LIVE: 2000trees Festival 2023 – Saturday

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? 

Oh, British summertime. One day, you’ll be soaking up a harsh sun, slow-roasting in your own juices and sitting at a pretty shade of lobster pink. The next, ferociously blinking away the spray and spittle of sideways rain, propelled by gale force gusts, trying not to slip over and eat shit in front of all your mates. There was no need for sun cream on the final day of 2000trees. Indeed, it rained and it poured. Tents flooded, fields turned to mud baths, and the festival goers all got a much-needed free shower.

The elements were no match for the music, however, as the festival concluded without a hitch. “You can’t kill the metal. The metal will live on.”

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

Witch Fever

Taking to the main stage right around the same time as the first break in the morning rain could not have been a more convenient start for Witch Fever. “We made the rain stop for our set, obviously” teases vocalist Amy Walpole, who fronts a band that have climbed from strength to strength since their inception. Last year saw the release of striking debut full-length album ‘Congregation’ to notable acclaim and, as Walpole skulked through ‘I Saw You Dancing’ from the off, the quality is abundantly clear.

Alisha Yarwood and Alex Thompson’s sludgy guitar and bass tones gave the music a rich texture that sounded full-bodied on this festival’s biggest stage, bedded in by a complete performance on drums from Annabelle Joyce that is at points poised and patient but also the catalyst for the band to detonate in unison. The double-barrel hit of ‘Reincarnate’ and ‘Bully Boy’ from 2021’s ‘Reincarnate’ EP were particularly explosive, the latter of the two a scathing rendition that was delivered with a venom recognised and appreciated by every onlooker. “Off with his head, let’s see how he burns” is simply a fantastic lyric.

High Vis

There was certainly a buzz of anticipation about the High Vis set on that Saturday afternoon. Words on their performance at Manchester’s Outbreak festival just a couple of weeks prior had travelled far and wide. Plenty turned up to see just what the fuss was all about. Described by frontman Graham Sayle as “just a bunch of dickheads doing music”, there are truly no bells or whistles about High Vis. Instead, they have buckets of raw intensity and a commitment to the ideologies behind the music.

A rousing number about tackling tough times, ‘Out Cold’ left a lasting impression as did ‘0151’ – both proper punk songs uniquely stirred with just a twinge of 90s Britpop. It’s ‘Trauma Bonds’, however, that will stick with anyone it touches. Emotional lyrics driven by an authentic and passionate ensemble performance from the band is High Vis in a nutshell. Despite the humble figures they cut, this is an important band, with a crucial message to spread.

Dead Poet Society

Those familiar with Dead Poet Society might have had early concerns about whether they’d have enough bite to hold their own at a festival with such a heavy spine. Quite the opposite. Circle pits and crowd surfing aplenty, this Massachusetts four-piece delivered one of the liveliest sets of the day, giving the crowd plenty of incentive to move, despite the standard lethargy that can arise on the final day of any festival. Spearheaded by Jack Underkofler, there was little room for respite as he took full control of the stage, orchestrating the mayhem that was about to ensue.

On occasion, the subtle tones of Underkofler’s vocals got lost in the mix in favour of the beefier noise from the instruments, but when he let the pipes soar they landed every time. The swanky ‘.CoDA.’ especially showcased why vocals are at the forefront of this band’s dynamic as Underkofler crushed each line with the conviction of a master of their craft. ‘.SALT.’ was another cut that sounded especially rich, with guitarist Jack Collins’ ceaseless chugging on an obscenely downtuned guitar being the driving force behind hundreds of approving head nods. Thanks to the quality of this set, plenty of idle bystanders will have Dead Poet Society at the top of their list of bands to check out when they’re back in the real world.


Taking to The Cave in the slot directly following current tourmates Fleshwater, New York quintet Koyo are another band electing to conclude a European tour at 2000trees. Yet to even release an album, the pull of this band is quite astounding. A packed-out tent is enthralled by their beefy take on a genre often discussed as being saturated, Koyo are taking the fundamentals of pop-punk and adding the bite of hardcore to create an exciting blend that is built for environments such as this.

‘You’re On The List (minus one)’ is a new release plucked from the forthcoming debut album ‘Would You Miss It?’ which got the crowd moving plenty – an exciting sign of what’s to come for fans. This set’s closer was ‘Ten Digits Away’ which is, to date, the catchiest song released from the band. Finger pointing aplenty, there weren’t many in attendance that weren’t belting the chorus back at frontman Joey Chiaramonte. Koyo truly have the world at their feet, they’re already making massive strides, and they’ve barely gotten started.

Holding Absence

Garnering comfortably the biggest crowd of the day so far, for Cardiff quartet Holding Absence, playing 2000trees’ main stage must have felt like a lap of honour. Having conquered every other stage the festival has to offer in years gone by, they truly have grafted their way to the top. Relishing every minute and deservedly so, frontman Lucas Woodland sincerely claimed that 2000trees feels “like home” to them.

Aside from a typically tireless performance from Woodland, a special mention must go to drummer Ashley Green who was flawless in his performance. Until experiencing Holding Absence live, you might be forgiven for not recognising just how crucial Green is to their dynamic, but stripped away from the studio mix, it was so frequently the percussion that stood out and wowed the crowd. ‘Gravity’ was especially punchy, and capped off by a trademark anthemic chorus. In a similar vein, ‘Afterlife’ will always mark a high point in the set, with only a small minority of the crowd not belting out the lyrics in unison.

An affirming and emphatic performance on a huge occasion for Holding Absence, they made that stage their own and delivered a performance that will stay in fans’ memories for a long time.

Dream State

Gleefully stating “I’ve never played to this many people in my life”, Dream State’s Jessie Powell is entirely in her element. Fresh off the back of a sold-out UK tour and enjoying a rebirth under this new, refreshed, line-up, this Welsh four-piece take to The Cave with a point to prove. “We are Dream State and we’re here to stay” affirms Powell after delivering one of the standout performances of the entire weekend. Meandering between delicately nuanced to devastatingly visceral with apparent ease, the vocalist dominated her stage and her audience every step of the way.

‘Chin Up Princess’ is their most recent release, and fans have already taken to it swimmingly, with the nutty breakdown eliciting something close to pandemonium in the crowd. Someone was crowd surfing inside a pop-up tent which was, no doubt, useless thanks to the inclement weather. Older cuts were also well received, with Powell adopting a commanding approach to songs that she is still relatively new to adopting. It’s an exciting time for Dream State and, if their set at 2000trees is anything to go by, they’re not just back in action, they’re better than ever.

Deaf Havana

Driven by brothers James and Matthew Veck-Gilodi, Deaf Havana have been an ever-present force in these circles. Despite a myriad of line-up changes, the pair are nothing if not persistent in their craft. Today feels a world away from breakout record ‘Fools and Worthless Liars’ and even further from the outright hardcore debut ‘Meet Me Halfway, At Least’ but it’s no wonder, that was over a decade ago. Diversifying and eventually settling into their current pop-rock dynamic made for comfortable listening, the focal point of their performance clearly being the vocals of James Veck-Gilodi which have evolved to be nothing short of excellent.

While the brothers have very similar voices, Matthew more than capably props up his brother to take centre stage, with ‘Hell’ in particular standing as a proper showcase of just how much value can be found in these voices. Unfortunately, an already relatively sparse crowd for the main stage was only thinned out further when the heavens opened up and the rain started lashing down. Many swiftly bailed to seek shelter and it was clear that the band didn’t blame them one bit.

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes

Tasked with capping off the entire weekend, Frank Carter has been a servant to the scene for decades and fewer deserve this platform more than him. A master frontman, one of the greatest to ever do it, he works his audience with expert precision, all the while delivering a set that sounds infinitely more colossal in a live setting. Having stripped away the edge to their music in recent years, it was refreshing to hear that the band still have an abundance of bite left as they launch through ‘Tyrant Lizard King’ with as much vigour as the likes of ‘Devil Inside Me’ and ‘Juggernaut’.

Complete with a pyro show, confetti, and a cameo from the ever-striking Lynks on ‘Bang Bang’ and ‘Go Get A Tattoo’, the entire performance had an air of grandiose fitting for such an occasion. Bowing out with the iconic ‘I Hate You’, there is always a morbid beauty to this song; lyrics so spiteful sung so passionately by so many voices. While the earlier onslaught of rain may well have resulted in the crowd being sparser than it would have been on another day, thousands of cheers still rattled through the rolling Cotswolds hills for one last time with the magnificent Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes the perfect orchestrators to see us all out.