2000 Trees 2016: Thursday
We fall in love with a festival dedicated to up and coming alternative talent
Words: Rhiannon-Skye Boden | Photos: Cai Dixon
The picturesque landscape of Cheltenham’s Upcote Farm, with its rolling hills, birdsong and occasional sheep, is hardly the most expected setting for a weekend of showcasing the best in up-and-coming alternative talent. However, as the the last lights were hung, the stages erected and the final tent pegs were hammered into the ground, it was clear that for its 10th anniversary, 2000 Trees intended to put itself on the map in a big way.
Charged with kicking off proceedings were prolific political agitators Max Raptor  and Riot Grrrl darlings Milk Teeth , with the former wasting no time in calling for the first wall of death of the weekend in under 10 minutes. After storming through a frenzied set filled with such heavy-hitters as England Breathes and The King Is Dead, Milk Teeth’s Becky lead the crowd through an energised but somewhat more restrained set, only pausing for breath to dedicate Crowsfeet to newly-out transgender friend Lily, a gesture met with mini confetti canons and rapturous applause.
Over on the Forest Sessions stage, Thrill Collins  set out to deliver the textbook definition of party music, with a setlist consisting of Backstreet Boys, Dirty Dancing’s The Time Of My Life and a medley of the UK’s best drum and bass proving an odd juxtaposition to the lush foliage, quaint fairy lights and hammocks with which they were surrounded. Nevertheless the trio proved the epitome of feel-good, and were seen later in the evening packing out the bar for their second set of the night.
Black Peaks  were the first to hit two stages in one day, with their unique brand of progressive post-hardcore going down equally well in both its normal and stripped-back form. Though the heavier set proved the most atmospheric (and complimented the rapidly darkening skies perfectly) the acoustic session really held its own, lending an intimate and almost chilling nuance to offerings like Savior and Set In Stone, with the short explanations offered by vocalist Will Gardner throwing the songs’ messages of anti-fundamentalism and fear of growing old into sharp relief.
Scottish purveyors of ‘distorted pop’ The Xcerts  enjoyed the same both stage success, but perhaps had the edge given that their rendition of Aberdeen 1987 was followed soon after by the festival’s first and only engagement of the weekend. As Murray’s enthused command that the audience “give it up for love!” rang out across the tent and beyond, the band’s particular brand of fuzzy feeling-inducing, singalong pop rock proved the perfect match for the lingering sentimentality, with many an arm slung around a stranger’s shoulder.
We Were Promised Jetpacks  seemed determined to match the energy of their fellow Scotsmen, with their charming blend of indie rock and post-punk bringing just the right amount of Warped Tour to the proceedings. The sometimes dizzying transitions between languid but clear audience favourites like It’s Thunder And It’s Lightning, and more conventional upbeat fare, ensured that everyone was included, from those yelling along and churning against the barriers to those watching from the comparative safety of the food trucks.
Then it was time for the big guns. After countless conflicting claims and shuttle-bus gossip it was finally revealed that the special guest of the evening was in fact Frank Turner , and the tent was packed to the rafters way ahead of time. Rattling through a set entirely comprising of songs from 2011’s England Keep My Bones with practised ease, the enduring star of the folk-punk scene meditated on everything from Brexit to his songs being constantly mistaken for nationalist propaganda, with the message summed up perfectly in his maxim “We take of our own. And everyone is welcome.”
From the bittersweet nostalgia of Redemption (wherein Frank berated the crowd for always requesting it even though it kills the vibe) to English Curse’s succinct preface of “It’s not about racism. It’s about the little guy telling the big guy to fuck off.”, the crowd ate up every word, chord and instruction, meeting hits like If Ever I Stray and commands to immediately embrace a stranger with equally raucous enthusiasm. When the lights went down and the last imploring chants of “Yorkshire!” and “One More Song!” died away, it was clear that such a show would be nigh on impossible to beat.
Last, as the first signs of both sundown and festival fatigue approached, came The Bronx . Unrelenting, uncensored and unabashedly American, what followed was an hour and 15 minutes of great music, but semi-surrealist dialogue the likes of which would not be out of place in the collected works of Edward Lear. From the rambling monologue in which Matt declared the band the new “supreme leaders” of England and demanded the crowd “let the renaissance begin!” to the seemingly unending string of superlatives that punctured the screaming between songs, it was obvious that this was a band with a very clear motto. If bigger is better, then louder must be best.
Despite opening with the question “How are we doing 2 Million Trees?” the brutal hardcore punk proved the perfect end to the night, with songs like Heart Attack American all but raising the crowd to fever pitch. When the screams for “15 seconds of madness!” stopped, the final and most committed of the many crowd surfers were dragged over the barrier and the mass migration towards either pizza, the silent disco or the bar began, it seemed inconceivable that the weekend could get any more massive. Luckily, if there’s one things small festivals excel at, it’s surprises.