2000Trees 2015 – Full Review

If I was going to tell you that I knew anything about the 2000Trees festival as I was stuck on a hellish drive down from London on Thursday, it would be an outright lie- the small festival on the outskirts of Chelt enham has managed to evade my personal radar for 8 years since it’s inception and having learnt about it last year, I can count myself lucky enough to have attended this year. Still, besides all of the hype from previous years’ attendants, I had not entirely decided on what I should expect.

The modest capacity festival is hidden deep in the Gloucestershire countryside, complete with rolling hills, bleating flocks of sheep, and and an idyllic river running around the edge of the site, and even though we were lucky with the weather (A welcome change from the usual rain of the UK festival scene) the scenery would have stood up and still looked beautiful regardless.

Unfortunately arriving later than anticipated, and due to the lack of advertising for Thursday’s acts, we missed some of the earlier performances. However, Thursday night saw the Indie rock and rollers, THE SUBWAYS draw close to the day’s music with their explosively energetic performance at ‘The Cave’ while ANDREW O’NEIL headed up ‘The Croft’ with his Schadenfreude style of comedy, somewhat appropriately referencing to the late Bill Hicks in his set, to warm reception.

FRIDAY

I kicked off Friday’s music with a punt on a completely new band to me – BITE THE BUFFALO, and how glad I was that I did. Comparing the 2 piece from Bath, England; to Royal Blood would be short sighted, as the Blues outfit brought filthy riffs, bluesy overdrive, and confident ballsy attitude and stagemanship, yet an honest humility that cemented them as my favourite act of the weekend.  ALLUSONDRUGS treated a modest crowd to their blend of Indie rock and acid infused prog, switching seamlessly from one to the other.  Heading up to ‘The Croft’ I had planned to catch some of SAM RUSSO’s set whilst escaping the peaking sun- the Singer-songwriter providing a nice contrast from Allusondrugs, allowing those who chose to get respite from the sweltering sun with a calm background of songs about love, friendship and moving on. Having only intended to catch a bit of his set, I ended up staying for the whole thing. Back on the main stage, TAX ON HEAT continued the stage’s bluesfest with sweaty and groovy 70’s era licks, with a stage presence that wouldn’t be out of place on a bigger stage, with a bigger crowd. Catching a bit of DEAD HARTS set over lunch at the Cave Stage, a welcomed heavy and tight performance was only dampened by the Sheffield rockers insistence on perpetually insulting the crowd, and trying to goad them into movement. NOTHING BUT THIEVES brought a massive crowd to ‘The Axiom’, the first act of the day to pack out the tent, fans sprawling around outside singing along to their set.

The main convenience of 2000trees scheduling is that most of the line up is staggered over the stages, meaning you only ever have to choose between 2 acts to see or easily catch half of both sets enabling whole days of tent hopping and the potential to (talking in extremes here) see every act (or if you realise that you are in the wrong place entirely, to avoid every act.) I spent a bit of time in the hidden ‘Room No.7’ to sit down and chill out on a sofa, with the sounds of ACOLLECTIVE bouncing across the site.

Back to the Main Stage, and YOUNG GUNS had already seized control of their crowd, with frontman Gustav Wood commanding their crowd with professional bravado that one would expect of a band of this caliber, while the band behind ran a tight ship, as the stadium filling hits kept coming. Headliners DEAF HAVANA, making a welcome return after a self realised absence kicked off their set with ‘The Past 6 Years’, before packing out their set with most of their more recent hits, with the whole crowd throwing back the lyrics right back at them. Humbled by the crowd’s staggering response, an emotional James Veck-Gilodi apologised for their recent absence and with the promise of a new album, a headline tour and new drive and enthusiasm for Deaf Havana, before closing off their night with nostalgic anthem, Hunstanton Pier.

The night didn’t end there for the people of 2000Trees, however. Silent discos then kicked off across the site at the Main Stage and The Cave, whilst The Axiom provided silent cinema until 3am, and acoustic sets around the site on the various busk stops and down at The Forest kept those who missed out on headphones for the silent activities entertained until around 1am, or until they staggered off into the night.

SATURDAY

Saturday’s music kicked off with an unusual act on the Main Stage, HUMAN PYRAMIDS. Described as Neo-Classical meets Post-Punk, Axe’s Paul Russell’s brainchild soothingly eased everyone into the day’s music, starting with a melodic introduction from their String quartet and horns section, before gradually coming to a crescendo with roaring guitars and heavy bass. Opening up ‘The Cave’ at 12:25 were Blackpool’s BOSTON MANOR (check out the interview HERE), who didn’t see fit to spare audiences hangovers, and bust straight into a flurry of fast paced punk hits from the go, not relenting until their time was up, having been a fan of BOSTON MANOR for a while, I am glad to have caught their set, before interviewing them later in the day.

Through other people’s suggestion, I headed over to check out MILK TEETH (on ‘The Axiom’), but was unable to get closer than the side of the tent, due to their massive pull for their time slot. The Stroud based group cranked out grungy punk, often showing their very heavy Nirvana influence, but unfortunately failed to capture my attention for all that long, as their (maybe purposefully, and fitting with the grunge genre) set sounded unpolished and loose. I caught a bit of BOY JUMPS SHIP’s set back on ‘The Axiom’, which keeping in the ‘Pop-Punk’ theme of the stage going, managed to play their faster, more intricate set than the preceding band with a lot more technical proficiency and enthusiasm, creating a more enjoyable experience for the casual music fans loitered in between stages for their lunch.

On the subject of lunch, 2000trees has a modest selection of food vendors dotted around the site, by each of the 3 main stages. Festival food for me seems like it has a bad rep, but the team at 2000trees only seem to have booked vendors who would offer a fair service for non-extortionate prices. Grilled Halloumi burgers and sweet potato fries kept me sustained throughout Friday, while a chunky bacon butty and fresh scotch eggs kept me alive Saturday. Monmouth Coffee being served as well was a really big surprise, and you’d get change from a tenner for a meal, which when coming from London is a rarity.

After lunch, songstress ALICE PHEOBE LOU dazzled the crowd with her beautiful voice, serenading the crowd with angelic highs with a bit of Sia-esque grit hidden behind. Forgetting lyrics aside, as she bonded with the crowd over the weather, and treated us all to a chilled, eerie set. As the day edged to an end, and after an outstanding genre spanning set from THE SKINTS, I found myself back up at ‘The Croft’ for THE BIG SIXES, only due to the fact they had spent the day attaching terrible posters to everything across the site advertising their set, and not knowing what to expect initially, my doubts were swept away by a tide of harmonies, expertly crafted songwriting, and top notch inter-song conversation, before their encore consisting of a couple of songs in the crowd, surrounded by a mass of singing fans. THE BIG SIXES managed to work up a predominantly neutral audience into a hyped crowd, a feat that would be natural for an established fast paced Pop-Punk band, but not for a slow and groovy act such as The Big Sixes.

Saturday’s headliners ALKALINE TRIO took to the stage at 21:45 just as the clouds began to burst, having held out -threatening rain- for the latter half of the day. The initial swell of excitement quickly died out, as those who were not diehard fans were let down by what was a lethargic performance, frontman Matt Skiba giving an uncomfortable appearance, whilst he murmured out lyrics to songs with little emotion. Bassist Dan Andriano however was giving a lot more to the crowd, interacting well with drummer Derek Grant and moving around the stage between swapping vocal priorities with Matt. Unfortunately for ALKALINE TRIO, and what may have be exacerbated by a disappointing lack of crowd compared to their stateside presence, or what Matt Skiba may now be used to playing for Blink 182, a more instant degree of stagemanship is necessary to win over a crowd that may not only be there to see you, as not to fade into the background.

So what would I say about my first experience at 2000Trees?

I’m going to be bold with this statement, the attitude at 2000Trees reminds me of that at Glastonbury, albeit on a tiny scale. You get the real feeling that the people around you haven’t just come to see their favourite band, and will spend the rest of their time getting into as much trouble as possible, but more that it’s an annual tradition for them. The nine year old festival caters for everyone, and whilst running about the site this weekend, the amount of friendly faces I would bump into at each act astounded me, only to bump into them 20 minutes later at a different tent.

The site itself is relatively tiny, but not cramped. Even those arriving half way through Friday were finding spots to camp up with ease, with enough room for stoves, barbecues or extra gazebos to sleep under when their tents got too hot.

I’m not sure what my favourite part of this weekend has been- whether it’s the terrific atmosphere from the punters in the know and relish the intimacy of this little festival, the picturesque surroundings that the festival is lucky enough to have, the fantastically located Forest stage or what has been a fantastic line up, bringing some names such as Deaf Havana, We Are The Ocean, MClusky* and Alkaline Trio, and providing emerging and underground UK music a proving ground on the UK festival scene. This weekend at 2000Trees has been one that shall be remembered, relished, and hopefully repeated in the coming years.

Tickets for 2000Trees 10th year are now on Sale, and can be picked up on their site.

Wychwood Festival 2015 Review

Wychwood festival returned for its 11th year in the beautiful Prestbury Hills of Cheltenham. Set on the famous Cheltenham Racecourse, the location boasts great transport and parking facilities, while still being on acres of well maintained luscious land. The friendly atmosphere brings in a mix of all ages with its main priority focusing on a family feel. With activities including arts and crafts workshops and improvised comedy, as well as an eclectic range of music on offer it is easy to keep every member of the family happy. Although it is family friendly Wychwood does not compromise on the festival experience. With headliners from the funk and soul Craig Charles to the legendary UB40 there is music for all tastes.

Friday kicked off to a dreary start, but the rain and grey clouds soon settled into a delightful afternoon of blue skies with the occasional cold wind. This gave people a chance to seek shelter in the smaller tents which hosted a range of entertainment from acoustic sets to clay modelling classes and comedy. The biggest bar of the festival was inside the Hobgoblin tent, where americana/ folk band, Loud Mountains gave a stellar performance on the Friday afternoon. With awesome guitar riffs, catchy rhythms and clever harmonies, Loud Mountains gave the crowd a heartwarming performance which all ages could sing along to and enjoy.

With a huge selection of drinks, local ales and food stalls on offer- there was plenty of choice for all tastes. Tasty pulled pork, nutella smothered crepes, ostrich burgers and Mr Whippy ice creams were a few of the many popular choices that Wychwood had to offer. Despite the festival being well tailored for families, the Pimms and Real Ale was also flowing, with adults enjoying themselves as much as the children.

After the impressive set from Loud Mountains, it was over to the main stage for ‘The Undertones’ who played a set made up of more songs than many bands write throughout their entire career. It was a punk rock treat with the Derry band choosing to let their music do the talking as they treated crowd to songs like ‘Jimmy Jimmy’ and ‘Teenage Kicks’. The latter of the two songs brought almost a sense of relief throughout the crowd, as they played that ever recognisable riff. Once they had finished, it was time to prep the stage for the headline act, which left just enough time inbetween to check out ‘Darlia’ over on the second largest of Wychwood’s stages. 

Darlia– the Blackpool based 3-piece were really impressive. Walking around between the crowd, the words ‘Nirvana’ and ‘Kurt Cobain’ were mentioned so many times by onlookers, it gives a good picture of their sound. Sadly this somewhat draws away from the fact that the band actually have their own nailed-on balance of gritty guitars and catchy melody lines, which is almost an evolution of the Seattle grunge sound of old, without being at all tacky or cliché. Their set was really impressive with the song ‘Candyman’ being a stand out favourite.

It was now time for the headline act for the Friday and much like the range of people who attended this fantastic little festival – it could not have been any more different! It was time for the crowd to go wild for ‘Boney M’. With their back catalogue of disco tracks, they entertained the masses with the likes of ‘Daddy cool’, ‘rasputin’ and ‘brown girl in the ring’ and at one point even played a rendition of Bob Marley’s ‘No Woman No Cry’. Boney M were 110% fun from the word go and played with the professionalism of a group that has been together for just short of 40 years. Maizie Williams  was the only original member who performed in this line-up, her star quality such that she stood out like a diamond. A great choice of headliner from the festival and a job well done from Boney M.

The weekend’s sun continued to shine down on Wychwood festival as the family-friendly vibes started up for the second day. The afternoon crowd which gathered at main stage for the Electric Swing Circus was a mixture of all ages and the band was the perfect fit for a such a varied audience. The vocal double act of Laura Louise and Bridget Walsh’s energy was infectious, and Guitarist Tom Hyland entertained the kids with his ringmaster attire and killer dance moves. But the band were not all about the visuals, as their ‘Electro-Swing’ music was Saturday’s real show-starter; a sound to match the diversity of the crowd with heavily sample based tunes backed up by solid double-bass lines and swing rhythms – it worked really well.

 

 A small break on the main stage was enough time for the crowd to multiply ten-fold for one of the most recognisable acts of the past 30 years – both visually and sonically! It was the turn of the Proclaimers to take to the Wychwood stage. Identical twins Charlie and Craig Reid played through their back catalogue as well as throwing in a few songs from their latest album. Their set was hugely entertaining and was a singalong from the beginning to the end. At one point, Charlie read out a dedication they had received before bursting into ‘Let’s get married’ – The dedication proved to set the scene for a marriage proposal on the front row and she said yes! The duo completed the song and wished the happy couple the best of luck before Charlie said (tongue firmly in cheek) ‘ Just the one time, I’d like someone to say no and for there to be a little fight in the corner.’ After many a classic, they courteously wrapped their set up with ‘I’m gonna be (500 Miles)’ before making way for the headline act – UB40’S Ali Campbell, Astro and Mickey Virtue.

 

 UB40 Hoodies seemed to be the clothing of choice for many throughout the day and this was reflected by the size of the crowd for the headline act. Accompanied by a saxophonist, trumpet player and trombonist, the band stormed through a set of their classics, whilst also throwing in some songs from their latest albums. Starting the proceedings with ‘Here I Am (Come and take me)’ they flew through a hugely entertaining set including ‘Red Red Wine’ and even an Elvis Presley cover!

Sunday brought with it a tiredness to the crowds, but this was in no way reflected in the music with stellar performances from DJ Craig Charles and Rusty Shackle. Justin Fletcher also made an appearance on mainstage for the children and was received with much jubilation by the crowd.

The highlight though for Sunday, possibly even the entire festival, was the South African male choir group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Formed in 1960, this band certainly lived up to its platinum disc honoured status. With the ravishing harmonies and joyful atmosphere- every child to every adult danced in awe as the sun set amongst the Prestbury Hills. Gleeful children on parents shoulders waved their arms in time to the flawless rhythms of the choir. The uplifting experience worth watching in the flesh was definitely the best way to end a brilliant weekend. Despite the bitter cold of night, Ladysmith Black Mambazo had defiantly left a warm mark of Africa on Wychwood Festival 2015.

 

 

Final bands announced for 2000trees Festival!

The final raft of bands has been revealed for the 2000trees Festival, as organisers confirm they expect the event to sell out.

 

Joining the likes of DEAF HAVANA, ALKALINE TRIO, IDLEWILD, WE ARE THE OCEAN, THE SUBWAYS and YOUNG GUNS are…

 

Errors / Skinny Lister / Honeyblood / Kiran Leonard / ROAM / Tax the Heat / Boy Jumps Ship & Oh Boy!

 

The award-winning 2000trees Festival celebrates its ninth year near Cheltenham, on 9-11 July. It features the very best new and underground music on six stages, plus comedy, DJs, a silent disco, quality food and drink and children’s entertainment.

 

Other acts among the 100-strong bill include And So I Watch You From Afar, Mclusky*, The Skints, Future of the Left, Kerbdog, Pulled Apart By Horses, Arcane Roots, The Xcerts, Bury Tomorrow, The Twilight Sad, Benjamin Booker, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Turbowolf, Feed the Rhino and Defeater.

Star Names Confirmed For Cheltenham Jazz Festival

Cheltenham Jazz Festival returns at the end of April with a bold programme featuring a range of exclusive one-off performances, unique collaborations, special commissions and debut UK appearances from a heady mix of established stars and emerging talent.

 

Taking place across 6 days from April 29th – May 4th, this year’s festival will present a smart balance of classic and contemporary jazz, blues, soul and pop from a string of pioneering acts including million-selling singer-songwriter Rumer, Dutch superstar Caro Emerald, experimental producer and composer Squarepusher, one of the queens of soul Martha Reeves, world-renowned DJ and broadcaster Gilles Peterson, former Dr Feelgood guitarist Wilko Johnson, Californian blues-rocker Beth Hart, and consummate jazz singer and broadcaster Clare Teal.

 

Once again returning as Guest Director is Jamie Cullum who, alongside handpicking a selection of events for this year’s programme, will perform with trailblazing US jazz funk jam band Medeski, Martin & Wood. Other high profile acts on the bill include venerable jazz-fusion star John Scofield, whose collaboration with German pianist Pablo Held’s trio is currently receiving rave reviews (“a fascinating fresh setting for a unique guitarist who always means business” The Guardian), the mystical sounds of the Sun Ra Arkestra, master ngoni player Bassekou Kouyate, the UK premiere of jazz heavyweight Lee Konitz’s new quintet featuring virtuoso trumpeter Dave Douglasand a treat for fans of Afrobeat in the form of two contrasting but equally outstanding concerts – a Saturday afternoon show from legendary African drummer Tony Allen, who performs music from his acclaimed 2014 album Film of Life, followed that evening by Joe Lovano’s Village Rhythms Band, an inventive 7-piece outfit which explores the connection between West African music and jazz.

 

BBC Radio 2 continues its long-term association with the festival and has confirmed a range of activity across the week. Alongside live festival-themed shows recorded onsite by Jamie Cullum on Saturday May 2nd and Clare Teal on Sunday May 3rd, the network will air Caro Emerald’s concert on Thursday April 30th, a Frank Sinatra-themed ‘Friday Night Is Music Night’ featuring appearances from Kurt Elling, Clare Teal and Anthony Strong on Friday 1st, and a world premiere to close the festival on Monday 4th, a celebration of the music of George and Ira Gershwin featuring Laura Mvula and Gregory Porter.

 

Justifying its reputation as one of the most forward-thinking festivals in Europe, a varied collection of the next generation of global jazz stars are represented this year by the likes of Anglo-French trio In Bed With, Suiss trombonist and composer Samuel Blaser, Spanish singer and multi-instrumentalist Andrea Motis, the first ever UK performance by the inimitable Surnatural Orchestra, and European trio Phronesis, whose Pitch Black project will be performed in total darkness.

 

A wide range of top UK-based talent will appear on the bill including East London’s unique take on the brass band Hackney Colliery Band, Mercury-nominated piano trio GoGo Penguin, who will join Gilles Peterson at the festival’s much-anticipated club nightfunk favourites Average White Band, Neil Cowley Trio, the Rachael Cohen Quartet featuring Phil Robson, soul diva Natalie Williams, a double bill featuring the soulful vocals of Si Cranstoun and Purdy, and the Julian Arguelles Septet, a band formed especially for the festival.

 

Wychwood, Beer, Cheer and Bubbles.

This is the 9th Wychwood festival to take place, which is a tragedy for me as it means I have missed 8 years of this fun filled, family friendly, yet modest event, that gently launches you into the summer festival period.  Set in the grounds of Cheltenham race course and overlooked by the Cotswold Hills, this venue is used to horseplay of a four-legged nature, but with neigh a nag in sight, Prestbury Park comes alive with a wide spectrum of characters.

The first days sound track set the pace for what would shape up to be quite the eclectic mix.  Early evening The Beat proved how they secured their rightful place high up the Ska tree. With Rankin Roger & Son getting the crowd stomping to the ever popular Ska beats. Toploader followed with their breezy, sing a long songs, that keep the crowd on a high.  Friday night headliners Soul II Soul with their blend of R&B, Soul and Electronica, surprised many who thought them a one song band (Back to life). With each song played you couldn’t help regret not paying more attention 25 years ago. But better late than never!! They exit the stage, leaving the crowd craving for more.

Saturday sees the music shift to a broader range. Unfortunately the delectable Kate Nash pulls out poorly. The Wedding Present are a crowd pleaser as they work through some of their phenomenal body of work. A French twist next from festival favourites The Caravan Palace, who’s zany Gypsy Jazz, Electro swing, is a sight and sound to behold, a big band wall of music fronted by the mesmerising stage presence that is Zoé Colotis a must see. The night’s headliners are 80’s Electro New Wave sensation The Human League and with a catalogue of hits, the crowd were on their feet from the opening “Mirror Man” to the ever popular “Don’t You Want Me” ending another great night with “Together in Electric Dreams”. The set and backdrop pay homage to the futuristic approach of the 80’s, that seem just as futuristic and relevant today, Little wonder so many artists since, have voiced this Flamboyant and eccentric group as an influence.

Sunday becomes a field of laughter with the humorous yet skilful take on classical and popular songs by the Ukele Orchestra of Great Britain.  Smiles a plenty but with admiration from this musically talented troop.  The laughter continues as Bill Bailey and his side splitting comedy take over.  Nobody being prepared for the music, jokes and insanity of this middle-aged madman. This massive force could have easily have been the finale for the main stage, but the organisers decided to bring the evening to a close by treating an appreciative crowd to the Dub Powerhouse that is Dreadzone.  This reggae tinged set was the perfect end to a fabulous weekend, having the crowd bounce and groove out the evening.

 A couple of standout performances on the smaller but no lesser stages included Becky Rose, with her one gal, synth based beats and Craig Charles funk and soul show, where the crowd were whipped up in to a frenzy to match that of the energetic, multi-talented showman.

When the main attractions have finished and the majority of the crowd have turned in for the night, one stage is determined to party on regardless. As I approach the big top tent with strobes escaping from the entrance I can’t help but think that there is something missing?   Upon entry I am handed a pair of wireless headphones and as I walk on through to a sea of crazy revellers it is apparent that I have entered a nut house.  This is the silent disco, a room full of clubbers and two DJ’s but no music through the loud speakers.  I put the headphones on and find myself instantly condemned to the madhouse as I flick between the two DJ’s and adjust my dancing style accordingly.

Music for all genres means that young or old you will at some point find your dancing shoes and at the very least discover new and exciting sounds.  There are over 100 workshops to choose from, complimented with cuisine from the four corners of the world.

A lasting memory of the festival will be that of a  man releasing  another wave of bubbles they glisten like the northern lights as they pass over the light filled stage.  Wychwood really captures the essence of what a festival is about with a great energy and atmosphere.