Live report: a day out at 2000 Trees

When one of the best festivals around puts a good chunk of your favourite bands together on one day, there’s only one thing for it. You jump in the car and have yourself a day trip.

That’s exactly what This Decay did for the opening day of this year’s 2000 Trees festival and, boy, was it worth it.

It all started with the crown prince of this festival, Mr Jamie Lenman, looking full Victorian gentleman for his opening acoustic set. Unsurprisingly, he was superb – few performers can captivate so many people with so little.

Whether it’s a twinkling version of ‘Shotgun House’, a jazzy version of ‘Fizzy Blood’ or being joined by his wife on stage and shouting out his mum in the crowd, Mr Lenman is just a charmer. The perfect way to kick off the festival.

We took the opportunity after that opening salvo to try out another important arm of 2000 Trees, namely the delicious food, with Soeur and then False Advertising as a soundtrack. The former have far more about them live than on record, though did lose momentum as they went on. The latter were a solid, early-on-the-first-day band fronted by a singer with the most fabulous looking guitar of the whole day.

Next was one of only a couple of painful clashes of the day. First, we headed to the site’s smallest stage to catch Phoxjaw and try to work out whether they were as good as we remembered them being in support of Black Peaks back in February. Spoiler: they were.

Bruising riffs, massive grooves and a full-on stage presence all made for a terrific showing. In fact, on any other day we’d have stayed for the whole thing. But we had to dash off midway through for our first live experience of Haggard Cat.

For the uninitiated, Haggard Cat is a duo featuring half of the much missed Heck. While their former band was all about scratchy hardcore and straight-up chaos on stage, this newer project has more of a swagger, more of a ‘jamming in the garage for fun’ feel, and, in short, more hooks. Oh, and they really know how to put on a show: confetti cannons, a whole tent full of people bouncing and fucking massive riffs. Yes please.

More food was in order next – it’s a long day after all – before heading off to see Wallflower, whose brand of sad songs about being sad is sometimes right up our Sesame on record but didn’t really hit the mark so early in the day. Talking of not hitting the mark, Frauds didn’t have enough about them to stop us in our tracks as we walked past. Oh well.

Next up was a mammoth back-to-back run of stupendously brilliant bands who delivered totally.

First, Nervus, who could get even the grumpiest bastard nodding their head and singing along, and who managed to get an impressively dangerous amount of crowd members on stage for their finale, much to the despair of security.

Then it was Petrol Girls, who, despite looking completely broken from two months straight on the road and having to use Milk Teeth’s guitars due to transport issues, simply ripped 2000 Trees a new one.

They’re like a hurricane – a really, spiky, violent and punk-filled hurricane – and they are bloody brilliant. Their new material sounded cracking live but it was mega anthem ‘Touch Me Again’ that truly got everyone going.

From there, a short dash across the grass to catch Loathe, who did what they apparently always do; crushed it. We’re not particularly au fait with grime here at This Decay but Loathe feel like what our idea of that genre could sound like – but with bastard-heavy guitars. They are an exceptional live act and ideal for a festival crowd. Put them on a stage and they’ll get people moving.

After Loathe, Milk Teeth. The trio are a real favourite of ours and put in another exceptional performance. Not many bands could get away with not playing a song as brilliant as ‘Owning Your Okayness’ at a festival in the middle of summer; Milk Teeth can.

As a three-piece they seem perfectly balanced and perfectly happy, and have that blend of spit and pop hooks that makes it baffling that they aren’t huge by now. Can whoever sorts these things make it so Milk Teeth finally get what they deserve please? Thanks.

From one old favourite to another, and another dash from stage to stage to catch Conjurer. It almost seems pointless to type out the fact that Conjurer turned up and levelled the place – they do it at every show they play. But, we’ve already said it now and it’s completely true.

They are truly a behemoth and 2019 is turning into their year. There’s probably only one band out there who can outdo Conjurer in the live environment and, lucky for us, they were up next.

That band, of course, is Palm Reader.

You knew their set was going to be something special when vocalist Josh Mckeown strolled on stage and simply said “Let’s have it.” Have it they did. We’ve seen this band a lot over the years and they are always excellent. But even by Palm Reader’s exceptional standards, their 2000 Trees set was quite something.

Obviously the songs speak for themselves and Palm Reader are just the best live band out there right now. But the most heartening thing was hearing a packed tent sing along and see things moving in the pit. Oh, and Palm Reader have also realised that ending their set with anything other than the scintillating ‘A Lover, A Shadow’ is no longer an option. Hearing that song, played that well, by this band, will never get old.

No rest for the wicked. Right after the best band in the world it was off to the main stage for the first and only time all day to catch Turnstile. They’re more than a bit good on record and guess what? They’re more than a bit good on stage too

What’s not to love about chunky Metallica riffs played over a hardcore groove with grungy, 90s-style vocals washing over them? This band is almost too cool for words and looked completely at home on such a grand stage. There’s no doubt this would be very different in a tiny, sweaty club, but outside in the sunshine it was a damned near perfect summer offering.

Next up, a much-needed break for – you guessed it – more food, this time soundtracked by Show Me The Body and Comeback Kid. The latter delivered straight-up melodic hardcore in a perfectly acceptable fashion but it was the former that really caught our interest.

Pounding drums, fuzzy bass, chaotic vocals and a…banjo? Yep, you got it. Show Me The Body were Weird with a capital W, but they also know how to ride a riff and make a complete racket.

Into the home straight and it was time for another set from that Jamie Lenman, this time with a full, loud, electric offering.

Once again, he was sensational – the swagger of ‘Waterloo Teeth’, the beauty of ‘I Ain’t Your Boy’ and the sheer madness of ‘Popeye’ were all particularly brilliant, while the arrival of former Reuben drummer Guy Davis for a rousing run through of ‘No One Wins The War’ sent the tent extra bonkers. He’s an absolute gem, is Mr Lenman, and another hour would not have gone amiss.

That wasn’t possible, though, because it was time for the final band on our list: While She Sleeps. Now, some background for you. Neither of us knew exactly how fussed we were about watching Sleeps. Their latest record just hasn’t really stuck like the rest of their back catalogue, and both of your intrepid This Decay reporters are knackered blokes in their thirties who are always happy to leave early.

That changed when the band came out and explained that vocalist Loz Taylor wasn’t able to play with them. That meant a bunch of guest vocalists playing almost entirely older (arguably better) material.

As a band you’d always struggle to find fault with While She Sleeps on stage. They’ve got so much power and groove and really know how to put on a show. As such it was easy to forget that it wasn’t their usual singer at the front. Griff from SHVPES put in a solid shift for a bunch of songs, pausing occasionally for his counterparts from Comeback Kid, Holding Absence and Blood Youth to have a go too. However, it was the arrival of Liam from Cancer Bats at the end that really got people excited – talk about an ideal match.

It obviously wasn’t the set Sleeps would have wanted, but few people in the crowd seemed to mind – it was a celebration of their excellent back catalogue and worked brilliantly as a festival headlining set.

The only criticism would be over the amount of backing tracks that now seem to be part of a Sleeps show. For this particular set, you could almost forgive them popping in a few extra vocal harmonies, but the extra guitars that were also snuck in were a disappointment. Sleeps are so good; they really shouldn’t feel the need to resort to that.

Anyway, all in all a fantastic day was had at an equally fantastic festival. Cheers 2000 Trees. Excellent festivalling. 16/10. Would go again.

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Dave Musson
Editor