2000 Trees is a very polite festival. Born out of a desire to do away with the disconnect the organisers felt at other events, the festival has been slowly building a community for the past ten years. Onstage, the bands are quick to thank everyone working behind the scenes and the crowd use the bins provided. Chaos is in short supply.
With 2000 Trees building itself around the twin pillars of Frank Turner and Reuben, it makes sense that the Thursday sees Xtra Mile (who’ve used the same foundations) take over the third stage for a showcase of its ever-increasing roster of singer-songwriters. Rob Lynch, with his energetic suburban-shanties and a new album about to drop, is by far the most adventurous. There’s a vigor to his set and his tales of lost friends and runaways are very much on home turf here. Elsewhere there’s a “secret” set by Frank Turner, Beans on Toast plays (and gives out the press Wi-Fi password onstage, the scoundrel) and Ben Marwood makes his return to the festival. It’s nice enough but it’s all very safe. As is Jamie Lenman’s solo set. It’s 2000 Trees by numbers and with so many people returning year on year, it’s hard to get excited by another rousing rendition of “I Still Believe”. It’s a good job then that the festival is determined to keep moving things forward. The real excitement comes from the crystal ball that 2000 Trees becomes.
Maybe it’s the friendly atmosphere or the determination to see as many bands as possible but there’s an openness to pretty much every set across the weekend. Switching their breakneck intensity for something more smirking, Milk Teeth are less furious but no less brilliant. It’s the same for Black Peaks who are somehow even bigger today than that defining set at Download a few weeks back with both bands proving that there’s still a lot of exploring left to do.
Muncie Girls are as charged as ever but it’s the three new songs aired during a woodland solo set from Lande that give us our first real taste that this band won’t be settling for more of the same on album two. They inspire growth and self-belief and if ‘5 Miles Home’, ‘Blankets’ and ‘Locked Up’ (all titles followed with an “I think”) are anything to go by, Muncie Girls are listening to themselves.
Puppy are ridiculously good. Meeting in the middle point of some eclectic Venn diagram but pushing at the walls, their set is constantly moving, getting sidetracked, then charging off once more. Press To Meco are more focused but no less joyful. Grinning with melody and boasting an impressive knack for weighted acrobatics, they deal in that quintessential British Rock landscape but are far more colourful. Grumble Bee is just as bright, wringing an energy and an enthusiasm out of everyone present with lofty scope and a rugged charm.
Elsewhere both Creeper and Counterfeit are given their first crack at a festival mainstage, and they both make it look easy. Counterfeit’s snarling abrasion is difficult to ignore but there are more than enough moments of warmth, heart and soul to drag you closer to their crooked world while Creeper fire on all six cylinders. It’s big, it’s pompous but it’s never too far out of reach.
Someone needs to have a word with whoever decided to put Moose Blood up against Twin Atlantic but whichever way you go, you’re in for a treat. Moose Blood are on the cusp of something big and tonight’s headline slot feels suitably grand. Doused in pink light and with a choir of hundreds, every moment is magic and those new songs really come alive onstage. Wherever Moose Blood are heading, Twin are already there. They’ve been a Big Deal for a few years now and tonight is a set of the greatest, with room to tease what’s still to come with ‘GLA’. They’re bold, brash but determined to make everyone at the mainstage leave with a grin on their face and a hook in their head. It’s almost too easy.
And while Moose Blood and Twin are the perfect bands to close the 2000 Trees that we know, it’s Refused’s set on the Saturday night that shows how far the festival has come in ten years. “Firstly, we are not new, underground or British,” points out Dennis Lyxzén with a smirk, referring to the festivals tagline. “But thank you anyway.” Ahead of an electric ‘Rather Be Dead’, Dennis explains that, “Patti Smith told us that Rock and Roll is supposed to liberate us and that still holds true. What the world is offering us, I’m not buying it.” Incendiary, outspoken and with the back catalogue to match their confidence, Refused couldn’t feel more at home. And everyone welcomes it.