20 bands you can’t miss at this weekend’s 2000trees

2000trees has grown into one of the most heavyweight weekends of the UK alt. music calendar in recent years. And beyond headliners Bullet For My Valentine, Soft Play and Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, there are a host of rising stars you need to highlight on that clashfinder…

20 bands you can’t miss at this weekend’s 2000trees
Sam Law
Paul Harries

Every second weekend in July, in the rolling Cotswold hills a few miles outside Cheltenham, Upcote Farm has become a bona fide destination for UK music lovers. Growing from rustic roots (straw bales for urinals, children’s play areas at the side of the main stage) into a 15,000-cap, three-day showcase of the best in alternative sound, 2000trees has welcomed the world-class likes of Turnstile and IDLES, At The Drive In and Enter Shikari into its scenic surrounds.

2023 will be no different. Welsh metal mainstays Bullet For My Valentine, resurgent Kent punks SOFT PLAY (formerly Slaves) and the inimitable Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes are set to headline over fellow mainstays Hundred Reasons, Skindred, The Wonder Years, Dinosaur Pile-up American Football and Deaf Havana. Hell, Simon Neil/Mike Vennart/Dave Lombardo supergroup Empire State Bastard are even dropping by for one of their first-ever shows.

One of the greatest highlights, however, has always been the festival’s stacked line-up of upcoming and underground stars. From relatively established heroes like Loathe, Holding Absence and Kid Kapichi to breakthrough acts as hot as lozeak, Paledusk, Frozemode, Lynks and Modern Error, of course, there are far too many to fit on a list like this. For your viewing pleasure, though, we’ve sieved through the best of the best to select 20 sets that you simply cannot miss...

Bob VylanForest Sessions, Wednesday; Main Stage, Thursday

Last year at Trees, it was nigh on impossible to get close enough to see Bob Vylan at their beyond-rammed NEU tent appearance. They’re making up for it in 2023, with an early-doors/late-night showing in the Forest Sessions arena on Wednesday before smashing the massive Main Stage on Thursday. The world hasn’t become a much better place in the last 12 months, so expect the London duo to keep rolling off the juggernaut, renegade momentum of Kerrang! Award-winning second album Bob Vylan Presents The Price Of Life with that patented combination of Molotov cocktail righteousness, and body-shaking heat.

BrutusMain Stage, Friday

Okay, it’s a bit of a stretch to call Brutus a ‘new’ band. The brilliant Belgian trio have been around for the best part of 10 years now, with three studio albums and hundreds of live shows under their belts. But last year’s Unison Life seemed to supercharge their ascent, with the sweeping post-hardcore of songs like Desert Rain, Storm and What Have We Done proving that they’ve still only scratched the surface of the genius within. In vocalist/drummer Stefanie Mannaerts, they’ve got a superstar ringleader, too. Expect her to run rule over a packed Main Stage on Friday.

Cody FrostForest Sessions, Saturday

Cody Frost has come a long way since their run on BBC One’s The Voice. Having swapped ‘mentor’ Boy George for the on-the-road tutelage of heroes like Enter Shikari (Rou Reynolds was always a favourite influence, and Cody’s feature on recent single Bull led to a support-slot on the St Albans trailblazers’ recent UK tour), the Lancashire native has established a shapeshifting, genre-blending identity all their own. Whether throwing yourself headlong into the shape-busting pop of DWYSSWM (Don't Worry Your Secret's Safe With Me) or the ponderous melancholy of Teeth, expect to find the Friday night Forest Sessions set to be one of the most invigorating of the weekend.

Dead PonyNEU Stage, Thursday

Big things are beginning to happen for Glasgow’s Dead Pony. Setting aside any notions that they should be chasing inauthentic indie ‘cool’ over lockdown, and honing in on the vibrancy and outsider swagger of the heroes they’ve always worshipped – Paramore, Queens Of The Stone Age, The Prodigy – the daring quartet just dropped killer single MK Nothing, and they’ve got tons more in the pipeline. Having already ripped up SXSW, and supported hometown heroes CHVRCHES at the legendary Barrowland Ballroom in the first few months of 2023, 2000trees should be the next step on an irresistible ascent.

Employed To ServeThe Cave, Friday

2000trees covers the whole spectrum of alternative music, but listeners looking to get caught in a mosh at the very heaviest end need look no further than Employed To Serve. Another relatively established band, the Woking metallers have four LPs to their name – including 2017 Kerrang! Album Of The Year The Warmth Of A Dying Sun – but they just seem to keep getting harder and heavier, more furious and fun. Fresh from supporting French giants Gojira and crushing some of the biggest summer metal festivals on the continent, we can expect bangers like Force Fed and beery anthem Mark Of The Grave to be more than battle-ready when they inevitably crush the PA.

FleshwaterThe Cave, Saturday

Fleshwater’s debut LP might be called We’re Not Here to Be Loved, but they’ve got a sound that won’t take long winning over any fans of affecting alt. grunginess at 2000trees. Featuring Vein.fm members Anthony DiDio, Jeremy Martin and Matt Wood, some may wonder whether they’re in for a neck-wrecking, limb-flinging lesson in violence, but as those who caught the Massachusetts crew at Outbreak a few weekends back will attest, vocalist Marisa Shirar is the main influence on the sorrowful, shoegazey sound of songs like The Razor’s Apple and Kiss The Ladder. Dip in.

Graphic NatureThe Cave, Thursday

Graphic Nature might come from the southern English pastures of Kent, but elements of their sound could emanate from the cornfields of Iowa. All too often, this cutting quintet get pigeonholed beneath the nu-metal revival banner, but these lads are far less interested in the DayGlo gaudiness and deluded machismo that descriptor calls to mind than confrontational, chest-crushing sounds that tackle the most unsettling, claustrophobic corners of mental health. Pivotally, that won’t drag down the mood during Thursday’s set in The Cave, instead using the intensity of songs like Sleepless and Killing Floor to supercharge a masterclass in cathartic carnage.

HeriotMain Stage, Friday

Want to get even more intense? Heriot have you covered. Since the arrival of guitarist Debbie Gough and the introduction of a more savage sound, characterised by landmark EP Profound Morality, the Birmingham/Swindon collective seem to have been absolutely everywhere over the last few years, but their steamroller momentum is only building, and Friday’s Main Stage bow at Trees promises to be a landmark set stained in mud and blood. Every time bangers like Coalescence and Cleansed Existence are blaring, Britain’s best new metal band get better still…

High VisMain Stage, Saturday

High Vis are on the crest of a moment right now. The Britpop-tinged London hardcore crew spectacularly upstaged some massive names when they hit the main stage over at Outbreak less than a fortnight ago, and it feels like their blend of indie cool and heavy melody should connect even better amongst the green fields of Trees. “I find the festivals weird, innit,” frontman Graham Sayle told K! of his last time at the Gloucestershire weekender, recently. “I've never been to rock festivals, really. I'd go raving and that. And then this one… I was like, ‘Fuckin' hell, man, people are nice!’” So let’s rough things up for the lad this time round, okay?

IthacaMain Stage, Thursday

Ithaca are at their best when they’re given a platform to frankly frighten whoever’s stood in front of them. With uncompromising vocalist Djamila Boden Azzouz to the fore, songs from last year’s fantastic, aptly-titled They Fear Us feel custom-built to intimidate and inspire chaos. Unleashed on 2000trees gaping Main Stage, it feels like he angular uncompromising noise of compositions like Camera Eats First and Impulse Crush has the potential to inspire absolute chaos. Exactly the kind of adrenaline spike that’s needed early in a weekend like this. Expect it to be scary. Scary good!

KneecapForest Sessions, Saturday

There’s no-one else at 2000trees quite like Kneecap. No-one else at most festivals, to be fair. Apparently, the Belfast hip-hop collective’s fest set on the Main Stage last year was their first-ever in this neck of the woods, and the blends of Irish and English language, barbed political satire and very real rebel purpose left many who were seeing them for the first time thoroughly perplexed. As did the moment where one punter appeared to chuck a bag of questionable-looking powder onto the stage. Increasingly accustomed to crowds of thousands on the other side of the Irish Sea – as, indeed, they are in Scotland – however, and packing gleefully edgy bangers like Your Sniffer Dogs Are Shite, Guilty Conscience and H.O.O.D., these troublemakers should again deliver one of the freshest, most subversive performances ever seen at Upcote Farm. Lock up your contraband…

KoyoThe Cave, Saturday

Long Island punks Koyo offer a tantalising concrete mix of hardcore grit and pop-punk gravy. They’re also red-hot right now. Having supported the likes of Knocked Loose, Stick To Your Guns and Silverstein, they’re a tight-wound, well-oiled machine. My Chemical Romance hero Frank Iero has lent his weight, popping up in the video for wryly-titled latest single You’re On The List (Minus One). Those of us lucky enough to have heard it know that upcoming debut Would You Miss It? packs a blend of thumping hardcore and breezy pop-punk that’s perfect for occasions like 2000trees, too. Saturday’s slot at the cave is a chance to get in on the ground floor…

Lambrini GirlsNEU Stage, Thursday

Lambrini Girls only played their first show in the socially-distanced hinterland of October 2020, but the Brighton punks have quickly grown into one of the most exciting live acts in the UK, boasting an onstage presence overflowing witch chaotic charisma, sparkle and salt. Song-titles like Help Me I’m Gay and Terf Wars lay bare their righteous political foundations, and the riot grrrl energy perfectly matches up. Expect vocalist Phoebe Lunny to have us all bubbling over by the height of their set on Thursday afternoon.

Militarie GunThe Axiom, Friday

It’s always sunny at 2000trees. With the forecast currently showing scattered showers, that mightn’t be literally true this weekend, but bands like Militarie Gun keep the vibe alive. Still celebrating the release of excellent debut Life Under The Gun, the Los Angeles lads’ music may be thematically focused on the grinding everyday, but there’s so much easy Californian cool baked into it that they always feel good. Songs like Do It Faster, Let Me Be Normal and Very High are best enjoyed with shades on.

Mimi BarksForest Sessions, Thursday

There’s something brilliant about seeing Mimi Barks at a setting like 2000trees. The Berlin doom trap trailblazer might be more naturally suited to rattling the roofs off crumbling warehouses and basement bunkers in barren cityscapes, but tendrils of organic creepiness seem to creep out from the metallic industrial core of her sound out when it’s unleashed amongst the verdant foliage of the English countryside. When songs like Mad Hoe and Big Ass Chains get going under the branches of the Forest Sessions on Thursday, we’ll see the DEADGIRL at her most alive.

One Step CloserThe Cave, Saturday

If you’re not familiar with One Step Closer just yet, that’s something you need to change. The Pennsylvanian quartet’s exploits on this side of the Atlantic might’ve been largely confirmed to bruising hardcore gatherings thus far, but it feels like they have the kind of crossover potential that could see them follow Turnstile to the big time. There’s plenty of circle-pitting, stage-diving energy in songs like I Feel So and Time Spent, Too Long, but there’s a depth of emotion and springy alt. dynamism about their finest cuts – Pringle Street, The Reach – that feels ready for even bigger stages. Catch them in The Cave on Saturday to see if they’re really ready to make the leap.

SvalbardThe Cave, Thursday

The frosty post-hardcore of Svalbard is arguably better suited to the dark side of the calendar, but they always bring a sharp, welcome contrast to summer stages like 2000trees. With singer Serena Cherry leading the charge, songs like Throw Your Heart Away, Click Bait and The Currency Of Beauty will surely leave a sea of banged heads and wrenched hearts over in The Cave as the sun begins to dip on Thursday afternoon. Even better, it’ll be one of the first chances for UK fans to hear Eternal Spirits performed live onstage – their first fresh material in nearly three years.

The ChiselNEU Stage, Saturday

It’s a truth long held that punk rock is a genre built from three chords and the truth. The Chisel are amongst a new breed of old-school bands for whom beery good times and arms-round-shoulders, blue-collar camaraderie are just as integral. Hammered into shape by their support run for Aussie heroes The Chats, they’re well primed for festival dates like 2000trees this summer. And we can’t think of better songs than the likes of Cry Your Eyes Out and Common As Muck for the sinking of a whole load of cold bevvies on a hot summer day. Cheers to that!

Witch FeverMain Stage, Saturday

Something wicked this way comes on 2000trees Main Stage on Saturday afternoon. Manchester doom punks Witch Fever have been summoning relentless, dark magic on the festival circuit for the best part of two summers now, but Amy Walpole, Alisha Yarwood, Alex Thompson and Annabelle Joyce have grown as individuals and a collective over that time to the point that songs like Reincarnate, Congregation and Blessed Be Thy just hit different. Expect the awesome I Saw You Dancing to be an atmospheric highlight of the whole damn weekend. Spellbinding stuff.

ZULUThe Cave, Friday

2000trees isn’t known as a hotbed for blood-rushing powerviolence, but ZULU will make sure that the most punishing of subgenres is there to rip up turf in 2023. Splitting up their sew of sonic nailbombs with passages of soothing soul might sound like some kind of pandering to accessibility, but the contrast just makes already diamond-hard nuggets like Music To Drive By and Straight From Da Tribe Of Tha Moon hit even harder. This year’s smashing debut LP A New Tomorrow raised the bar on record, and, more than ever, their live presence brutally matches up.

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