In yet another amazing lineup announcement, Slam Dunk Festival are pleased to reveal the details of this year’s acoustic stage where Speak Low If You Speak Love, Four Year Strong Presents: Some Of You Will Like This, Some of You Won’t, Rob Lynch, Luke Rainsford, PVMNTS, Selfish Things and Cave Town will all be making hotly tipped unplugged appearances at Leeds, Hatfield and Birmingham all over the May Bank Holiday weekend.
Revealed as the acoustic stage headliner, State Champs’ beloved bassist Ryan Scott Graham will be bringing his stripped back project Speak Low If You Speak Love to Slam Dunk Festival, following State Champs appearance earlier in the day. Following the release of sophomore LP Nearsighted in early January, the hauntingly heartbreaking solo performance will be sure to attract an attentive crowd, eager to witness the electro-tinged acoustic spectacle.
Previously announced Slam Dunk Festival legends, Four Year Strong have confirmed that they will be making another appearance at this year’s festival as they settle in to host Four Year Strong Presents: Some Of You Will Like This, Some Of You Won’t – the live performance of their cherished acoustic album of the same name. Promising the very best unplugged favourites, originals and unheard rarities, this spectacle will be a highly regarded set for any die-hard pop-punk fan!
Known for putting a fresh twist on alternative folk and creating heartfelt crowd pleasers, Rob Lynch will be returning to Slam Dunk Festival to deliver his trademark solo sound through delicate tracks such as ‘My Friends & I’, ‘Hawking’ and ‘Broken Bones’.
Birmingham native Luke Rainsford is poised to pick up his acoustic guitar and make his Slam Dunk Festival debut over the May Bank Holiday weekend with energetic yet fragile storytelling and musicality. The hotly-tipped single ‘Sweet Briar’ is taken from the highly-anticipated EP ‘I Just Don’t Deserve To Be Loved’, which is set for release ahead of the Slam Dunk Festival weekend – meaning fans have plenty of time to learn lyrics for perfect singalongs.
Making the transatlantic journey to Slam Dunk Festival will be PVMNTS and Selfish Things, hailing from Los Angeles and Toronto respectively. Teen Wolf star Tyler Posey will be rounding up the PVMNTS gang for a sincere singalong on Slam Dunk’s acoustic stage. Also stopping by will be Selfish Things’ frontman Alex Biro, who is set to stripback their impassioned rock hits for a memorable delicate rendition.
In addition to this great names, Cavetown will be bringing his relaxed bedroom jams to the acoustic stages too.
In the biggest line-up to date, Slam Dunk Festival 2018 is set to play host to an unparalleled exhibition of pop-punk movers and shakers as it welcomes blistering performances from co-headliners Good Charlotte and Jimmy Eat World, reunion exclusives from Thursday (UK exclusive) and The Audition (Worldwide exclusive) as well as highly anticipated sets from the likes of Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, PVRIS, Taking Back Sunday, Creeper, Every Time I Die, Sleeping With Sirens and many more. Whether you’re at Leeds City Centre on May 26th, Hatfield Park on May 27th or Birmingham’s NEC, Slam Dunk Festival 2018 will be the ultimate alternative party of the summer.
FULL LINE-UP TO DATE:
Good Charlotte, Jimmy Eat World, PVRIS, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, Taking Back Sunday, Sleeping With Sirens, State Champs, Twin Atlantic, Reel Big Fish, Goldfinger, Every Time I Die, Creeper, Thursday, Four Year Strong, The Skints, Zebrahead, The Audition (Worldwide Reunion Exclusive), Set Your Goals, Real Friends, Knuckle Puck, Northlane, Capdown, Save Ferris, Comeback Kid, Crown The Empire, Counterparts, Trash Boats, ROAM, Broadside, Can’t Swim, Palaye Royale, Sleep On It, Stand Atlantic, Milestones, Chapel, Dream State, Holding Absence, The Faim, Grayscale, The Dangerous Summer, As It Is, Moose Blood, Templeton Pek, Woes, King Prawn, Guttermouth, Astroid Boys, Brutality Will Prevail, The Devil Wears Prada, Loathe, Speak Low If You Speak Love, Rob Lynch, Luke Rainsford, PVMNTS, Selfish Things, Cave Town
It’s that time of year again, where the rest of the UK has basically resigned itself to Autumn but Bestival-goers know that there is one last high summer fling to be had. Cars crammed with people and gear are flooding the ferry docks, horns are blaring, people are already on the drinks at 9am… off we go to the Isle.
Upon arriving at Robin Hill, it’s clear something has gone awry. For some unknown reason they’ve decided to trickle-open the carparks, meaning those wanting to camp in yellow can’t actually park in yellow because it’s currently closed. For those not au fait with Bestival’s layout – the giant hill/massive walk through three campsites to get from Red parking (which is the only one open right now) to yellow camping, is utterly soul destroying when you’re carrying 4 days’ worth of binge-drinking materials. The second fail of the day (related) is that by not opening multiple car-parks and therefore access gates, EVERYONE IN THE WORLD is queuing for red entry. Two hours to get in is beyond mental, hopefully this will be rectified for next year because it was truly the worst entry system we’ve encountered at a festival this year, and Bestival have done it so right the last five years or so before.
After finally trudging over and setting up camp (in a field where toilets haven’t been delivered yet… what is going on?!), it’s time to head over to the arena to see what’s what. Next big shock of the day… where on earth is the main stage? The stage that sits in its’ place is about a quarter of the size of last years’ behemoth and is low-down, downhill. There are a lot of short people who are going to be seeing absolutely nothing this weekend that’s for sure.
Luckily, The Magic Meadow is up and running with the true Bestival vibe to make us feel better about everything. Happily The Feast Collective has only been moved here, not banished because everyone is starving and the food is just incredible. Where else can you side by side order a grilled-shrimp-and-samphire burger, raclette draped chips and a spicy beef rendang? With a pint of Bestivale in hand it’s off to scout out some early bands.
Asylums on the Invaders of the Future stage are punky and lively, you can’t really argue with a band who love to perform. ‘Joy in a Small Wage’ is perfect rock band fayre, easy to sing along, great to dance to, and the band themselves are leaping around the stage as they play in front of the Day of the Dead bar.
The highlight of Thursday is Besti-faves, Hot Chip in the Big Top. Weird and wonderful as always they play to a busy tent despite starting at nearly one am, and their electronic melodies can be heard far and wide across the still-filling campsites.
Friday sees ferries delayed by the discovery of a World War II torpedo in Portsmouth harbour which is later disposed of by controlled explosion, but with everything soon back on schedule it’s becoming apparent that not enough camping has been opened by the festival this year. Having sold only 40,000 tickets compared to years’ 50,000+ it seems that a decision was made to condense campsites. However, they clearly went a field too far and people are scrabbling for space today.
Anyway, on to the first proper arena day and we find ourselves drawn in by the presence of The World’s Biggest Bouncy Castle over on top of The Grassy Hill. At a price of £5 for ten minutes of bouncing, it’s pretty damn steep, but hey we’re drunk and ready to throw some shapes. After knackering ourselves out, getting told off by the flip police, and avoiding serious damage it’s time to explore Caravanserai over in the Stardust Field.
What can I say about Caravanserai except, it’s magical. Surrounded by half-caravan seating booths, a carousel stage and Wurlitzer carts, it almost feels as if you’ve stepped into an American Horror Story set, without the inherent creepiness I guess. An area is being roped off by toothless yokels who are swigging something foul from an xxxx bottle and people are being called up to ‘dance off’ against each other, choosing ‘beats’ or ‘junk’ as backing tracks. As people crowd in we see a wookiee face off against a cheerleader who is throwing flips on a perilously downhill slant, a pole-dancer takes on a guy with a bizarre rope-tied tiny tears doll, and an extraordinarily drunk flying squirrel twerks at an Adidas clad musician. It’s bizarre and brilliant.
Heading out to the main stage for something a little less frenzied we catch Kitty Daisy & Lewis on the main stage as they whip out the harmonica for some bluesy riffs.
Next up are Bestival legends and all-round disgracefully wonderful pervs, The Cuban Brothers. No Bestival could be complete without them and their crazy array of stunts, tricks, the tightest jumpsuits ever seen outside of Olympic gymnastics and old school hip-hop vibes. Starting off in traditional carpet-print suits, Archerio and Kengo hit the stage with their dance duo which we as always attempt to emulate badly. Miguelito rocks ‘Mike For President’ in his gold wrasslin’ belt, and guest BAM from hip hop crew The Jungle Brothers comes out just in time to be accused of #sexyfavours. As they sing “I’m a Jungle Brother, and he’s a Cuban Brother” we see Juan Erection and Kengo bust out the big moves with huge flares, head spins and tucks. Mike pops into the crowd for a bit of fondling and then busts out the swan pants with absolutely zero shame. The Cuban Brothers are party central and the huge crowd is laughing and dancing along with them. The only sad bit? Kengo brings out his skates but the stage appears to be a bit wet to see him do any tricks. Damn!
Next up, Norwegian waif Aurora is elfin and adorable. Wearing a ton of knitwear in the high summer heat, she has a touch of Tilda Swinton about her, but oh that voice. She soars with ‘Winter Bird’ and instantly endears herself to us when by breaking her ethereal spell to say “I really had to pee before I came on stage, but when I started to sing… it went away. I didn’t pee myself on stage though!!”.
Years & Years hit the stage with a light-show based on the lines of their album cover and some pretty fabulous futuristic outfits. Frontman Olly Alexander is dressed in metallic geometric 8-bit armour which kind of looks like a Minecraft/Moschino collaboration and with huge ticker tape explosions they race through hit after hit. ‘Take Shelter’ and ‘Ties’ have everyone mesmerised and as snappy modern dancers flood the stage it’s clear the band have upped their production value in the last two years. Finishing up with everyone singing along to ‘King’, Olly yelling “I love this festival” and a massive rainbow streamer explosion from the top of the stage, they have been a perfect Bestival band.
Over in Bollywood there’s a sweaty crowd dancing their hearts out whilst cocktails are flowing at the cocktail bus next door. A tiny rave is happening in Sunday Best and there are people spread out all over sampling the culinary delights on offer here. Anna Mae’s Mac & Cheese deserves a mention for being the stodge that saved our souls after two bags of wine. Yes, bags. Praise cheesus!
Heading into the Ambient Forest for a bit of a calm-down, we take a stroll into the revamped Amphitheatre (amazing new design) but we are a little sad that the late-night movies have been axed this year, along with Scroobius Pip’s much loved Satin Lizard Lounge. The forest itself is full of new seating nooks and artistic installations like the Tron-esque musical pipes, and the tinkling of ivories can be heard through the secret entrance to the Gatsby-esque Blind Tiger.
Back to the main stage and Skepta has drawn a massive crowd for ‘It Ain’t Safe’ but it’s Major Lazer who really take it up a notch with thousands pouring into the arena for the likes of ‘Lean On’ and ‘Light It Up’.
Over at the Spaceport, set in a giant fuse box underneath a massive rocket, Carl Cox is lighting up the night with some solid beats, followed by Diplo straight off the back of his main stage performance. The ribbon-wrapped area, flanked by two huge astronaut installations is awesome, but the layout does make access quite difficult with thousands of bodies piled in.
Alas, predictions were true and the rain has put a stop to many of the wild and wonderful costumes we’re used to on a Bestival Saturday, not to mention the main parade has been cancelled due to ground conditions. Such a shame! However, spirits are never dampened at Besti when Mr Motivator is on hand for an early shakedown. There’s something weirdly comforting about a man espousing health in the midst of our foul hungover scurvy-wracked state. No I haven’t had any fruit for three days except in a cocktail, but I’m pretty sure I can keep up with these aerobics… probably…
The Chuckle Brothers are obviously both terrible and nostalgically hilarious but it’s Wolf Alice who deserve a much bigger, less soggy crowd for their soft, rock style. ‘Bros’ and ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’ are brilliant and should have been sun-drenched. Hopefully we can catch them again at a less damp future Bestival. Lady Leshurr is a powerhouse performer with hit 'Brush Your Teeth' and clearly everyone is loving the return of Craig David, no matter how many times he says his own name.
Over at Invaders, Pretty Vicious’ ‘Cave Song’ has a huge crowd up and jumping including a rowdy bunch of people dressed as their older selves with inflatable zimmer frames – The Future, I geddit, very clever. Followed up by rowdy bijou band Hinds who rock so much pocket-power they practically eclipse the main stage sound, we are loving their energy. Yelling “What’s up Bestival! Bestival is the first festival we did as a band… we were so excited because it was the first time we ever had like an artists wristband!” they echo the sentiments of quite a lot of new bands who were given their first chances at this festival. Rob Da Bank and co. have always been right on the cutting edge of booking up-and-comers, allowing new acts to flow into the festival mainstream.
Onto tonight’s main stage headliner – The Cure. With probably half the crowd never having heard of them, it’s a pretty great turnout. Hits ‘Friday I’m In Love’ and ‘Just Like Heaven’ are absolutely amazing, but the three encores and an almost three hour set they perhaps go a step too far.
Next door on the Invaders stage, PC Music Allstars followed by Danny L Harle bring a small slice of electronic rave, then euphoria to the side of the Magic Meadow and the glowsticks are out in force (ermegherrrd right?) and as we head back to the campsites later on, the STA Travel garden is inexplicably packed with people winding to… Peter Andre’s Mysterious Girl. Yep, that’s the last song in my head before sleep. Thanks guys.
Waking up to thankfully clearer skies it’s a chance to break out all the sparkly shit we couldn’t wear yesterday and walking through the tent graveyard, uh, campsite – it’s clear some people have gone full feral now. Broken poles poke holes in the sky as wellies (with feet still in them) protrude from tents, their owners flat out in oblivion.
The arena mud has dried enough to provide safe passage and it’s soon time for a bit of Electro-Swing with French movers and shakers Caravan Palace. At first a fairly small crowd has gathered but as they begin to blast out their strange mix of high tempo beats and jazz-swing riffs the arena suddenly becomes a bouncing, writhing mass of bodies throwing down together. It’s a big statement but I think CP are ‘the’ band of the entire weekend, the sun is out and the set is just incredible. Bow-ties and braces are the look, and cute and firey vocalist Zoé Colotis Charleston’s across the stage like she was born in the wrong decade. Hopping into the crowd to pull on a fans’ Union Jack tshirt, Zoé yells “We don’t care about Brexit, we love the UK!”. It’s a stellar performance and a great book for Bestival.
Over in the Big Top, a very different type of electro-swing-come-dubstep is going on with an incredible array of circus type acts to boot. Slamboree are fiercely Burning-Man in style, there’s a hint of cabaret mixed with Mad Max and freakshow vibes. Their sound is new, fresh and the fire-performers, skeletal dancers, fabric-winged fairies and kabuki masked creeps are amazing.
Taking a little time out up at Slow Motion, we laze in Solace with tea and cake, marvel at the Owl and Falconry display and laugh at Llama’s butts before attempting drunken hoop twirling and some hefty/danger fraught poi. The yoga tent looks great, but we are way beyond balance at this point.
In the Ambient Forest we stumble into becoming performers ourselves with the Uke band by The Gypsy caravans. With a song book filled with unlikely and brilliant options, we stay for renditions of Don’t Stop Believing, Friday I’m In Love, and go all out at the top of our voiced for The Final Countdown. This is the kind of unexpected happening that sets Bestival apart from other festivals, unplanned weirdness is always memorable.
The Out of Africa Bar & Disco Shed provide a little downtime as we listen to Michael Jackson jams and drink enormous cocktails whilst ducking to avoid the frenzied games of swirly tennis (swingball?) going on behind us. Grabbing some free fabric wristbands from the merch tent (if these were made up, why did we all get crap plastic wristbands for entry this year?) we stomp our way back to the main stage for Bastille.
Returning triumphantly to Bestival, Bastille are this time dressed in white jumpsuits with ww.com on the back, depicting their brand new album ‘Wild World’. Kicking off with old favourite ‘Bad Blood’ we know it’s going to be a good one, and the crowd is absolutely sardine-rammed into the arena. ‘Things We Lost In The Fire’ and ‘These Streets’ are brilliant, and new track ‘Good Grief’ gets a great reception. Despite it not really being a surprise any more, we all get down with their cover/re-working of No Scrubs ‘No Angels’ and ‘Of The Night’ a mashup of ‘Rhythm of the Night’ and ‘Rhythm is a Dancer’.
Dual headliners Sean Paul and Wiz Khalifa make their mark on Bestival, with everyone getting their groove on, reliving their noughties youth. Though ticket sales say that this years’ headline choices perhaps weren’t up to Bestival’s usual standard, it’s clear those who are here are having a rowdy good time.
Now, hugging your mates and telling them you intensely love them is pretty standard practice at Bestival, it’s just that kind of place that makes you love the world, but the closing fireworks is where you can hold each other tight and reminisce on the great/hazy memories you’ve made this weekend. Soon you’ll be trawling through blurry pictures of yourself looking an absolute state and missing every single moment of this magical festival, but for now – we’re oohing and aahing at this amazing Prince Tribute. Complete with screened video, purple smoke and confetti, we are truly sad that Prince never made it to Bestival, the kind of place that would truly have revered him and his music. The solar system rings of fire glow below as massive rockets flower in the sky and it is beautiful.
The night is still young for those squeezing every last ounce of Bestival into their souls, and The Human League are playing to a huge crowd in The Big Top. ‘Together In Electric Dreams’ and ‘Don’t You Want Me’ go way beyond karaoke and into the you-can’t-hear-the-band-because-everyone-is-singing territory.
Caravanserai is also full of life, with fire performers, aerialists and tightrope walkers walking high above cosy groups of people laughing in waltzer cars, whilst bursts of fire flame into the night from The Spaceport in the distance. Grabbing some gourmet grilled cheese we make the last trek back to the tents, watched by the shining eyes of the Lovebot.
There have been many harsh reviews floating about for Bestival this year which I think are largely unfounded. Yes things were very different which definitely came as a shock after the sheer grandiosity of the last few years, but the atmosphere was as ever, oh so Bestival. The creativity, beauty and balance was still there – all the things Bestival is renowned for. For every mad moment where something truly serendipitous has caught you off guard, where something held you in the kind of wonderment you thought you’d lost after childhood, and for every second you forgot your problems and just let loose, Bestival is the engineer. The thought that drives this festival is apparent in every corner, no matter the budget. I will be there next year with bells on. Or whatever stuff the new theme requires really.
So here’s the thing. Festivals are continually criticised for their headline act choices, it’s always going to be the case. They’re damned for getting big name legends on repeat every few years, but also for giving newer bands the slot when they aren’t established or dramatic enough to be considered headline material. So what to do?
Well, most other festivals stick to the tried and tested, big act = big sales. But where does it end? The top drawer artist pool is rapidly drying due to either retirement or worse, death (2016 really has been a cursed year) and it just can’t go on. New blood has to flow.
This year, Rob Da Bank and co. have taken the far riskier, and frankly braver option of booking Major Lazer as their Friday night headliner. After a stellar daytime performance in 2014 they’ve been bumped into the top spot with good cause. The two year gap has seen Major Lazer release some huge anthems such as Lean On, Light It Up and Powerful (featuring Ellie Goulding), not forgetting the brand new Cold Water with Justin Bieber and All My Love with Ariana Grande. Tonight the rapidly filling arena is more than enough proof that newer bands can and will fill a top spot.
With bursts of streamers, flurries of confetti and smoke cannon blasts it’s unsurprising to see Diplo and pals take to the stage with a bang, Major Lazer are exactly the kind of high energy act that the Bestival crowd deserves. Wearing all-white outfits, flanked by dancers in sparkly black leotards, Jillionaire and Walshy Fire run around throwing tour tshirts out into the crowd to a frenzied crowd, whilst Diplo reminds us that Bestival is home turf for him – Rob booked him for the first time as a DJ back in 2004.
Despite a bit of dodgy sound (we do miss the much bigger speaker stacks of last year’s colossally huge main stage, sorry guys) it’s a great atmosphere and the Skrillex/Damien Marley collab Make It Bun Dem has the whole crowd attempting to wind. We British aren’t renowned for our sexy dancing skills but there are some serious shapes being thrown tonight, good job it’s dark.
Joined by Danish firecracker vocalist MØ, they tear it up with last year’s summer smash Lean On, and there’s something in Light It Up that just feels so… Bestival. Whenever I hear it I think of sundrenched fields of glitter-clad, neon-painted, carefree souls. Accompanied by a toasty array of on stage pyrotechnics and a considerable amount of jumping up and down, this is exactly what we came here for – wild abandon, and freedom from everything else in life.
We join in with the shirt-twirling, the dancehall steps, and duck as Diplo runs above the crowd in his giant hamster ball (okay okay, zorb…). It’s over far too soon. The only slight disappointments were the tiny acapella snippet of Cold Water, knowing that the drop is so good, and come on – for a band named Major Lazer, there were a distinct lack of actual lasers. Hopefully we’ll see Major Lazer back again soon, and kudos to Bestival for a great headline pick.
BLOODSTOCK add GOJIRA, SATYRICON & ANTHRAX to 2016!
As the festive season looms, BLOODSTOCK come bearing early gifts for you! Three more bands for 2016!
French heavyweights GOJIRA are set to bring their whale-sized riffs to Catton Park as Saturday’s special guests! A crowd favourite every time they play, and with a brand new album on the way, being recorded in their own studio, their BLOODSTOCK set is sure to be a sight to behold. Frontman Joe Duplantier enthuses, “BLOODSTOCK is one of our favourite festivals in the UK! The quality of the bands playing is always a high standard and we love the passion of the people who come to rock out! It’s an honour to be a part of it again.” Look out for updates from the studio at www.facebook.com/GojiraMusic.
Stepping into Sunday’s special guest slot are thrash titans, ANTHRAX! More than three decades in and with a new album, ‘All For Kings’ coming in February, BLOODSTOCK will be the place to see them next Summer. Axe legend Scott Ian comments: “On the most metal of days we will once again have the privilege to rage with you crazy fuckers! BLOODSTOCK!!! A festival fit for all kings!!! See what I did there? See ya soon, my friends.” Get excited by checking out their latest single ‘Evil Twin’, released last month, at: http://youtu.be/xPmLkF3e6Fc.
Playing their only UK show for 2016 are Norwegian trailblazers SATYRICON, performing their classic ‘Nemesis Devina’ album in full on Sunday. “Next year it’s 20 years since Satyricon made its live debut as a band, and 20 years since we released Nemesis Divina,” frontman and visionary Satyr comments. “There's a nemesis walking through life, for all to face. And there's a Divine Nemesis, for all to face that come to see Satyricon at BLOODSTOCK 2016. Let us celebrate the 20th anniversary of a milestone album like only Norsemen and Brits can!" Learn more at www.facebook.com/SatyriconOfficial.
Early bird weekend tickets with camping are available now, priced £120 (+ booking fee) from http://bloodstock.seetickets.com/event/bloodstock-2016/catton-park/902838. BLOODSTOCK is family-friendly and welcomes rockers of all ages! A weekend ticket with camping for kids aged 4 – 11 is just £35 (+booking fee) and if your little mosher is under 4, they can join you for free (Note: all children must be accompanied by a parent/guardian over the age of 18)! Campervan pitches are already on sale and these move very quickly, so pick yours up ASAP to avoid disappointment. Rock Society passes are already sold out.
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.
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’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.