Voted best medium-sized festival in the UK, 2000 Trees brought its usual vigour and unique community spirit. Every year, Trees unites rowdy teenagers and old-time rockers; both usually looking to find their way into as many mosh pits as possible. All are welcomed with open arms.
It’s the first year with a main-stage headliner on the Thursday night, and what better way to kick off the weekend than with Trees comrade Frank Turner. It’s clear that the festival means as much to Turner and his band, the Sleeping Souls, as they mean to the festival. It’s no wonder, when Frank returns for the fifth time, having first performed at Upcote farm in the first ever 2000 trees back in 2007. He jokes to the crowd ‘this is our two thousand, three hundredth and sixty-fourth show, and it’s safe to say we’ve played a good two hundred of them here’. Opening with ‘Recovery’, the upbeat, folk sing-along does not miss the mark with the audience, who of course know every word. His slogan and single ‘Be More Kind’, branded across his guitar strap, is apt to the familial atmosphere that the entire festival radiates. Lucky fans caught Frank’s unannounced acoustic set amongst the tents later that evening.
Friday morning gradually brought blue skies during the scramble for bacon rolls and coffees paid for with the festival’s handy cashless system. Sets from the likes of PENG SUHI had the midday mosh pits forming, whilst those preferring a more mellow set took shade under the pines to watch exclusive ‘forest sessions’. The Forest Stage is truly unique in the UK festival scene: what other place can you see your favourite band play an intimate, acoustic set in an adorned wooden enclosure? It’s also great for allowing smaller, emerging artists to have their moment. Sitting for an hour or two under the trees with your mates has to be the best way to find new music.
Raketkanon’s set at ‘the Cave’ was a little eccentric and for that, highly enjoyable. The band’s lead vocalist wore a crazed look as he jumped down off the stage, proceeding to wrap his microphone cord around the dispersed crowd. There was no leaving once you were in. Those who stayed right to the end saw him surf the engaged audience inside a pink rubber ring. Other hardcore highlights included the returning ‘Pulled Apart by Horses’, who seem never to disappoint, and Vukovi, who had the crowd giving it their all early Saturday afternoon.
A personal band favourite of mine was The Skints, a rap-infused reggae four-piece. I managed to catch both their laidback, charming forest session, and their crowd-pleasing main-stage set early Saturday evening. Even with two-day hangovers, you couldn’t help but be drawn into the infectious atmosphere, as the band moved effortlessly between candescent melodies and punk-rock solos.
Friday’s headliners You Me at Six delivered some serious nostalgia for those who went through a young-teenage emo phase, whilst Deaf Havana topped the number of crowd surfers and shoulder lifts in their spotlight hour the following night. ‘This is the first time I’ve seen a circle pit to just me talking’, laughed the Havana’s frontrunner, as audience members wildly chased each other round between songs. The set certainly finished the live music off right before the final silent disco of the weekend. Taking place at both the main stage and the Cave each night, the deposit headphones essentially served as an excuse to scream endless pop lyrics to your friends until your voices were hoarse (that is, if they weren’t already).
Trees, as always, found just the right balance between heavy music, and an emphasis of safety and community. An array of eco-friendly food stalls and a central campaign for ‘Safe Gigs for Women’ makes it the friendliest rock festival around. Take it from someone who has returned four years in a row: you won’t find a more welcoming, tight-knit festival anywhere else. It’s unlikely you’ll leave without a couple of bruises and a slight headache, but with good friends and a bounty of good music, trust me, it’s worth it.
All Images by Kate Wassell