2 days prior to the 7th of July, I was blessed with the information that I had obtained a singular pass to attend 2000 Trees: an annual, budding UK rock festival located within the Cotswolds, 7 miles from Cheltenham. After an initial reluctance towards the idea of attending a festival so far away from home by myself, I decided to take the plunge to see if 2000 Trees could really live up to the hype I’d heard about it. Armed with nothing more than essential camping gear, a 20 crate of Coors Light, and a true love for a mere 3 bands on the lineup, I began the 3 hour drive from Manchester to Gloucestershire.
Amidst the 28° heat towards the end of the drive down, I noticed the beauty of the festival’s location. Winding round the Cotswold Hills was truly glorious, and the prospect of a festival located within such stunning scenery was more than exhilarating.
There’s no doubting that 2000 Trees is a small festival. With just a 5000 maximum capacity and 80 acts performing, it doesn’t challenge the major festivals in terms of size, but absolutely does in quality – this perhaps being most noticeable through the absolutely fantastic atmosphere engulfing the festival. All of the attendees I had the pleasure of meeting weren’t only terrifically friendly people, but also true music lovers. This couldn’t have been more apparent than during Grumble Bee’s set, at 2pm on the opening day. Despite being the first set of the entire weekend, a mass of people arrived to watch the band perform at the Cave stage, one of 2000 Trees’ multiple venues.
Across the festival there are 4 stages on which the bands perform, plus a handful of other tiny stages/tents dotted around that host acoustic sets – the highlight of these being the Forest Sessions.
The Forest Sessions see a number of the larger artists on the lineup performing stripped backed sets in a gorgeous woodland environment. This stage definitely hosted some of my favourite sets of the weekend, with Deaf Havana’s and Tellison’s deserving particular acclaim.
The festival was fantastically organised, with a large part of this being down to the site being so easy to navigate. Walking from the Forest Sessions to the Main Stage took less than 5 minutes, and whilst en route, you’d be passing all the other stages anyway – meaning that it was easy to see all the acts you wanted to see, and even more importantly, easy to discover new ones. There was a great selection of food and pop up shops dotted around the site, and whilst on this topic, I feel it’s also worth noting the lack of paying over a fiver for a flat pint of Fosters akin to Leeds festival. Instead, £4.50 could gift you with a lovely locally brewed ale or craft beer. Even better, perhaps. is the ability to take your own drink anywhere within the festival. Watching bands whilst sipping on beer from my crate knowing I was saving some pennies was a great feeling.
As I talked about before, 2000 Trees makes it very easy to discover new music with its layout. Not only that, but the way the festival is scheduled means there are always minimal clashes, so it really is possible to see a huge number of the acts on show. Bellevue Days were the first band I had on my agenda, and they didn’t disappoint. Despite me only being familiar with a couple of the tracks from their first EP, their sad & slow showcase of the ‘sludge pop’ genre really came across well live, proving that they deserved the stage upgrade to the Axiom after their slot on the Neu Stage last year. Tigercub also proved they were worthy of their spot on stage; their noisy grunge riffs really went down well with the huge crowd that turned up to see them, before their lead single ‘Control’ went on to steal the show. If you haven’t heard that track already, get on it. It is huge.
Tellison were arguably my Thursday highlight. Opening with a truly gorgeous track entitled ‘Letter to the Team (After Another Imperfect Season)’, they played lovely music with wonderfully heartfelt lyrics, whilst providing hilarious banter in between songs. Sets at the Cave stage from Feaed the Rhino, Roam and Young Guns gave attendees much more energetic options, with walls of deaths, crowd surfacing and mass singalongs taking place in respective abundance. Young Guns’ cover of Foo Fighters’ classic ‘My Hero’ proved to be an excellent festival moment as the sun set over the tent.
It was Mallory Knox who went on to headline the Thursday night, and although I was a tad too drunk by this point, I can tell you that it was just marvellous – they performed to an absolutely packed out tent with fan favourites ‘Shout at the Moon’ and ‘Lighthouse’ going down particularly well.
The Friday morning began with ample amounts of regret due to the amount I’d consumed from my 20 crate, before I promptly headed off to catch Decade on the main stage. Their set was great, despite the sonic issues that plagued their 8 songs, which failed to include the 2 lead singles from their debut album, ‘Brainfreeze’ and ‘British Weather’. I feel those 2 songs really would’ve gone down better than the new lesser known tracks in front of a festival crowd. Tall Ships took to the main stage afterwards, and were probably the weakest band I saw during the weekend, with their opening track consisting of predictable, consistently strummed chords with no real diversity over its 4 minutes. Luckily, Vukovi came to save the day with one of the most highly acclaimed sets of the weekend. All the members hosted epic stage presence as they bounced around throughout the half hour, with single ‘La Di Da’ gaining huge audience participation.
As a huge fan, it still had to be Deaf Havana who won my heart on the Friday, however. Their acoustic set in the Forest (consisting of a gorgeous and unironic ‘Wonderwall’ cover) and their fan picked set in the Cave (consisting of an epic and ironic ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’ take) were both performed to perfection. It’s almost a shame the full band set was fan picked, as only 2 songs from their magnificent new album were able to be showcased. Despite this, hearing rarities such as ‘I Will Try’ & a reworked ‘Friends Like These’ was tremendous, so I can’t complain.
After highly energetic sets from The Wonder Years & Frank Carter, it was time for Nothing But Thieves to take to the main stage for their first festival headline slot. For over 70 minutes, the band treated the crowd to a number of tracks from both their debut and soon to be released sophomore album, with lead singer Conor Mason almost taunting the audience with the incredible range of his voice before new single ‘Amsterdam’ closed the festival in monumental fashion.
Alas, I couldn’t stay for the Saturday, but I have no doubt that it would have been just as impressive as the other 2 days. 2000 Trees really impressed me. A festival with fantastic, easy to discover music and an unbeatable atmosphere. Even after the bands had finished, I found myself in tremendous company, be that in one of the singalong style acoustic tents or at the extraordinary silent disco. Even though it’s 12 months away, I’m already really considering making another appearance next year – and you should too.
By Mike Gardner