Photo: Gareth Bull
Bristol math rock three-piece Sœur’s (7.5) first set of the weekend was colossal. The harmonies of vocalist/guitarists Tina Maynard and Anya Pulver were hauntingly beautiful, a perfect juxtaposition with their meaty riffs. They flew through old favourites including ‘Fight’ and ‘Slow Days’ and treated us to newer material too. Their latest single, ‘Do What I Want’ sounded huge with the audience singing the words back to the band. With a sound influenced by grunge, punk, math rock and so much more, Sœur attracted a crowd with a multitude of tastes and proved to them that they’re more than worthy of the hype they’re attracting right now.
With a sound comparable to that of Milk Teeth and Marmozets, False Advertising (7) put on a great show. Jen Hingley’s vocal was incredibly powerful, and her bandmates provided punchy drums and funky basslines. The Manchester trio work well as a unit and their stage show has really shaped up since their tour with Jamie Lenman. False Advertising offered a defined sound that works to their strengths, with their new songs already sounding polished. We were treated to their new single ‘You Won’t Feel Love’ alongside some tracks from an upcoming release.
Photo: Gareth Bull
Despite this performance being Phoxjaw’s (9) third appearance on the grounds of Upcote Farm, this set feels somewhat different in comparison to their previous respective performances. Riding high on the back of their second EP, the phenomenal fever dream that is A Playground For Sad Adults, there is a fervent air of both urgency and crucial importance dancing within the confines of the Neu Stage this early afternoon. As the group rip and tear through content from both their most recent offering and their debut EP, it swiftly becomes crystal that this isn’t just a standard festival set; this is a statement of intent, a conscious statement that the band are now ready to leave the murky depths of obscurity behind in the pursuit of greater achievements. What transpires is a brief yet exhilarating demonstration of youthful dynamism performed in a fashion that separates them from the majority of their peers, with their take on bludgeoning creativity shivering with hyperactive excitement. As the group decimate their surroundings to the sound of the lumbering crunch of 'Triceratops', it’s clear that Phoxjaw will return in the coming years, but the age of them performing to empty venues and half curious, half uninterested punters are clearly in the rear view mirror.
Their image may have changed slightly since last year’s festival, but Haggard Cat (9) managed to put on a show equally as brilliant, if not better, than their main stage performance in 2018. They launched straight into ‘The Patriot’ and their frenzied energy quickly became clear. Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Matt Reynolds and drummer Tom Marsh, the duo showed their charismatic side as they pulled faces at each other from across the stage. The passion and enthusiasm of the musicians showed in the grins on their faces, which quickly spread to the crowd. In fact, it took very little persuasion for a circle pit to form, an impressive feat at 2pm on day one of a festival. With a massive sound and an exciting stage presence, Haggard Cat are unlikely to disappoint. Their new songs offered a taste of what’s to come from the pair in the coming months, and the old favourites sound even better than before.
Photo: Ben Morse
Whilst Nervus (8) have proven themselves to be one of the most joyous and jubilant bands on this line-up, the recent highly publicised twitter ‘disagreement’ between themselves and tonight’s main stage headliners have left many slightly concerned that such a joyous celebration of inclusivity and identity may be afflicted by aggression and protest. Of course, no such thing comes to pass and Nervus once again prove why they held in such regard when it comes to the festival scene. New tracks from their then unannounced record Tough Crowd showcase the skill the collective harbour both musically and in writing, with freshly premiered tracks such as ‘Flies’ and the antiauthority anthem of ‘They Don’t’ all set to become crucial live stapes for the rest of their respective career. But still, it’s content from Everything Dies that prove to be catalyst for joyous hedonism with the crowd, with the colourful masses gathered mirroring the group’s fervent joy with radiant energy. With front woman Em Foster inviting the entirety of the festival onto the stage of The Cave for the ever rousing ‘It Follows’, an act which probably gave the poor stage manager a hernia, Nervus prove once more they are more than a musical collective; they’re a rallying point and a inclusive safe space for seeking refuge from the hostility from an unforgiving culture of animosity.
Back under the maroon tarp of The Axiom, the south coast darlings in Orchards (8) reel their delightful and wholesome take on sugar coated math tinged alt pop with intoxicating wonder and radiance. As the group intricately perform tracks from their compilation of work Losers/Lovers and their most recent 7”, it’s absolutely clear on why this band has been handpicked to perform this festival. Orchards are utterly translucent and effortlessly radiate pacifying amazement and intricate left field progression with their craft, with select cuts such as ‘Darling’, ‘Age Of You’ and ‘Young’ proving just how incredible a marriage of pop sensibilities and math tinged intricacy can be when the chemistry is perfect. Closing their set with the glucose and youthful bounce of ‘Love U 2’, a blissful finale that was almost denied due to time constraints, Orchards are simply one of those acts that you’re either a devoted fan of or you simply haven’t discovered yet.
Photo: Ben Morse
The presence of Big Jeff Johns at LIFE’s (7) set in the NEU tent suggests the four-piece from Hull are one to watch. Singer Mez danced around the stage with eyes staring in an unnerving manner. The rest of his band provided catchy guitar riffs and solid beats for the crowd to dance to. As their set progressed from the funky ‘Never Love Again’ to understated ‘Euromillions’, the sparse crowd grew. With their groovy guitar licks and explosive energy, LIFE showcased their diverse sound impacted by a wide range of influences. Their new songs fitted perfectly with the old, filled with as much energy and enthusiasm as LIFE’s older music. The four clearly had a blast on stage and off, as Mez invaded the audience for their final song, encouraging everyone to sing, clap and jump.
Liverpudlian hardcore bruisers Loathe (8) are the kind of no nonsense, blood on the ceiling type band that are a perfect fit for 2000 Trees. As there notoriety continues to rise across the nation, their live intensity continues to deepen. Their brand of low tuned, bludgeoning riffs go down a treat on the Lenmania Stage - it all gets manic in the snap of a finger. 'White Hot' and 'It's Yours' bring out the crowd killing pits in full force, and this is one of the more chaotic sets you'll stumble across this weekend. It doesn't sound like it, but it's controlled chaos though. Loathe aren't just a band that turn up just to watch the crowd throw kicks at each other, there's a cathartic sense of unity between band and fans here. Though the scouser's biggest claim to fame thus far is their This Is As One split EP with Holding Absence - it's sets like this that make you confident you're looking at a band here that are on the cusp of carving their own, successful, dangerous hardcore path.
Photo: Ben Morse
As many will attest to, this festival is a celebration of both musical and cultural inclusivity, one that prides itself on hosting a brilliantly broad line-up that boasts a plethora of genres and styles. However, when it comes to Puppy (8), one thing reigns supreme; riffs and atmosphere. Whilst the mid summer sun may be glaring down gloriously onto the main stage revellers at this point, devilish tracks from Puppy’s debut long play The Goat conjure the authentic atmosphere and vibe of the pioneering 20th century heavy metal acts that forged the culture that is being celebrated this evening. Yet, despite Puppy being the product of such time honed work, the group reject cliché in favour of forging their own identity, one that has it’s tongue firmly in it’s cheek and one that smiles humorously and confidently today. Whilst this may be their first ever main stage slot on a festival of this stature, the trio rise to the occasion with confidence whilst simultaneously presenting sublime skill. As the group fly through such crimson colours such as ‘Bathe In Blood’, ‘World Stands Still’ and ‘Just Like You’ prior to closing with the climatic riffage of ‘Forever’ and ‘Demons’ it appears to be universally agreed this afternoon that Puppy are the ones to bring modern metal devoid of clichéd tropes to the masses and the ones to reshape modern opinion on the genre.
Press to MECO (8.5) shook things up with a hauntingly beautiful Forest session. As always, the three sang with stunning harmonies as they stripped their songs back to their bare bones. Opening with ‘Familiar Ground’, Press to MECO immediately caused the audience to fall quiet. Frontman Luke Caley and his band seemed completely at home on the small stage, the banter between them effortless and entertaining. They also worked to keep the large audience focused on them, as they encouraged sing-alongs and a fun three-piece crowd harmony for ‘If All Your Parts Don’t Make a Whole’. Press to MECO played the Forest stage in 2018, treating us to a stunning Manchester Orchestra cover. This year, they played ‘The Maze’ again, the song sounding delicate and beautiful with the trio’s vocals growing in unison. They highlighted their ability to bring a song back to basics with Sigrid’s ‘Strangers’, the Forest singing along. While their set was just a few songs long, it perfectly showcased the band’s ability, certainly earning them a few new fans along the way.
Photo: Gareth Bull
Two Thousand Trees wouldn’t be the same without at least one appearance from Jamie Lenman (8.5) He tailored his second set of the day to span his entire career and included some surprising covers. Opening with an Adamski song, ‘Killer’, Lenman easily attracted an audience that overflowed from the tent. From here he flew through ‘Hell in a Fast Car’ and ‘Popeye’, everyone singing and jumping along. Jamie Lenman, part of the furniture at Trees now, is renowned for putting on a good show. The patter between songs came easily for him, with jokes about bottled water and sponsors seeming to be his favourites. Musically, his inspiration comes from everywhere, and he happily chatted about his new record, one of the most unconventional covers albums. These covers featured heavily in his set, integrated seamlessly in Lenman’s unique style.
‘All of England is a City’ and ‘I Ain’t Your Boy’ were singalong hits, Lenman’s audience attentively jumping at his say-so. He saw many a crowdsurfer too, and his cover of Nirvana’s ‘On a Plain’ was a delight. Each of Jamie Lenman’s songs seemed to be a joy for him to play, making his closing set on The Axiom stage a pleasure to watch. He closed the stage with a happy rendition of ‘Two Thousand Trees’, a song debuted last year to celebrate the festival.
Photo: Joe Singh
As with many festivals of size and genre within the UK, the stereotypical demographic in terms of age for both attendees and artists is in the lower bracket. Of course, 2000 Trees as an event prides itself in providing a stage and space for emerging DIY talent. However, this evening’s main stage sub headliner, the ever charming Flogging Molly (9), do certainly have decades of experience under their collective leather belts. It’s a fact that they display both physically and sonically tonight, with the Irish – American folk punks demonstrating that they posses experience and education on how to cause a mighty and intoxicated ruckus.
As the late evening soon crests upon the farm, the group incite pure drunken and jubilant carnage, with the folk punk of ‘Drunken Lullabies’ causing circle pits and flying beverages en mass. Even with their all time hits, such as ‘Devils Dance Floor’ and Seven Deadly Sins’ being the primary charge for mass intoxicated hysteria, the now fully inebriated attention of the audience still stays rapt for the group’s more less hedonistic and more politically charged offerings. However, it’s the showmanship of the natural performer that is Dave King that commands attention, with the far younger crowd eating out of the palm of his hand. As the group close and provide praise to tonight’s headliners, Flogging Molly are one of those incredibly rare bands, an artist who is able to bridge the gap between generations and graphics and are able to cater towards any form of demographic they find themselves performing to.
Photo: Ben Morse
Though the temptation may be strong to refer to Cardiff emo rock younglings Holding Absence (9) as 'sad boys' - the truth is they are a million miles more than your average rock band. Their youthful, open, inclusive tales of loss and heartbreak make links between worlds in a cluster of different methods. And even when you whittle them down to their most simple form: they're just a great band. Tracks like 'Saint Cecilia' and 'Monochrome' are soul soothers while the all encompassing chorus of 'Like A Shadow' brings with it a sing-along chorus that is deafeningly bellowed back at them. This is undoubtedly the biggest show of the bands career, but you can't expect 2000 Trees' Neu Stage to hold that title for long. As the band continue to mature, their stage presence goes along with it, and at this rate - it won't be long till we've got a new group of superstars on our hands.
When the news broke that vocalist Loz Taylor wouldn't be joining While She Sleeps  on the rest of their European tour, you wouldn't have been surprised had the band taken the difficult, but understandable decision to cancel all remaining EU dates. But as While She Sleeps continue on their journey of being one of the great fan servicing bands of their generation - their headline set on The Cave stage proved to be one of the defining moments of the weekend. Enlisting the assistance of a horde of vocalists from the likes of Shvpes, Holding Absence, Blood Youth and Cancer Bats - the steel city metal band still somehow managed to deliver a set that included the same level of intensity you'd expect from the regular lineup. Cancer Bats' Liam Cormier slayed his parts on the closing one-two of 'Silence Speaks' and 'Hurricane' while Blood Youth's Kaya Tarsus gave one of the most impassioned vocal deliveries of the weekend on 'Seven Hills'. For all the adversity that While She Sleeps had to overcome in making this set a success, what we've learned here is that it's their music, not their mantra that's key. The crowd was ruckus from the opening screams of 'You Are We' to the closing crowd surf apocalypse of 'Hurricane'. A cornerstone set from a modern metal cornerstone band.