Nick Harley-Smith, one of our esteemed Xtra Mile Street Team, gives his view on the 2017 2000trees festival. With Ben Marwood, Ducking Punches, Non Canon, Skinny Lister and Will Varley all on the lineup, there wasn't going to be an issue about quality of bands. Were there any issues at all? Read on and find out.
As has become the norm for me for the last few years, I ventured back to my hometown of Cheltenham to attend my eighth 2000trees festival, held in the beautiful surroundings of Upcote Farm. Also as usual there was a decent smattering of XMR alumni past and present jammed into the impressive line up over the five main stages.
Things always kick off on the Thursday with a sort of greatest acts night, where the organisers invite back artists who have made a big impression on the festival over previous years. It was great to see Straight Lines back on stage after a few years hiatus with a raucous set that included a massive conga line snaking in and out of the Cave during 'Set Me On Fire and Feed Me to the Wolves' (from Persistence In This Game). A little bit later it was time for the first visit to the gorgeous Forest Sessions stage for a masterclass from the legendary Jonah Matranga. Taking songs from across his career and a couple of choice cover versions as well (his version of 'Kiss' by Prince was mindblowing) this was the first of many exceptional performances on this tiny stage. Thursday is always the easiest going of the days at Trees and after sets from Pulled Apart By Horses & Dinosaur Pile-Up, along with a bit of comedy on the Neu stage, it was time for an early night as some of us had to be up early on Friday morning (Good lad! - XMR).
The reason for the early start was because the Forest was being treated to a performance by Non Canon at 10:30! It’s just over a year since I saw Barry / Oxygen Thief perform as Non Canon for the first time...at Trees in the Forest. During that time I must have seen him play these songs five or six times and they just keep getting better and better. They are so perfectly suited to playing in these wonderful and intimate surroundings. A beautiful Chris T-T cover ('Elephant in the Room') thrown in as well made for the perfect way to wake up.
After a spot of breakfast and a refreshing juice it was time to head on over to the main stage which was being opened by Ducking Punches. I was looking forward to seeing them for the first time with a full band having been highly impressed by them acoustically at Lost Evenings earlier in the year. What followed was a glorious 30 minutes in the company of Dan and the boys. It was also nice to see the field fill up a bit more as they played; a few new fans made there for sure. Highlight for me would be the great 'Fun Fun Fun'. I suspect they’ll be back at Trees again very soon, in a position much higher up the bill as well. They also played on two of the ‘busk stops’ around the site over the weekend but I have to admit that I missed these as exhaustion and old age got the better of me!
The main stage played host to some incredible performance on Friday including Black Peaks and De Staat, but the next must see for XMR fans was a return visit from the lovely shanty punks, Skinny Lister. With their trusty flagon handed over to a packed crowd, they treated us to a veritable hits set including a great singalong with ‘Cathy’, ‘John Kanaka’ and, of course, ‘Trouble On Oxford Street’. Another band who could be back to headline this wonderful festival in a couple of years. Unfortunatel,y there was a couple of major clashes later in the day as Dave Hause clashed with Jamie Lenman (who was amazing as ever) and Will Varley who clashed with Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes who blew the roof of the main stage, teaching the crowd about respecting each other and leading a fantastic girls-only crowd surf (shout out to our friends at Safe Gigs For Women here! - XMR).
Back to the Forest later for a solo set from another Trees legend, Jim Lockey. Jim has played on every stage at Trees over the years and always pulls an impressive crowd to his sets. Acoustic takes on lots of tracks from his classic Death album went down a storm with the crowd singing back every single word. It’s always good to hear these songs again.
Saturday, the last day of the festival, was another early start. This time it was the hero of 200trees, Ben Marwood. The reason a lot of people go to Trees (!! - what a lovely thing to say...and true - XMR) did not disappoint as he played a blinder of a set with songs from throughout his career including this year's Get Found album. The Forest was packed for such an early start after the night before and Ben seemed genuinely overwhelmed by the response he got.
Late additions to the bill (only announced on the Monday before) were The Xcerts. With an audience that loves them and songs that soar out the tent and across the farm, this is a band who keeps getting better and better with new single ‘Feels Like Falling In Love’ fitting into the set perfectly. The audience participation during ‘Aberdeen 1987’ was my own personal highlight of the entire weekend.
2000trees is a wonderful festival. Everything about it just works. From things like the bands they book to the food stalls they have on site, everything is run to ensure that everyone has the best time on the farm, a fact that can be missing at a lot of other festivals around these days.
So, who’s going next year..?
Thanks very much for the review Nick. Anyone wanting to contribute reviews of gigs or festivals filled with XMR acts are more than welcome. Let us know what you want to review, and you can then send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, we have records by all of the bands in bold throughout the review. Want to find them? Simply click on their names in bold for the records!