: Joe Singh snaprockandpop

Doe’s drummer Joe Popyura loses a stick and his hat halfway through the first song. First festival any of them have been to for about 15 years. There’s a brand new song about Stephen king novel Pet Cemetery. ‘Corin’ ends with a drumstick almost hitting someone in the front row but a euphoric closing ‘Sincere’ means there’s no hard feelings.

There’s a certain lack of headliners this year. Lower than Atlantis‘ most interesting moment comes when they leave the stage with 10 minutes to go only to return because they hadn’t realised that was the end of their set. Slaves come on to a dramatic electronic buzz and an expensive looking lighting rig, but nothing can disguise the fact that their music is crap pub rock. “STDs/PhDs/Social housing/Anti-freeze/There’s always another way” is moronic even on a surface level. Fortunately, Kevin Devine on the Forest stage is playing a set of Elliot Smith covers. This is what makes 2000 Trees so special: even if the headliners aren’t all that, the wealth and breadth of other bands over the weekend more than make up for it, meaning it’s still the best festival around.

Featured image: Gareth Bull

  1. Andy – not criticising, simply wondering… are Kamikaze Girls ‘fiery feminist polemics’ genuinely fiery, or is it more the case that you have inadvertantly fallen into a sexist trap? Are their words ‘fiery’ because they are genuinely fiery, or did you use the word because that’s the sort of word that one inavariably uses to describe a woman with the timerity to shout for equality?

    I ask this as someone who knows Kamikaze Girls on record but has never seen them live… I have no idea whether or not they are genuinely fiery on stage. I have no idea whether “angry feminist polemics” or “entirely reasonably and slightly forcefully put feminist polemics” might have been more accurate than the word ‘fiery’ which to me suggests passion over reason and quick to temper. I mgith argue that no feminst ever has ever expressed passion over reason (any passion has been entirely reasonable) or been quick to temper (even almost instantaneous temper is not quick to temper when it is anger in the face of bigotry).

    1. to be honest it was more for the alliteration and rhythm of the words there than anything else. they’re certainly passionate, i wouldn’t have thought of fiery meaning unreasonable though personally. they’re very considered actually, maybe fiery was more to do with the closing song with the feedback and yelling into the pickups, which was a definite highlight.

      if it’s the sort of word that’s used to negate feminist discourse it certainly wasn’t meant in that way, and i’d hope the rest of my writing shows that. thanks for the feedback though, it’s something i’ll think about in future.

      were you at the festival? there was definitely far more women on the lineup this year than previously, it was great. especially since refused called them out on it last year, it’s good to see them actively trying to balance things out better

      1. I wasn’t at the festival – if I had been I would have seen kamikaze girls!

        I really wasn’t criticising you – as I think you realised I was simply making a point and wondering whether it had merit. I am certainly not perfect.

        As much as anything it reminded me of something I read (from memory about Petrol Girls which described them as ‘outspoken feminists’). My reaction was that forcefully stating feminist ideas does not make one “frank in stating one’s opinions, especially if they are shocking or controversial.” OK the first bit of the definition is right but equality is not shocking or controversial – indeed it is the reverse – backwards bigotry – that is shocking and controversial.

        Your use of ‘fiery’ caught my eye, but less explicitly. “Fiery” is often used to describe the stereotypical ginger-haired, passionate, slightly irrational female… and I wondered whether the word would have been used if – for example – you were describing a passionately anti-fascist male band.

        I really am being picky here and my sole intention is to make you think, not to show disapproval.

        1. you’ve definitely made me think, my intention wasn’t to derail what they’re talking about but the opposite if anything, to draw peoples’ attention to the band because what they’re talking about is important. petrol girls were way more confrontational but they were clearly making an impact on everyone who went to see their set. heavy stuff but so good. in fact petrol girls’ singer coming on for a song in the kamikaze girls’ set made my pals want to go and see them, her voice is incredible and what she’s saying is really compelling.

          anyway you should totally go next year if you can, it’s the best festival around and the installment ticket offer they’re doing at the mo works out about a tenner a month! i’ll buy you a drink 😀

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