Now in its ninth year running, 2000 Trees has established itself as one of the country’s leading small-scale, independent festivals. It sits at the cutting edge of insurgency against the corporate heavyweights. Founded on its organisers’ frustrations with paying extortionate ticket prices for boring line ups, it has kept true to its roots throughout its now solid duration on the UK calendar.
Having played host to numerous big names and rising stars since 2006, it’s renowned for showcasing some of the very best British up and coming acts from Frank Turner to The Futureheads. I set out to Trees charmed by its revolutionary aspirations; feeling similarly disenchanted with big names, big brands and big ticket prices.
Can’t See the Wood?
First and foremost, Trees is music festival that doesn’t fuck around. It fails to get wrapped up in the kind of gimmicky stuff that leaves other small festivals falling flat on their faces, coming out like rehashes of Wilderness. There are all sorts to distract yourself with during the daytime, be it giant Jenga and water fights at the games area or magic shows. But distractions are all they will ever be besides the silent disco and cinema.
The Thursday hosts returning acts from the previous year across three stages, with the full five music hot-spots opening the following day. You’ll find performances all about the place, be it singer-songwriters at Camp Turner or a surprise set by Bare Knuckle Parade at the bar. I even bumped into the legendary Big Jeff and he seemed to enjoy it, so if that’s anything to go by then they must be on to something right.
While I hadn’t been particularly impressed by headliners Deaf Havana and Alkaline Trio, there was more than enough eclectic sound on to keep me satisfied throughout the weekend. The bill showcased a huge range of underground, underrated acts that just wouldn’t be given such a platform elsewhere, and it was simply brilliant. The most memorable performance for me had to Human Pyramids opening the Main Stage on Saturday, with over fifty people taking to the stage for a choral singalong and assorted orchestral post punk merriment.
As per sods law, I ended up gutted missing The Twilight Sad, but that was more than made up by the chaos of And So I Watch You From Afar, Pulled Apart By Horses and We Were Promised Jetpacks. Even if you’re as clueless about this scene as my companion, you’ll discover yourself taken aback by the quality and variety of the acts on offer, so you’re sure to stumble upon a few new found favourites. This is one party where you’ll definitely want to make mental notes of bands to check on Spotify later. Since you get out of it what you put it, it pays off to be a bit adventurous and this is one festival where you’ll want to wander.
Leaf it Out Mate
The Trees ethos has developed into a sprawling association of likeminded people with an actual sense of identity. My adopted neighbours ‘That Camp That Jamie Lenman Hates’ were a stellar example of this phenomenon; a bunch of lefty northerners that had grown each year around their shared interests and attitudes. They sure weren’t the only ones habitually returning to their same old stomping groups and out this a kind of tribal mentality comes out about at each campsite. Even the bands get stuck in too, mingling about with us punters. I’ve never before had the pleasure to be a part of such a colourful bunch as the Trees crowd. This is an organic, grassroots thing that just couldn’t exist in the kind at the mainstream, commercial festivals, partly because of their inherent tendency to attract a load of twats.
Located in the rolling Cotswolds Hills with its gorgeous views and flocks of sheep, the location of the site occupies a kind of Goldilocks spot in size and layout, however bigger and busier than its sister ArcTanGent. Like the latter, the stages, traders, bars and campsite areas are melded together to create villages around Busk Stops strewn around the site; a kind of cross between stages and installation art pieces serving as perfect photo opportunities and a place for early hours sing-alongs. Everything is within easy walking distance, taking only about ten to fifteen minutes tops to cross the breadth of the two furthest points of the place. It’s just about big enough to accommodate its five thousand strong mustering, while still managing to preserve its intimate environment.
If a Festival Falls in a Forest…
The pentagonal-chapel shaped Forest Sessions stage is nestled amongst thicketed woodland, illuminated by hanging lights in jam jars and Chinese lanterns. It’s a mellow place to kick back with a Pistonhead in a hammock or on a hay bale to check out some acoustic sets and unsigned bands. Further down the path next door you’ll find the Room Number 7 lounge, a snug sheltered spot enclosing a load of tatty sofas around dog-eared tables and assorted graffiti. As the midsummer sun beat down upon my brow, I couldn’t have been any more thankful for the shade to rest. It was too hot to function. Catching Rozelle ended up as an unexpected highlight for me, opening the early afternoon with a brand of upbeat female fronted ambient pop-rock and big personality. So I decided to stick around.
Little did I anticipate after my initial encounter with the Forest Sessions stage just how much of my time I would whittle away there. Between sweating out hangovers in the midst of the apparent heatwave it proved to be a perfect kind of shelter in the eye of the storm; a sanctuary for stoners and the sleep deprived. And especially the latter for me since we had pitched our tents right next to the Cave Stage where the silent disco was held. Yet, for The Cadbury Sisters and Thrill Collins rounding off the night, it hosted some of the liveliest performances of the entire weekend. Sinking lukewarm beers by the moonlight amongst those picturesque woodlands was perfect. I guess I was just enamoured by the strange kind of stillness around and oddity of it all.
Putting Down Roots?
I arose in each morning at the crack of dawn to a chorus of farmyard animals and chronic cotton mouth. My neck was starch-stiff and my back ached, arched stock-still. For the first time in five years of festival-going I consoled myself to just how beautiful the prospect of a campervan would be; longing for a shower and something soft to stretch out on. I had always considered luxuries like that a right cop-out before.
There’s that whole idea that you should be sticking out filth, fatigue and giving into those caveman instincts from that primal jelly at the back of your brain, because that’s what the whole experience is supposed all about; but is it really? I don’t know anymore, maybe I’ve just grown cold as the novelty and newness of festivals has worn off for me? Not to say at all that Trees is without its fair share of mayhem, its laid back environment and carefree atmosphere was comfortable for someone as stuffy as I’ve become. I know for next time I’ll at least compromise and bring an airbed and actually remember to brush my teeth, but I won’t give up on my immaturity.
The Fruits of the Bough
I was pleased by the welcome sight of my favourite festival eatery, the Halls Dorset Smokery, alongside the much acclaimed Smokin’ Hot Tamales van. Trees makes a big deal out of its catering for pretty good reason, although despite the top notch quality, the variety of what’s on offer is something that could be improved upon in the future. It’s a welcome change that the bars boast decent beer (Cotswold lagers), but the White Russians are where it’s at for those discerning Big Lebowski fans out there, for which I’m a sucker. And promptly emptied out my overdraft on these cool milky refreshments.
After all of the hype surround the award winningly clean loos, I was left feeling pretty let down by them. Come Saturday morning they were pretty grim, but my anticipations had probably been unrealistic. After all, they had been cleaned at least once a day, and at least they weren’t those dreaded deep drop monstrosities you get elsewhere. The consensus seems to be that it was a one-off slip up as over previous years this hasn’t been the case at all, so I’ll chalk it up as a fluke. While I’m at it, the only other thing I could imagine that could possibly be improved on next year would be adding more hammocks into the woods, since the scramble for empty ones did seem at times to resemble something straight out of The Hunger Games.
Despite my odd minor gripe, Trees has left an impression on me as a proper alternative to the mainstream. Having risen to fore of the independent festival scene, the organisers still show no sign of selling out, keeping it cheap. Festival Republic, take heed. Or not.
Next July 2000 Trees celebrates its tenth birthday. Tickets are available now at guaranteed 2015 prices and to Buy Now Pay Later, with entry into their Golden Ticket competition. To be in for a chance to win VIP passes, just get yourself a ticket before Christmas, simple!
Buy tickets here!