For one weekend every year, the lush grounds of Upcote Farm are transformed into an alternative haven. Marking its 15th year (as well as its rainiest day in history) this 2000trees was a total knock out.
With top notch headliners and a spectacular undercard, this year’s festival was a stunning celebration of all things rock, metal and punk.
We thought we’d help you all relive the weekend – so here are the top 10 highlights of this year’s 2000trees.
Following a sweaty warm-up show in Tunbridge Wells’ Forum, it only made sense for SOFT PLAY to ease back into action with a set at 2000trees. Having headlined before, the pair took to the stage with total confidence, the lovable rogues swaggering out and quickly settling into their usual tongue-in-cheek banter.
The punk duo, previously known as Slaves pull off a suitably chaotic set, brimming with punchy fan favourites like ‘Where’s Your Car Debbie?’, ‘Girl Fight’, and even a Bobby Vylan feature for ‘One More Day Wont Hurt’. “Thought you were rowdy, thought you were punks… soft play more like soft cunts,” vocalist Isaac Holman jokes at one point, but the set is anything but soft; it’s a return that sets the bar high, reminding everyone of the two man powerhouse they have always been.
After (allegedly) collapsing the NEU stage in 2022 due to a mass stage invasion, this year saw the ‘Fred Perry Mafia’ return for round two. With a raging headline set on the Wednesday, as well as a second Thursday Main Stage slot, Bob Vylan truly left their mark on this year’s festival.
“The set last year – allegedly – was a health and safety nightmare…” vocalist Bobby begins, before drummer Bobbie cheekily notes that “well, they wanted us back, so the show was clearly THAT good.”
Waging the war against ‘pacifist punk’, Bob Vylan’s Main Stage upgrade serves as a vital step forward for the independent duo. “While everybody is just now feeling economic hardship, we spoke about that on ‘The Price Of Life’,” Bobbie explains. “We are always ahead of the curve, always ahead of what is happening.”
“The music that we write is not reactionary,” Bobby adds. “We wrote ‘We Live Here’ in 2019, and then when all the protests happened in 2021. People refused to work with us… but then when that stuff became popular, when it was in the mainstream media, suddenly those same people turned around and went ‘oh, we understand now.’ But what about what you were saying just yesterday?”
Enter: Rou Reynolds
Saturday may have brought the rain, but it also brought Rou Reynolds. The Enter Shikari singer made a surprise appearance at not one but two sets, performing a messy, euphoric version of ‘Bull’ with Cody Frost in the Forest, as well as jumping onstage with emo legends Hundred Reasons for an iconic performance of ‘Silver.’
While Enter Shikari haven’t returned to the festival since 2018, we can only hope Reynold’s love for 2000trees is a hint at the eclectic rockers returning in future years.
Following a sold out UK tour, Dream State well-and-truly cemented their return on the Cave stage on Saturday. A true baptism of fire, Powell repeatedly claimed that the festival was the “biggest crowd” she’d ever sung for – but her gruelling vocal performance was faultless.
Labelling her ideal sound as “Arch Enemy meets Katy Perry”, it’s no shock that Powell delivers classic Dream State tracks with a rawer, sharper edge. “I love the balance of singing and screaming, because it’s shocking when I drop these, like, frightening growls,” Powell explains. “There are some parts of the old tracks that don’t have screaming, but I like to add my own flare.”
February’s Untethered EP is only the start of Dream State’s new incarnation. “I think Aled [Evans] and me were supposed to work together. We’re the calm and the chaos. And he writes like a genius,” Powell notes.
Press To MECO
Wednesday proved to be quite a bittersweet affair for Press To MECO fans, the alt-rockers churning out their final farewell to the project. The 2000Trees team invited the gang back as ‘2000Trees legends’, enabling them to knock out one last performance on the Forest Stage.
From start-to-finish, fans were desperate to show their appreciation, howling along to classic tracks like ‘If All Your Parts Don’t Make A Whole’ and ‘Gold’. It served as the perfect send-off – and also allowed fans to hear about Luke Caley and Jake Crawford’s new prog-rock project Unpeople, who performed on the Neu on Thursday.
Having ticked off every other stage at the festival, this year saw Holding Absence finally taking their rightful place on the Main Stage. With their new album on the way this August, it served as the perfect way to wave out the ‘The Greatest Mistake of My Life’ era.
Speaking on the ‘The Noble Art Of Self Destruction’, vocalist Lucas Woodland explains how the album will be the third instalment in a trilogy of releases. “For these first three albums, in the best way, it feels like we’ve been in cruise control. It’s all been very natural,” he tells us. “For album four, we want to reinvent ourselves. We put the little ‘three of three’ on the artwork to clarify that it’s closing off a trilogy, and for fans to be excited for the future.”
The Xcerts’ performed a loose, carefee set in the Axiom on Friday. A meeting point of old heart-wrenchers and new technicolour anthems, it served as proof of Xcerts’ undeniable versatility. From the sickly sweet autotune of ‘GIMME!’ to the classic acoustic of ‘Aberdeen 1987’, the set is a roaring success.
Closing on the gloriously snappy ‘Ache’ – twice – it is clear that The Xcerts are embracing chaos this time around. Speaking on their new era, bassist Jordan Smith notes that all the fun they’re having is a product of sheer relief; “I think like we’re honestly we’re very thankful to still be a band releasing music,” he says.
Speaking on the new record, vocalist Murray Macleod expands; “This record is a very experimental record for us. We haven’t taken a FULL left turn, there’s still The Xcerts thread, but we really wanted to let our freak flag fly on this one. Even if a song is only minute long, if it feels right, that’s okay.”
“I feel like we previously boxed ourselves in, trying to fit into a mould that was boring and beige. But this time round… we were we were in the studio like goddamn panthers on the prowl to create,” Macleod grins. And it’s set to truly be as chaotic as the band themselves, Smith telling us that there’s even a “bluesy, New York 50s jazz” track to look out for in the mix.
The riot grrrl were wreaking undeniable havoc at this year’s Trees. The gutsy, sharp-tongued Lambrini Girls served up a gruelling set of all-killed-no-filler ragers, scornfully mocking terfs, sexism and wolf-whistling perverts. Self-proclaimed ‘brat’ Delilah Bon performs an equally as furious set over on the Forest stage. Undeterred by the rain, the Hands Off Gretel singer churns through a condemning set of war-cry anthems, with the likes of ‘I Don’t Listen To You’ and ‘Dead Men Don’t Rape’ both making an enraged appearance.
Shoegazey rockers Casey pulled off a stunningly emotional set on Friday. Hazey lighting and woozy hooks had fans gripped, Tom Weaver’s heart-on-sleeve honesty on full display.
Speaking on their four year hiatus and eventual return last December, Weaver notes how the group have been “very pleasantly surprised and incredibly grateful” by fans eagerly welcoming them back.
“We’d gotten to the end of our run, but the pandemic really nurtured a new desire to create,” Weaver tells us. “One day Liam sent me a random demo and wanted me to tell him what I thought and, after about, like, 30 seconds, I was like, ‘…so this is Casey stuff, right?’ And it was quite coincidental since I’d broken up with my partner just two days before. It felt like exactly what I needed.”
Bullet X Cancer Bats
Heavy metallers Bullet For My Valentine treated fans to a truly mega headline set on Friday evening. While Matthew Tuck jokes about the band being perhaps the “heaviest band 2000trees have ever had”, their performance is undeniably hard-hitting. With a satisfying mix of new tracks and brilliant deep cuts, the set has Bullets fans in motion throughout, mosh pits aplenty.
Truly pulling out all the stops, Tuck even drags Cancer Bats vocalist Liam Cormier out for an AxeWound reunion. ‘Cold’ has fans up in arms, AxeWound lovers desperate to crowdsurf and show their appreciation. All before closing on the killer combo of ‘Tears Don’t Fall’ and ‘Waking The Demon’ – they’re legends for a reason, people.
2000trees Festival will return in 2024, taking place July 11-14 with early bird tickets on sale now.