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LIVE: 2000trees Festival 2023 – Thursday

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?  The rolling hills of the Cotswolds are […]



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? 

The rolling hills of the Cotswolds are looking particularly enticing as pundits first start dragging camping gear (not to mention copious amounts of booze) through the fields of Upcote Farm. Dew-dappled grass graciously makes way for polyester ground sheets, the spongy soil hugging tent pegs, willing to play their part in providing a haven for thousands of heavy music fans to rest their no-doubt-pounding heads.

Buckle up then! The bands are about to start, and there’s plenty of fun to be had, kicking off with…

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

Gaffa Tape Sandy

Not even an errant wasp making their way past security and getting up in vocalist/bassist Catherine Neilson’s business was enough to stop this Brighton-based trio from missing a beat in their set. A punchy thirty minutes of easy punk marked a fantastic start to what was about to be a very busy, very loud day.

The beauty of Gaffa Tape Sandy is simply in the accessibility of their music. Each song coming with its own hook kept heads nodding and toes tapping throughout a crowd that just kept getting bigger after every song that the band rattled through. Standout performances came in the jaunty ‘Beehive’ and ‘Headlights’, the call and response between Neilson and vocalist/guitarist Kim Jarvis a perfect marker of the synergy throughout the band. A perfect gateway, not just for this year’s 2000trees festival, but for heavy music in general.


Taking full ownership of the festival’s biggest stage with a confidence that filled the space, one can’t help but feel like Ithaca are in their element. Fronted by the tour-de-force that is Djamila Boden Azzouz, the London five-piece cut a powerhouse image and on that Thursday afternoon especially, they meant business.

Showcasing a well-balanced setlist, with plenty of cuts from Punktastic’s number one album of 2022, ‘They Fear Us’, the likes of ‘The Future Says Thank You’ and ‘Camera Eats First’ were delivered in emphatic fashion, performed unflinchingly by each member. A mention must go to guitarist Sam Chetan-Welsh who flawlessly executed intricate riffs with an apparent ease that was just such a treat to watch. Most important, of course, is the message that Ithaca promote, with Chetan-Welsh taking a moment in between melting faces to speak on the importance of health, growth and positive change. Ithaca are a band with bigger things on their mind than their already colossal music – long may it continue.

Graphic Nature

One of the most exciting outfits of the UK hardcore scene, Kentish quintet Graphic Nature brought their brash brand of nu-metal to The Cave stage and threatened to bring the whole thing down on the first day. Texturally rich thanks to electronic backing elements bedded underneath obscenely down-tuned guitars, this lot sounded brutal in the best way possible. Cuts like ‘Killing Floor’ and ‘Sour’ from this year’s debut album ‘A Mind Waiting To Die’ whipped the crowd into a frenzy, with frontman Harvey Freeman orchestrating their every move from the start.

Freeman was another artist to seize the opportunity to share words of support with his audience: “I ain’t the only one here today going through shit”. It’s astounding how music so abrasive can reflect such a safe place for so many and yet the band and listeners alike felt entirely united in this experience, and what an experience it was.

Prince Daddy & The Hyena

After releasing their most accomplished work to date in 2022’s self-titled LP, Prince Daddy & The Hyena seem to have the world at their feet. That said, the licence to be able to open a set with a song called ‘***HIDDEN TRACK***’ from their first EP ‘Adult Summers’, and for it to be met with the rapture that it was in The Axiom that afternoon, demonstrates that this band are already cemented as cult heroes to many. Other older cuts like ‘Really?’ and ‘I Forgot to Take My Meds Today’ similarly hit the mark, with fans yelling every syllable back at the New York four-piece.

However, it was during the likes of ‘Shoelaces’, ‘Keep Up That Talk’ and ‘El Dorado’ that the quality really started to shine through. Despite recurrent technical issues causing a pause in the set (during which the band awkwardly fumbled through some Weezer and The Beatles riffs), the crowd were constantly onboard. If anyone in that tent wasn’t a fan of Prince Daddy & The Hyena before the show, they would surely have been won over by the band’s sincerity and endearing approach to their craft.

Kid Kapichi

Having debuted at the festival for the first time last year, Kid Kapichi’s elevation from an opening slot in the Cave to the Main Stage is unarguably justified. The band’s debut album ‘This Time Next Year’ and 2022’s ‘Here’s What You Could Have Won’ are littered with hits which delivered an action-packed setlist in the roaring sunshine. Their powerful, politically charged music and palpable stage presence meant that they had the 2000trees faithful in the palm of their hands – while chucking chocolate bars into the crowd before crashing into ‘Rob the Supermarket’ also helped build morale.

The swaggering ‘I.N.V.U’ was undoubtedly a highlight of the set, as the crowd danced along to the catchy chorus. While the band also displayed their more poised songwriting capabilities with ‘5 Days On (2 Days Off)’ and ‘Party at No. 10’ which captured the energy of the festival, confirming it to be a safe space to rebel against the bureaucracy of the everyday. The band oozes confidence in their performances and the aura they create is sure to see them continue to grow, maybe into a 2000trees headliner one day. Watch this space…

The Wonder Years

The impressive growth of 2000trees can be measured by the increasing number of bands on the line-up that have chosen to exclusively travel to the event just to play their set and then return home. One of these bands was The Wonder Years who, having last played the festival to a packed Cave tent in 2021, made their return in a prime slot on the Main Stage.

Traversing some uncharacteristic Main Stage sound issues through the opening ‘Cardinals’ and ‘Cardinals II’, the band quickly found their stride as the sizable crowd anthemically chanted “We’re no saviours if we can’t save our brothers” back at the sextuplet. The setlist blended old favourites with the highlights of their newest album – ‘The Hum Goes on Forever’ – which were all met with similar energy and passion from the respectable crowd.

Elation over the band’s return to the UK was only elevated with the exclusive announcement that they would be returning in November to play a handful of shows to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their genre-defining album, ‘The Greatest Generation’. The set was perfectly concluded with the anthemic ‘You’re the Reason I Don’t Want the World to End’ and, of course, their staple hit, ‘Came Out Swinging’ – which, as the opening drum pattern crashed in, pandemonium erupted amongst the band’s most dedicated fans.


The closest experience in likeness to seeing Skindred live is that of riding a rollercoaster at a theme park. The brilliantly eccentric frontman Benji Webbe was born to do precisely this and he seizes his opportunity to perform every single time he takes to the stage. With what was comfortably the biggest crowd of the festival to that point in the palm of their hands, Skindred delivered a non-stop setlist of unique reggae/metal riots that kept everyone engaged and guessing until the final note.

Whether it was the bizarre ‘Wonderwall’ cover spliced into ‘Rat Race’ or the ‘Back In Black’ refrain during ‘Pressure’, there was always something to keep those smiles plastered across everyone’s faces. Naturally, ‘Nobody’ from the band’s debut 2004 LP ‘Babylon’ was a hotly anticipated number and did not fail to disappoint. Then, closing out with ‘Warning’, complete with a gorgeously observed “Newport Helicopter” (fans are welcome to take off their top and frantically swing it above their heads) was the perfect argument for why Skindred could comfortably be headlining this festival.

Soft Play

After a long four years out of the game, Kentish duo Soft Play (formerly known as Slaves) were back and on the festival’s biggest stage with a point to prove. Only giving themselves one warm-up show at their hometown’s Tunbridge Wells Forum a few nights prior, it was no doubt a tough ask for Isaac Holman and Laurie Vincent to headline the first day. Any doubts were briskly brushed away after the opening chords to ‘Sockets’ rang through the air, bringing with them an electric giddiness completed by just a hint of nostalgia.

There was a party vibe throughout the performance, namely during ‘Feed The Mantaray’ which saw a pundit dressed as a mantaray pulled from the crowd to dance on the stage before surfing across the sea of sweaty bodies. Furthermore, Soft Play’s cover of Skepta’s ‘Shutdown’ has become somewhat quintessential to the band and, even with Holman addressing the irony of the matter before launching into the song, it got everyone moving and shouting the song’s title back with venom.

There was a certain element of relief to hear long-term mainstays to the Soft Play arsenal like ‘Fuck The Hi-Hat’, ‘Where’s Your Car Debbie?’ and ‘Girl Fight’ amongst the songs played by the pair on the night. Even though this return marks the start of a new era for Soft Play, they are still firmly in touch with what propelled them to such status in the first place. Brazen and loutish, their formula is simple on the surface, but it works. Yes, they may have a new name and, yes, Holman himself referred to them as “soft cunts” during the show but rest assured, there’s nothing soft about these two.

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