Not Enough Trees:
2000trees 2016 – The Xtra Mile Perspective
- 17/07/2016 -
A lengthy document of our time at 2000trees this year. This page will also include any fan reviews, video sessions by our artists from XMROB1, interviews done on site and rough snippets of sets at the festivals. Come back regularly for updates! In the mean time, please enjoy – it took a long time to put this together. Thank you.
Where were you? Ask yourself that. Where exactly were you between 7th and 9th July 2016? And what on Earth could you have been doing instead of being at 2000trees?
2000trees has always been special. This little festival that could, down on Upcote Farm in Gloucestershire just outside of Cheltenham, has been an Xtra Mile stronghold for almost ten years. It's given birth to outposts within the camping grounds of the festival named after three Xtra Mile artists: Camps Reuben, Turner and Marwood. Our artists have played throughout the years, with Frank Turner popping up to play umpteen shows, bolstered by people like Ben Marwood, Jim Lockey and Oxygen Thief. Whoever it is in attendance, playing stages or just busking of an evening, community (that ever present word in our desperate modern lexicon) finally seems to take on shape and meaning. Somewhere in south west England – a place that simultaneously struggles to survive and expects too much – this green pocket filled with humanity come alive in a spontaneous display of unity and, well there's no getting round it, rock.
This year Xtra Mile sprung a twin-pronged attack. First, the Axiom Stage on Thursday was strewn with XMR artists with a killer app of the least secret secret guest we could find; it didn't take us long. The second was the XMROB1, which was far more of a secret, even with all the photographic hints. It had nothing to do with cats – that was some clever misdirection on our part. XMROB1 is the XMR outside broadcast truck, allowing us to park on site and record sessions with our artists inside.
XMROB1 2000trees sessions
The RPMs @ 2000trees (uploaded 20/07/2016)
Will Varley @ 2000trees (uploaded 18/07/2016)
Ben Marwood @ 2000trees (uploaded 15/07/2016)
The truck also lets us do other things, which will be revealed very soon. Here's a picture of it just sitting there like it belongs there or something.
It came out to play on Friday and Saturday, sitting alongside the Neu (pronounced 'new') Stage for Will Varley, Johnny Lloyd, The RPMs and Recreations, drawing attention as a massive truck emblazoned with our logo was always likely to do.
Expect to see more about the XMR truck and some of the sessions that came out of our time at the festival. As far as test runs for our newest release goes, this was a good one. But enough with the toys. There was music too, and all the things that go alongside it like dancing and happiness. Also, we did some Snapchat and photography.
Thursday 7 July 2016 – The Axiom Stage XMR Takeover
With five announced artists, and secret Frank headlining, there weren't many better places to be onsite on Thursday than the Axiom Stage, as a growing contingent of Trees fans gradually discovered throughout the day. Bringing with them a respectable afternoon audience, full-band Oxygen Thief tore through a compelling set of obliterating riffs, yelled lyrical tangles, and rhythmic disorder. The obligatory 'Too Many Trees', dealing with a particularly heavy experience at a previous 2000trees, helped lend perspective to our festival beginnings, a soothsayer predicting the next day for us. 'Con.script.shun' heralded a scathing introduction to the unavoidable theme of '2016's dire state of affairs', and certainly it would prove to be just the beginning of some stirring sounds in a positive setting. It wasn't all seriousness as their cover of 'Jailhouse Rock' merges seamlessly with Rage Against the Machine's 'Killing In The Name'. A curious band of festival goers joined the dedicated, and it was immensely satisfying to see people check out something as cerebral yet crushing as OT at three in the afternoon with no previous experience. This would not be the last we saw Barry Dolan either.
Rob Lynch followed and provided the first bona fide singalongs of the day, a template that would be followed in ever increasing numbers. There's no arguing with the heartfelt pop brandished and dished out by Rob and his band. 'Whisky', 'Hawking', and 'My Friends and I' all got the full audience choir treatment, as well they should have. It played the part of refresher before Rob's new album Baby, I'm A Runaway (which you can get here – out 22 July), a reminder that Rob wraps heartache and tension in vodka-soaked bubblegum which has the delirious effect of making sobering lessons into the best of times. Perhaps that's why they exist and in times like this, this is the kind of set we want and need.
Ben Marwood is the heart and soul of 2000trees. His return to this stage after a year away was a heroic welcome from possibly his most dedicated fans in the country. Inhabitants of Camp Marwood were out in force, along with those who got just as carried away with the pull of his intimate songs. One man with an acoustic guitar, no embellishments, no trained voice, no heirs or graces – Ben Marwood simply played his heart out and encouraged others to help him along. And who wouldn't want to join in as soon as he says "hi I'm Ben Marwood...and I'm standing up!". Yes he still is and it's important and very much appreciated by everyone that Ben has managed to return to playing music, let alone playing shows again.
Like the whole day, Ben's set comprised word-for-word crowd participation, all well-ingrained songs that patch us together. 'Toil', 'Question Marks', 'We Are No Longer Twenty-Five', 'I Promise You it Will Be Okay' and 'Under Lock & Key' all inspired spontaneous outpouring of voice, the audience as much Ben's backing band as a crowd of his very own to direct as he pleased. 'Singalong' saw Barry of Oxygen Thief / Non Canon bringing his voice, and a kazoo, joining every backing singer in the tent, before Frank Turner finally made an appearance for everyone to see and lent his voice to a duet of 'The District Sleeps Tonight' before the roaring approval of every open mouth and delighted brain in the place. The cat calls of "main stage" seem even more appropriate than previous years, and with such willing constituents urging him on, what but the powers-that-be is stopping him?
Crazy Arm grip their politics and furious sound, whether electric or acoustic, with exhilarating abandon, cutting through the middle of the day with the liveliest stream of songs they could muster. Sticking out as the loudest band on the Axiom Stage that day, the increasing proportions of the crowd within the tent absorbed the tumultuous sonics and responded in kind. If this was supposed to be a tough slot, between Ben Marwood's long-awaited return and Beans on Toast's forthcoming anarchistic party, there was no sign of such a feeling either from Crazy Arm or the growing participants. Crazy Arm seized the moment, flew through a selection of songs from Union City Breath and Born To Ruin to gather the troops, and raised their hands in victory. Underdogs? They don't even come close to being under anything.
Beans on Toast takes sex, drugs and politics in music to its basic components – a few chords strummed or picked on an acoustic guitar with a rasping voice drawling no-fuss lyrics about bags of MDMA brought by mysterious women, abandoning war for lighting a spliff, or lazing around the flat in his boxer shorts. Somehow, and even we haven't quite fathomed it , this has brought him the love of an astounding and dedicated audience. You don't have to understand the scale of love to be either happy about it or caught up yourself. This seems to be Jay's undeniable appeal – he speaks to everyone on the same level and people not used to that grasp this fondly. Perhaps it's just the straight up honesty, probably it's the simple but heartfelt lyrics sung with an open, unaffected voice, and maybe it's that his shows are guaranteed to be goddamn fun. Crowd surfing happily, forgetting lyrics and letting other sing for him, off-topic and half-humorous rants, and, on this occasion, Will Varley beatboxing for an encore were all reasons to have been there and glad to have been there. The tent erupted at almost every song, and somehow Beans on Toast has made 2000trees his home as much as anywhere else he's played. And it's more than well deserved as he's captured the zeitgeist of enjoying yourself above all that is almost forgotten in this year's George RR Martin-scripted version of life. If you need a symbol leading the 'fuck you 2016' crowd, Beans on Toast may be it.
And then 'he who could not be named' took to the stage. Frank Turner did indeed turn out to be the special guest hinted at by the organisers and as if for everyone's patience in playing along, he played England Keep My Bones in its entirety, with one little song swap, and two huge singalongs to end. There's only so much you can say about such a set but as we heard solo acoustic Frank joined by us all for every song – from 'Eulogy' to 'Glory Hallelujah', 'I Still Believe' to 'One Foot Before the Other, 'If I Ever I Stray' to 'Rivers' – this is the album that seems most poignant and powerful for all of us. 'Nights Become Days' was replaced with 'Balthazar, Impressario' to absolutely no one's complaint, especially as the chills flowed during the choral effort of "we are respected, but we're not remembered, we are the ghosts of vaudeville unnumbered, we are the fathers of the halls, yeah but we'll never be famous, we aren't just artists we are something more – we are entertainers". 'The Ballad of Me and My Friends' was a given while Get Better was an irresistible call to arms, especially at a festival where community and camaraderie are part of its DNA, its raison d'etre, the very pulse the festival lives with. The song took on the meaning that we can take whatever is coming, whatever has been and gone, and whatever is happening right now, and face it with heads held high, celebrating with each other, and breaking down any sense that we can't all recover, rebuild and improve immeasurably. As a closer to an unforgettable first day, it couldn't be more perfect.
Late night trips to Camp Turner, Reuben and Marwood are an integral part of bonding with 2000trees. Here, on different nights, we found Reuben singalongs, sets by Rob Lynch, Oxygen Thief, Sam Duckworth, and Ben Marwood, alongside camp regulars with their own sets and sounds. There's an expanding, unfurling community building from friendships and music, busking stages fostering singalongs to songwriters who don't have a national audience, yet already have fans who know every word. People on their way between grabbing some more booze from their tent and back to the silent disco tent, complete with flashing headphones so they don't miss the big tunes, would stop by to listen, join in and then leave never to be seen again. Straying from your path for minute or two is worth your time there because it's small enough that you're unlikely to miss any essential entertainment, with only a few minutes walk between stages and tents. The community becomes closer as the festival remains intimate. Here's to keeping it that way, at least while that's sustainable.
Friday 8 July 2016 – milestone sets
Friday and Saturday had a difficult task of living up to Thursday's all out XMR offensive, but we still had sets of the weekend still to come. Will Varley, having spent a lot the previous evening seizing the night – later confessing he rarely got up before 10am each day – managed to perform three songs for BBC Introducing at 10.30am, while remaining charismatic in a live interview for a scattered crowd of early risers.
Johnny Lloyd and his band made the most of their afternoon Neu Stage slot, layering a distinctive new wave sound warped with reverb and phased effects with a choppy Foals edge peering from the melodies. As was common throughout the weekend, a hefty crowd was drawn as if by this murky swampy texture, hooking them in. This felt like a significant step in Lloyd's journey post-Tribes, and with songs like 'Hello Death' and 'Pilgrims' bringing a spectral magnetism, this journey is likely to go the distance.
Will Varley, though, is already conquering milestones with an almost unbelievable strand of confident songwriting and shows. The Neu Stage tent was soon crammed with believers, overflowing in their attempts to join the congregation. It was round about halfway through when the underlying theme of the festival crept up again – the situation outside we're all trying our best to deal with or ignore, possibly both equally – as Will spilled the defining sentence during 'We Don't Believe You': "We should give back all the oceans and the islands and the sky, because they don't belong to any man and no man has the right to tell another human being that their access is denied to any corner of this planet or any moment of their lives." I looked around during this phrase as the entire crowd cheered and applauded, singing with their all, and caught the expression of one XMR family member choked up at the upsurge of reaction, turned to see smiling triumphant faces aching with defiance and belonging all at one key moment. It was a moving experience that rightly helped define our weekend; a reminder that music and compassion and community transcends politics, and remains incredibly important in times when we feel we're all facing an untenable situation, an uncertain future, an increasing tension that we want to ease in any way we can. Will continued to plunge us all into his lyrical cannon, us happy to explode with every word, with 'Weddings & Wars', 'King For A Day', 'Seize the Night' and 'Advert Soundtrack' all drawing us together for a scintillating set.
We had time to get to Non Canon, Barry Dolan's quieter, personal alter-ego – hair down and sitting down – for a forest session. Only his fourth or fifth show, the songs are slowly building their own foundations and growing roots. Lyrics may be introspective and painfully honest – oh, those surefire XMR lynchpins – but the effect was one of gentle sobriety within the trees and upon the sun-speckled ground. Whether this was the right setting for Non Canon or not, the pockets of cross-legged music fans appreciated the intensity of feeling from songs like 'Splinters of the Mind's Eye' and with a record on the way, it'll soon be a joint effort to bring those songs into all our consciousness' and share the burden Barry has brought us. It's how we all cope and there's nothing quite like sharing such emotions.
Saturday 9 July – the end, for now
Saturday fell to The RPMs and Recreations to drag the last of all our momentum after two days in the middle of a Gloucestershire field. Of course, they're both extremely equipped to deal with us in our states. The RPMs draw heavily on 60s and 70s pop templates, but without slavishly devoting themselves to it. Their melodies and themes are thoroughly modern, powered by a fresh familiarity, with the audience eagerly pushing forward for 'I Want To Work At Abercrombie & Fitch'. They've got the patter down too, attempting to bring Pink Panther-disguised figures into the tent with a quick rendition of the famous theme tune. Confident, accomplished and attuned to festival crowds, The RPMs impressed on a bill full of much heavier acts.
The last official XMR set, Sam Duckworth took to the stage in his Recreations guise, though he lingered on Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. material to start. It was an immediate vote winner as people poured in to hear those songs from a decade ago. After three tracks from The Chronicles of a Bohemian Teenager, Sam settled into the Recreations songs, as did the rest of us. Whether Sam was unsure if Baby Boomers 2 and Digital Ghettos had struck a chord yet with anyone at the festival, or just wanting to ease people in, the assembly belted out choruses and danced like they'd been listening to the record all year. It was tremendous to see people react to 'Pipe Down', rapidly join the chant of 'Red Spex', applaud 'Shake It Off' and sway to 'Built To Last' (which unfortunately had to be cut short for running over time, though beautifully because of a request pre-show that Sam felt the need to fulfill). Everyone wanted more, and Sam's messages of positivity and celebrating diversity and unity surely had a large part to play in the overall weaving of memories for everyone's 2000trees.
With one last farewell to Val (Social Media and Street Team Czar) via Oxygen Thief's 'All Done, Bye Bye', her favourite OT song, at Camp Marwood post-midnight the musical journey of 2000trees ended for us. There were plenty of bands that intertwined with ours and shook the festival to its core: The St Pierre Snake Invasion and their whiskey bottle, old friend Jamie Lenman leading a huge crowd on his lonesome (though briefly joined by the former band for an incredible rendition of A Day In the Life'), the sheer insanity of Heck, the unleashed, if injured, straight-yelling of The Smith Street Band, the furious Bronx pouring their respect onto the tiny festival, and the mighty Refused taking their place along contemporary classic rock. And so much was missed thanks to those frighteningly crucial things: friendship, camaraderie and escape. As we return to our lives, we each leave a piece of ourselves in a field in Gloucestershire in the hope that returning will feel the same, or even better. I have little doubt that each year will only improve our lives immeasurably, whatever's going on at home.
Congratulations! You made it to the bottom of this page! What a journey you've been on. Thirsty for music? If you want to buy any of the records by our artists at 2000trees 2016 (see lovely pictures of artwork below), please go to our shop.