Last week I was in the Cotswolds having a really rather lovely time at 2000trees festival – the fab three-dayer that champions new and underground British music (with the odd act from further afield thrown in for good measure).
Everything about the festival – from the organisation and size through to the food, weather and, of course, the bands – was an absolute treat and has made us feel very foolish that we’ve never attended before.
Now I’ve come back down to earth, I’ve pulled together a selection of the best bands I saw over the three days, along with some of the photographs I took while he was there – if you want to see more of my photos from 2000trees be sure to keep an eye on Birmingham Live in the coming days.
Anyway, I tried to whittle my list down to a top 10, but had to settle for a top 20 as there was so much good stuff to report back on.
So, in chronological order, here are the 20 best bands of 2000trees 2016.
1. Max Raptor
Kicking off the entire festival was Burton’s Max Raptor, and a bloody good job they did too. Their punk n roll sound is crunchy enough to appease those on the heavier end of the spectrum, without being so full on that it alienates those closer to the indie end. They packed out the tent and got it rocking – a great way to start.
2. Milk Teeth
Playing what was effectively a home gig, this was always likely to be a triumph for local heroes Milk Teeth, and that’s exactly how it turned out. This band continues to grow and improve with every gig and is having one hell of a good year. Of course, that’s helped by having such brilliant songs, that would sound mega whatever stage they were played on. When you pop a one-two of ‘Swear Jar’ and ‘Kabuki’ in the middle of your set, you know you’re onto something special.
3. Black Peaks (twice)
Where to start with this incredible band? Both of their sets at 2000trees are in the running for the best of the entire weekend. The first was a full band offering on the Cave stage, which was full of energy, riffs and soaring melodies. The second was a special acoustic set out in the forest, which was something quite incredible. Those huge songs, stripped back to just guitar and vocals, sounded absolutely spine-tinglingly marvellous – it was really something to behold. It’s getting to that point where there aren’t many superlatives left that haven’t already been used about Black Peaks – they’re THAT good.
4. And So I Watch You From Afar
While ASIWYFA come across perfectly well on record, on stage is where this band comes to life. Their heavy bits are really very heavy indeed and they are a thrilling, passionate watch.
5. The Bronx
Come on, this lot weren’t going to not make the list. It’s The Bronx! After all the years they’ve been together they are still one of the most exciting live bands around and can upstage most other bands’ sets with just one song. It was chaos throughout their set and it was wonderful!
6. Press to MECO
This young British trio clearly love what they’re doing and have plenty of fun on stage – so much, in fact, that their singer/guitarist hilarious fell over during the first song. However, that’s not to say they’re an overly quirky act; this band’s music is terrific. Angular guitars, clever structures, impressive vocals from all three members and huge choruses, all in one package. Nice.
7. Trash Boat
One of the nicest surprises of the weekend, Trash Boat were, quite simply, brilliant. Perfectly crafted pop-punk with plenty of bounce to boot, this is the sort of music that, when it’s played as well as Trash Boat play it, is perfect festival fodder. A very satisfactory 30 minutes’ work.
8. John Coffey
Making a main stage feel like a club show isn’t an easy thing to do, but Dutch rockers John Coffey manage it. Packing the riffs of Every Time I Die and vocals harmonies Fleetwood Mac would be impressed by, these guys put on an uplifting rock show. Such a shame that they’re about to go off on hiatus.
9. Palm Reader
No beating around the bush – I bloody love Palm Reader. They are Britain’s finest hardcore band and a completely enthralling and wonderful live act. Their set at 2000trees was no different – you couldn’t take your eyes off it from start to finish. This band is a credit to the British music scene and ought to be massive.
Continuing their successful return from hiatus, Basement absolutely packed out the tent for their slot headlining the Cave stage and the huge crowd lapped up their hour’s set. The band hit the ground running and showed what a flair for melody they have. A couple of slower songs in the middle lost me for a bit, but overall it was hugely impressive.
11. Twin Atlantic
Whatever that magic ‘it’ a band needs to not just look comfortable, but completely own a main stage, Twin Atlantic have got plenty. The Scottish act command the stage and have choruses more than large enough to fill the arena.
The question on my mind at the start of day three was, “How on earth is a Heck show going to work on an outdoor main stage?” Well, it turns out that it works just fine, thanks. Their two guitarists stayed on stage for a matter of minutes before literally jumping off the front and venturing into the crowd. Vocals from the mixing desk? Check. A huge wall of death with a guitarist riffing away in the middle of it? Check. A broken toe for their frontman? Check. Carnage, chaos and general bonkers-ness? Checkmate.
I love how brilliantly weird Puppy are. Their riffs are almost metal-tinged but the vocals are right from the Weezer style guide. It shouldn’t work, but it does. It’s helped massively by the fact they have some brilliant songs and by the end of their set the crowd here is hooked. Bags of potential here; I only expect them to keep on getting better.
More excellent British pop punk, delivered with plenty of whizz and bounce. I’ve been a fan of WSTR’s EP from the moment I first heard it, and live these songs are just as enjoyable. They also throw in a cover of Limp Bizkit’s ‘Break Stuff’, which will always score you bonus points if I’m reviewing.
Even only getting chance to watch them for two songs – namely ‘VCR’ and ‘Black Mass’ – you could tell that this was one of the sets of the weekend from one of the bands of the moment. It’s no longer a question of ‘if’ Creeper happens…they are in the process of happening and it’s glorious. Their songs are built for big stages and the band look completely assured and confident stood there playing them. Get on board with this band or get out of the way.
One of the best sets of the weekend musically and easily the most entertaining frontman. Why so? Well, how many other singer do you see wander into the crowd, out of the tent they’re playing and try to steal someone’s pizza, before coming back into the tent and generally continuing to get up close and personal with those watching – all while still singing? Not many. The material from their debut full-length, released earlier this year, continues to grow on me with each listen and sounds wonderful live. This band should already be far bigger, but, with more shows like this, it won’t be long before they are.
17. Black Foxxes
With their debut album coming out this August, it’s a big summer for Black Foxxes, so it’s a good job they’re bloody brilliant. As with their performance at Download a few weeks ago, Black Foxxes’ set is captivating, spine-tingling and totally enthralling. If you like the big sounds of Brand New and Manchester Orchestra and haven’t checked this Exeter trio out yet, you need to change that right away!
Watching just how much gusto SikTh pack into their, you can’t help but be impressed and just enjoy it. Since clicking back into action this band have picked up with the same creativity and vitality they had in the early noughties, and it’s entirely satisfying to see a tent full of fans go nuts for them.
19. While She Sleeps
Wow, wow, wow, wow! What a set! WSS roared out of the traps and simply carried on at full speed for the duration of their thrilling hour-long set. This riff-heavy party was simply a joy from start to finish and the perfect way to round off the Cave stage for the weekend – even if, in their own words, the band had no idea why they were headliners. I think, though, with a live show like theirs, it was certainly clear to all those watching just why they deserved they top of the bill slot.
Ask anyone at 2000trees who they were looking forward to and the name Refused was first out of their mouth, so it’s no surprise that the finale of the weekend was an absolute stunner. Looking dapper as hell and sounding as punk as fuck, this is the way to end a weekend. Refused are still important, still influential and still fantastic.
To hear a full review of my weekend at 2000trees, check out this episode of Dave’s World Podcast.