The big review: 2000trees festival 2023

If you go down to the woods today, you’re in for one of the best weekends of the festival calendar as an army of alternative’s brightest lights descend on Upcote Farm for 2000trees…

The big review: 2000trees festival 2023
Sam Law, Emma Wilkes
Gareth Bull, Jez Pennington, Mac Praed, Joe Singh

The festival artwork for 2000trees is UFO-themed for 2023, imagining flying saucers swooping over the thick woodland around Cheltenham’s Upcote Farm to whisk punters to another world. There are a late-night blank patches in our memory but, in fairness, that’s probably more to do with too many of the festival’s trademark ‘beeros’ than any extraterrestrial incursion.

What’s more out of this world is how this grassroots gathering has managed to grow into a celebration of all things alternative while retaining its gorgeous Cotswold character: the local Women’s Institute selling baked goods within spitting distance of Texan bruisers Kublai Khan TX dropping some of the nastiest beatdowns you’ve ever heard; dairy products from cattle in the surrounding fields available to soothe throats torn to shreds after shouting along to genre-busting Japanese heroes Paledusk.

There’s far more brilliance on show than we could ever manage to cram into this review, but here are the 50-odd sets that’ve left us thoroughly broken at the end of an unbelievable weekend…

Exit ChildNeu Stage

Unleashing the first squalls of feedback from Trees’ Neu Stage on Thursday morning, this feels like something of a homecoming for Bristol alt. crew Exit Child. So far, there’s only been one single – the pummelling Dormant – to get to know the new band from Sœur guitarist Anya Pulver, but they're not long breaking the ice on their fifth-ever gig with a barrage of bold, bare-chested bravado, throbbing angst and aggro. The daunting task of opening for The Dirty Nil is coming for the box-fresh quartet later this year, but on this evidence they won't be backing down from that challenge (or any other) anytime soon. (SL)

Cage FightThe Cave

There’s nothing quite like a fist in the face to get your festival going. True to their name, that’s just what Cage Fight deliver, hitting The Cave with a quick one-two before laying in some absolutely punishing ground-and-pound at high noon on Thursday. Where towering TesseracT guitarist James Monteith normally feels like he’s a benevolent, thoughtful presence onstage, here he’s digging into his primal side, bouncing and gouging through songs like Guillotine, Respect Ends and Hope Castrated, while French-born vocalist Rachel Aspe continues to feel born for this kind of violence. Fortunately, none of the wide-eyed breakfast brigade being pulled into the pit look anywhere close to tapping-out. (SL)

IthacaMain Stage

Ithaca are meant to be here. Arriving in a whirl of white, orange and black around lunchtime, opener In The Way becomes monolithic in a whole new way when it thunders from such a big stage. Truly, they thrive in this space, performing with the assurance of a band who does this every Thursday afternoon, with Djamila Boden Azzouz striking poses like a diva in the most complimentary sense of the word, while her bandmates throw themselves into their activity with more force than ever. Yet there’s beauty behind the savagery – guitarist Sam Chetan-Walsh gives an emotional speech where he declares, “Your trauma does not define you, you will heal, you will be made whole again,” before a stirring rendition of Fluorescent. Their growth is wonderful to see. (EW)

Lake MaliceThe Cave

Lake Malice have no right to be burning this hot already. Sure, the Brighton-based duo of Italian-born vocalist Alice Guala and guitarist/composer Blake Cornwall have been earmarked for big things since they first burst onto the scene with a powerful combination of Spiritbox-alike alt. metal fury and striking visual direction, but they’ve still only got six songs on Spotify, and there’s a feeling that their big picture is very much yet to be revealed. Still, they go down a storm on Thursday afternoon, with the air-raid-siren-song melodies of songs like Stop The Part and Blossom inspiring a similar sort of frill-free party atmosphere to festival favourites VUKOVI. (SL)

Lambrini GirlsNEU Stage

To (almost) quote the famed line from Jaws, we’re going to need a bigger tent. The one Lambrini Girls are playing in is overflowing big time, perhaps partly due to the Twitter shitstorm that erupted when their trans-inclusive messaging incited the ire of Graham Linehan last weekend. And that’s not the only thing they’re doing right – their anarchic live show is as daring and fun as punk gets. Vocalist and guitarist Phoebe Lunny spends nearly as much time off the stage as on it, even playing Help Me I’m Gay sat on a fan’s shoulders (with another volunteering as a human mic stand), and casually gets down to her underwear for anti-catcalling anthem White Van. Even for all their jaw-dropping, creative theatrics, they’re still sounding white-hot, with an abrasive airing of Craig David opening a pit that fills more than half the tent. The Brighton band sign off by imploring the crowd to “call out your fucking mates!” as they crowdsurf out of the tent, ending an extraordinary Trees debut representing everything punk strives to be. (EW)

Graphic NatureThe Cave

Graphic Nature make music that’s far too dark and heavy for Thursday afternoons like this, but the Kent lads have enough shades in their songbook to connect with this considerable crowd. Frontman Harvey Freeman’s breathless demands to ‘Go! Go! Go! Go!’ on Sour, for instance, felt calibrated for mosh mayhem on record and really come to life here as the masses of sweaty muscle filling out the front rows really begin to flex. Early-doors confirmation that The Cave is very much 2000trees’ Killing Floor. (SL)

Kid KapichiMain Stage

Kid Kapichi feel like a quintessentially 2000trees band. Powered by punk politics and renegade energy, but still loaded with sexy swagger, the Hastings lads are very much in the vein of headliners SOFT PLAY and patron saint Frank Carter. After last year’s electrifying debut set at Upcote Farm, they’re back to crush the Main Stage under the weight of songs like Rob The Supermarket, Death Dips and Smash The Gaff. According to singer Jack Wilson, an inflatable burger used to ferry crowdsurfers over the barrier might be "the best thirty quid" they've ever spent. Although the 'Duh duh-duh-duh, fuck the Tories' chants don't land with everyone here (fucking Tories), diamond-hard compositions like Glitterati simply can't be resisted. Don’t be surprised if they’re back to headline one day. (SL)

Bob VylanMain Stage

At first, Bobby Vylan seems to be in a more jovial mood. He’s got reason to be – Bob Vylan were swiftly promoted from the NEU Stage to the Main Stage in the space of just a year, and they’ve drawn a crowd large enough to elicit the succinct reaction of “Fucking hell!” They graduate with no teething problems at all, and Bobby clearly relishes having more space to run, jump and start some antics, especially when he brandishes a cricket bat for a bristling rendition of CSGB. But between jokes about a punter’s missing flip-flop (“They’re reunited! It’s a love story for the ages!”) and drummer Bobbie Vylan winning the title of Cutest Drummer In Punk Rock for three years running, the urgency of their politicism is still duly emphasised. “This isn’t just music for us,” says Bobby, “it’s life,” following a scintillating Pulled Pork, before taking a moment to draw attention to the current riots in France and its connection to the same police brutality that inspired the song. Nonetheless, today is another triumph to add to their ever-growing list. (EW)

SvalbardThe Cave

"I can't think of a better way to spend a Thursday evening!" grins Svalbard vocalist Serena Cherry, with a smile bright enough to light the long shadows beginning to spread through The Cave. Over the course of the last decade, and three excellent albums, the Bristolian post-metallers have grown into a ubiquitous fixture on the UK metal scene, but 2000trees has the spark of a home territory show. Soul-shuddering compositions hammer thick and fast. Throw Your Heart Away. Click Bait. The Currency Of Beauty. Brilliantly, scourging latest single Eternal Spirits – a song about the permanent impressions made by departed metal heroes – confirms that this should be a band whose music will echo for years to come. (SL)

lozeakForest Sessions

There’s a sort of elfin magic to lozeak that fits perfectly amongst the tree trunks and foliage of Trees’ Forest Sessions. The genre-busting Norwich singer-songwriter – real name Lauren Eakins – is perfectly able to mix in with artists from alternative’s cutting-edge (Bring Me The Horizon’s Oli Sykes is a fan, and contemporaries like Maggie Lindemann and Cassyette are good reference points) but the quick-beating raspiness of songs like Drag Me To Hell, Hate Me Too and the quick-beating Word Vomit are just as affecting in these rustic surrounds. (SL)

The Wonder YearsMain Stage

What on Earth’s going on here? The Main Stage is suffering from some seriously shonky sound as The Wonder Years arrive in the early evening. The layers don’t mesh together as they should, blunting the emotional force their music usually has on record. Add to that a crowd that’s smaller than expected, which dwindles as punters become frustrated with the sound issues, and it’s easy to feel the Philly band deserve better. As ever, they pour everything they have into their performance, and frontman Dan Campbell never fails to give the sort of emotional display that makes your breath catch in your chest, alongside some very wholesome stage patter (“I hope the horses like us; if they don’t like us – I apologise…”). Things sound marginally better by the time they play the overwhelmingly poignant You’re The Reason I Don’t Want The World To End, but the resounding emotion is a feeling of sadness, and not the kind The Wonder Years usually inspire. Considering they made a whistle-stop tour to the UK just to play this festival, it’s a real shame. (EW)

Dead PonyNEU Stage

Big things are coming for Dead Pony. Having just begun to show the shape of what’s to come with synth-streaked, high-concept new single MK Nothing, it feels like the Glasgow crew are still to fully play their hand, and their attention is doubtless divided with the daunting task of opening the massive main stage at TRNSMT back up in their hometown tomorrow, but the NEU tent is still fully on their side this afternoon. The creative chemistry between guitarist/composer Blair Crichton and livewire vocalist Anna Shields is a sight to behold on days like these. (SL)

SkindredMain Stage

There ain’t no party like a ragga-metal party. Few bands can claim that festivals are their home territory, but Skindred have made themselves into a quintessential band for weekends in fields, one Newport Helicopter at a time. Walking out to The Imperial March in a shiny black coat, frontman Benji Webbe leads the band through a typically vibrant set fizzing with charisma. Even though they do plenty of what you’ve come to expect, they still bring some fresh flourishes, from a head-scratching Wonderwall sing-along to an inspired burst of AC/DC’s Back In Black in the middle of a chunky Pressure, though some of their occasional between-song samples disrupt the pace of the show a little. Meanwhile, their newer material effortlessly slots into place – the muscular Set Fazers is an explosive choice of opener, while the sunny L.O.V.E (Smile Please) charmingly epitomises the joy Skindred bring to any field they set foot on. We all need more of their flavour of fun in our lives. (EW)

The BronxThe Cave

When it’s dark in The Cave, it’s possible to forget that you’re surrounded by fields for miles. It means that the atmosphere for The Bronx’s late-night set more closely resembles that of a sweaty basement club, and even though this stage might not be the biggest they’ve ever played, they thrive in a more intimate setting. Frontman Matt Caughthran is practically vibrating with energy as they stampede through their greatest hits, including an explosive Shitty Future and a mighty rendition of Heart Attack American with a bassline that can be felt in the Earth's core. The quartet attack with simultaneous love and aggression – Matt’s between-song speeches extoll the “lifelong commitment” made to punk and the power of music “to make a fucked life into a good life”, and amid the churning riffs of Knifeman, incites mayhem by declaring: “This is baptism Bronx! Everyone in this tent is going to be born again!” They’ve never sounded so cathartic. (EW)


“We’re SOFT PLAY and we play soft…” exhales drummer/vocalist Isaac Holman with a wry grin during a rare let-up in Thursday’s Main Stage headline set. The last time the Tunbridge Wells duo were in this slot was under the since-discarded Slaves banner, but the all-action assault this evening suggests they’ve given up absolutely nothing in the intervening years. This is the second show since their return and the ridiculous/sublime bludgeon of bangers like Where’s Your Car Debbie, Fuck The Hi-Hat and Cheer Up London come loaded with even more pent-up vitriol than before. A cameo from Bobby Vylan adds extra bite to One More Day Won’t Hurt. But even as Beauty Quest hammers us home and the weirdo rhythms of The Hunter spin us of into the night, it’s clear these lads are still just getting (re)started. (SL)

Mimi BarksForest Sessions

Things are getting weird over in the forest as we spin towards midnight. Mimi Barks has been bouncing around site, soaking in the sunbeaten atmosphere for most of the day already, but after dark the Berlin-born, London-based doom trap trailblazer is a different beast altogether. Sporting a sort-of black spiked tiara with blood running from her eyeballs, the DEADGIRL commands all kinds of chaos, gyrating and rolling around the stage as the grimy sounds of songs like SUICIDE and Big Ass Chain threaten to pollute the soil beneath our feet. She even manages to make those pissing about in animal outfits part of the coolest set of the weekend – the mark of a powerful performer indeed. (SL)

Love Is NoiseMain Stage

Love Is Noise attack their Main Stage slot early on Friday as if they were headlining. Big riffs. Heavy atmospherics. Indomitable attitude. Featuring Cameron Humphrey from now-defunct Glaswegian brutalists Lotus Eater, this carries some of the heaviness and conceptual complexity of that project, but also the dreaminess and textural delicacy that you might expect from an outfit named after a song by The Verve. Liverpudlian supremos Loathe may have had to cancel their set this weekend, but songs like box-fresh newbie Boutique ensure that fans of moody, layered alt. metal, don’t leave feeling short changed. (SL)


Is 12:30pm too early for a party? Not for BLACKGOLD. The masked nu-metal revivalists have got plenty of curious punters to impress, and they pull out all the stops with their hulking riffs and boundless energy, with frontman Spookz bouncing across the stage like it’s made of lava. To start with, they’re largely met with some polite headbanging from a crowd made lethargic in the mounting heat, but during the juddering dance breakdown in Freak, something changes – the air becomes charged, and the energy spikes. Chucking in a cover of Cypress Hill’s I Ain’t Going Out Like That (“Who wants to see us fuck up Cypress Hill?” Spookz asks) also proves to be a smart move, not only energising everyone but offering them something recognisable to latch onto. BLACKGOLD have a tough slot, and may well have been more successful if they were playing a little later (or on a cooler day), but they’ve got all the right ingredients for whipping up a huge amount of fun. (EW)

New PagansAxiom

There’s something quite modest about New Pagans’ first Trees outing. Performing amongst clouds of smoke that take on the colour of the lights behind them, there’s an intriguing contrast between the fervour of their indie-punk riffing and the grace of frontwoman Lyndsey MacDougall’s honeyed vocals. Their music sounds crystalline in this setting and punches hard without them needing to push it, but there’s plenty of personality still on show (“Did you just say ‘Londonderry’? I’m going to leave this fucking stage!”). It deserves to be seen by more people, but nonetheless, this is a wonderful debut. (EW)

HeriotMain Stage

After a couple of summers hard touring, we’re running out of ways to say it at this point, but Heriot are, quite probably, the best heavy band in Britain right now. Battle-hardened by the thousands of miles clocked up over these last few years, the violent likes of Enter The Flesh, Coalescence and Profound Morality waste little time making absolute mincemeat of the throng of punters baking in front of Trees’ Main Stage at midday. But in guitarist Debbie Gough, the intimidating Birmingham/Swindon crew have a charismatic centrepoint, soaking in the summer vibes, visibly far more comfortable at shows like this than she was 18 months ago, around whom her bandmates pivot, and listeners gravitate, ensuring everyone’s smiling as they have their skulls caved in. (SL)

PaleduskThe Cave

Paledusk are a long way from home, but they could hardly fit better into the chaotic surrounds of 2000trees on their first UK run. Hailing from Fukuoka on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, there is something inherently exotic about the colourfully weighty blend of metalcore, industrial, nu-metal and EDM – not a million miles from that perfected by their countrymen Crossfaith – in big bangers like SLAY!!, WIND BACK and NO!. The brilliantly kinetic reception spilling across and on out of The Cave, including a troupe of dudes defying the sweltering heat in inflatable costumes, feels like confirmation that no matter where they rock up, Paledusk are on top of the world. (SL)

Militarie GunAxiom

“We’ve had a shaky couple of days,” Militarie Gun frontman Ian Shelton admits to the fans assembled before him. They’re one man down today, and guitarist Waylon Trim is playing bass onstage for the first time ever to make up for the absence of their usual four-stringer Nick Cogan. Although Ian seems a little downtrodden when he speaks, the band soldier on, smashing through their shortened half hour set with aplomb despite the turn-out being criminally lower than one might expect. Pressure Cooker’s sounding deliciously gritty today, even though it’s a guitar short, while the spirited Very High commands sing-alongs from down the front and My Friends Are Having A Hard Time swells into a big, beautiful, angsty centerpiece. Despite everything, they’ve carried on valiantly. (EW)

ZULUThe Cave

How ‘heavy’ can the punters at 2000trees handle? It’s a threshold that keeps getting tested this weekend, and Los Angeles powerviolence collective ZULU are the gnarliest act thus far, switching between soul samples and blasts of scourging sound as the likes of Straight From Da Tribe Of Tha Moon and On The Corner Of Cimarron And 24th are unleashed in the depths of The Cave. Brilliantly, a bunch of casual fans seem to have gotten tangled up in the mayhem, looking on in something close to absolute horror as the pit descends into a blur of cracked limbs and bust lips. Lovely. (SL)

BrutusMain Stage

Brutus can certainly put on a gorgeous display in an intimate setting, but the question remains: how well will their show translate to a stage as large as this? The answer: really fucking well. Even if the Belgian trio can’t fill a stage physically in the same way as other bands, since vocalist Stefanie Mannaerts is seated at the drum kit the entire time, it works because their lofty post-hardcore gets to sound as huge as it deserves. The ethereal Victoria sounds so expansive it feels like you can bathe in it, while the heavier sections of Miles Away feel positively nuclear. If that wasn’t awe-inspiring enough, they close with an otherworldly rendition of Sugar Dragon, signing off with eight minutes of pure bliss. Quite frankly, this show is worth being sunburnt for. (EW)

Kublai Khan TXThe Cave

There’s a kid who can’t be more than 11 years old in the pit for Kublai Khan TX. Long haired, bare chested and utterly relentless, he’s an absolute animal. It’s hard not to be concerned, still, as the Texan metalcore masters turn The Cave into a war zone. Despite a barrage of Rottweiler ‘woof-woof-woofs’ and some of the most outrageous mosh calls you’ve ever come across (“IT’S TIME TO GET ANABOLIC!”), there’s a stoic, chest-patting earnestness to the Sherman collective that feels even sillier than the most intentional wackiness across site at Trees. Hard not to love. (SL)


Murray Macleod looks absolutely chuffed to have finally returned to Trees. “We’ve been away for a little while,” The XCERTS frontman smiles at the height of their set this afternoon, “but being back means the world to us.” Five-and-a-half years on from last album Hold On To Your Heart, he’s evidently referring to the bigger picture with this being one of the first shows in the lead-up to their new record Learning How To Live And Let Go, due August 18. The Scottish lads’ confidence has swollen exponentially over the years, with new single BLAME adding poppy new layers, but they’re still at their very best when wielding the aching simplicity of Aberdeen 1987. (SL)

As Everything UnfoldsNEU Stage

As Everything Unfolds have more than a few things in their arsenal to open the pit up: iron-clad riffs, beefy choruses, and, in a recent development, gutturals more eye-watering than the pollen count in June. Charlie Rolfe has clearly been doing some work behind the scenes, and her powerful low screams make her sound like a completely different person. It does periodically come at the expense of some of her higher cleans, but it’s a small slight in what is an electric performance where every member of the High Wycombe quintet throws their entire weight into the music, particularly synth player Jon Cass, who even threatens to throw his keyboard to the ground near their set’s conclusion. They’re rewarded with tremendous enthusiasm from their crowd, climaxing in a huge circle-pit for dynamic closer On The Inside. Don’t you dare underestimate this band. (EW)

Employed To ServeThe Cave

Employed To Serve just get it. It’s Friday night at the height of summer with a tent full of fans ready to get silly. No fucking around required. None delivered. Instead we get Brit-metal’s greatest power couple Justine Jones and Sammy Urwin laying on the sonic punishment thick and fast as a crowd of sunburnt maniacs smash back the beers and chuck each other gleefully over the top. The whole set is wall-to-wall bangers, but special mention has to go to a brilliant Mark Of The Grave and its pitch-perfect blend of groove and concrete-mixer churn for those looking to shake it in the pit. (SL)

Dinosaur Pile-UpMain Stage

“We’ve had a rough couple of years, as I’m sure many of you have had too,” Dinosaur Pile-Up frontman Matt Bigland says. Although the alt. rock trio haven’t released any new music for a few years, they still draw a healthy crowd to the main stage for an hour of crunchy, nostalgia-tinged riffs and wry jokes (including that their name is ‘Oinosaur Pile-Uf’, as their banner reads from a certain angle). The buzzsaw chords of Eleven Eleven and a lofty airing of Back Foot are laden with hearty, feel-good energy, even if the show itself is slightly by the numbers, taking the simple approach of three dudes standing and playing all of the hits. Nonetheless, they’ve done well to persevere even without new music to hold them aloft. (EW)

Empire State BastardAxiom

Even a few months in, it still feels weird to see Biffy Clyro regulars Mike Vennart and Simon Neil (sporting short-shorts, acting somehow more off-the-wall than normal) squeezed onto stages like this. Despite regular drummer Dave Lombardo being away with the bloody Misfits on the other side of the Atlantic, they still ooze superstar quality tonight. And they’re not even headlining the Axiom tent. Unleashing compositions that are equal parts esoteric and excoriating from upcoming debut LP Rivers Of Heresy, like Harvest, Stutter and Corpse In The Chateau, a fair few rubberneckers are left utterly bemused, but ESB go down a storm with Trees’ lovers of real outsider sound. (SL)

Cancer BatsThe Cave

Cancer Bats deliver two fantastic sets this 2000trees – not even counting Liam Cormier’s involvement in an impromptu Axe Wound reunion during the Bullet For My Valentine headliner. On Thursday we get a vintage Bat Sabbath set: Black Sabbath classics like Children Of The Grave, Iron Man and War Pigs feeling like the soundtrack to a particularly intense folk-horror over in the Forest Sessions as a wild-eyed Liam tears across the stage with retro cloak over his shoulders. Friday’s appearance in The Cave is more straightforwardly chaotic, with the skyscraper riffage of songs like Lucifer’s Rocking Chair, Sorceress and Hail Destroyer simply underlining that they’re one of the most reliably enjoyable acts in modern heavy music. Bruising brilliance, as always. (SL)

Rival SchoolsAxiom

Rival Schools are still celebrating the 20th anniversary of their now almost-22-year-old debut United By Fate this evening, and their wiry, emotionally-overloaded brand of post-hardcore feels absolutely timeless. Going head-to-head with Bullet For My Valentine means that the gaping Axiom tent is visibly populated by older-end Trees attendees, with less chaos than some might expect from a supergroup tied to Gorilla Biscuits, Quicksand and Youth Of Today. Classics like Used For Glue and Travel By Telephone will always pack enough bounce in themselves, anyway. (SL)

Bullet For My ValentineMain Stage

Trees threw a curveball when they announced Bullet For My Valentine as headliners; a considerably heavier band than their usual punkier, oftentimes indie-leaning fare. Indeed, frontman Matt Tuck declares several songs into their first-ever appearance on Upcote Farm that he thinks they’re the heaviest band there (although ZULU and Heriot may disagree). Appropriately, they’ve come to slaughter – opener Knives sounds absolutely monstrous, as does a voraciously received Your Betrayal, and they even bring out Liam Cormier for a throwback to 2012 with an unexpected Axe Wound reunion. Oddly, however, Liam’s gleefully batshit energy shows the mostly stationary band up – never throwing quite as much of themselves into the gig as he does in just one song. Still, the bulk of their audience – a strong turnout, too – remain firmly with the band till the last riff of Waking The Demon fades into silence, chanting “BULLET! BULLET!” into the night sky. Heavy works at Trees after all, it seems. (EW)

Witch FeverMain Stage

There's something remarkably unsettling about seeing Amy Walpole's wailing 'under the sun, I've just begun' bridge in Bully Boy play out against the angry, dark grey skies over Upcote Farm at lunchtime. It's the spine tingling highlight to a bow that underlines Witch Fever's status as one of the best bands in Britain. There are many shades to their performance, but whether delving into the bruised atmospherics of Congregation or whipping through the riot grrrl sloganeering of Blessed Be Thy, every note is delivered with thumping heart and defiant soul. The dark magic continues to grow. (SL)

Modern ErrorThe Cave

On record, it’s easy to imagine the futuristic, synth-flecked post-hardcore of Modern Error sounding hypnotic in a live setting. In The Cave today, however, something feels a little lost in translation. They’re disadvantaged by some periodically off-key vocals and a swampy mix that buries some of the intricacies of their multi-layered sound in a sonic sludge, with the likes of Truest Blue and It’s Just A Feeling suffering the most. Despite this, the brothers Pinchin appear deeply committed to their performance – guitarist Kel doesn’t just headbang but throws his whole body into his power chords, while vocalist Zak is compellingly absorbed in his own music. It’s a frustratingly mixed picture today. (EW)

High VisMain Stage

Following the absolute mayhem of their show-stealing coming-of-age set at Outbreak a few weeks back, High Vis’ turn at Trees was always going to feel a little sedate in comparison. “We're just some knobhead punk band,” singer Graham Sayle goads a massive crowd, many of whom looking absolutely knackered by this final day, “and yous are all here to watch it!” Removed from the chaos of spinning pits and having to worry about who’s next going to stand on your head, though, its easier to absorb the brilliantly nuanced blend of post-punk, hardcore and indie poured into songs like Fever Dream, Out Cold and Talk For Hours (dedicated to all the "fellas sniffing cocaine instead of talking about their feelings"). There is a greatness about High Vis that is shining through with each passing show that suggests they should achieve massive crossover success. Until that day comes, though, we’ll cherish Graham’s advice before launching into a heart-rending Trauma Bonds: “Life's hard. Work on yourself. Don't be a bellend.” Wisdom to live by. (SL)

FleshwaterThe Cave

Hardcore is flourishing like never before right now, and it’s hardly surprising that Trees is becoming more of a home for bands who favour the short, sharp and scrappy approach. Fleshwater’s appearance on The Cave is a no-frills yet effortlessly cool fare, where their style of shoegaze with sharper teeth is left to bite hard on its own terms. Vocalist Marisa Shirar exudes a quietly glowing confidence out front, while guitarist Anthony DiDio to her right is risking whiplash with the force of his constant headbanging. With very little said between songs, they’re done within 20 minutes, but they make it feel like a power move, as if they don’t need the full duration of a set to come, see and conquer. Most importantly, though, it leaves you craving more. (EW)

Enola GayNEU Stage

As will inevitably become common knowledge when Oppenheimer opens in cinemas in a couple of weeks, Enola Gay are named after the B-29 Superfortress used to drop the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima in August 1945. The noisy Belfast post-punks are less evocative of the white-hot impact of the initial blast, however, than the nightmarish discord, disorientation and cruel degradation that followed. Charged with hip-hop electricity and avant-garde ambition, politically-charged nuggets like Leeches and PTS.DUP linger like ghosts in the back of our minds long after the rain-soaked set has finished. (SL)

KoyoThe Cave

Appropriately, the band following Fleshwater in The Cave are their current tourmates Koyo, but theirs is a markedly different kind of show. Intriguingly, they’ve blended two parts hardcore with one part pop-punk, and despite their relative infancy as a band, they’ve easily enraptured the curious passers-by. Scores of them bounce and two-step along in perfect time to the amusingly titled You’re On The List Minus One, and although the sound on The Cave hasn’t been stellar all day, Koyo make its rackety feeling work for them. Their affable frontman Joey Chiaramonte’s chirpy interactions with the crowd suggest he’s been to a few Bronx gigs in his lifetime (but hey, he’s learning from the best), fuelling the crowd’s energy until closer Ten Digits Away wraps things up in the most joyous way possible. This lot are onto something. (EW)

One Step CloserThe Cave

Sitting at the more accessible end of modern hardcore compared to some of their contemporaries in The Cave this weekend, One Step Closer would’ve benefited from an earlier set as the spring-loaded excellence of songs like I Feel So and Pringle Street feels somewhat bogged down in the mud and exhaustion of this last day at Trees. Still, the bright-eyed promise of the Pennsylvanian straight-edge crew manages to shine through. And the opening bars of The Reach even see a handful of mosh enthusiasts sprinting across the site just to dive headlong into the pit. (SL)

Holding AbsenceMain Stage

Last year, Holding Absence frontman Lucas Woodland declared to a packed Axiom tent that, “We’re fucking coming for the Main Stage!” Today, the Pontypridd quartet have finally got their wish, having now played every stage on Upcote Farm, and they duly receive a hero’s welcome. What follows is 45 minutes of life-affirming, fists-in-air, watery-eyed joy, full of arena-sized sing-alongs, and things get properly chaotic down the front during Beyond Belief as countless crowdsurfers sail into the arms of several frantically-moving security guards. As always, this band perform for their lives, with Lucas high-kicking to his heart’s content and drummer Ash Green showcasing the full extent of just how powerfully he can beat the life out of his kit. Frankly, Holding Absence might just be the most-loved band in the UK scene right now, and it’s fully justified. (EW)

The ChiselNEU Stage

Drinking beer, throwing your arms around your mates and shouting into the open air will never get old. That’s the joyous truth hard-written into festivals like 2000trees and it’s the rock-solid foundation on which The Chisel build their otherwise gleefully shambolic racket. We could make observations about their scuffed-denim revival of Oi! and anarcho-punk, or how their songs tackle hard issues like modern poverty, substance abuse and open-hearted camaraderie in the face of encroaching small-mindedness, but they’re all about the fists-aloft sing-alongs and stomping around in the sticky ground today. (SL)

Dream StateThe Cave

Only one member of Dream State onstage today – guitarist Aled Evans – was part of the band the last time they came to Upcote Farm. Despite such radical changes, however, the fire that was lit under the Welsh rockers before their lengthy silence has reignited, if their Cave set is anything to go by. New vocalist Jessie Powell is elated to see the biggest crowd of her whole career, and it fuels her magnificently, meaning she’s able to whip up some explosive energy among the fans closest to the stage. She handles the band’s older songs with a deft touch, particularly the surging Hand In Hand and turbulent Primrose, making them sound individual without removing them too much from the versions fans fell in love with. The newer cuts slot in beautifully too, with recent single Chin Up Princess sounding especially electric. “We are Dream State and we’re here to stay!” she declares, rounding off a triumphant comeback that’s made for one of the weekend’s most pleasant surprises. (EW)

Cody FrostForest Sessions

It is absolutely hammering it down in the open air of the Forest Sessions as Cody Frost steps on early on Saturday evening, but few of their assembled devotees seem all that bothered. Spurred on by the adversity, there’s an edge to normally sweet treats like verbal warnings, Wot?, and DWYSSWM (Don't Worry Your Secret's Safe With Me) that fits well with her devilish, red-stained aesthetic being worn here. And when Enter Shikari’s Rou Reynolds arrives to close proceedings out with a brilliant, all-action run-through of Bull, arms are thrown wide to soak up one of the defining moments of the whole weekend. (SL)

Hundred ReasonsMain Stage

Hundred Reasons could have made their sub-headliner into a trip in a time machine to a simpler time if they so wanted, and it still would have been received rapturously. While there’s inevitably plenty of fuzzy nostalgia for their hour of affable Britrock, they’ve got one foot firmly in the present. Newer cuts Glorious Sunset, It Suits You and Replicate still conjure glee from the crowd, while frontman Colin Doran casually throws in an unexpectedly genius snippet of Taylor Swift’s Style in the middle of the set. Add to that a storming guest turn from none other than Rou Reynolds on Silver (having legged it over from Cody Frost), and the Aldershot-via-London quartet have a convincing case for being part of fans’ present as well as their pasts. (EW)

Chubby And The GangNEU Stage

Charlie "Chubby" Manning-Walker is sporting an absolutely outrageous moustache this weekend. It’s the mark of a grafter. Having already done his bit with The Chisel, he turns his attention to cranking the momentum on his excellent other band. It’ll take a while to get to the pace they were at with the quick-fire one-two of 2020’s Speed Kills and 2021’s The Mutt’s Nuts, but the London crew are still one of the most likeable outfits in English alternative, bridging the rough-edged exuberance of hardcore and the down-and-dirty punch of old-school punk. Able to crank out hits as affecting as I Hate The Radio, too, they’ve still got what it takes to get back on top of the world. (SL)

American FootballAxiom

American Football have been solidifying their legacy of late. Last month they completed their purchase of 704 W High Street Urbana, Illinois: the white-panelled student house from the cover photo of their now-iconic 1999 self-titled debut, which had been scheduled for demolition. Their music – a keystone in second-wave emo which expanded into post-rock and dreampop – faced no such peril, with high-profile champions like Hayley Williams, Phoebe Bridgers and Matty Healy, but nights like these and songs as quietly powerful as Uncomfortably Numb and Heir Apparent introduce their magic to a whole new generation of adoring fans. For the flagging, uninitiated passers-by, more energy is needed at the end of the last night, but for the rest of us, these are songs that creep under the skin and take you to the stars. (SL)

KneecapForest Sessions

There is no shortage of final-night energy for Kneecap. “Why are there so many people out here?!” asks one of the bartenders, bemused by how the handful of fans who’d come out for excellent Atlanta rapper Tom The Mail Man are replaced by close to a thousand spilling down the slippy slopes of the Forest Sessions for the West Belfast crew. “Eh, they’re Irish,” shrugs her colleague, struggling to define an act unlike any other at Trees. “You’ll see…” Even up against Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, there’s a confrontational fire about these lads that’s impossible to ignore. It’s all there in the staggeringly dynamic blend of Irish and English language, incendiary socio-political satire and contemporary political nous of songs like Sick In The Head, Guilty Conscience and Get Your Brits Out. And though one fan who went as far as bringing a request sign is let down by their failure to play Your Sniffer Dogs Are Shite tonight, the filthy beats and sublimated rage of H.O.O.D. leave no one disappointed. (SL)

Frank Carter & The RattlesnakesMain Stage

Of all of 2000trees’ headliners, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes’ closing set feels like the biggest capital-M moment. Of course, the bursts of pyro and clouds of confetti help, but regardless, so much of this show feels gigantic. They sound even fiercer than on record – Angel Wings hulks and broods in a whole new way, while a razor-sharp rendition of Juggernaut thrown in at the last minute creates due pandemonium with fans circle-pitting around the sound desk. What’s most significant, however, is its sense of warmth. Frank admits the traditional Wild Flowers female and non-binary only mosh-pit is his favourite part of the show because he’s “never seen a mosh-pit where everyone looks so happy”, and attempts to turn the field “into a fucking ballroom” for Love Games by encouraging fans to slow dance with each other. Somehow, he even makes a song like I Hate You, yelled back at him from fans on each other’s shoulders, vaguely sentimental, but it ends up being a glorious note to end an equally glorious weekend is on. This is how you headline a festival. (EW)

Now read these

The best of Kerrang! delivered straight to your inbox three times a week. What are you waiting for?