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John’s other coverage of 2000 Trees in 2014 is here.
The final day of music at any festival is a catastrophe of decisions – do you pack up early so you can cheese it as soon as the final band of the day leaves the stage? Or perhaps you get so wasted that your friend is forced into driving the first leg away, while you nap and slowly wee yourself in the back seat? Or maybe you have a sober day, sleep in your tent and sneak of in the early hours of the morning so you don’t have to say goodbye to the associated band of brothers you’ve collected around your pitch?
I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s enough to drive a sane man completely off his rocker in a bad way. With the proverbial dilemma whirling around my head, I decided the best way to banish the thoughts to my head was with some loud music.
Opening the Main Stage for the Saturday were Essex six-piece The Dead Formats – a band I hadn’t heard of, but ended up being pleasantly surprised by. I’m always suspicious of a band that turns out with dual vocalists; my mind always goes immediately to the image of two guys with equally inadequate vocal ranges, battling against each other and in the end sounding like a bit of a mess.
Luckily, The Dead Formats had two incredibly talented geezers behind the microphone and immediately made an impact with their ‘80s punk inspired tunes. They’re a band still finding their feet on a big stage, as every member looked palpably nervous with the prospect of playing to such a wide expanse. They grew into the set though and eventually had people shaking off their early morning grogginess at the front of the pit. (7/10)
Regrettably after a strong opening, I moved back to The Cave to check out the highly fancied, but inexplicably named &U&I. The Birmingham-born threesome had little to endear them to the crowd from the beginning. The songs were entirely forgettable and tended to blend horribly into one after their 30-minute set had concluded, in a flurry of riffs and yelps. (4/10)
It was a move from surprising disappointment, to astonishing shock when I came back to the Main Stage to get a look at Nathan Connolly of Snow Patrol fame and his new supergroup Little Matador (pictured at top at another gig in 2013). On stage they look like a group of grizzled veterans, not in an Expendables 3 way, but in the way you’d want a supergroup to be. They had an air of control over the crowd from the start, without really doing much at all.
Connolly has immense stage presence and immediately commanded the gathering crowd to his will, blasting out some groovy, almost sleaze-rock. There was no rubbish in their set, no waste, no gimmicks. Just a group of grizzled rock troupers with guitars, bass and drums going hell-bent for leather to give the crowd something to bang their head to. I hope they don’t get swept away in the whole “he was in Snow Patrol, so they cannot be truly rock” argument, because nothing is further from the truth. Arguably, Connolly’s experience in the band has honed him into the man who dominated the Main Stage at Upcote Farm. (8/10)
With Kids in Glass Houses bowing out this year and having played 2000 Trees the day before, there is an opening in the UK for a lively pop-punky You Me at Six lite. Enter Blitz Kids, the heirs apparent to the throne that the Kids will be vacating in October. They’ve got all the needed credentials as a group of four good-looking young lads in baggy vests, gallivanting around the stage like nobody’s business!
They’ve got the tunes to back up the look, though: set closer ‘On My Own’ provoked one of the biggest mass sing-alongs of the weekend, whilst ‘Never Die’ inspired an excitable reaction from the gathered group of teenage girls and young blokes with poorly finished sleeve tattoos. Frontman Jono Yates has got some great on-stage banter to back up his excellent form on Twitter, and mid-way through Saturday, they pulled out one of the sets of the weekend. On Facebook they describe themselves as “4 best mates making music for the love of it”, and the set they pulled out certainly made it look like that. These boys are going to get very big very quickly – perhaps the Kids in Glass Houses’ throne isn’t big enough? (8/10)
Stay tuned for the conclusion of John’s coverage of 2000 Trees – including results of the fancy dress contest! – tomorrow.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 6th August 2014 at 4:00 pm
Glass Animals were one of the bands chosen to perform at this year’s Meltdown Festival, curated in 2014 by UNKLE‘s James Lavelle. The annual event in London takes place at the Southbank Centre and back in June, the Oxford band’s appearance had the distinction of having the most jungle-y backdrop of their career so far, with indoor lush vegetation to set the mood, along with the usual requisite fog and strobes seen at their shows.
Although they had to cut their set short due to parts of the ceiling coming down in the middle of their set (personally, I suspect the vibrations from the bass line of ‘Toes’ from their debut album ‘Zaba’ to have been the culprit), their performance of ‘Black Mambo’ from the night of 18 June has been committed to video, as shared by American entertainment magazine Entertainment Weekly yesterday. (They’re doing pretty well stateside.) Watch the letterbox-y presentation, filmed by Georgio Testi, below.
Catch Glass Animals on tour in the UK in October.
On Saturday the 26th of July, on the occasion of its fifth birthday, Deer Shed Festival finally came of age. I mean no disrespect to Villagers or Darwin Deez, but Johnny Marr is the perfect climax to Saturday night at Deer Shed. He drew a crowd to Baldersby Park’s gently sloping natural auditorium unmatched in both size and enthusiasm than in any previous year. By virtue of writing the music to countless songs that soundtracked the lives of the adults in the crowd when they were young, free, and unencumbered by the offspring who were variously marauding around the site in frenzied glee or asleep in their arms despite the noise, for an hour or so they gave Marr their undivided attention and appreciation as he reeled off one classic after another.
Even though perhaps not as much a household name as his Smithsian lyricist and singer, by virtue of avoiding the latter’s rum pronouncements on vegetarianism, race, and sexuality, and sticking to what he does best – playing decent music – Marr succeeds in a similar, but much larger fashion, to that which Gaz Coombes did the previous year. A combination of life-affirming back catalogue hits, each of which instantly evoke dusty memories of life past, together with new material that easily stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the older stuff, is a recipe for success at Deer Shed Festival. Thusly are memories of the future made.
But Deer Shed Festival is far from being just the Johnny Marr show, and the adventure commenced the previous sultry afternoon. For those that don’t know, Deer Shed festival is held in North Yorkshire, just off the A1 on the way to Thirsk, in the beautiful grounds of Baldersby Park. The unwritten rule of Deer Shed: bring the kids. Even though the music is as good as anywhere, the real focus is on giving children a good time throughout the weekend, so if you’ve an aversion to the little blighters, look elsewhere. If you need an event where the kids are kept amused as Dad moshes down the front, Deer Shed is for you.
After a less-than-arduous 5-minute walk from car park to campsite, silently congratulating oneself for attending an event of a sensible acreage, and a bout of fumbling with canvas and string in the baking hot sunshine, refreshment and musical entertainment are less desired than demanded. Teleman were welcome succour. Comprising three of the admired Pete and the Pirates but swapping jaunty guitars for more considered electronica-enhanced melodies, they mix Erasure’s way with a dramatic synth-pop arc with Belle and Sebastian’s observational twee. All We Are eased the main stage into the late afternoon sunshine with the gentle ebb and flow of their gently atmospheric, shoegaze-influenced pop. Contenders for “The xx imitators of the Year” award, along with Woman’s Hour.
PINS are impeccable now. Watching them transform from a rickety band of noiseniks just a couple of years ago into today’s whirlwind of glamour and red lipstick is a life-affirming experience. They combine the power of 1970s New York glam-punk rock with an overlaid sweetness of melody and delicacy of touch comparable with any Supremes classic. While the phrase “girl band” has loaded connotations of manufactured, shallow pop nonsense, bands like PINS are doing their best to reclaim it for groups of talented musicians who just happen to be women. Whether or not there’s any great feminist insight is open to debate, but nevertheless, theirs was one of the performances of the weekend.
Next comes the only major misstep of programming of the whole weekend. Just as the sun starts to think about lazily drifting towards the horizon, and the main stage crowd are tucking into their evening meal of organic houmous and vintage prosecco, along come Toy to blast away the early evening reverie. On record, TOY are more considered, melodic, and song-focused, but live they come across as an incessant wall of noise; they’ve got three guitars and they’re going to turn it them all up to 11. ‘Join the Dots’, the title track from their début album, is a case in point – its climax of multi-layered guitars, phased into the next universe, is an undoubtedly viscerally thrilling piece of music, but perhaps not enjoyable if it disturbs little Johnny’s digestion and makes the whole family go scrabbling around for the ear defenders.
It’s not that they’re a bad band. Far from it. In fact, along with Temples, they’re one of the most convincing neo-psych bands in the country right now. But in this instance it’s a case of right band, wrong stage. Various overheard grumbles pay testament, including the old classic, “it’s just noise!” A considerable chunk of the Deer Shed crowd rock up to the main stage auditorium in the morning with their camping chairs and stay there all day, so in a way have little choice as to what they are made to listen to. Whatever is on the main stage influences the enjoyment of the entire site, and the Friday evening slot needs to be something less challenging, a little funkier, to properly match the mood of the audience.
A band on the correct stage are Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – they play the tented Lodge stage, so aural participation is distinctly optional – but certainly recommended. Pip’s gently political and moderately sweary diatribes (“that last song had an MF in it, sorry parents!”) combined with Sac’s dubstep-flavoured soundtrack excites many audience members into a display of such extrovert dad-dancing that any child would be excruciatingly embarrassed. The atmosphere in the tent is genuinely charged with enthusiasm; Deer Shed’s first foray into urban/rap/hip-hop is superbly received. More please. In common with several other acts, Pip seems genuinely pleased to have such a diverse range of ages in the audience – officially the most people on shoulders ever at one of their gigs, as children are raised aloft to experience “the man with his head on upside down”.
The main stage headliner is British Sea Power, but inevitably for many parents their slot coincided with trying to settle one or more very excited children to sleep. They sounded great from the campsite. When eventually the kids are settled, the last attraction of Friday is the genius that is Darius Battiwalla accompanying a silent film: this year, The Hunchback Of Notre Dame. It was intended to be The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari but had to be changed for licensing reasons, which would have suited the time travel theme far better, and also the patience of the crowd: Caligari is a mere 67 minutes long, whereas Hunchback is over 2 hours. Whilst I’d happily listen to Battiwalla play over a cornflake advert, that’s a long time to spend watching Lon Cheney gurning, and by the time the film’s impenetrable plot reached its climax, the audience were variously physically uncomfortable or sound asleep. It’s surprising how loud a small boy’s snores can be in the auditorium of a silent film!
Stay tuned for more of Martin’s coverage of Deer Shed coming soon on TGTF.
The first half of John’s Friday coverage of 2000 Trees 2014 is here.
Following up from Itch, were a three-piece described by my camp next-door neighbours as “his new favourite band of the last year and a half”. Arcane Roots, have undergone an extraordinary rise through the ranks of British rock, to become one of the most well thought of bands in the UK at the moment. They’ve toured with the likes of Muse and Biffy Clyro and seem to be taking the same path as the Scottish behemoths of rock. Building an underground following with complex riffery, high-pitched screamery and dreamy beardery, they’re only a ‘Puzzle’ away from exploding onto the world scene in a big way.
At Upcote Farm, they opened with their newest standalone single ‘Over and Over’ and immediately began about dominating the vast stage, by swinging themselves around as they picked away. On the times I’ve seen Arcane Roots they’ve always opened with ‘Energy is Never Lost, Just Redirected’, which has a slow build up and normally has the crowd bursting with energy when the riff drops,. However in this shorter festival set, there were a few changes which meant the set as a whole was less fluid then in the past.
Still, the delivery from the three-piece was frenetic and superb and left a lot of the crowd joining in with my neighbour. “They’re my new favourite band! I’m going to download their back catalogue when I get home.” Success. (7/10)
I was surprised by this next act. Mainly due to the fact I forgot they were still a functioning entity, after being dropped by their label. But low and behold You Me at Six-lite… I mean Kids in Glass Houses strode onto stage as if not a year had passed since ‘Give Me What I Want’ had been the anthem(ish) of the year.
It was a joyful last hurrah from the Kids, seeing as they are ready to embark upon their farewell tour after 11 or so years of peddling pop-punk. The songs were catchy and poppy enough to sing along to, especially if you were one of the 1,000 girls clad in denim shorts that just aren’t big enough for you. Some of the older rock purists gathered around me near the sound desk scoffed at the lovelorn tales of teenage angst. I suppose Kids in Glass Houses are a generational thing.
But, to anybody who was looking for a shameless good time, as well as a little dance in front of the Main Stage the Welsh five-piece were exactly what the doctor ordered. Songs like ‘Undercover Lover’ may sound like they’ve been ripped from a High School Musical soundtrack, but in the Gloucestershire sunshine they proved popular. I won’t be one to shed a tear when the group say their final good byes, but after their bouncing, peppy 2000 Trees set, I certainly won’t be saying ‘good riddance’. (7/10)
From preppy, plucky, pop-punk plush to sweaty, sweary screamcore. Everybody in The Cave knew they were in for an ear battering from Trash Talk’s Lee Spielman. Having seen them for the first time only a week previously at Sonisphere, I knew unless I wanted to be caught up in a swirling mass of enforced circle pits, I should stand a good distance to the back of the circus tent which formed The Cave.
From the moment the four-piece arrived on stage the crowd were battered by wave after wave of short, sharp bursts of sound. Trash Talk aren’t the type to mess about and frontman Spielman isn’t the kind of man who enjoys the confines of a stage. No, he’s far more at home amongst the crowd, inciting violence at any opportunity and giving any punter a go with the microphone. (8/10)
Back at the Main Stage, Blood Red Shoes provided one of the most memorable sets of the weekend for two reasons. Firstly, for the fact that as a live outfit, the twosome are a superb band, with a great set of DIY credentials and a fast paced live show like none other. The other reason being that Laura-Mary Carter took offence (for good reason) with a fan in the crowd who looked like he was giving the band the Vs for the entire set. Not cool. Not cool at all and although I hate the word vibe, completely out of touch with the festival’s extremely friendly vibe. Carter midway through the set looked up, pointed in the crowd and told the offending gentleman that he was a “wanker” and he could “fuck off”. The only problem with that being, that pointing out from the Main Stage, half the crowd thought she was pointing at them and looked horror-struck at the accusations.
Unpleasantness aside, it’s no surprise that in the programme the Trees organisers claimed they’ve been trying to get Blood Red Shoes for a number of years. They’re still young, they’re innovative and even after 10 years of touring, they’re still one of the bands championing good, honest British rock music.
Drawing from their immense back catalogue and partly from their most recent self-titled album, the duo roared through an lively hour-long set where the band failed to miss a note. Steven Ansell played the drums like a man possessed and held no quarter when smashing two shades of shit out of the kit at times. Carter, fired up with rage, stomped around the stage like a rock goddess, full of fury and presence. (9/10)
Now, I had some reservations when I saw Band of Skulls (pictured at top) as the headline act on the bill. They put on a superb live show, of that there is no doubt. But do they have enough big tunes to close a festival? Even a small festival like 2000 Trees? How wrong I was proved over their hour and half set.
At quarter to 9 when the three-piece strode on stage, the light was just leaving the sky and the immense canopy behind the Main Stage was lighting up magnificently, showcasing all of the beauty I’d come to expect from the Upcote Farm stage.
Despite the glorious scenery around the stage, it was what was happening right in the middle of it all which held be captivated. Matt Hayward on the drums put in arguably one of the most perfect drumming performances that I’ve ever seen. The power behind every beat was insurmountable and sent a wave of bass across the small arena. It’s a good job Upcote Farm is out of the city, as if Hayward was smashing away at that time at Reading Festival, he’d have sent the entire population barmy with sleep deprivation. Hayward’s immense showing on the drums was matched by the marauding presence of bassist Emma Richardson, who strut about the stage like a giant. Finishing it all off was Russell Marsden, who took every opportunity to thank the ever-appreciative 2000 Trees crowd, who loved every second of the set.
I thought it was a risk playing their most well-known anthem ‘I Know What I Am’ early on in the set, but as a live outfit ‘You’re Not Pretty But You Got It Going On’ and ‘Death by Diamonds and Pearls’ were given a revitalisation and pumped out of the speakers with a ferocity which caused the Trees crowd to get worked up into a frenzy.
Every song had an enormous stomping beat to it and a singalong chorus to boot. The perfect end, to a superb day of British music – and undoubtedly unearthing headline talent of the future. (10/10)
Enjoying TGTF’s coverage of 2000 Trees 2014? More of John’s reports will post soon.
The concept of a lie-in at a festival is a flawed ideal. That was my initial discovery as I scraped myself of the floor of my tent – unsticking my back from the plastic ground sheet after all the sweat had caused the tent and I to have become moulded together in some unholy union. The problem being that on a beautiful summer’s morning – like the one every 2000 Trees reveller woke up to on the Friday morning – tents effectively become mini-greenhouses, where huddled safely in your sleeping bag, you become a pig roasting in a blanket. But far less delicious. 2000 Trees frowns upon acts of cannibalism.
Once I’d extracted myself from the pressure cooked vacuum that was my tent, I staggered towards the nearest vender and bought something palatable enough to be called food. I think they were churros. Questionable food selection aside, my early mid-morning stagger brought me to the Main Stage. Overlooked by the canopy of some beautiful oak trees the Main Stage at 2000 Trees is mightily impressive (especially at night when the aforementioned canopy is lit up), the stage is around the same size as the Other Stage at Glastonbury if you’re looking for a worthwhile comparison.
First up were a band I had planned to get stuck into, Emp!re. Partly because I enjoyed them on record and thought they were underwhelming supporting Arcane Roots at XOYO a few months back. But mainly because our camp next door neighbours all had Emp!re tattoos and one of them was the lead singer’s girlfriend (despite how camp Joe Green is, he is most definitely straight), so they would probably have beaten me up if I’d missed them.
To my delight, Emp!re were the polar opposite of the band I laid eyes upon in the clammy confines of XOYO. Gallivanting around the stage with hands flailing everywhere, Joe Green was a bastion of enthusiasm, even at midday. The perfect cure for any badgers cider induced hangover if you spent too much time last night propping up the Big Lebowski Bar. The set had all the hallmarks of a classic: James L’Esteve, Dave Thomas and Jon Tupper all looked as up for it as you could be on the first day of a festival. Revellers even laid down their swing ball bats as they were entranced by the siren like yelps of Joe Green from atop the Main Stage.
Green’s maturity as a frontman has come on in leaps and bounds in the past few months and while there was some witty impromptu banter – interspersed with gasps for air – Green let the solid tunes in Emp!re’s arsenal do the talking. Understandably due to obvious factors, Green will always draw comparisons with Skindred’s Benji Webbe, but little could be further from the actual truth. The two are as similar as the Queen and Kim Jong-Il. (8/10)
From an energetic lively frontman, bursting with charisma and charm – to an utterly charmless carbon copy of any indie band doing the rounds at the moment, next up were Natives. Showing about as much presence on stage as a sack of potatoes, Natives chugged through a disappointingly lazy and predictable set, which showcased absolutely none of the reasons why they’ve been touted as potential stars of 2014.
The songs were utterly forgettable and the crowd had absolutely no time for it, as vast swathes of the crowd which had gathered for Emp!re trudged their way back to The Cave, disappointed and unfulfilled. (3/10)
Luckily, we were treated on the Main Stage to the polar opposite of Natives, Slaves. Two men, a pair of drums and a guitar.
• D.I.Y credentials, check.
• Punky sense of energy, check.
• Ability to not give a shit how they sound, check.
The Main Stage was in for a pounding.
Slaves provided arguably the soundtrack for the first true day of the festival. ‘Where’s Your Car Debbie?’ is a song which Isaac Holman and Laurie Vincent say was inspired by a time “when they were walking through a forest and looking for a car with a girl named Debbie”. The gloriously simple songwriting, with a touch of ‘Teddy Bears’ Picnic’-esque suspense in the middle makes for a huge tune that every member of the crowd loved.
The impact of the entire set was obvious, seeing as afterwards everyone around the Main Stage was still shouting, ‘where’s your car Debbie!’. A superb slab of DIY punk, delivered with no bollocks, no pomp, just passion. (8/10)
From the most underdressed punks, to a motley crew of overdressed punks in the form of The Computers. Once purveyors of brutal garage punk, their last album ‘Love Triangles Hate Squares’ was dripping with soul. It was left-field that’s for sure, but with catchy toe-tappingly jazzy tracks like ‘Bring Me the Head of a Hipster’ littering the record and Alex Kershaw’s effervescent sense of exuberance, the set was bound to turn a lot of heads at Trees.
Drawing primarily from their most recent album, the band tore through a frantic set. The funky, soul styling Computers were going for a mid-afternoon set that went down a storm as oldies and young’uns alike got themselves swinging. The crescendo was a glorious ‘Wall of Death’ orchestrated by Kershaw, which saw the lead singer screaming his lungs out in the middle as a torrent of a thousand people crashed in from both sides. If you want evidence of how it looked, take a gander this live footage filmed from a safe distance away. ‘Oh My Soul!’ (9/10)
Next up was Itch (pictured at top) of former The King Blues’ fame, who is cutting his teeth as a solo artist now. In 2009 the full band went down as one of the weekend’ highlights, so it was a shame that on one of his returns, as a solo artist Itch managed to provide one of the more lacklustre performances of the weekend.
Flanked by a creepy backing singer in a creepy crying baby mask – who to my view was androgynous in gender – Itch strutted around stage lazily, blurting out songs with some kind of lightly-veiled political sentiment. In reality, in the baking summer heat after the aural assault of The Computers, all people wanted to do was dance. Instead they were treated to a lethargic journey through the increasingly twisted psyche of Jonathan Fox.
In some instances, when his backing singer kicked in with an overly autotuned interlude, it felt like I was listening to the next in the conveyor belt of BBC Radio 1 rap stars, not the best new and underground British music. I wasn’t coming to watch Itch to see a Professor Green wannabe; I wanted something with an edge, something with a little venom. Regrettably though, it was a performance from one of 2000 Trees favoured sons that should most certainly be forgotten by both crowd and performer. (4/10)
More of John’s coverage of 2000 Trees 2014 will continue soon on TGTF.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 24th July 2014 at 4:00 pm
Newcastle’s Boy Jumps Ship have shared this live acoustic performance they filmed at this year’s Sonisphere for Gibson Guitars; it stars lead guitarist Jonathan Douglas and frontman/guitarist Si Todd. ‘Still Alive’ features on the band’s ‘Lovers & Fighters’ EP released in June and out now on Rude Records. (Read my review of the EP here.) Watch the performance below.