2000 Trees 2018 - Part Two: Friday | Live Festival Review

Photo: Dom Meason

Despite the odd smattering of precipitation which may have just been the result of the date being Friday the 13th, the second day of 2000 Trees 2018 was fantastic. With sets from Grumble Bee, Vodun, Creeper, Touche Amore, Jamie Lenman, Twin Atlantic and many, many more, you can imagine what went down.

Multi-instrumentalist and producer Jack Bennett performs under the alias of Grumble Bee (8). He opened the Forest stage at 10:30 on Friday morning, and even Jack himself struggled with this early hour! Despite the time, he drew himself a respectfully large crowd. ‘Red’ opened his set and performing with just an acoustic guitar and his stunning vocal talents, Grumble Bee’s music caused the Forest to fall into a captivated silence. The music played was relaxed and Bennett proved himself to be a confident and charismatic performer as he cracked jokes and showed that he really enjoys being on stage.

‘Francium’ translated perfectly to acoustic guitar, with subtle reverb on Jack’s vocal that really added a depth to the music. He encouraged the gathered crowd to sing along and with choruses that were easy to pick up, it was impossible not to. Grumble Bee got the early birds up and laughing with his brilliant set.

New punk band Lady Bird (7) are signed to Girl Fight Records, the label owned by the two-piece punk rockers, Slaves. Opening the main stage of Two Thousand Trees is an honor for any band, not least for one as new as Lady Bird, but the trio stepped up to the mark and played a solid set.

Lady Bird’s set was peppered with songs from their debut EP, Social Potions, but we were treated to some unreleased tracks too. Each band member was clearly enjoying their time on stage and having room to run and jump, and add in some spoken-word poetry from singer Don Lennols and you have a band really making music their own way. Lady Bird were loud and energetic, and really kicked off Friday at 2000 Trees with a bang.

Photo: Ben Morse

Since releasing their fantastic and AOTY worthy sophomore record Everything Dies earlier this spring, the Watford collective Nervus (9) have been on a continuous propulsion of momentum, with many attendees citing them as one of the best additions of this year’s line-up. Despite the group opening the coveted Neu stage shortly after midday, the scale of such a crowd gathered may be unparalleled at such a time, with hundreds gathered in anticipation.

With an air of humanity and inclusiveness, it’s a pitch perfect account of material from Everything Dies and their debut Permanent Rainbow, with every track resonating an air of impassioned energy, an attribute that is only mirrored by the hundreds in attendance. Despite the personal and reflective lyricism documenting the battles front woman Em Foster has faced, Nervus’s greatest ability is being able to perfectly create safe and enjoyable spaces that are welcoming to all seekers of fantastic music. A perfect set from a beautiful group of people.

Londoners Vodun (9) are what can only be described as an eccentric band; they fuse thrash metal with tribal drum beats and singer Chantal Brown’s impressive gospel vocals. Their quirky nature was welcomed at 2000 Trees, with the large crowd dancing around right from the start. On stage, Vodun wear tribal face and body paint, and their music is heavy but has character that sets them apart from most cookie-cutter metal bands.

‘Loa’s Kingdom’ opened their set and saw the band launch themselves into the music with passion and energy, the big riffs accompanied by punchy drums. Of course, a band like Vodun wouldn’t just attack us with an onslaught of noise; as they moved at pace through their set, they took some moments to slow things down with ambient guitar licks that created a lovely atmosphere. Coming from a Gospel background, Chantal often encourages crowd involvement during their live performances. ‘Possession’ saw her throw maracas into the crowd as the band on stage worked themselves into a frenzy for the cacophony of the song. The vibrant energy of Vodun made the dull Friday afternoon at 2000 Trees much brighter, with their guitar-heavy riffs and danceable elements, the crowd really enjoyed their set.

Photo: Dom Meason

For a band that is relatively young, Holding Absence (8) have achieved a commendable amount. They’ve played shows with Being As An Ocean and Greywind to name just a few, and the band have also held their own with plenty of headline tours. As a band, Holding Absence have a wide variety of inspirations which has resulted in their music being a combination of heavy rock and atmospheric keys - essentially, it’s something for everyone. Frontman Lucas Woodland’s vocal was wonderfully melodic and each member of the band was constantly moving and encouraging crowd movement.

The intro to ‘Everything’ heavily featured gentle keys and a soft vocal, which when coupled with the gathered crowd’s voices singing along, created an atmospheric moment. As the song progressed, this calm was shattered by distorted guitars and vocals that carried much more power. The band powered through their set with barely a moment’s breath. The crowd involvement and show that Holding Absence put on left us all with smiles on our faces and a new favourite band.

Despite the smattering of rain that made an appearance on Friday afternoon, the turnout was unprecedented at the Forest stage for the great Jamie Lenman (9). Appearing on stage with nothing but an acoustic guitar, he opened with ‘All of England is a City’ and immediately had the assembled people bopping and singing along. It was stunning to hear so many voices echoing Lenman’s own unique one, and alongside the simple steel-stringed acoustic guitar, these stripped back songs really stood out as fun.

Jamie’s long-time friend and special guest Terry Abbott was brought on stage for a stunning rendition of ‘Little Lives’. The two harmonized perfectly and the delicate guitar playing accentuated the lyrics and heartwarming nature of the song. One of Lenman’s newer tracks ‘Body Popping’ picked up the mood again after a few more emotional ones, and his cover of ‘Must Be Love’ had the audience swaying and singing along. Closing his set was ‘2000 Trees’, a song that Jamie wrote about the festival, the people, and the atmosphere. With easy lyrics, Lenman quickly had the crowd singing and laughing along with him. His set was heartwarming and fun, and certainly memorable!

Photo: Joe Singh

Whilst the extended modernist revival of pop-punk is often the subject of critique and skepticism, one band who have channeled the energy, melody and social-political confronts of the original movement are Norway’s Sløtface (8). Whilst their full-length debut Try Not To Freak Out presented the fundamental aspects listed, the group delightfully present such attributes flawlessly today, marring progressive punk orientated attitudes with melody and underling pop sensibilities, forging a slick and haplessly hooking live sound that carries their homegrown aesthetics.

With established hits like ‘Pitted’, ‘Galaxies’ and ‘Sponge State’ igniting the bounce and bop within the crowd, the group never shy away from their feminist and equality stances, calling for a more inclusive and welcoming space within the ensuring pits. In an age where inclusiveness and equality is demanded for, and much required, it’s gratifying to see an act who openly demand in person, confronting and challenging the well documented and debated social issues within alternative live music.

It’s not common to find bands like H09909 (8) playing an alternative rock festival but 2000 Trees is the kind that allows different niche sounds to be embraced. The duos abrasive sound fills The Cave stage not just with brutal screams but with bodies of people all piling in.

Leaving the notarise East vs West coast war back home, the guys embark on performing a British battle, dressing up as the Metropolitan police and prancing around the stage as their juxtaposing music causes havoc amongst the crowd. It’s not only a live show the audience is experience, but an actual political theatrical play. For a duo based in the states to come over and play a packed out tent in Gloucestershire, while still exhibiting the similar struggles we face is remarkable and could only be pulled off by H09909.

Photo: Ben Morse

Playing a Forest Session after Jamie Lenman is no easy task, but Press to MECO (8.5) gathered a respectfully large crowd, and played a superb set. The most noticeable thing about this Press to MECO is their stunning three-part harmonies, but the band quickly proved themselves to be much more than their vocal prowess. With just an acoustic guitar, clean bass, and cajon, the lyrics of the songs felt more raw, and the three cleverly rearranged their songs to suit these instruments. ‘A Place In It All’, one of Press to MECO’s gentler tracks created a stunning emotional atmosphere with the raw, sincere lyrics.

Of course, the boys’ set wasn’t all serious; we saw them splitting the crowd into three and encouraging us to join in with the harmonies for ‘If All Your Parts Don’t Make a Whole’, which Press to MECO’s stripped back session also featured a beautiful rendition of Manchester Orchestra’s ‘The Maze’. The slow nature of the song allowed both the band’s vocals, and their penchant for musical arrangements. Press to MECO’s Forest Session highlighted just how humble the three are, and the smiles present on their faces throughout their performance told us just how much they love what they do!

Dublin-based grunge trio Fangclub (7) have an incredibly defined sound. Both their appearance and their music is heavily inspired by 90s grunge music, and it would be easy to assume they’re just a rip-off Nirvana. Their set on the Neu Stage of 2000 Trees proved this assumption to be very wrong.

Since their tour with Milk Teeth in March, the band have consistently been improving, and their set at Upcote Farm earned them a respectfully large crowd. ‘All Fall Down’ opened Fangclub’s set, and was quickly followed by ‘Knife’, a catchy song with a heavy edge that got the crowds moving. There were large pockets of people in the audience that knew the words and sang along enthusiastically, while others simply bobbed their heads in time.

The band on stage had plenty of energy and their songs clearly influenced by an eclectic combination of alternative music. There were also some surprisingly delicate aspects to their track, something unexpected from a band with so many rough and raw tracks. The sleazy guitars, punchy drums and drawling vocals of ‘Bad Words’ had a vibe easily comparable to Milk Teeth’s. The trio on stage stormed through their set, closing it with a cover of ‘Heart Shaped Box’. This final song got everybody on their feet and dancing, or crowd surfing. Fangclub certainly played a solid set and are one to keep an eye on in the future.

Whilst melodic hardcore is clearly a genre that has swiftly gained traction over the past decade or so, with many emerging acts lending themselves to the movement, it is unquestionable that the Californian quintet Touché Amore (9) are still the masters of such a sound, a fact that remains concrete tonight. Opening with the dynamic battle of self confidence that is ‘~’ before launching headfirst into ‘Pathfinder’, one of greatest elements of this set is how tenacious and substantial their live sound is, channeling the compounding emotions within their content whilst ensuing such an output is multidimensional, gripping and energetic.