When it comes to festivals, everyone has their favourites.
There’s the hometown heroes, the local field you’ve been tramping to every year without fail for as long as you can remember, going to see bands your mum and dad like that you’ve never heard of. There’s the aspirational favourites – the ones you tune in to watch on TV every year, and have a group chat dedicated to one day saving up enough to make it out there yourself. Then there’s the underrated secret, the festival you stumbled upon completely by accident and now make a point of showing up to every year.
That’s 2000 Trees for me. I’ve been going for four years now, ever since an unusually great line-up forced me out of my comfort zone and further away from Yorkshire than I’d ever been by myself. Now I sing its praises to anyone who will listen, determined to get as many people down to Upcote Farm to experience that unique mix of friendly family atmosphere, great food, killer up-and-coming bands and incredible headliners.
2018 was even stronger than usual and, though it would be impossible to name every awesome set, here are the bands and moments that ensured it was three days I would never forget.
Stage: The Cave / Band: Vukovi
Pop punk with a hard rock edge might not seem like the perfect companion to a festival in the sleepy English countryside, but Vukovi seemed determined to prove that it was. Armed with fabulous make-up, a few killer riffs, and more energy than anyone sleeping in a tent has any right to have, Janine Shilstone burst onto the stage to deliver a set that left ears ringing and feet tapping for the rest of the weekend.
From openers “And He Lost His Mind” and “Claudia” to the always anthemic “Animal”, circle pits and crowd-surfers abounded, with Janine expertly presiding over the crowd like a rock and roll wizard. Vukovi may be new to the scene, but with bass lines so thick you’d need a steak knife to cut them and vocals that hit heights previously unreached by man, it looks like they’ll be playing with the big guns soon enough.
Stage: Main Stage / Band: At The Drive In
At The Drive In are a band that have been going since the early nineties, and they have both the accolades and the drama to prove it. With a break-up and two seperate reunions under their belt, and an album credited with creating the post-hardcore genre, it’s hard to deny their impact or their credentials, but their recent performances have been known to leave old fans disappointed and new ones mystified.
Thankfully, 2018 saw them back on form and raring to go. Though the setlist was on the well-known-and-radio-ready side (a problem a lot of festival sets have due to the presence of less loyal or familiar fans) frontman Cedric was like a man possessed, rocking and wailing his way from one end of the stage to the other as though escaping ghosts only he could see. Every track was just the right blend of harsh edges and soaring choruses, flitting between punk, indie, electronic and classical rock elements at lightning speed, and barely seeming to pause for breath.
“One Armed Scissor” and “Sleepwalk Capsules” got the excellent reception they deserved, but the glory of other, more left field, picks was equally showcased. By the time “Napoleon Solo” came to a crashing halt, fans new and old walked away satisfied, as well as with a well-founded desire to go back through their entire discography on the car or train journey home.
Stage: The Cave / Band: Creeper
Thankfully a criminally underrated band no-longer, Creeper’s legion of loyal fans and verging on inhuman work ethic have combined to ensure that their live shows are not to be missed. Creeper’s presence had The Cave packed out to standing room only well in advance, and latecomers kept arriving until the crowd swelled to far outside the tents parameters. When the sun began to slant towards the ground and the purple lights came up inside, loyal members of the ‘cult’ and those merely sating their curiosity were both more than ready for a show.
Creeper, for their part delivered. With fanatics swarming the barriers and pits opening up every which way, Will and Hannah delivered track after track from cult-classic emo melodrama “Eternity In Your Arms”, whipping the crowd into a frenzy with their achingly earnest vocals and undeniable punk guitars. The fury only paused for Hannah’s goth take on a torch song “Crickets”, with the downtime lasting just long enough for those crushed against the barrier to catch their breath. As for everyone else, the set ended between a democratic choice between well worn and weird, with the crowd screaming out the offbeat choice of a cover of Meatloaf’s You Took the Word Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Nights). That ensured that Halloween truly had come in July.
Stage: The Forest Sessions / Band: Enter Shikari
The Forest Stage is where 2000 Trees patrons go when they’re looking for a respite from the noise, whether they’re hungover, the toddler they brought with them is getting antsy, or they’re feeling otherwise delicate. The stage is a picturesque spot perfect for folk and indie acts to show off their softer side, but the sets that have gone down in history have traditionally been more unorthodox: with heavier bands getting to repurpose their songs in ingenious ways to fit the stripped back tone.
Enter Shikari are no stranger to acoustic sets, having performed many bare-bones versions of their grinding electro-rock over the years, but seeing them in such a small and confined setting was still a treat for the ears. Left to fend for himself for the most part, frontman Rou Reynolds delivered a laidback set that felt far too short, mixing crowd-pleasing past hits with unexpected covers to give the dedicated fans in the front row a performance they’d never forget. Kids approached the stage dauntlessly to hand over drawings and whisper secret messages, and the bolder ones hollered requests, but aside from that the reverential hush was uninterrupted.
Beginning with Stalemate and cycling through Undercover Agents, Redshift and Take My Country Back, Reynold’s peppered in a surprisingly nuanced cover of Gary Numan’s Cars and a perfectly ethereal rendition of Bowie’s evergreen classic Heroes. When the usually rambunctious Live Outside came to its soft-spoken but still impossibly poignant end, there was not a single person in the audience not looking up ticket prices for their next arena tour.
Image credit: twothousandtrees.co.uk