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2000trees - Upcote Farm, Withington - July 10-12 2014 (Live Review)

Friday, 18 July 2014 Written by Matt Williamson

Photos (The Bronx, main/Kids In Glass Houses, inset): (c) Matt Williamson 2014.

As a cheeky precursor to the main festival, 2000trees throws open its doors to a few lucky ticket holders on the Thursday, and this year the chosen few had the pleasure of watching a selection of festival favourites from recent years as well as some comedy in one of the new stages – The Croft.

Rolling up just in time to see Ben Marwood play to a rather large, rather rowdy crowd - in the context of a solo folk artist - it’s somewhat surprising that he’s not further up the bill, especially given the reaction. There were raucous calls for him to be on the main stage last year and those who champion him weren’t fully appeased this time either. But, if he continues this trajectory, who knows where he’ll end up in 2015?

In contrast, Johnny Foreigner’s effervescent indie-rock doesn’t illicit the same feverish excitement, but those in attendance do their best to rise to occasion. Salt, Peppa and Spinderella provides the first chance of the day for the onlookers to get stuck in, as bodies readily crash into one another.

The theme continues with the arrival of soon-to-be pop-punk behemoths, Gnarwolves. Some tell me that it’s their favourite set of the festival, but there were legitimate concerns about the lack of security putting crowdsurfers at risk – one casualty shows me his injuries later on in the weekend. Thankfully, nobody seems to seriously hurt themselves.

Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip’s last ever 2000trees set comes three years after they headlined the festival for the first time. Tonight, Pip promises to “set the bar” and they do just that. They’re a sore thumb, with their electronic beats and spoken word, but nobody can dispute that it makes for a terrific live experience. Alas, it’s the last time most people here will experience it.

There’s almost as much activity after the sun has set and the day’s bands have long finished, with ‘busk stops’ dotted around the festival site. A particular highlight arrives when Marwood joins forces with Oxygen Thief for a sprightly cover of Outkast’s Hey Ya in the early hours of Friday morning. These stops are also where you can really see the influence of Frank Turner on the festival - almost every busker is made in his image, with fast-paced, aggressive folk-punk.

Opening up the first official day are EMPIRE, with lead singer Joe Green’s showmanship perhaps too much for 12pm. But, music-wise, they certainly deliver. Natives struggle to make an impact with their pop-rock, even with extravagant extra percussion and admittedly catchy melodies.

Heart In Hand bring a much heavier wall of sound to The Cave, but even their live show can’t live up to that of Baby Godzilla, who follow them. The bar, set by Dan and Scroobius Pip, is well and truly smashed. Issues with the sound delay the band from starting, until they decide to “just go for it” and immediately leap into the crowd. It’s half an hour of the finest chaos you’ll ever encounter.  

Over at The Croft, Andy Oliveri is debuting songs from his forthcoming album with the help from his backing band and The Cadbury Sisters. There’s also a cake for one member’s birthday, but unfortunately none of us get to taste it.

Photo: Heart In Hand (c) Matt Williamson 2014.

Arcane Roots have made a name for themselves off the back of their live performances, even scoring a support slot with Muse on their European tour. The mix could be better, but it’s perhaps a sign of how good the weekend is that they’re made to look fairly ordinary in comparison with those around them.

At least Kids in Glass Houses, another band on their last legs, put in one of the sets of the weekend. Frontman Aled Phillips has grown accustomed to controlling crowds, and, while he won’t be doing it for much longer, he makes the best of his talents while he still has time. It helps that their music is built for the stage and they give a greatest hits package to rival the best of them.

Blood Red Shoes draw a sizeable crowd - the Friday sub-headline slot has seen some tremendous sets in the past and tonight is no different. At the same time, the blossoming British pop-punk scene offers up the excellent Decade in The Axiom.

The Bronx may not be up and coming, or British, but The Cave is packed for Friday’s headliners. Matt Caughthran, face painted like a lion and dressed in attire acquired from the festival, leaps around the crowd like a man possessed. It means that Band of Skulls are something of an anti-climax, but they still put on a solid show to appease the more reserved onlookers.

Rumours abound all day as to a Jim Lockey secret acoustic set and the worst fears of some are confirmed as, in front of 200 people, Jim Lockey and The Solemn Sun are put to bed. The band are carrying on under the new moniker of Solemn Sun and their set is one of the intimate moments that makes so many people return to 2000trees year after year.

Saturday brings sunshine and a lot of heat, along with the final Kill Chaos show. A cross between Biffy Clyro and Reuben with Nine Inch Nails thrown in for good measure, the band still play a few new songs as they bid farewell. &U&I, as always, tear the stage to shreds and there seems to be no rust to shake off from their hiatus.

In The Axiom, Verses are slightly more refined, but guitar-driven pop-rock is as old as time and with good reason. What they describe as a “slightly dancier” track is definitely the stand-out, and there’s definitely good reason that they’re a band on the up. Back in the The Cave, Palm Reader are playing to criminally few people, but the programme’s promise for them to be “catchy as hell” turns out to be completely accurate.

Photo: Baby Godzilla (c) Matt Williamson 2014.

The afternoon’s main stage goes from strength to strength. First up, Blitz Kids. Signed to Red Bull Records alongside Twin Atlantic and Itch there’s reason to believe that they’re destined for much bigger things. They do a good job of engaging the onlookers, as do Canterbury. A crossover in fans probably helped both bands and they generate a decent reaction.

In the campsite, there’s two specific sites named after Festival favourites, Camp Turner and Camp Reuben. Both host acoustic acts throughout the day and Blitz Kids are one many to make a special appearance. Interacting with the crowd (apparently Jono Yates sees Adventure Time’s poignant quotes on his tumblr dashboard quite a lot) they seem to be genuinely enjoying the festival. The band’s vocal harmonies make for an enjoyable unplugged set and yet another opportunity to tout their Silent Disco slot later on in the evening – which ends up being very good.

Maybeshewill are playing their fifth straight Trees. Last year they played The Cave and confirmed their place in the ‘festival favourites’ category, but this year they don’t make quite the same impact playing on the Main Stage. Their brooding light show doesn’t have the same effect in the sunshine, but Tall Ships suffer from no such problems. As we’ve seen so often, their brand of math-rock suits the festival circuit rather well.

Both Jamie Lenman and Wolf Alice could have legitimate grievances about which stage they’re playing, considering their stature. It seems strange to have Lenman anywhere but the main stage as there’s a camp named after his former band but, with that said, he commands The Cave stage, with his face painted a shade of red that slowly recedes as he spots at it with a bloodying towel.

Wolf Alice, who are consigned to The Axiom despite appearing on NME’s front cover, have gone with Halloween make-up instead for their set. Their mesh of grunge, indie-pop and folk doesn’t sound like it should work on paper, but the tent is rammed and nobody leaves disappointed.

The Blackout have always been a ‘love them or hate them’ kind of band, but there’s no debating the energy they bring to their live shows. Within seconds of starting, Sean Smith hops over the barrier and is engulfed in a circle pit, while it falls to Gavin Butler, perhaps the unsung hero, to continue the band’s vocals. A surprisingly good reaction for a misfit band is sustained throughout the set. Kudos, Blackout.

Closing the festival are Frightened Rabbit, returning to headline for the second time. The crowd are surprisingly impassive to the Scots’ charms, and perhaps the softer nature of songs emanating from the stage doesn’t work in closing a festival. Considering the lack of any innovative light show or energy, the moment really does rely on the crowd creating an atmosphere and unfortunately it falls slightly flat.

It was always going to be hard to top 2013, but in some ways the organisers manage to surpass it. The Cave was impeccable all weekend, from Lenman to the Bronx and Trash Talk. On the other hand, neither headliner truly gave a set that will last long in the memory - something we’ve grown so accustomed to in recent times. But, it’s hard to be too disappointed. The bands are right when they say this is the best festival in the UK – and that’s not going to change any time soon.

To see more of Matt Williamson's superb 2000trees photos, head here.


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