LIVE: 2000trees Festival 2023 – Friday

By Aaron Jackson

Anyone lucky enough to have experienced a 2000trees festival will understand why it’s held in such high regard and firmly cemented as one of the finest ‘medium-sized’ festivals in the country. What better way to celebrate its 15th anniversary than by exhibiting the most stacked lineup to date? 

Surely, for many, waking up on that Friday morning was no mean feat. That Silent Disco is just too good to refuse, right? One day of festivities down, two to go – suck it up. Oh, and bring sun cream.

Words: Aaron Jackson.  Images: Paul Lyme and Penny Bennett

The St Pierre Snake Invasion

Tasked with the midday slot, the sun was already beating down on the exposed lawn of the main stage as The St Pierre Snake Invasion stepped up. In releasing ‘Galore’ earlier this year, they’ve already entered the album of the year conversation, so to hear renditions of ‘Kracked Velvet’ and ‘Submechano’ amongst others live was a right treat to start the day. Stylised vocals drenched in distorted noise carried over crashing instrumentation that brushed away any cobwebs left over as a result of the previous night’s party.

Unfortunately, their set was cut short, according to frontman Damien Sayell because they had too much gear and spent too long getting ready. However, there was still time to close it out with the rambunctious ‘Rock ‘n’ roll Workshops’, during which Sayell was joined by his young son. Proud as punch, he held onto his boy like a trophy as he screamed his head off like a maniac (Sayell senior, that is). It was a wholesome end to a wholly impressive performance.


Something’s happening here. A nu-metal revival of sorts. Hailing from London but with all the pomp and swagger to garner attention from across the globe (including from genre godfather Fred Durst himself), BLACKGOLD take to The Cave with an air of intent about them. Dressed up to the nines, complete with black and gold masks, it’s a cool aesthetic but they must have been sweating up a storm under there.

The industrious blend of hip-hop and hardcore was impossible to resist, particularly throughout the copious fat breakdowns which elicited mass movement throughout the audience. Anonymous as individuals, but expect to be hearing the name BLACKGOLD plenty soon.


Without a shadow of a doubt one of the most brutal bands on the bill, Heriot take no prisoners wherever they go, regardless of the size of the stage. Tanking through juggernauts like ‘Enter The Flesh’ and ‘Profound Morality’, there’s a gravity to this music that belies the breakneck speed at which it’s delivered. 

Debbie Gough (guitarist/vocalist) and Jake Packer (bassist/vocalist) exchanged vocal blows between themselves, each one more guttural than the next to shake onlookers through to their core. While the crowd may have been sparser than one would hope (possibly due to the time of day and the heat), there was a healthy nucleus of devoted Heriot fans front and centre that were insatiable in their appetite for heavy music. Flailing limbs aplenty, Heriot made their mark and then some.

Heart Attack Man

Embracing their first UK festival appearance, and a second visit to the land overall, with heaps of energy is Ohio four-piece Heart Attack Man. They bound into their set with ‘Freak Of Nature’ – the titular track of their brand new LP. Only in the public domain for a couple of months, the catchy choruses on album cuts such as ‘Like A Kennedy’ and ‘Stick Up’ ensure that plenty in the crowd are singing every word back to frontman Eric Egan.

‘C4’ was an explosive inclusion that sparked a fiery circle pit in The Cave, satiating a crowd aching for an excuse to get rowdier. There’s a case to be made that the edgier, heavier numbers from Heart Attack Man’s oeuvre would’ve been embraced with open arms in this setting – the likes of ‘Puke’ for example. However, pop-punk anthems like ‘Pitch Black’ and ‘Leap Year’ still had plenty of bite in them for Hammy to hold their own on this turf.

Origami Angel

What a stage for the final show of a first-ever UK tour. The eclectic and bordering on prodigious Washington D.C. duo made up of vocalist/guitarist Ryland Heagy and drummer Pat Doherty were clearly relishing this experience. Spotted on the side stage the previous day cheering on their tour mates Prince Daddy & The Hyena, they delivered a whirlwind set on The Axiom with the same smiles beaming across their faces.

Buckets of variety between the surfy ‘Thank You, New Jersey’, the angsty ‘JUDGE’ and of course, the anthemic ‘24 Hr Drive-Thru’ ensured that there was something for everyone on offer. Each song was expertly executed with the two members sonically bouncing off of each other in perfect unison, all the while fans went frankly rabid at points. The cherry on top was some great news for fans both existing and new when Heagy revealed (after receiving permission from The Wonder Years’ Soupy) that his band would be returning to the UK in November to support TWY on tour. We will be there.

Joyce Manor

Taking to the Main Stage in the blazing sunshine, Joyce Manor looked at home in a setting of such grandeur. Understandably unphased by the intermittent British summer, the Californian quintuplet strolled straight into their 18-song setlist – an incredible feat considering their 45-minute time slot. The set consisted of hits that spanned from 2012’s breakout ‘Of All The Things I Will Soon Grow Tired’ all the way through to 2022’s impressive ’40 oz. To Fresno’, delivering a little bit of everything to the sizable crowd that had assembled in the rolling Gloucestershire hills.

The band rattled through their set at an electrifying pace, calling for inspiration from the crowd for song requests – a theme common on Joyce Manor shows, supported by their short, succinct songwriting style. Of course, hits such as ‘Leather Jacket’, ‘Eighteen’, ‘Constant Headache’ and ‘Catalina Fight Song’ drew the biggest singalongs,  affirming the band’s status as one of the genre’s most beloved cult bands.


One of the most anticipated sets across the whole weekend belonged to scorching hot trailblazers, Los Angeles’ Zulu. Largely thanks to the quality of their debut full-length ‘A New Tomorrow’ which dropped earlier this year, the band have a record that has rippled seismically throughout the scene. Moving at an unrelenting pace, all five members displayed unmatched energy as they tore through hit after hit, the likes of ‘Where I’m From’ and ‘Fakin’ Tha Funk (You Get Did)’.

The dual vocals between the principal vocalist Anaiah Lei and the drummer/vocalist Christine Cadette (whose performance stunned from start to finish) hit just as hard in a live setting as they do on the record. The whole experience felt as though it lasted five minutes, each crushing breakdown more doom fuelled than the next, completely capturing the attention of all onlookers. Bowing out with ‘52 Fatal Strikes’ it was a fleeting yet delightful encounter, with a fair few fans stumbling out of The Cave ever so slightly worse for wear than they were 30 minutes prior.


There was a palpable air of relief from the Atlanta, Georgia four-piece Microwave as they settled into their slot on The Axiom. Two cancelled UK tours off the back of 2019’s ‘Death is a Warm Blanket’ felt like a significant setback at the time. It had been a long wait, but Microwave seized their opportunity to reacquaint with a British audience in a determined and convicted manner.

Traversing between the grit of ‘Mirrors’ to soothing stoner numbers like ‘keeping up’ later on in the set demonstrated the versatility of the band. Frontman Nathan Hardy even donned an acoustic guitar, rarely sighted outside of 2000trees’ picturesque Forest stage, as he strummed through newer cut ‘Straw Hat’. Microwave’s ability to evoke sunny imagery was the perfect compliment to that late summer afternoon described as “spicy” by Hardy.

Usually, the band would leave their audience with the visceral climb at the conclusion of ‘Vomit’, however, they had five minutes in spare change at the end of the set. A solo acoustic rendition of ‘Something Right’ instead marked the end of a well-rounded performance from a band with such a rock-solid discography on an elegant and poignant note.

The Xcerts

Beloved mainstays of 2000trees, endearing trio The Xcerts are back and toeing their way through a brand new era for the band. It’s been over five years since the release of their previous record ‘Hold on to Your Heart’ and, while there was plenty of space across the 50-minute time slot for old favourites, it was the brand new ‘GIMME’ that fans were greeted with. Frontman Murray Macleod was having great fun with his autotune machine, beaming and bouncing around the stage as he chanted his way through the 90-second flash of dirty pop-rock. 

Making light of internet trolls and the band’s apparent insistence on committing “career suicide” with recent directional choices shows just how confident The Xcerts are with their new output, and so they should be. That said, the nostalgia of older cuts like ‘Slackerpop’, ‘Crisis in the Slow Lane’ and the utterly timeless ‘Aberdeen 1987’ is unmatched and therefore marked the highest points of the set. Being part of a crowd in the thousands singing “I’m your new best friend…” in unison, will forever be one of this festival’s champagne moments, regardless of the year.

Employed To Serve

Walking out to a surprisingly humble crowd in numbers, it didn’t take long for The Cave to fill out once Employed To Serve built into the cascading, crushing brilliance of ‘Universal Chokehold’. The instrumentation throughout the set was airtight, with a special mention for Sammy Urwin whose speed up and down his fretboard was implacable. Fronted by the powerhouse that is Justine Jones, her voice was impeccable as she tore through some of the most aggressive and expressive music of the whole weekend.

There was some exquisite headbanging on display from the band and audience members alike, the lightning pace of the music resulted in hair whipping all over the place and, no doubt, some very sore necks. Mind you, would it even be possible to listen to ‘Force Fed’ or ‘Mark Of The Grave’ without throwing the skull around? Doubt it.

Empire State Bastard

Perhaps a small handful of onlookers stumbled to the Empire State Bastard set having heard that Mike Vennart and Simon Neil (from a little band by the name of Biffy Clyro) would be performing, in a tent, in 2023. Those unfamiliar with the nature of the project were knocked for six as the experimental outfit launched into one of just two songs that have been released for public consumption to date. ‘Harvest’ is the perfect introduction to this off-the-wall cacophony – it’s chaos, but it’s brilliant. The following ten songs are no different.

Even in the weirder early years of Biffy Clyro, this is Neil like never seen before – in fetching short shorts, launching himself across the stage while screaming like a bobcat. What a spectacle. The only disappointment was that legendary percussionist and Empire State Bastard regular Dave Lombardo was unable to attend, as he was away on a US tour with Misfits. That said, the replacement was a fucking animal on the tubs. There were few bells and whistles, just really heavy music to which a core nucleus of the crowd pitted hell for leather on every song, whether they were familiar with it or not. The rest stood and watched, awed by the noise surrounding them.

Cancer Bats

Bodies were spilling out of The Cave to catch a glimpse of seasoned pros Cancer Bats headlining the stage. Knocking about for almost 20 years now, the Canadian outfit have been firmly established as a household name in the hardcore scene and it was a busy festival for them. The previous night saw them perform under their, by now well known, alias Bat Sabbath and delivered a set packed with tributes to metal forefathers Black Sabbath, It was, by all accounts, a fantastic experience.

Funnily enough, it was another cover performance in The Cave on the Friday night that stood out amongst the rest – Cancer Bats really do a mean ‘Sabotage’ by Beastie Boys. Fans of the band will know what they’re getting from a Cancer Bats show, but that never stops it from hitting as hard as it does. Jay R. Schwarzer’s swashbuckling riffs, paired with Mike Peters threatening to beat his kit so hard that it collapses the entire stage creates a colossal sound that rattled the whole field to its core. Of course, always impossible to ignore, was frontman Liam Cormier who never once stopped for breath in between songs, let alone during them – a tireless performance from one of the most consistent acts out there.

Bullet For My Valentine

There were plenty of moments throughout the 90-minute headline slot for Welsh metal outfit Bullet For My Valentine that proved why they are held with such legendary regard across heavy music fans. Filling the stage out, complete with an elevated drum platform and vivid light show, the setup couldn’t have been more opposite to the raw simplicity of Soft Play the night before. Armed with timeless hits like ‘Your Betrayal’, ‘Hearts Burst Into Fire’ and ‘Scream Aim Fire’ (for all the guitar heroes out there), each song was executed with the flawless proficiency of a band that have remained at the top of their games for literal decades.

It was their first time at the festival and there was a bit of a foot-in-mouth moment from frontman Matt Tuck as he pontificated about how Bullet were probably the heaviest band to ever play 2000trees. If he’d caught Heriot or Zulu earlier in the day, then he would’ve quickly realised how silly a claim that was. Things did kick up a notch however, when fans were treated to an impromptu AxeWound reunion as Cancer Bats frontman Liam Cormier was back again, this time on the festival’s biggest stage. Running through ‘Cold’, Cormier’s energy was simply unmatched and made the rest of the band look static in comparison, though he would have this effect on most artists out there.

With ‘Tears Don’t Fall’ ageing into something of a seminal track for the band, it marked a huge moment in the set that will stay with fans, both old and new, for a long time after the final note had rung out. ‘Waking The Demon’ was the perfect closer, standing as something of a quintessential Bullet song – blistering verses fuelled by a storm of riffs and a gigantic chorus that opens up, allowing Tuck to let his voice soar and soar it did. Perfectly suited for the biggest stages, Bullet were built for the occasion and delivered appropriately.