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maddyoxley
13th July 2023

2000 Trees Festival 2023: A perfect weekend of the best in rock

2000 Trees festival returned to Upcote farm in July for the very best in rock and alternative music.
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2000 Trees Festival 2023: A perfect weekend of the best in rock

For a music festival to truly be successful, it needs to have more than just great bands booked. Fortunately, 2000 Trees succeeds on every level. From the array of choices in food vendors and bars, unique stages, well-maintained facilities, and the general spirit of attendees, I’d be doing the festival a disservice if I’d only mentioned the music.

Entrance and campsites:

The festival chose to separate the campsite entrance and wristband collection this year in order to speed up entry, which at first I was sceptical about, however it clearly worked. There was no queue on entry compared to last year, despite arriving at a similar time. With the wristband exchange now situated at the arena entrance, you can’t walk straight through to the arena without showing your wristband. However, this wasn’t an issue at all (and you can still take your own alcohol into the arena!).

Due to the 15,000 capacity, the site is relatively small, and there aren’t really any bad places to camp. This also means that in most places your silent disco headphones will work from your tent, so you can still hear some music at night without heading back into the arena. The general campsite has a few sets of toilets and water points, as well as showers at an extra cost. They’re definitely worth it to feel that bit cleaner, but be prepared to queue!

Music:

Wednesday:

As Wednesday has a much smaller capacity than every other day, bands only play on the Word and Forest stages, from 4pm onwards. After getting settled in, I checked out both Holding Absence and Bob Vylan on the Forest stage, and both were great, playing deeper cuts from their discographies as they had main stage performances to come later in the weekend.

Photo: Holding Absence – Maddy Oxley @ The Mancunion

Holding Absence are gearing up for the release of their third album The Noble Art of Self Destruction, so are understandably retiring some of their older tracks to make way for the new ones. This resulted in a near-perfect set for me, playing my three favourite tracks of theirs in a row! Even if that may have been the last chance to hear some of those songs live, I can’t really complain, as it was in the beautiful setting of the Forest stage, with a crowd who feel as much about Holding Absence as I do.

Bob Vylan absolutely smashed their set. Despite the majority of the set comprising of their less popular tracks, it didn’t affect the quality of the performance, and Bobby’s talk in-between tracks was as equally as entertaining as the music itself. It was great to hear ‘The Delicate Nature’ live, a track featuring SOFT PLAY’s Laurie Vincent. Bobby teased the crowd, saying that Laurie would be joining them on stage, before announcing that he was joking, but this was rectified on Thursday with Bob Vylan joining SOFT PLAY on stage for ‘One More Day Won’t Hurt’.

Thursday:

Kid Kapichi rocked the main stage on Thursday afternoon, playing their politically charged anthems to a deservedly much bigger crowd than last year in the Cave. The wide range of ages at Trees is always nice to see, with a child on his dad’s shoulders being in view for most of the set, wearing a Kid Kapichi shirt with ‘Smash the Gaff’ written on it, in a Stella Artois logo.

The tone set by Kid Kapichi was then followed by Bob Vylan for their second set of the weekend. Despite some overlap from Wednesday night of the songs played and speeches between tracks, the set was no less entertaining, and quite inspiring at times, with Bobby talking about how lots of record labels aren’t interested in their music and its anti-establishment stance, and how they have received a fair few accolades in a short amount of time despite being an unsigned band. The set also featured an unreleased song titled ‘Dream Big’, as well as fan-favourites ‘England’s Ending’, ‘Pretty Songs’, and of course, ‘Wicked & Bad’, none of which had been played in the previous set. Bob Vylan are heading out on tour this November, with a show at Manchester’s O2 Ritz on the 17th, and you can buy tickets here.

Photo: SOFT PLAY – Maddy Oxley @ The Mancunion

Thursday’s headline set saw the return of the mighty SOFT PLAY, their first festival appearance since 2019 and their name change. I’m pleased to say that it’s as if they never left, coming on stage to the frantic ‘Sockets’ and not slowing down for the next hour. They had great interaction with the crowd too, spotting someone in a manta ray costume and naturally bringing him on stage to dance to ‘Feed The Mantaray’. There were some tracks I wish had made an appearance, namely ‘Magnolia’ and ‘Photo Opportunity’, but hopefully there’ll now be ample opportunity to see them again, and perhaps hear these tracks then. SOFT PLAY are back.

Friday:

Heart Attack Man kicked off my Friday, with an energetic set in the Cave. A great thing about the heat on Friday was that many people were using the tent stages for shade, meaning that many bands probably got to play to bigger audiences than they may have been expecting. The Heart Attack Man set was really fun, with highlights mostly coming from their newest release Freak of Nature. Frontman Eric Egan seemed to really like playing to a UK audience, despite it being only their second time playing here, and I’d like to think they won over the audience members who were in there to get away from the sun!

My only visit to the Axiom stage over the whole weekend was to catch Microwave, an alternative rock band whose latest singles I’ve really enjoyed. I do think their music would perhaps translate better in a smaller indoor venue, yet the set was enjoyable regardless, and ‘Circling the Drain’ is one of my favourite releases of the year.

I returned to The Cave that afternoon to check out what was one of my favourite sets of the weekend from the formidable Kublai Khan TX. Despite their aggressive exterior, there is heartfelt sentiment at the core; a winning combination when you want a crowd to be invested in the performance. People were two-stepping all the way to the back of the tent. A special mention is also in order to the person spraying a water pistol in the pit, something that was definitely necessary in Friday’s weather.

Photo: Joyce Manor – Maddy Oxley @ The Mancunion

On the main stage, I checked out sets from Joyce Manor and Dinosaur Pile-Up. I was expecting Joyce Manor’s crowd to be slightly more rowdy, and it didn’t feel quite right shouting along to ‘Constant Headache’ in the sun, but it was a great set regardless, and ‘Heart Tattoo’ is a great set opener. Frontman Barry Johnson also did a great job of entertaining the crowd, calling the festival 20,000 Trees at first and committing to it from there on, getting all the way to calling it 200 million trees by the end of the set, which elicited a lot of laughs from the crowd.

Photo: Dinosaur Pile-up – Maddy Oxley @ The Mancunion

Although they haven’t released new music in a few years, Dinosaur Pile-Up were given a bigger main stage slot than they had last year, which shows just how well they are received at the festival. 2019’s Celebrity Mansions is full of hits, with the set mostly comprised of this album. It was a good set, but perhaps lacking in some new material.

Saturday:

Photo: High Vis – Maddy Oxley @ The Mancunion

Saturday was the quietest day for me music-wise, made even more so by my group deciding to leave before Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes’ set due to the ridiculous rain in the evening. I did still get to see some great performances on the Saturday though, starting with High Vis on the main stage. High Vis are a really interesting band, not really fitting into any genre, blending elements of hardcore with instrumentals that could often be straight out of The Stone Roses’ debut. The band seemed surprised to warrant the crowd that they did, but it was absolutely deserved, and those catching them supporting Turnstile next month are in for a treat.

Holding Absence finally got their chance to play the main stage at 2000 Trees on Saturday, meaning they can now say they’ve played every single stage at the festival. They marked this with a setlist celebrating every stage of their career, from their new singles from their upcoming album The Noble Art of Self Destruction, to ending with the beautiful ‘Wilt’ from their eponymous debut album. They also played ‘Aching Longing’ from their EP with Alpha Wolf, with guitarist Scott Carey taking on the heavy vocals originally sung by Alpha Wolf’s Lochie Keough, and absolutely smashing it. I would love to see Scott taking on some more parts like this on the new album. Holding Absence are touring in support of their new album this November, with a show at Manchester’s O2 Ritz on the 22nd, and you can buy tickets here.

Photo: Cody Frost and Rou Reynolds – Maddy Oxley @ The Mancunion

As mentioned, I unexpectedly had to leave the festival earlier than planned, so my last set of the festival was Cody Frost, and what a great one it was. 2000 Trees seems to always book the best alternative pop, from GIRLI and Zand last year, to Cody Frost this year. Something Cody has that many other pop acts don’t though, is a live band. This really works, with a lot of the songs sounding slightly heavier than they do in the studio versions. Cody has brilliant stage presence, casually chatting to the crowd in-between tracks, and moving around the stage a lot during the performance.

Despite the heavy rain starting part-way through the set, no one’s spirits were dampened, which was particularly evident in the last song of the set. Cody found success due to her collaboration with Enter Shikari last year, on the track ‘Bull’, and when it came to playing this, Shikari front-man Rou Reynolds joined the band on stage. This was truly the most excited I had seen an audience all weekend. The Forest was packed, and no one could stand still.

Despite only catching one of the headliners over the weekend, I truly don’t believe 2000 Trees is about the headliners. Even if you saw just a couple of the bands on the line-up, you’d still struggle not to enjoy yourself. I’m already counting down the days until I’ll be back on Upcote Farm for next year’s festival (and if the organisers are reading this, please bring back the moonshine cocktails!).

Maddy Oxley

Maddy Oxley

Criminology student and gig-goer, never left my emo phase. Contactable on twitter @maddy_oxley

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