2000 Trees 2019 – Full Festival Review

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2000 Trees. Recently dubbed by Kerrang the UK’s best mid-sized festival, and once you’ve read this review of 2000 Trees 2019, you might well be inclined to agree with them. Our man on the ground Sam Savigny presents extensive coverage of all three days of the festival, following his earlier highlight summaries of Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Read on to find out about 2000 Trees 2019 in all its glory!

Thursday

Part musician, part stand up comedian, Jamie Lenman [7] opened the Axiom Stage for the second ever Lenmania. Pulling from the annals of his illustrious career for an acoustic set, we were treated to songs from Racecar is Racecar Backwards, a duet with his wife on It’s Hard To Be A Gentleman, a jazz version of Fizzy Blood and a plethora of his inimitable material. A cover of Madness’ It Must Be Love was a particular highlight. Audience participation was a must, and the hearty crowd happily obliged singing with all their might despite it being the first set of the day. An absolutely excellent, delicate reinterpretation of music we have all grown to love, it started the day off beautifully.

Taking as much from Pixies and PJ Harvey as they do from the Seattle grunge scene, Sœur [7.5] play with a snot nosed punk aesthetic dripping in low end. Despite this they play with an impressive technical nous, a tight and cohesive unit locked into their grungy grooves. The dual pronged vocal style creates some beautiful harmonies as well as providing room for experimentation with lyrical strands. New single, Do What I Want, takes a byzantine approach to their brand of rousing musicianship, bringing an almost Eastern influence to the key riff. It’s a very impressive set and they are clearly going to be a band to watch out for in coming years. The new EP can’t come soon enough.

While music from their latest EP, A Playground For Sad Adults, sounds utterly glorious in a Mr Bungle playing Deftones kind of way, it’s the likes of stalwarts such as Weapons that send the Phoxjaw [8] crowd into a frenzy. Theatrical and threatening, the band lurch around the stage with menacing purpose. As the likes of Whale, Whale, Whale batter the tent into submission, the ever growing mosh out becomes increasingly fervent. There is a lot of love in the field for Phoxjaw, and it’s wholly deserved. They play with an impressive verve and sound near identical to their recorded output. Genuinely one of the coolest bands around, and certainly a highlight of the festival.

Huge, stomping percussion and fuzzed up riffs that can move mountains. It must be Haggard Cat [7.5]. Material from debut album, Challenger, gets the rabid crowd whipped up into an excited flurry of limbs and laughter, while brand new songs get a reception as though they were staples of the set. Matt Reynolds looks to be in fine fettle, stomping around the stage like the rock god he deserves to be. He has phenomenal crowd control skills and does everything with effortless coolness. They may not be the biggest or loudest band playing here, but they certainly know how to make a lasting impression.

Wearing yellow t shirts respectively sporting ‘mustard’ and ‘custard’ in permanent marker on the front, you can tell that Frauds [6.5] aren’t a band that take things hugely seriously. Their set is one filled with hulking riffs and dexterous percussion; the performances can’t be knocked. Unfortunately they have an insistence on inane inter song patter that amuses a portion of the audience, but it’s banality doesn’t wash with the great unwashed instead receiving muted laughter and sighs. Those who do laugh are the most engaged with the set, and when they’re playing it’s hard to fault them as they are a very talented band.

Playing new songs to an unsuspecting audience can be tricky. But not if you’re Milk Teeth [8]. The new song – presumably titled Destroyer – slots in amongst classic material from Vile Child and the various EPs wonderfully, with all the brash charm the band have. They clearly relish their time on stage as musicians, with energy levels being sky high throughout. There is never a dull moment as they smash through hit after hit, sounding like Green Day in their prime and with infectious vocal melodies to boot. Em Foster of Nervus – now a full time member of Milk Teeth – in particular steals the show with her shouted backing vocals filling the overstuffed tent. It’s ramshackle and rambunctious. Surely one of the sets of the weekend.

Necks made of iron and screams that could reduce bone marrow to dust? Sounds like Conjurer [8.5]. With material from debut full length, Mire, to play with, you’d expect a little piece of brilliance from Conjurer, and you’d be right quite frankly. They play an unbelievably brutal, taut set filled with ragers from the aforementioned album. Despite the running time of most songs being around seven minutes, it feels as if the set is over in a flash; a flurry of violence and hellish shrieking. Brilliant.

Perhaps the most criminally underrated band appearing at 2000 Trees are the majestic Palm Reader [9]. There is something so magnificent about the dynamism with which the band play that makes them such a captivating act. Whether it’s the musicianship, the stage bravado or the panache for penning amazing songs, the band excel in every field they turn their hands to. What is most striking is the reception to latest album, Braille. It is met with the kind of fervour one would expect for a far, far bigger outfit and from an album more entrenched in people’s psyches. All this goes to show is that Palm Reader are connecting with a far wider and broader audience than first thought, and we can only hope that justice prevails and they continue to grow. Also, opening with Internal Winter? Behave. Give someone else a chance.

Internationalism is something we must cherish, because easy access to almost any part of the world means that our humble island gets to witness the grandeur of Turnstile [8.5]. With nothing but stellar albums under their collective belt, the set is jam packed with songs that leave the audience rabidly lapping up whatever is offered to them whilst simultaneously picking up their jaws from the floor. The set is so energetic and done with a lackadaisical coolness, you don’t just want to listen to them; you want to be them. The likes of Real Thing and Generator go down an absolute storm amongst the faithful thousands who piled into the main arena to witness the band decimate the festival site, and with their brash and hypnotic punk music, they very much did that.

Is there a man more deserving of national treasure of music status than Jamie Lenman [8.5]? Probably, but for today, and particularly the last hour, he is the most important man on the Axiom Stage as he brings the second ever Lenmania to a spectacular close. Material from the stunning Devolver features heavily in the setlist, played with a balance of aggression and delicacy that goes a long way to making his music so dearly beloved. It’s rather complicated, yet simple sounding music that connects on such an extreme level in the tent this evening, and the likes of No-one Wins The War from Racecar… as well as a cover of Nirvana’s On A Plain are just blissfully executed. No matter how familiar you may be with Lenman’s material, there is no denying his gravitas and star power, strutting around the stage like he owns the place. Well, for even just a brief while, ownership is relinquished to him as everyone eats from the palm of his hand.

If by the end of the day you found yourself flagging, ready for bed but wanting more, there was only one way to go. Playing their 2,364th show, Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls [7.5] bring the main stage to a graceful and gleeful close. With their jaunty balladry it’s impossible not to be wrapped up in the smiley affair, smashing through the likes of Be More Kind and Recovery with impressive verve. If anything there is an issue with sound, it feels as though the monitors are only working on one side of the stage, but this is a minor complaint as the music is so joyous and infectious that you forgive any shortcomings. Yes the music is basic, and the lyrics aren’t always the most profound, but goddamn the man can put on a show. You’d expect this given how much hard graft he puts into his career, this being show 2,364, and all that effort pays off hugely. It’s hard to imagine a better headliner for the first day as Frank et al have such a deep connection with the festival, and the audience are in stunned adoration as his set comes to a close.

 

Friday

Hangovers are in full effect on the morning of the second day, so what better way to ease yourself back into an unzombiefied state than with some shoegazing dream pop? Slow Crush [6] play their delicate, ethereal music with real passion and the effort out in translates into captivation for the audience. Sadly, a muddy sound job marred the fragile nature of their music, meaning the sweeping soundscapes and floating guitars are lost to the ether. A decent performance undercut by technical limitations. It’s a crying shame as the material from Aurora is so desperately beautiful that it deserves proper auditory aid.

Not suffering from any sound gremlins were the unfathomably brilliant Brutus [9]. Armed with material from the outstanding Nest, the band are on top form and ready to take the crown of band of the day despite it only being one o’clock. Opening with War – arguably the best song of 2019 so far – the band produce a gentle sound that grows into a thrashing masterpiece. The dynamism of their set beggars belief as they race through hit after hit. Cemetery and closer Sugar Dragon stand out as particular high points in an infallible set. Their performance is genuine art, and the vocal dexterity displayed is perhaps the best at the festival.

Up to this point every band covered has been relatively easy to explain. If you are looking for the indescribable, look no further than Raketkanon [9.5]. The jazzy elements of Meshuggah mixed with the hard hitting synths of Daughters, colliding with a Pattonesque frisson of insanity, it is a struggle to get your head around. But good god is it marvellous. Despite problems with the synthesiser half way through the set, the event is gloriously rambunctious and filled with explosive energy. Their vocalist spends as much time in the crowd as on stage and crowd surfs wearing an inflatable donut someone threw at him. It’s barmy, ludicrous maybe even a little bit crazy, and it’s one of the sets of the weekend.

Playing a form of skate punk influenced by the likes of Pennywise and Dead Kennedys, it’s a shame that Angel Du$t [6] aren’t more interesting. Their set is spirited and the band are clearly having the time of their lives, but this doesn’t translate into the thin crowd who seem largely unmoved by the music bar a few moshers and heads bobbing. When the lead singer pulls out his acoustic guitar, you know things are only heading downwards in terms of quality, and they never quite recover.

A band that need no introduction, Pulled Apart By Horses [7] arrive and play their brand of radio friendly grungy punk to the masses. That may sound like a damning description, but it really works and gets a somewhat paltry crowd moving for dear life. They play with energy and an impressive amount of commitment, thrashing through their various songs from their extensive catalogue. The only real issues are technical as the guitars aren’t as loud as they ought to be given the harsh edge their music has to it. Despite this the crowd lap it up and Pulled Apart depart as a triumph.

If you’re looking for the perfect juxtaposition of beauty and brutality, look no further than Rolo Tomassi [9]. Few bands can balance the seemingly disparate emotional states so well, but Tomassi manage it with ease. Eva Spence is part pop star, part nightmare with her beautiful flow between clean and harsh vocals, each done with impressive nous. The only gripe of the set is that Eva’s harsh vocals are far too low in the mix so the audience doesn’t fully experience those grisly growls in all their glory. Besides this, the band barrel through material from their latest album, Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It with a fierce panache, Alma Mater standing out as a clear highlight in amongst the near perfect set. They are a truly special band to be cherished, and their set at Trees leaves them champions.

Closing out the Cage Stage were the ever brilliant Cancer Bats [9]. Perhaps the best quartet to come out of Canada, they utterly destroy the packed tent with hit after hit and riff after riff. Hail Destroyer, Bricks and Mortar and their always welcome cover of Beastie Boys’ Sabotage leave the room frenzied and chomping at the bit for more. Ending with a cover of Black Sabbath’s War Pigs is a particularly good move as it leads to the loudest and most passionate sing a long of the night. Filled with apoplectic energy channelled into undeniable charm, they totally batter a tent so full you can’t even get in for want of trying. Excellent stuff of the highest order.

Saturday

Opening the Cave Stage were Rival Bones [4]. A hard Rock two piece with an impressive amount of swagger in their riffs, they start the day by blowing away the cobwebs the many tired attendees find themselves in the throes of. Unfortunately the lyrics are rather poor so there is a sense of embarrassment about trying to join in. ‘You’re falling in love with me while I’m breaking into you’ is just one of many worrisome phrases, and it just lets the whole thing down.

Being influenced heavily by The Bronx can be something of a disservice to a band as the comparison means they often pale. The same cannot be said for Dangerface [8.5] who play a riotous set filled with exuberant and youthful vim and energy, distinguishing themselves from the aforementioned band with Thin Lizzy style twin guitar licks. This classic rock element adds a much needed fun factor to the nascent quintet, and makes the set as glorious as it is bombastic. For a band so early in their career they are tremendously accomplished and set for far bigger things ahead.

Bringing the Forest Stage to a reflective pause was A.A. Williams [8.5]. Her brilliant and understatedly beautiful music is transcendent and subtle, leading to the quietest set of the weekend, but one that everyone is desperately locked in to. At times you can hear a pin drop as Williams’ serenades the mighty crowd of onlookers, delicately playing her guitars and piano. The added accompaniment of two session musicians brings a layer of depth to her music that would be absent were she completely solo, and elevates everything to levels of divinity.

On the opposite end of the sonic spectrum were Scottish bruisers, Lotus Eater [7]. Grinding hardcore that rips through everything in its path, the set is an explosive and violent affair. The crowd seem to be mostly onside, responding to every threatening request for screams with passionate flair. The lads have been on quite a rise recently, playing everything from grungy basements to the All Points East Festival, and frankly their set at 2000 Trees is just the icing on the cake. Powerful and uncompromising, if not a little derivative, the music is like a battering ram to the skulls of the festival attendees.

Playing a kind of crossover thrash with intensely positive vibes were Higher Power [7.5]. Their music and performance are brash and joyous throughout, with barely a second’s respite from the hyper upbeat nature of their frontman who calls for people to bounce and have fun. New songs fit into the set well and hint at a bright and more natural harmonic lead future for the band. While they sound a bit like Stray From the Path – though without the contrived political stance – they manage to introduce enough little tricks to keep them sounding fresh and above all, interesting.

Alcest invented Blackgaze. Møl [9] came closest to perfecting it with Jord. For a brief set we are treated to some of the best music the niche subgenre has to offer. The band play with fiery intensity, and Kim proves himself to be one of the best frontmen in the game as he throws himself around the stage and performs from within the crowd for Bruma. Every single song is razor sharp and hyper focused, moving so beautifully from the brutal to the serene, with such adept musicianship it’s hard to not see it as one of the weekend’s best sets.

Having released what we here at Rock Sins believe to be a modern hardcore classic in the shape of Caprice Enchanté, expectations were high for The St Pierre Snake Invasion [9.5]. It is an absolute delight to say that they were roundly met. Damien Sayell is a frontman extraordinaire, so adept at his craft, injecting wit and sardonicism into every crowd interaction, while the band play the set as if their lives depend on it. Casanovacaine and I Am The Lonely Tourist prove particular highlights, the latter featuring the legendary William ‘The Conqueror’ (a five or so year old member of the crowd equipped with a kazoo) in what was the sweetest moment of the weekend. But it’s heartening to hear material from debut, A Hundred Years A Day, stand up against their successor and not seem like a dip in quality. An absolutely stunning performance from one of the best bands the UK has to offer.

After a set like that anything after would pale in comparison. Anything apart from Buffalo, New York’s favourite sons; Every Time I Die [9]. Playing Hot Damn! in full to start the set goes down a riotous storm despite it being one of the less brilliant ETID releases (they’re all amazing just to varying degrees), but it’s when the modern hits come out that the set jumps from spectacular to utterly masterful. Ending with Map Change, the band walk away heroes of the festival, proving to everyone why they are one of the best in the game.

How the fuck do you describe something like the set The Armed [10] played? Well, as performance art. And that is art in the truest sense. Two members of the band have laid a table with water, beer and croissants before the set’s start, and they sit there enjoying themselves, hurling the sundries at the crowd. Then all hell breaks loose. Strobe lights so bright and rapid you can’t physically look at the stage, the unnamed frontman jumps into the crowd to intimidatingly prowl around, throwing his weight into the majority of the onlookers. The music is diabolically intense, feeling every bit of auditory torture as it should. It’s utterly barmy, and beyond brilliant. Forget band of the day, they just stole the whole weekend without so much as breaking a sweat.

And so 2000 Trees 2019 was brought to an end in the most remarkable way possible. Earlybird tickets for 2020 are already on sale and those sales finish at the end of this week (21st July) – so if you want cheap tickets for next year, head to the official website right now to get some!

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