LIVE: 2000 Trees 2018 – Thursday

By Mark Johnson

2000 Trees is one of the most beloved festivals of the season thanks to consistently superb line-ups that focus on the best of British alternative music, along with an unrivalled atmosphere that embraces the spirit of our own, cosy corner of the music industry. This year’s festival sees US post-hardcore legends At The Drive-in invited to join the party, alongside other more local headliners Twin Atlantic and Enter Shikari. 2018 also sees the festival embrace a cashless environment for the first time, with the implementation of contactless wrist bands to reduce queues and increase financial security.

We get straight into the action on day one with SHVPES, who kick off our 2000 Trees journey at The Cave with an energetic, upbeat offering, which gets the day off to a rousing start. The band’s sound is ideal for a festival, containing enough heaviness for heads to bob along to, with a good helping of melody thrown in to keep things varied and fresh. Snippets from the band’s excellent new EP ‘Mixtape 1’ sound excellent and on the strength of this set, we can’t wait to hear what the next instalments of the ‘Mixtape’ series are going to bring.

Palm Reader keep the momentum high at The Cave with their ferocious brand of hardcore. The band’s recent release ‘Braille’ marks a significant growth in the band’s sound and live they look reinvigorated and fresh, ploughing through their set with power and conviction. Vocalist Josh Mckeown commands the stage, rousing the crowd with impressive screams and bags of energy, the latter compounded by his fellow band mates, who put their heart and soul into the set. Sadly, the sound is dominated by fuzzy bass that overshadows both guitars to the point of non-existence, but thanks to the passion and conviction in the band’s performance, there’s more to enjoy about this band than sound alone. Technical niggles aside, it’s an assured set that gets the blood pumping and energy flowing in the crowd.

The supremely talented Press To MECO test the limits of the Axiom Stage, and the tent is barely able to contain the massive riffs and three part vocal harmonies. Opening with huge single ‘Familiar Ground’ from their superb new album ‘Here’s to the Fatigue’, the massive groove of the track gets the crowd moving from the first note and the energy doesn’t abate through the rest of the set, whether on stage or off. Powerhouse track ‘Quick Fix’ from the latest record characterises everything that’s unique and perfect about this three piece: huge riffs, complex but subtle time signatures and incredible three-part vocal harmonies, and the crowd lap up the perfect execution, spawning mosh pits in the centre of the tent in an attempt to match the band’s relentless energy. Press To MECO bring something unique and interesting to alternative music and it’s heart-warming to see the crowd respond so enthusiastically. It’s a set that’s sure to live long on the memory even at this early stage on the first day.

The bass heavy mix at The Cave continues as Vukovi take to the stage, drowning out the majority of the vocals and most of the guitars. By the time the mix is corrected, the crowd have gone largely static and with vocalist Janine Shilstone struggling to hit some of her notes it’s a struggle to get them back on side. A shaky vocal execution is to be expected given the fervour that Shilstone attacks the performance with. Darting about the stage and getting into the faces of the front row, she certainly doesn’t lack conviction, which goes down well with the small pocket of Vukovi fans at the barrier. Vukovi have a strong catalogue of festival friendly tracks and while they attack the set with plenty of energy, the execution and sound quality doesn’t bring the best out of them.

Just over a month ago, pop punk quintet Boston Manor opened the Main Stage at Download Festival with an assured and confident set and while The Cave at 2000 Trees may be a more humble setting, there are just as many people gathered inside and out the tent to see them play. It’s easy to see the band’s mass appeal; their anthemic pop punk tracks beg to be sung out loud at the top of your voice and with the instrumentation up tempo and driving throughout, it’s a great performance to get the crowd pumped up with their hands in the air. No matter where Boston Manor appear in a festival line up, they always bring the goods.

Arcane Roots’ latest record ‘Melancholia Hymns’ is a triumph of epic, alternative rock but on the band’s recent UK tour to support the record, the difficulty of integrating new tracks with old became clear, given the very different direction of the new material. Thankfully they’re starting to perfect the art, and this set is a much more cohesive offering, catering for fans of the more urgent, heavy tracks as they select songs that have more intensity and bite. Vocalist Andrew Groves puts in the kind of stunning vocal performance we’ve come to expect from him and with the help of the rest of the band, this is a cracking set that shows why they’re regularly invited back to 2000 Trees.

The Marmozets pull in a huge crowd at the Main Stage and it doesn’t take long to realise why. The band’s up tempo anthems are perfect for a sunny evening, providing a simple back drop to huge choruses that get the crowd moving around and waving their arms enthusiastically. Front woman Becca MacIntyre puts on a confident display, dictating the pace of the crowd with her energy and her vocal delivery is without fault. It’s a great performance that brings the party atmosphere to the Main Stage and sets us up well for the evening’s acts.

This time last year Black Peaks played the Main Stage and announced that they were heading into the studio, so it would be a while before we hear any of their classic tracks played live again. Now, a year on, the band have resurfaced with a new record announcement –  ‘All That Divides’, releasing on October 5 – and a new single, which they enthusiastically burst straight into. There’s still a place in the set for crowd favourites ‘Say You Will’ and ‘Saviour’ as Black Peaks delight the crowd with their incredibly heavy, yet intricate and complex compositions that set them apart from every other band on the line up. Black Peaks maintain a classic feel to their sound while somehow sounding contemporary and fresh and long may they continue bewildering audiences with their flawless execution.

2000 Trees has given us some unexpectedly special treats in the past by inviting some legendary bands to headline the Main Stage. Refused are of the more notable in recent years, their incredible set from 2016 one of the best things we’ve ever seen at this festival. Tonight, post hardcore royalty At The Drive-in add their name to the 2000 Trees history books, which attracts a swarm of people towards the Main Stage. The band carry with them the weight of a massive reputation and as the set kicks off, it looks as though that weight is uncomfortable to bear. They don’t exactly burst on to the stage, rather taking a few songs to warm up, both energetically, and in the case of Cedric Bixler’s vocals. As the set goes on, their onstage persona starts to become more familiar and things settle, allowing the performance to flourish. By the time the unmistakable sounds of ‘One Armed Scissor’ kick in to close out the set, the crowd are on their side and enjoy every note of this classic post hardcore powerhouse.

The new cashless payment system may be struggling with some teething issues on day one, but the music hasn’t taken long to get going at all. It’s been a hard-hitting and enjoyable day at 2000 Trees, with two more outstanding days of music still to come.