“This is the festival we made sure we’d be at,” and other such sentiments, are heard again and again at Upcote Farm, in the Cotswold Hills, over the course of 2000trees.
And it’s easy to see why the beautifully independent three-dayer not far from Cheltenham is so beloved of bands and the fans who’ve come to see them.
Five stages are set across the dinky site, with a diverse selection of rock, indie and alternative music on the bill, and minimal glitter. A cluster of busking areas named after artists dear to the festival allow for organic interactions, where the lines between those who’ve come to listen and those who’ve come to play become blurred.
Organisers proudly trumpet the fact that many performers high on the bill had early shows there too – Black Peaks, for example, who storm The Cave tent on Thursday prior to post-hardcore legends At the Drive-In’s whirlwind headline set. Twin Atlantic and Enter Shikari see off the latter two nights in style – but Trees is very much about the smaller acts.
The size makes it perfect for catching a bit of everything. Baltimore hardcore punks Turnstile tear it up, Jonah Matranga brings emo nostalgia, Skinny Lister – sold to me as “angry sea shanties” – see hilariously wild mosh pits for their accordion-tinged folk-rock.
And politics are everywhere – Sløtface lay down feminist pop-punk while Manchester punks Drones, filling in at the last minute, rage in support of refugees to a smaller audience than they deserve. Nervus champion LGBT+ rights; Beans on Toast, followed by Will Varley, bring defiant messages to lighter and more serious strains of folk. A brief downpour on Friday in amongst otherwise glorious sunshine puts no one off.
The beautiful Forest Sessions stage offers delicate, stripped-down sets from many of the artists. The XCERTS light it up with older tracks before showcasing their anthemic latest record on the main stage. “We receive a lot of love from the crowds and the organisers here,” says frontman Murray Macleod when I catch them between sets. “Today almost feels like a victory lap.”
The shady, pine-scattered glade fills up early and BBC Introducing in the West hosts sessions there each day: I’m charmed by the harmonies that soar over Mauwe’s trip-hop and intrigued by the slow-tango rhythms and banshee-like wails of grunge outfit No Violet.
There’s plenty more besides to be experienced. I drag myself up for morning yoga; sample delicious fare from the best selection of food trucks I’ve seen; sip lip-smacking grapefruit sour from Signature Brew; I’m taught to light a fire (by an eight-year-old) at the Forest School. Comedy on The Neu Stage eases the crowd in on Thursday afternoon and evening (though comedians earlier on the bill sadly struggle to compete with the main stage) and an epic silent disco goes off into the wee hours on Friday and Saturday.
The whole vibe is well summed up by the way one name – Scott Hutchison, the Frightened Rabbit singer who took his own life earlier this year – echoes among the festivalgoers.
From the packed-out tribute in the Forest on Friday to the new “Camp Frabbit” stage in the acoustic village; the myriad conversations around mental health awareness to the Frightened Rabbit singalong session that ends my own weekend, members of a grieving community take quiet moments to pay their respects – and to celebrate the love of music that brings them together in the first place.
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