Words fae Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)
Anyone who’s been following my escapades for the last year and a bit will know I enjoy two things, and two things only: getting pissed and big riffs. So as you might imagine, a festival is the perfect place for me. Whilst you might not be down for sleeping on a slowly deflating air bed whilst a tent slowly poaches you in the morning sun, to me, there’s no finer pleasure.
However, with no Glastonbury this year, where was I going to get my dose of debauchery? Dahling, I’m rock journalism royalty, I NEED somewhere befitting of my complex tastes. Though, after much research, there were no festivals that offered free, cold beer and played nothing but Motorhead all weekend, I decided to go down to the woods and spend a few days at 2000 Trees Festival, sunk deep in the bosom of Gloucestershire. Boy oh boy, was it fun!
The first plus? It’s tiny! Tickets are limited and the festival was started to provide a ‘value for money’ alternative to most festivals, and yeah, who’s gonna argue with the ticket price, and the instalment plan? Fabulous! Music is for everyone, regardless of income, and Trees do their best to make it accessible. But on top of that the size of it meant any stage was a stone’s throw away, and you didn’t have to wrestle your way through a thronging crowd to get a decent spot. Everywhere felt nicely airy
The second plus? How wonderful everything was, from the intimacy referenced, to the food, to the cleanliness of the place (the Queen shits in worse toilets!), and just how generally awesome everyone was. Real friendly, real warm, real community vibe.
The third plus? Well, we’re about to go through that, aren’t we? So join me as I’m around six or seven cans deep, winning a game of cricket and on my way to see…
Black Foxxes (Thursday, Main Stage)
Well, this one is pretty much par for the course, isn’t it? One of, if not the most exciting band currently in the United Kingdom, Black Foxxes were my first act of the day, and as you might imagine, they were fantastic. A quick run through of Foxxes’ catalogue opened with Husk, and whilst a short set, it was absolutely sharp.
Fighting through the pain of a broken rib, Mark was in great shape as he, Tristan and Ant burnt through Sæla, Manic in Me, River, Breathe, ending with JOY. A firm handshake to introduce the band to a wider festival audience, and letting everyone know what they’re about. The gauntlet’s been laid down, Trees, what else ya got?!
BEER COUNTER: 7 cans
RUNS SCORED: Loads, mate
Arcane Roots (Main Stage, Thursday)
Oh Trees, you are spoiling me! Arcane Roots are also one of my favourite British bands right now, with Melancholia Hymns definitely being one of the best albums of 2017. Again, it was a quick introduction to the band, but opening with Off The Floor is as firm a handshake as you can ask for. Big plus for me was them playing Triptych, an absolute banger off Blood & Chemistry.
It was good to hear new track Landslide played, sandwiched between Slow Dance and closer If Nothing Breaks, Nothing Moves. It was a shame not to have the intricate and exciting lights that form part of an Arcane Roots show, but half five on a Friday isn’t the place for a light show. Nonetheless, this band man, check ’em out!
BEER COUNTER: 9 cans
Look mate, my day’s consisted of pottering back and forth between my tent and the main stage to stock up on cans, so if you want a concise and in depth review of every band, you’ve come to the wrong place pal. This is the kind of gonzo journalism that wins awards or more likely, wins disapproving glances.
Marmozets (Main Stage, Thursday)
Marmozets were probably the band I was looking forward to most this weekend; after only seeing them once and not really knowing who they were, coupled with the grit of Knowing What You Know Now, I was well up for seeing the weird and wonderful. First plus point, Becca was wearing an Appetite for Destruction t-shirt, rendering this gig an automatic ten. The setlist mix was also on point, pretty much 50/50 The Weird and Wonderful Marmozets and KWYKN, with particular highlights including Captivate You, Move Shake Hide and Play.
Vibtech would have been an absolute stormer, but what Marmozets offered us was absolutely fantastic… and yet AGAIN, proving that they too are one of the most exciting bands in the UK. 2000 Trees’ act booking skills deserve THE biggest Italian chef’s kiss in the world, because there’s always someone bloody exciting playing a set at that festival. Let’s be honest, some right shite bands end up playing festivals, but at Trees, you go for breakfast and end up watching a damn fine set.
Anyway… closing out the set with Major System Error, Marmozets proved why they deserved to sub-headline, and between you and me, I’d take a roll of the dice on them headlining the main stage next year, but definitely if LP3 has the same grit and gravel as the first two.
BEER COUNTER: 11
My belly may have been full of beer, but my thirst for good music was unquenched. Fortunately, my day was about to reach a dizzying crescendo as I pocketed a few cans and headed for…
Black Peaks (The Cave, Thursday)
This might sound odd, but I’ve forced myself to like Black Peaks. Every time I mentioned Black Foxxes, my mate would then later tell me to enjoy seeing Black Peaks. So I said fuck it and listened to Black Peaks. And oh boy, what a treat!
Opening with their new single Can’t Sleep, they sounded in fine form as they headlined The Cave, and looked every inch a band in their element. Not bad for a band on their first album, with LP2, All That Divides coming later this year, but still headlining a stage. They were thunderous in their approach as they brought out Drones, Say You Will and Glass Built Castles. Again, massively excited by this band and their Sabbath-like qualities.
Hugely enjoyable set from the Brighton based prog enthusiasts though, on a day where competition for best band was hugely stiff. I missed Shvpes but heard from our tent and they sounded brilliant, and the little pockets of noise that kept firing up across the festival sounded brilliant. However, whilst our thirst for bands had been quenched, our thirst for cans was creeping up on us, so a beer run to the car was called, and after that point, it all gets a little fuzzy…
BEER COUNTER: 20 at close of play, if not more, but I personally had like, ten cans left on Friday.
Everyone’s got a festival special! Whether it be going for a giant yorkie pud, covering yourself in glitter or discovering new acts, we all love a good festival special! Mine? On the day after the first big sesh, I have a penchant for throwing up a luminous green fluid. However, this is the signal it’s time to party, so with a non-branded Isotonic sports drink in me, I headed to the Forest Stage for an acoustic audience with my friend…
Grumble Bee (Forest Stage, Friday)
I’m just gonna have to go to a festival one day and review all the shite bands.
Grumble Bee, without a shadow of a doubt, are my current favourite band. The multiple talents of young Jack Bennett, coupled with his amazing voice and soulful songwriting make him absolutely divine, with the recently release Everything Between EP proving his talents. So of course, getting down to the forest for half ten on a hangover for an acoustic set was no problem at all… because he genuinely cured my fucking hangover.
Armed with nothing but an acoustic guitar, every note gently danced through the dense embrace of the forest, opening with Red, and closing with Francium. There was quite a large crowd for half ten on a Friday morning at a festival too, but he’s god damn worth getting out of bed for. Luna Blue received its live debut, which sounded absolutely stunning in the surroundings of the intimate Forest Stage.
Heron also included a little bit of Stuck In My Throat by Reuben, fitting as he would be playing Camp Reuben later on. But the highlight for me was Soft Filter, Black and White Picture. That song is absolutely beautiful, mixed with his beautiful voice and slowly coming back to life from a hangover was fucking incredible. However, that wouldn’t be the last we’d see of Grumble Bee, but we’ll get to that later.
BEER COUNTER: 0
Gonna be totally fucking straight with you, I sacked a lot of things off today. It was far too hot, I was far too hungover and I had an overwhelming thirst for cans. However, whilst going for breakfast I stumbled upon Sick Joy as they were starting their set. They sounded absolutely brilliant for a Friday lunchtime and as a result, I’m now listening to them. But a real highlight of Friday was A Banging Snooze Whilst It Rained A Little, which meant I was fresh and ready for…
Press To Meco (Forest Stage, Friday)
A commonly accepted theme in my friendship group is that it’s a flurry of band recommendations, of which none of us ever really end up checking out. In this instance, Press to Meco have been on my list for at least a million years now. Sorry boys, I’m just super fucking lazy, but thankfully, they brought the party to the acoustic Forest Stage on Friday, allowing me to fully experience them.
They sounded absolutely inch perfect with good humour as they played If All Your Parts Don’t Make A Whole, Autopsy and a cover of The Maze by Manchester Orchestra to name a few… or to name the few I remember. However, the brilliance of their acoustic set forced me to finally sit down and listen to them, and yet-a-fucking-gain, they’re a hugely exciting British rock band. Anyone who tells you rock is dead is a fucking liar. My apologies to the boys for not checking them out sooner, but it comes with a promise I’m going to see them on tour later this year… you should do the same.
BEER COUNTER: 5
God I’ve seen a criminally small amount of bands this weekend… But… when you can hear every band from your tent anyway, why even bother getting out of bed? I’m not even joking, I came back with a handful of new listens just by having a nap on Friday. Yeah maybe I should have seen more, but I’m getting old lads, I’m in my mid twenties, it hurts to stand up, I like having a good sit, my back hurts, leave me alone. Never mind. There’s only one band, and one band I’ve wanted to see all weekend, so step forward and get weird with…
Creeper (The Cave, Friday)
You know the drill, folks! Yet another temperature check on the health of British rock, and we are in rude health baybeee! Rightfully headlining The Cave on Friday, the tent was packed to the brim with Creeper cultists, ready to welcome their heroes to the stage. There was a nice little intro, singing about 2000 graves and what have you, and 2000 trees! That was really cool to be honest, writing a special little intro, with Will Gould’s unmistakably butter smooth vocals introducing the band.
Bursting straight into Suzanne, Creeper sounded absolutely inch perfect as the tent housing them rattled as fans jumped, screamed and moshed themselves about. It’s pretty hard to pick a winner, but from where I was standing, Creeper fans probably take the crowd of the weekend by a hair. That being said, when you spend half your gig lifting folk up to crowd surf them, you wonder if the only reason people even speak to you any more is because you’re tall, leading yourself to have an existential crisis in the middle of a gig, wondering what life would be like if you were 5 foot 7. Holy shit, nobody would like me.
Again, a huge word has to be given to Will and Hannah on vocals; the trade and the harmony between those two is absolutely sublime. You’d be hard pressed to get one talented vocalist in a band, two is just fucking silly. Hannah also did a brilliant job on Crickets despite being on vocal rest, and it’s still probably in the top three Creeper songs. So heartbreaking, so beautiful.
It sounds weird saying this for a band so young, but it was a nice mix of old and new, with Astral Projection, VCR and Gloom working their way onto the setlist, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Down Below, Poison Pens and Room 309, with every fan knowing every word. Probably the highlight of the set was Hiding With Boys, opening with a nice acoustic intro, before bringing the full band in. I Choose To Live was also a pretty emotional highlight. To be honest, the whole band’s live game is absolutely brilliant; there isn’t a single member who doesn’t look confident in their ability or their skin, and their stage presence is huge.
The encore was pretty standard, right? The band came off stage, we all clapped like mad bastards for “one more song!” because it’s always “one more song!”, or more. So of course, the first piano bars of Black Rain sent everyone into a frenzy as the chorus started to shake the foundations of the stage. Again, great song, inch perfect live, setting everyone up for Misery as the closer. Except one William Gould, esq. had other plans for the crowd. Do we want Misery, or do we want weird? I can’t remember what we chose, but we got weird, and by “weird”, he clearly meant “fucking incredible”.
Closing with a cover of Meat Loaf’s You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night), the band did the song justice, and, whisper it quietly, might have even done it better than our lord and saviour Meat Loaf. Maybe the crowd didn’t know it as well as Misery, but it was miles, miles better than getting Misery. Hopefully it morphs into a studio version, because really, once wasn’t enough.
BEER COUNTER: 10 + 1 Turbo Whiskey
It was after this we retreated back to the tent, dissecting the day’s action and getting ready for the silent disco. At the silent disco, I lost all my friends, so I decided to make some new ones, headed to Camp Reuben and sat down for…
Luke Rainsford (Camp Reuben, Friday)
Who are you? You’re not Grumble Bee. He said he’d BEE here by now! Haha! Bee!
Anyway, Luke Rainsford is a solo acoustic artist, and he’s from the Midlands, automatically making him one of the best artists ever to grace this earth. I don’t make the rules, this is just how it goes. However, whilst yes, I had come here to see Grumble Bee, I was blown away by Luke’s talent. I can’t remember all the songs he played, but I checked him out afterwards, and he’s really fucking good.
You know how I’m the most talented and handsome music writer in the world, so everything I say is gospel? Yeah go check this guy out, pick between I Feel At Home With You, I’m Nothing Like My Dad Turned Out To Be or his new EP I Just Don’t Deserve To Be Loved (big mood), really you can’t go wrong with this guy. Real nice bloke too, I’m sorry I couldn’t remember which songs he played, but you’ve got to understand, I was drunk. Go listen to him though.
Grumble Bee (Camp Reuben, Friday or Saturday)
“You were sat in the tent listening to Grumble Bee with your legs crossed like you were in assembly, you looked adorable”
Should we do two Grumble Bee reviews in here? Absolutely, if anybody deserves more praise heaped on him, it’s our man Jack. Despite being totally unplugged, despite it being way past all of our collective bedtimes, it was still a damn fine gig as he opened with Lapwing, taking suggestions for songs. I shouted Francium, because I’m a dick, I should’ve shouted Bravest Soul. Also, I’m just a dick. It was pretty much the same set from the Forest earlier on, but just as enjoyable, if not a little bit more. He also announced that he’s working on an album, and played a snippet of Volcano off it. Can’t come soon enough. Love that boy.
Ending with Francium, we were officially the loudest crowd of Camp Reuben as we belted out the final chorus. Happily, we could have sat there all night and listened to him play songs, and he took the time out to chat to everyone afterwards as well. Fucking love that boy.
BEER COUNTER: 10 + 2 Turbo Whiskeys
After a full day of… not a lot… we partook in the silent disco, that was pretty cool, wall to wall bangers, I went to bed, didn’t throw up, didn’t have much of a hangover, just as well, because I had an early start on Sunday for…
Mantra (The Cave, Saturday)
Feels like a Sunday. Freaks my nut out. But it’s a Saturday. Football’s not coming home. Might as well be Tuesday.
Nevertheless, first band of the day for Satursuntuesday were Mantra, a band recommended to you if you like Foo Fighters, Nirvana and Royal Blood. Buddy, fucking hook this band into my veins.
However, it’d be unfair to parcel this boys off as a lookalike band, as they’ve got their own unique, gritty sound, and if you listen to them on Spotify, it’s gotten confused and you’ll end up shitting yourself as a weird pop version of New Rules comes on shuffle, by someone clearly also called Mantra. Mantra, cover New Rules.
There’s something familiar about their closer, I Want, it’s pretty biting. But if you know me, or keep up to date with me, you know I love big riffs, and Mantra do too. Their new song, Individual is pretty good too. In the nicest way, they’re not reinventing the wheel; they’re just a good old fashioned rock and roll band. Sometimes, that’s all you need, and Mantra can do that. Check ’em out. Same for Sick Joy on the Friday, they come up as a suggested band.
BEER COUNTER: 1, I’m driving.
Right, time to pack the tent up. Can’t pack the tent up. Tent’s too thicc. Found a beer under my tent. Cans galore. Tent’s packed up. In the car. Back to base. Tired. Forest bound. Don’t deserve to be alive.
Undead Raisins (The Forest, Saturday)
Oooh, I’m gonna be honest, I’m here to get a good spot for Enter Shikari’s acoustic set in a bit. However, seeing two of the guys from Hundred Reasons do an acoustic set as a cleverly titled band should be good, right? Right, absolutely. Thanks Shikari! Eager to set things off right, they opened with a snippet of Chop Suey, the perfect appetiser for any set of any kind of music ever.
And these guys were pretty cool, really good sense of humour and some banging tracks. The whole point of this is to see your fans and hopefully grab some new ones, so mission accomplished, these guys rocked.
Enter Shikari (But It’s Just Rou) (The Forest, Saturday)
The best bit of the forest is the mystique comes down, it’s just the artists and the audience, no walk ons, no theatrics, just a nice acoustic set. So it was a treat to see frontman extraordinaire Rou Reynolds fight a MacBook and his guitar whilst pretending not to see us. He also got handed a drawing by a little girl and look genuinely delighted. I love that beaming man.
Opening with Stalemate, Rou was not here to fuck about, burning through a deep cut from A Flash Flood Of Colour, and oh boy, what a treat that was! You sort of hope he’ll play something like that and bang! He does. Minor technical difficulties aside we got a cover of Cars by Gary Numan, Redshift, Undercover Agents, Take My Country Back, Heroes by David Bowie, ending on Live Outside, complete with a wee boy sat on his monitor after asking for Airfield. Personally, he should have asked for Zzzonked, but each to their own, I guess.
However, a fully acoustic Shikari show would be a treat off the back of this. Fully stripped down, a few deep cuts and you’ve got yourself an evening at the theatre buddy. It was a beautiful set, and definitely whet the appetite for tonight’s feast.
BEER COUNTER: 3
However, a feast of pie awaited me, as we decided to jostle for a position for Shikari later on, meaning we’d have to endure…
[Redacted] (Main Stage, Saturday)
Forgot I was seeing [Redacted] today, so I took a piss beforehand, meaning I couldn’t lob piss at these guys. They sucked. Like, really sucked. Not because they’re cancelled, but because they suck. Really badly. Sucked.
S U C C.
Enter Shikari (Main Stage, Saturday)
Turns out all that standing about to jostle for position was a waste of time as everyone fucked off after [Redacted], Glastonbury crowds had left us naive. So an hour of dicking around with inflatables was on the cards, but worth it as the lights went out, The Spark fired up and the band came out.
Opening with The Sights, you still feel the same magic as you did when you first heard the album. It’s an instant feel good song and instantly perks your mood up. There’s a certain je ne sais quoi with Rou these days, but he feels more of a showman these days, more fluid in his movements. Maybe it’s the hair, the suit, the glasses, but he’s on fire, and I am here for it.
Anything Can Happen In The Next Half Hour seems to be a setlist regular after the TTTS2017 shows, which is a treat. It flows beautifully with the old and the new, and hopefully inspires a few more Take To The Skies classics on the next round of tour setlists. Labyrinth, anyone? Juggernauts also made a welcome return to the setlist as well, delivering the full bollocks and getting the crowd moving about like angry protons.
It was pretty much confirmed as the band were confirmed for Trees, but seeing Shinrin-Yoku performed live was absolutely stunning with the quadrophonic sound, especially as the track was set up to roll straight into Undercover Agents. Again, The Spark is probably the best album they’ve ever done. Not my favourite, love you Flash Flood, but it’s arguably their best.
Is it a tease to play the opening of Ghandi Mate, Ghandi and mash it up with Mothership? Who knows, who cares! Mothership was bookended with a snippet of Insomnia by Faithless, a nice little surprise for a Saturday night.
The stage set up was beautiful as well, with a flurry of lights that are a Shikari hallmark, but they had these huge light boxes, where colours danced around the stage. It was a crisp, modern look and added an extra dimension to the usually visually stunning Shikari live show. Couple that to the quadrophonic sound, and you might have one of the best live prospects in front of you.
The headline slots are only an hour or so long, which is a shame, but still leaves plenty of time for fun with the Quickfire Round, a segment where the band play four songs in eight minutes. Ready? Sorry You’re Not A Winner moves into Sssnakepit, which then blew up into Meltdown, which then made way for The Jester. Genuinely, I’d swap all that for System… into Meltdown. The reaction to it is huge, especially on “fuck all borders and fuck all boundaries, fuck all flags and fuck nationalities”, which is all the more apt in these dark times.
I loved the version of Airfield as well, with Rou on guitar as opposed to piano, but it’s just as beautiful. Arguing With Thermometers also seems to be a setlist mainstay nowadays, and long may it reign.
Closing with Redshift and Live Outside, you couldn’t help but feel this was Shikari’s first headline slot of many; a band deeply committed to touring, playing each and every venue that would welcome them seem more confident than ever. Couple that with their live show, and the more accessible sound of The Spark, they could quite easily translate this show into bigger and bigger slots, with a gang of Rabble Rousers sure to show up to support them.
Unsurprisingly, on a weekend filled with amazing acts, Shikari were the cream of the crop yet again.
You’ve read this far? Fuck me, we’ll go for a pint next time I see you.
So, I went into Trees with high hopes, and they exceeded my expectations in every area. It’s a beautiful little festival with amazing bands, amazing people and amazing food. Hopefully it stays as small as it is, but I do recommend you getting your hat into the ring for next year, because trust me, arm yourselves with cans, and you’ll find a band worth listening to.
Love to my friends for making it such a good week and steering me through a particularly rocky patch in my mental health, love to the bands for being awesome, love to all of you for reading x