Featuring the likes of Holding Absence, Kublai Khan TX, The Chisel, Going Off, Witch Fever, Pitchshifter, No Devotion and tons more. Here’s what went down….
Without a doubt the best reason to venture into the woods near Cheltenham, around this time of year, is the ever growing, yet still strangely intimate 2000 Trees Festival. The supremely picturesque surroundings of Upcote Farm will once again call itself home for an army of alternative rock, punk and emo fans in what is rapidly becoming the best festival on the circuit.
With a midweek start on the cards, the festival site is not at full capacity just yet, but those who turned up would have seen something of a set for the more ‘hardcore’ of their fan base as South Wales favourites HOLDING ABSENCE hit the stage at the Forest Sessions. They have enamoured themselves to this festival, having played multiple times over the years and this being one of two sets this weekend, they decided to treat the early birds with a set that included some lesser played classics like ‘Monochrome’ and ‘Your Love (Has Ruined my Life)’ which the crowd lapped up. This was followed by a typically energetic set from the awesome BOB VYLAN, who themselves have pulled double duty this weekend.
Thursday starts with a bang as CAGE FIGHT hit The Cave stage with their brand of death/hardcore from James Tesseract’s other band. Vocalist Rachel Aspe’s guttural roar definitely shifted a few hangovers today while John on bass ensured that the crowd stayed active throughout. Far too much energy for this time of the day. This was followed swiftly by LAKE MALICE who bring the heavy on a different level, with their mix of dark electronics meets metalcore, providing an opportunity to pit it up or dance in equal measure which is none more evident than in the ferociously catchy ‘Black Turbine’. With songs about Boris Johnson’s lockdown party as well as handing out free bars of chocolate, KID KAPICHI were always going to be on to a winner, over on the main stage and they duly brought the party with an energetic set that included crowd surfing on inflatables. Meanwhile a quick trip to The Axion, sees something of a comeback. NO DEVOTION who have had more issues to deal with then any band should ever have in a lifetime, are finally back on a stage and it’s great to see. The crowd lap up the likes of ‘Stay’ and ‘Eyeshadow’ like old friends in a triumphant set that is slightly hampered by sound issues, which seems to be a common issue today. Back over at the main stage and it’s those SKINDRED boys who are whipping the crowd into a frenzy, as they so consistently do. The Newport helicopter takes flight as you would expect it to and frenzied set is finished up with ‘Gimme That Boom’ and ‘Warning’ Benji and the guys are old hands at this now, but be assured, they are still the best at it.
If you aren’t filling your face with the copious amounts of wonderful food on offer or partaking in the countless yoga classes, poetry or storytelling sessions then you could always make your way to The Cave where there’s something of a resurgence in hardcore going on at the moment. Somewhere near the top of that pile lie ZULU. Their debut album ‘A New Tomorrow’ blends Jesus Piece inspired low end with inspired dub and hip-hop beats and prove to be the perfect band for an early evening stint at The Cave. Their inspiring set is followed up by yet more brutality in the form of KUBLAI KHAN TX, who kick off with ‘The Hammer’ and rarely let up in a 45-minute lesson in how to batter a crowd into submission. A jog over to the NEU stage and we are just in time to catch High Wycombe’s post hardcore hopefuls AS EVERYTHING UNFOLDS. Fronted by the inimitable Charlie Rolfe, there’s no better to band to lift the spirits in this atmosphere. Rolfe’s powerhouse voice soars over the crowd and they hit all the right notes with crowd favourites ‘Hiding From Myself’ and ‘On The Inside’ all getting the sing along they deserve. Over on the main stage the inflatable dinosaur game has been upped, with the arrival of DINOSAUR PILE UP. A huge crowd has assembled as the guys take to the stage and proceed to run through arguably one of the sets of the whole weekend, with an enthusiastic mosh pit assisting them in ‘Arizona Waiting’ and ‘Thrash Metal Cassette’. Fun metal for the masses. This crowd sticks around for the nights main event and as BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE enter the fray, they are greeted like conquering heroes. They open with ‘Knives’ before gradually going through the gears with crowd pleasers like ‘4 Words To Choke Upon’ ‘Scream Aim Fire’ and with a more than willing crowd accompanying them through every word and a stunning light show, they show that they are every inch the headliner metal band. An awkward intro to ‘Tears Don’t Fall’ almost derails the song but they rescue it and finish with an epic ‘Waking The Demon’ The perfect end to a great Friday of entertainment.
It’s not all about the music at 200 Trees you know and to prove that it’s an early bleary eyed start for those who attended silent discos well into the wee hours as the wildly popular ‘SAPPENIN PODCAST recordslive at The Word, with PRESS TO MECO as guests. Hosts Morgan Smith and Sean Smith may just be the perfect podcast team as Morgan holds it all down while the naturally funny Smith injects his brand of Merthyr humour into it. Brilliant fun. From there it’s very much a hardcore and punk flavoured early afternoon with great sets from GOING OFF , WITCH FEVER and HIGH VIS. New York’s KOYO put in an enthusiastic shift over at the The Cave, pulling most of the songs from their recent ‘Would You Miss It?’ album and seeing a healthy bunch of crowd surfing in the process, while THE CHISEL bang out a set of modern day punk anthems, highlighting everything from the plight of the working man to police brutality. But if all round entertainment is what you are looking for then ELECTRIC SIX are here to provide. Dick Valentine having earlier played a solo set in The Forest Sessions is on solid form as the band bang out a quirky set which of course included the cult classics ‘Gay Bar’ and ‘High Voltage’ but it’s the massive conga that broke out mid set that people will remember this for. Back to The Cave, just in time to see a monumental set from South Wales band DREAM STATE. The past hardcore, alt-rockers had the massive crowd in the palm of their hand from the off and a very enthusiastic pit was matched only by the enthusiasm of the people singing their lyrics back to them. Trees 23 felt like a real groundbreaking moment for Dream State. Old hands they may be but this is a first for the HOLDING ABSENCE guys, as they take to the main stage. After playing a bit of a deep dive set on Thursday, this was the one with the “bangers” if you like. ‘Gravity’ ‘Afterlife’ ‘Wilt’ all played with what must go down as a record amount of crowd surfers at a show. Then it was time for a Blast from the past as emo-punk, alT rock og’s HUNDRED REASONS took to the stage, and they’ve not missed a step. A passionate set was delivered with all the vigour of their early to mid-2000’s pomp, with timeless tracks like ‘I’ll Find You’ ‘What You Get’ ‘Answers’ all sounding like they written yesterday. Hundred Reasons are back and British alt rock is all the better for it. Speaking of comebacks, a quick trip back to The Cave sees PITCHSHIFTER returning to active duty. The UK’s own industrial/cyber-punk outfit fronted by J.S Clayden bash out a thundering set of industrial metal reminding us just how important they were in the evolution of British music. Tracks like ‘Triad’ ‘WYSIWYG’ and ‘Genius’ sound just as fresh now as they did in the mid nineties and the guys look genuinely happy to be back on stage, as are we.
And that’s 2000 Trees 2023 done and confined to the history books. A festival that has a real community feel to it, which I hope they can retain in years to come as by this weeks standards, it’s only going to grow and grow, it really is the pick of the festivals in the UK at the moment. The unbridled power and passion of Download meets the atmosphere and community of Glastonbury’s past. Cherish 2000 Trees while you an….Chris Andrews.
PHOTOS- GARETH BULL