It's been two years without 2000trees, and frankly, it's been hell - but this year, the festival has returned to remind everyone what a vital outlet it is for alternative music. There's something magic about the event; everything feels right in the world when it takes place, so it has been sorely missed.
Of course, there are a few changes here and there. The capacity has been raised, but the stages and tents haven't got any bigger, so sometimes there's an overspill. Also, no more Ferris wheel and dodgems, which no one used that much anyway. There's a quality-over-quantity approach to the food vendors and a new cashless system. There are signs of Trees preserving itself for the future, too, with its new-look Forest Stage. The tiny wooden triangle is gone, and in its place stands a magnificent purpose-built stage that sits beautifully in the clearing.
One thing Trees absolutely hasn't compromised on is the line-up. Pulled Apart By Horses christen the new Forest Stage with a headline performance on the Wednesday evening for the Early Birds. Then it's pop-punk legends Jimmy Eat World on the Thursday. Thrice play 'Vheissu' in full in a co-headline slot with Turnstile, who are turning heads everywhere they go this summer. Keeping the co-headline dream alive, it's a British heavyweight head-to-head with You Me At Six and IDLES bringing the festival to the close too. And that's just the headliners! Every day there are standout bands, rising stars and huge names. With many of the acts waiting over two years to play their slot, several albums hadn't even been dreamt of when they were first booked.
Oh, and there's the weather. It's glorious. Maybe too glorious, looking at the number of burnt foreheads. Regardless, it's great to be back. Let's never be apart again.
On the new look Forest Stage, Black Foxxes help usher in the festival's return. Dressed all in white but for a black beanie and sunglasses, singer Mark Holley is looking sharp and polished as they crunch into 'How We Rust'. The look is in complete contrast to the music, which comes in messy, broad, distorted and colourful strokes as they jam through 'Drug Holiday' and 'Badlands'. It's a grand total of just five songs in the set with one new tune and the colossal 'River', but it's about quality, not quantity with Black Foxxes.
Tasked with bringing the Wednesday night to a close, Pulled Apart By Horses return to remind everyone what a solid rock band they are. It's been five years since their last album, which was definitely not their choice but getting them back at Trees feels like the perfect place to get those horses galloping again. 'High Dive…' remains madcap, 'The Big What If' still drives hard and 'I Punched a Lion In The Throat' continues to be one of the best ways to finish any set. Better still, brand new tunes, the sings of PABH's revival, 'Rinse and Repeat' and 'First World Problems' sit comfortably alongside all their big hitters.
Trusted to help get the party started properly, new tunes like 'Jellyfish' and old favourites 'Nobody Loses All the Time' ensure they got the job done. Their quick-fire set finishing up on 'Where'd You Go', Nervus are gone all too soon but not before singer Em gets the chance to share their thoughts of our soon-to-be departed Prime Minister. The anarchic punk spirit still burns red hot within Nervus, and it was no better way to kick off the day.
Sending shivers through the timbers of the new Forest Stage, Muncie Girls singer Lande Hekt showcases her solo work in a lovely, wholesome half hour. With two fresh cuts from her upcoming album, which was announced just the day before, the singer finds time to include 'Jeremy' in her set, which feels apt as the political news began to roll out around the festival.
With only a week's notice, Holding Absence fill in for fellow Welsh rockers No Devotion. A year on from 'The Greatest Mistake of My Life', it's been hard to miss the touring of it as Holding Absence have been here, there and everywhere in that time. It's difficult to imagine they weren't supposed to be at Trees in the first place. But, it's a testament to how brilliant that album is that whether it's the first or one-hundredth time hearing them open into 'Celebration Song', it still comes with a wave of euphoria. And that wave carries the set. The Holding Absence show is a guaranteed good time, and with new single 'Aching Longing' joining the setlist, there are signs the good times will keep rolling for them.
Standing with the world at their feet, Delaire The Liar show just why they're one of the most exciting bands around. 'HALLOWEEN' sends the tent into bedlam. Ffin and Em's vocals are massive as the chorus crashes and swallows the crowd like a tidal wave. In the next moment, they're bare and exposed but just as devastating for 'NO ACCIDENT'. With Ffin bouncing around the stage at every available moment, it was never going to be long before he was in with the crowd, and, as they hold him aloft, there's no better symbol for how Delaire The Liar should be regarded. Hold them high.
People dressed as a giraffe, rhino, panda and a pig wander into a crowd to see Haggard Cat. If this is the start of a joke, then the punchline comes as the duo deliver a series of bruising punches as they open into 'First Words'. Following a circle pit around the entire middle of the Axiom tent, where even a tiger was spotted crowding surfing, Haggard Cat race to squeeze in 'Water Me Down' as they run out of time.
It's blistering hot, and there are six people in dinosaur costumes in the pit as Dinosaur Pile-Up wreak havoc on the Main Stage. Inspired, the trio give a performance for the ages. Big riffs and even bigger choruses, the set feels like an audition for a future headline slot at the festival. Their 2019 album 'Celebrity Mansions' has had a stuttered live airing but at Trees, the power of 'Thrash Metal Cassette', 'Celebrity Mansions', 'Round the Bend' and the monumental finale 'Back Foot' feel fully realised.
On an afternoon full of bands that could one day headline the festival, Creeper feel destined to do it real soon. The sunshine of the Main Stage probably isn't the ideal habitat to find these ghouls, but it doesn't deter them as they burst out with 'Suzanne'. Never far from drama, Hannah Greenwood donned a bloodstained wedding dress for 'Crickets' before quickly returning for the soaring duet of 'Midnight'. The band departed the stage following 'Misery' to leave a vampire onstage to give a stern warning against attending the band's November show at The Roundhouse.
"If you've been feeling down, this is your summer," Cassyette declares as 'Sad Girl Summer' continues in full swing. With the crowds spilling over on the Neu Stage, the singer shares another new pop-rock anthem to sit on the growing pile of standout singles like 'Dear Goth', 'Dead Roses' and 'Mayhem' which make up the bulk of the set.
Never underestimate the brilliance of Jimmy Eat World. The Arizonans are veterans in the game. Their work is seminal. They were amongst the first cries of emo. And they bring all that back with an exemplary performance as they headline the Thursday night. Jim Adkins spoke of how, "we appreciate it so much more now" as they revisit all those growing pains and angst through the lens of experience while playing numbers that are now well over twenty years old. But it isn't a complete nostalgia trip as they show off the best of 2019 album 'Surviving' with '555' getting an acoustic rendition, and they tease what lies ahead with pumped-up new single 'Something Loud'. As the night slips away, it's soon time for all the big hits. In a 2000trees crowd, there isn't a single person who doesn't know at least a few of the anthems that begin to roll out. 'Here You Me' shimmers with an extra magic touch of thousands of hearts breaking at once before quickly fixing again for the jubilation of 'Get It Faster'. A couple of songs later, and it's an enormous finale of 'Sweetness' and 'The Middle' and confirmation that 'Bleed American' might just be one of the best rock albums ever made.
With his Halloween mask on and the sun scorching a track in the gap between the trees, it's a juxtaposition like no other as Ian Miles unpacks his melancholy. He sings softly and doesn't say much, but remains subtly devastating as he shows that sometimes horror isn't all about the screams.
"Who is seeing us for the first time? Well, I've got some bad news for you," ROAM declare in their final festival appearance together. On a billing scarce with pop-punk bands, their set is a breezy and bouncy bop in the sunshine filled with huge choruses that underlines the fact the band leave having made a positive mark on the landscape of the scene.
Returning to their favourite festival, armed with their shiny new album 'Pure Evil', Puppy give a masterclass in hard rock. New track '…And Watched It Glow' comes with that sludgy classic metal sound that feels like running through treacle and has become synonymous with the trio. 'Glacial', also from the new record, shows their step towards more 90s-influenced grunge, with both going down a treat. But, the warmth for the new tunes is dwarfed as Puppy rip into 'Great Beyond' from their 2015 debut EP.
It's a performance that shifts through all the gears from KennyHoopla over on the Main Stage. From the lo-fi sunshine-drenched 'lost cause' to spinning around in circles screaming "She's gonna cut my head off / But I don't care", it's a reminder that KennyHoopla keeps lighting up every line-up he plays.
Like playing with an aerosol can and a lighter, Rolo Tomassi's performance flickers between restraint and inferno. They're utterly captivating; don't take your eyes off them for even a second. They show why they're one of the best around: no one does what they do, no one sounds like they do. Opening with 'Drip', it feels like an eternity of Al smashing the life out of his drums before the band burst into life. That's the beauty of Rolo Tomassi, and the Axiom Stage is lucky to see it. The whole band wrestle between Heaven and Hell where moments of serenity seem like they could stretch on endlessly, but then, with pinpoint precision, they erupt into a cacophony of noise. A truly special performance, and with tracks from their latest album 'Where Myth Becomes Memory' they've managed to somehow get even better.
A day on from announcing their fourth album, Boston Manor are plotting world domination with 'Datura', and that first step involves crushing the Main Stage at Trees. No room in the setlist for their pop-punk roots, but instead they focus on the driving, white-knuckle power of 'Carbon Mono' and 'You, Me & The Class War', which see the crowd running riot around the sound desk. A live debut to 'Passenger' and back-to-back 'Liquid' and 'Halo' completed a set which proved Boston Manor have everything they need for their plan to come off.
It's a comically undersized tent for Bob Vylan but in truth, is there a stage big enough for them anymore? The Neu Stage is packed. Hell, any more people, you'd have to dodge axes from the throwing lanes across from the tent. With their new album the soundtrack for a summer of discontent, there's no stopping Bobby from climbing scaffolding, mixing it in the crowd and engulfing the tent in purple smoke as mayhem ensued. All the while, the duo don't miss a beat as they take aim at the country with 'Take That', 'GDP' and 'We Live Here'. Even though it's late evening and the shadows are beginning to stretch out, Bob Vylan continue to be the wake-up call people need.
Turnstile have been very loudly blazing a trail through hardcore since the release of 'Glow On', and following a smattering of festival appearances in the last few months, the rumours of the path of destruction Turnstile have left in their wake are proven to be true. Dressed in his PE kit, Brendan Yates is ready for a workout. They're all energy, all of the time as they rifle through their set. With guitarist Brady shredding Metallica-style riffs that crash against their springy rhythm section, the Maryland outfit have found a winning formula that can traverse a multitude of taste, styles and influences. Capping off a whirlwind hour with a little 'T.L.C', Brendan takes his mic stand down into the crowd for one final hurrah in amongst the people whose faces they've repeatedly melted.
"I didn't realise there were this many losers at the festival," Stefan jokes. With their new album only a few months old, rumours of their "unravelling" are greatly exaggerated as they look tighter than ever, storming through 'Totally Fine', 'Guilt Trip' and 'Sleep in the Heat' as they skip around all their albums early on. In fact, new number 'Robot Writes A Love Song' takes on a new life when performed live as the chorus line reaches a whole new level when the gang vocals include one or two thousand more people than the recording. "Everyone told us 2000trees would be wicked, and thankfully, nobody lied to us," the singer announces with still enough time for them to bust out the big hitters 'Kids', 'If This Tour Doesn't Kill You…' and, finally, a frenzied rendition of 'DVP'.
17 years on from its release, Thrice revisiting 'Vheissu' for their headline performance serves to show how far they've come and how much they've changed in that time. Dustin Kensrue's voice has become increasingly honey-soaked over time, and in their experimentation and progression, they've all become so much better musicians in the seven albums that have followed since. And so, their performance becomes the best realisation yet of such a special album. Rediscovering those post-hardcore roots but still with formative signs of a band looking to break out of their moulding, the signs of how we arrive at modern-day Thrice seem more evident than ever. With time still to play with after running through the album, they underlined the theory that the same fundamentals still exist within the band all those years on from 'Vheissu'. That scrappy, twisted soul still rages as they launched into 'Black Honey' and the skyward ambition, those vast soundscapes of 'Scavengers' mean the transition from old to new isn't as huge a leap as first imagined. For an awkward, seemingly unscripted encore, Thrice return to throw themselves back even farther playing 'Deadbolt' from 2002's 'The Illusion of Safety' album. With scuzzy guitars blaring and stabby screaming vocals, it feels like the biggest detachment from anything else on the setlist, but it sends the front rows of the crowd into madness.
The meteoric rise of Nova Twins means that on only their second visit to Trees, they have the chance to take on the Main Stage - and they conquer it with ease. It's wall-to-wall hits as they show off their new album 'Supernova'. Commanding the festival's biggest stage, Amy and Georgia barely stop for a moment, and the energy is matched out in the pit, which is bouncing. The pit looks so good, in fact, that Amy gets down to mix it up for 'Undertaker' as the duo throw it back to their debut album. It's a rare departure from the new cuts which make up the body of the set, but this is Nova Twins, after all, and that forward motion is only taking them higher and higher. It continues to be a joy to watch them breeze through these milestones and come to terms with the fact there is really nothing that can stop them.
In her final performance on a run of dates that includes Friday evening in The Cave, Laura Jane Grace vows to leave everything she has left in the Forest. Opening with Against Me! tune 'True Trans Soul Rebel', it feels like she doesn't need a microphone as the power in her voice is astonishing. Every subtle, nuanced emotion is loud and clear in a truly magical set. She notes how it seems the Forest is the place to be, and it couldn't have been more true as she busts out a cover of The Mountain Goats' The Best Ever Metal Band in Denton' to take the opportunity to "Hail Satan" in such a heavenly setting.
The people in the pit for Knocked Loose absolutely take their lives into their own hands. It's sweltering down at the Main Stage, but the Kentucky outfit come in even hotter. With a Hydra-shaped triple header from their standout EP 'A Tear in the Fabric of Life' to kick off, they make sure they start on the front foot and never let up. Their ability to whip up a storm is evident once again as a sea of limbs, injuries, and one guy riding on top of a circle pit all happen in response to the pummelling coming from on stage.
A long way from their recent headline slots at the festival, two-thirds of Twin Atlantic bring their guitars to the Forest to strip down their hits. Unfortunately overlooking their newest album that was released at the start of the year, the duo elect for a greatest hits set that features a beautiful rendition of 'Crash Land' that finds plenty of people in fine voice in between the trees. Before rounding off their short-lived set with 'Heart and Soul', Sam McTrusty assures the crowd that Twin Atlantic will return to do it all again properly soon enough.
It's definitely too hot to be wearing all black, but You Me At Six have that "too cool" energy like a pack of Reservoir Dogs as they stroll out onto the Main Stage. With an hour to fill, the sun still shining but starting to cool, an energetic crowd ready to finish the festival in style and an arsenal of hits backing them, Josh Franceschi beams as he swaggers out, relishing what's to come. And they duly deliver. In nearly 20 years as a band, they've amassed a wealth of hits in a broad range of styles. They chop and change from the elation of 'Lived A Lie' to a chorus of The Killers 'When You Were Young' at the end of 'Reckless' to the menacing tension of 'Bite My Tongue' and then back to the tenderness of 'Take on the World'. It's a headline performance with something for everyone to enjoy. Finishing off in style, the biggest shout of the weekend comes as the final chorus of 'Underdog' drops and a few thousand people shout at the top of their lungs.
The Main Stage opened to the sound of anarchic punk, and there aren't many acts that don't mention Boris, so it feels fitting for it to all come full circle as IDLES bring the curtain down. With a clenched fist punching the air, singer Joe Talbot straddles the line between the raw and emotional Englishman leading the charge for revolution and Old Man Yells At Cloud. Regardless, if you're there for a good time, then that's the last band. The anger is visceral and raw, and every last ounce of energy is spent out in the crowd. There's pandemonium in the circle pit, which stretches far and wide and swirls like a vortex pulling in innocent crowd surfing revellers. There's no escape. The set is a full-blown assault. The respites are brief, but in them, the singer speaks of the "privilege" to play alongside so many like-minded bands before launching into another gut-busting onslaught. Closing out their marathon set with 'Rottweiler', there's absolutely no comfort in knowing the bark is worse than the bite.