What is 2000 Trees? Welcoming, unique and stand-out are just a few of the words I would choose to describe this grassroots festival based in Upcote Farm in the heart of Cheltenham. I mean, what doesn't it have? From feminist lectures and comedy sets to heavy metal and punk performances this festival manages to perfectly juxtapose the aggression and non-conformist ideologies that are rooted in punk rock. With the astounding character and atmosphere of the Cotswolds, 2000 Trees adopted an ‘out of this world’ theme for their 15 year anniversary. The extra-terrestrial feel abducted us for four days and transported us to another world.
2000 Trees stands out as a vibrant and inclusive space, fostering a sense of community and camaraderie among attendees from various backgrounds and interests.. 2000 Trees is truly a festival that can leave you exploring for hours without an ounce of boredom, but here are some stand-out sets that really made the weekend a great one.
After a short walk from the car-park, setting up camp, getting our wristbands and opening our first drinks of the weekend, it was already time to see our first set of the Festival: Holding Absence on the iconic Forest Stage. Although arriving late to their set, the Welsh rock band performed 9 of their most popular hits. Lucas Woodland, the vocalist, embellishes the soundscape with his euphoric voice, harmoniously blending with the shoe-gaze riffs of the guitars and the deep bass tones of post-hardcore. The Cardiff based troupe kept the audience engaged, singing along with ease throughout their time on stage as they made an excellent display of their craft. Well worth our time.
Shortly after Holding Absence had finished their set, people started to pack out the stage in anticipation for one of the most unique and special punk-bands of recent years.
As Bob Vylan took to the stage to exhibit an angry, face-spittingly raw critique of the British government, Bob shouts into the crowd “the only good pig is a dead pig” before performing one of their Iconic songs ‘Pulled Pork’. From parents with children no older than five or six on their shoulders to young teenagers pitting at the front of the stage, the self proclaimed Fred Perry Mafia created a display of rage and social commentary through powerful hard hitting lyrics about Racism and injustice. from the perfectly snappy drumming to the visceral vocals, Bob Vylan are no ordinary punk band and are an excellent example of how UK Punk has modernised and changed itself to fight the issues of a post-covid, cost of living, crisis Britain.
Opening the Main stage on Thursday for us was the Chelmsford based Trio Bilk. Although starting with a shallow crowd of maybe 30 to 40 people on the boiling hot Thursday, Bilk crashed onto the stage with an excellent array of their sex pistols inspired, punk influenced, indie rock. Known for covering topics of student life, fashion and UK drinking culture, it wasn't long before hundreds of festival goers flocked to see the young band in action. Although audience participation was kept to a minimum, the band were excited to point out their own merch when they spotted it and offer their appreciation to those watching. Overall, this fast paced mash up of indie and punk was a perfect opener for the main stage on Thursday morning.
In my opinion, a fusion of Reggae and Metal is always the perfect booking for a mid-day, main stage, pick me up. Frontman Benji Webb’s audience interaction and energy during their sets are unmatched and never fails to get the audience bouncing and moshing. As they swung their shirts around, or as the band call it’ The Newport helicopter’, to their popular set ending song ’Warning’. The award winning welsh band has made a huge name for themselves around the UKs rock music and festival scene and are a staple of festivals such as 2000 Trees they're a band i can watch over and over again and never get bored.
Coming off their hiatus, SOFTPLAY, previously known as Slaves, are a UK based hard punk rock duo consisting of drummer and vocalist Issac Holman and guitarist Laurie Vincent. Although not performing together for 4 years, the couple had excellent stage presence and showed real and true passion throughout the set. The bluesy guitar riffs perfectly contrasted Issaacs hard hitting vocals and aggressive drumming and had the audience gripped from the first song right until the end. The pair invited their punk counterparts Bob Vylan on the stage for a cameo which perfectly rounded off a scorching hot day of punk and excellent live music.
Heart Attack Man
Starting off my Friday was a set of punk pop and hip hop fusion by the Ohio based Trio, Heart Attack Man. Despite the high temperatures of the sweltering Cheltenham sun and being under the bright lights of the busy tent, lead singer Eric Egan commanded the stage with his incredibly captivating stage presence and powerful voice. He forced the audience to mosh and dance from the first song right through till the end. Each member of the band goverened the stage and the audience. I want to note that the chemistry within the band itself was outstanding. Heart Attack Man is a band I would definitely be looking forward to seeing again and will definitely be at many festivals alike in the near future.
KUBLAI KHAN TX
This is by far the busiest tent I saw the whole weekend, as adults and kids waited eagerly for the heavy distortion and deep growls of this Texan based metalcore band. As the band took the stage, we heard the first screams of ‘The Hammer’ echo into the abyss. It is clear that no energy is lost to the unbearable heat, every deep chugging riff ,aggressive smashing of cymbals were all carried by the tightness of the bass drum. It lifted the tent and the audience whilst the crowd moshed away with the encouragement from lead singer Matt Honeycutt. His invigorating barks hit my soul as he screamed “Get Anabolic!” There is absolutely no contest this was the heaviest set of the weekend.
Bullet For My Valentine
The Friday night headliners were no other than metal scene legends Bullet For My Valentine, taking to the stage with a roar of applause it is clear that, although seemingly rogue and straying away from the usual punkier theme, it was a perfect booking for a 2000 Trees Headliner. However, as the set progressed it started to become lethargic and audience interaction was kept to a minimum by frontman Matt Tuck. The set list seemed catered to more veteran fans of the band and left us in the audience who weren't avid fans looking for something more as stage presence was lacking. Overall however, the performance was tight and it is very clear the band have a lot of experience in the scene and are widely loved, a band I can see headlining more festivals in the future.
In complete contrast to the rest of the weekend, this last day at Trees was covered in rain and the wind mirrored the tiredness of the crowds after a weekend full to the brim with excellent live sets. This, however, would not dampen the working class hardcore stylings of High Vis. After an outstanding set at Outbreak Festival, High Vis performed at Trees for the second time - now they took the main stage. The band captivated the audience from start to finish with indie riffs reminiscent of Manchester legends The Stone Roses, accompanied by powerful screaming vocals and poignant lyrics exploring themes of unhealthy coping mechanisms, grief, and mental health. During the set, lead singer Graham Sayle expressed his gratitude, stating that the world of punk "saved my life", forging a strong bond with the audience. With this unmistakable connection, the band is poised to become the next big thing within the punk and hardcore scene, destined to headline festivals like 2000 Trees in the years to come.
What a perfect festival booking! On that dreary Saturday, Electric Six are the perfect midday pick me up to energise an idle audience. Families and punk enthusiasts came together, joining in to sing along with joy as inflatable colourful balls and alien heads floated through the crowd. This set undoubtedly brought smiles to everyone's faces. As they performed their greatest hits, including 'Danger! High Voltage' and 'Gay Bar', the sun emerged, and confetti filled the air, creating an electrifying atmosphere that perfectly capped off the final day of the festival.
The last set of the weekend I caught was Black Honey, surprisingly in quite a small tent. The band took the stage, perfectly combining fun riffs and infectious vocals with lyrics covering topics of injustice and mental health issues. A standout moment for me was when lead singer Izzy Baxter encouraged all women and gender non-conforming people to come to the front of the crowd. She made a speech about making punk and rock spaces safe places for women to feel secure, especially in light of recent allegations in the punk scene. This is an important conversation that should be widely discussed.
Black Honey kept the crowd bouncing throughout the whole set and blew the roof off the tent, if the howling gusts of wind didn't do that already. I can absolutely see them smashing the main stage in years to come.
The Silent Disco is a unique and exhilarating experience that adds an extra dimension of enjoyment to the event. As night falls and the main stages close, festival-goers head to the area where they don wireless headphones and dance the night away. With multiple channels of music playing simultaneously, participants can switch between DJs and genres at their own pace. The sight of a sea of people grooving in silence, each immersed in their own musical world, creates a surreal and unforgettable ambiance. The Silent Disco at 2000 Trees is a must-visit attraction, where the joy of dancing meets the novelty of shared but silent musical revelry.
All photos above credited to @Gareth Bull
Lets not forget Fancy Dress
f through fancy dress. It fosters a sense of community and camaraderie, with fellow festival-goers often appreciating and celebrating each other's costumes.
If you decide to attend , consider embracing the tradition and let your imagination run wild. Dressing up is not only a way to have fun but also a means of connecting with others and contributing to the vibrant and lively spirit of the festival. Whether you choose to go all out or keep it simple, joining in on the fancy dress festivities will surely enhance your overall experience at 2000 Trees.
All photos above credited to @mac_praed
Overall, you'll never get bored at 2000 Trees. There's an excellent and captivating lineup of rock and punk bands, both small and large, for you to discover. The festival offers a massive array of food vans catering to all dietary needs (my favourites included No Frickin Chicken and KoFu Korean Fusion). Moreover, there are smaller stages near every campsite, allowing festival-goers to bring their instruments and perform. The community feel at this festival is like no other, and there are games played throughout the campsite that other festival enthusiasts encourage you to join.
Whether you're part of a big family, a punk enthusiast, a student, or just a general festival lover, I can guarantee that THIS is the perfect festival for you.
See you in 2024!