2000trees is without a shadow of doubt my favourite music festival. 2011 was no exception. It was a small, friendly festival that booked some of the best British music out there. Previous years they have hit dizzying heights of success with bands /artists such Imperial Leisure, Frank Turner and Johnny Flynn all gracing their main stage. This year was no exception. On their website they state, “we are obsessed with the breathtaking world that is the British music scene, and our aim is to provide you with the opportunity to discover your new favourite band. Bands that you’ll be telling your mates about for months and years to come”. Well they succeeded. Here are just a few of the bands/artists I saw (both familiar faces and new ones). Generally the music was of an incredible quality, although I do have a few gripes (mentioning no names…Los Campesinos).
Crazy Arm (acoustic) 5/5
Everyone has their own way of describing Crazy Arm, they don’t fit comfortably into any one genre. For me, I think of them as operatic punk (bare with me). Their album, ‘Born to Ruin’ opener ‘Asphalt’ sets the scene. It opens with a heavy base that’s broken by sharp guitar melodies before being built on with overlapping vocals. The song is cleverly drawn out to just over 5 minutes and instantly makes you realise that this band is not just another run of the mill punk band. You feel as though there is real sense of performance within the depths of their music.
With this in mind, you will understand why when looking at the line up for 2000trees I was very excited to see an acoustic set slotted in mid-afternoon for Crazy Arm. Take my earlier definition of ‘operatic punk’ and add ‘acoustic’ onto it and you have the basis for a very interesting performance. They didn’t disappoint. A real highlight of the festival for me, they balanced their usual intensity with a genuinely personal performance. The folk roots of this particular punk band shone through with incredible quality.
Ben Marwood 2/5 (but don’t be put off)
I think Ben Marwood is great – his lyrics (on which his music rests) are funny, political and unique. He engages the crowd in a way few other singer songwriters can and I would recommend anyone to go and see him. I recently caught him in Bath supporting the mighty Frank Turner and he was epic.
So why 2/5? Firstly, he was let down by the poor sound on the Greenhouse stage. You struggled to make out his lyrics let alone appreciate the depth, humour and quality of them. I am still glad I watched Ben, but felt bad for all those who were seeing him for the first time. It remains a mystery to me why he was on the small Greenhouse Stage and not the Leaf lounge.
The King Blues 4/5 (if you are a teenage girl)
I loved it, but I feel embarrassed to admit I loved it. King Blues released and incredible album ‘Under the Frog’ back in 2006 which genuinely excited me. It felt raw, it felt personal and it felt political. In 2008 they followed this up with ‘Save the World, get the girl’ which lead many people to accuse them of going pop. It was this transformation that left one of my friends (naming no names but he has dreadlocks and strong opinions about punk) to comment, “fucking hate King Blues”). He is not alone either. I though, still keep them as a guilty pleasure. Bouncing along in possibly the most accessible mosh pit in the world while shouting along to annoyingly self righteous lyrics is a lot of fun. Still though, is punk meant to be fun?
Dan le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip 4/5
It wouldn’t be fair to suggest I have a perfect memory of this, but from what I do remember it was awesome. Scroobius Pip led the crowd through his lyrics with masterful skill. He had the charisma to keep the crowd bouncing throughout, completely engaged. You lost some the subtleties of his lyrics but this is inevitable when stood next to a massive speaker after a few pints of the cider. For pure enjoyment levels he gets full marks. At the time you could have been forgiven for thinking everyone had bought their ticket just for him, it felt like everyone knew the words to every song. This is a real credit to a man who is not a ‘natural’ festival headliner.
Chewing on Tin Foil 4/5
This was the first time I had seen Chewing on Tin Foil despite a lot of my friends chatting excitedly about them. They reminded me (and I mean this in a completely positive sense) of the 1990’s. They were fun to watch. They reminded of the days when I used to listen to Symposium. They had a real charm about them. Their music was simple but accessible. Perhaps most importantly they looked like they were having real fun. As they put it, “We’re five guys from Dublin that have a really nice time playing punk rock music together. We mostly play to ourselves at band practise but occasionally we play to an audience at gigs. We’re trying to get as much stuff done as we possibly can until one of us has a kid or dies or whatever”. Ace to see live, and surprisingly good on the 7” split I purchased.
Boat to Row 4/5 (I know there is a lot of 4/5 going on but stick with me I am about to get harsh)
I only caught the last few songs of this band and I hadn’t seen them before but my initial reaction was of some young very talented musicians playing some interesting folk. It was soft and I could imagine my girlfriend loving it. Well actually she did love it and then complained that we had just sat through Chewing on Tin foil instead of watching the whole set. One of the problems of 2000 trees, awesome bands overlap. I bought their vinyl and was really impressed.
Joe Summers 5/5
If you don’t know what to buy for mother’s day – buy Joe. I can guarantee your mother will love him. I mean, they will quite like his floating poetic lyrics. They will enjoy the way it reminds them of 60’s protest singers. But most of all, they will just love him.
If, like me, you have yet to give birth then have a listen as well. With notes of Springsteen and Dylan going on in his very naturally relaxed style you will be doing well not to be won over. Combine this with a sunny hillside in the Cotswolds and a pint of cider and you’ve got yourself a top quality gig.
Los Campesinos 1/5
If there is one thing I cannot stand, it is a live performer who looks like he/she doesn’t want to be there. This was average music played with no energy, commitment or enthusiasm. Probably the low point of the whole festival for me. I had fun in the crowd but you could sense a feeling of disappointment.
Frightened Rabbit 2/5
Same as above with a little more energy and a little more enthusiasm. Maybe the music just wasn’t my cup of tea (the rest of crowd seemed like they were having a great time). Had a good time in the crowd but I suspect that was more to do with my friends and the crowd than what was on stage.
Jim Lockey and the Solemn Sun 5/5
OK – I admit that I didn’t actually see them this year. Sorry Jim. But I have seen them more times than probably any other band still out there and cannot recommend them enough. They play soulful punk folk with an edge of angst that keeps you gripped. Their music has a really impressive depth and the lyrics are wonderfully poetic. They are a band that is in it for all the right reasons. If you haven’t already watch these guys – they are truly awesome.
2000Trees this year was epic. The headliners on Friday blew me away and the quality and variety of the other bands was truly impressive. A lot of the bands rely on you going out to buy records and see them at venues. I really hope you do. I love the music scene you find in towns up and down this country but it needs people like you to go out and make this happen.
A big thanks to the crew at 2000 trees who makes it happen. I know I speak for many when I say it has a special place in my heart.