2000 Trees 2014: Thursday July 10th.
Upcote Farm’s annual demonstration on how music festivals should be done kicked off on Thursday with the early entry portion for what I shall label “V.I.Trees” and what is always a showstopping curtain raiser.
Nothing extravagant, just seven huge artists on one stage, sun on top of sun, fields of familiar faces and three days of non-stop music on its way.
Tents up, drinks in and Brighton’s Wild Cat Strike begin proceedings. Each year the quality of the band opening up The Cave is strikingly brilliant and this year is no exception, you’ve no idea how good these guys are.
Within one song they’ve already mentioned diazepam and acid kids so its fairly accurate to say they’re channeling a younger Conor Oberst’s angst to a certain extent.
WCS are Max Boughen charismatic guitarist complete with twirly moustache, Danny Byrom the tortured yet geniusly inspired front man, while Guy Jones‘ soul extorting backing vocals, bass and Mogis’ style slide guitar all rest upon the equally relentless and sparse foundation laid by Joe Caple‘s drums.
There’s powerful subtlety in their performance, everyone aware of what’s going on every second they’re up there. It’s a set that feels an hour long but in reality was only three songs. They’ve hit on something and are surrounded by people falling for it.
This is Barry Dolan’s Oxygen Thief and he loves this. Playing in his seventh year at the festival to a packed tent and they’re clapping along unprompted within 15 seconds of the first song, which shows the strength of the material- every individual line of this could be printed on a t-shirt.
This is a full band Oxygen Thief and a completely different beast to the one I saw playing a side stage a few years ago. While engrossing back then with its stripped back nature and just as remarkable lyrically, with the added dimensions now its taken on another form.
We’re all getting older and there’s introspection aplenty shown in the lyrics from most recent outing “Half-life of Facts” but Patience is a virtue cues up the biggest sing along and while there’s elements of irony in some of the crowd participation it seems like he might be starting to believe the adulation that is 100% deserved.
The frontman owns the stage for the time he’s up there, controlling the syncopated breaks in music before smashing through them with unreserved tenacity. There’s Dave Grohling on occasion, holding the crowd where he wants them before roaring through to the next level. It’s easy to forget you’re in a tent at times, this band are starting to sound arena sized.
The Retrospective Soundtrack Players occupy a niche in the spectrum, drawing inspiration exclusively from their favourite novels and films. So far their oeuvre includes two albums covering Paul Newman’s Cool Hand Luke and the brilliant yet teen-apathy inducing Catcher in the Rye.
Frontman Kyle Evans commands the stage and attention throughout delivering potent messages with unreserved passion.To the uninitiated they could be described as killeresque but that would be ignoring both the obvious and what makes them so compelling.
Their set was packed and yet the still managed to leave out a few classics including 50 eggs but the title tracks Cool Hand and Catcher in the Rye are the moments that define them. I don’t know why more bands don’t do this, saying that I’d just have them soundtracking Role Models and 21 Jump Street.
People in the know say Ben Marwood should be playing the mainstage and I’ve heard equally lofty praise every year he’s been here.
He’d already appeared onstage during TRSP’s set that also guested Oxygen Thief, that’s just the way things go around here and by the end of his set TRSP were up with him aswell. Everyone guesting with everyone, this is the Frank Turner effect.
Speaking of which, Marwood played a Postal Service cover at end the perfect The District Sleeps Alone Tonight which is the same one Turner used to play and it went down just as conclusively. A moment for sure.
Occupying the same space in their genre as Los Campesinos, Birmingham’s Johnny Foreigner are just as imperious. Since their inception in the middle of the last decade they’ve knocked out album after album full of emotive indie-pop guaranteeing at least a few that take their sets up a notch.
This years’ “You Can Do Better” didn’t buck the trend with Wi-Fi Beach, Riff Glitchard and Le Sigh already sounding like they’ll end up on any modern day equivalent of their greatest hits.
Their die hard support is here without a doubt, singing along to every word like they’ve just been featured on a lyric poster in Smash Hits. But it’s through indie-club dancefloor fillers Salt, Pepper & Spinderella, Feels like Summer and Eyes Wide Terrified where they capture more than just their devotees’ attention.
Up next is a complete punch in the throat in terms of transition from genre to genre. From Cornwall to Brighton Gnarwolves are at a certain level right now. The kind of level where your limited editions are going on ebay for monthly rent paying prices and inconceivable hype is making them unmissable.
People who are into this band are absolutely losing their minds as they erupt through their set. Bright and visceral musically as well as aesthetically,they can give you a migraine whether you’re looking or listening but either way you know you don’t have too much of a choice.
Everyone just goes plain old insane when Dan Le Sac drops the beat for stunner and the atmosphere is dangerously electric. Scroobius Pip‘s artistry of the spoken word is carefully balanced and never overawed. The dynamics of the set contrast slower more insightful moments with heavier DJ showcasing elements perfectly blended and equally as important.
Considering the genre it might be considered a little strange that Thou Shalt Always Kill has become the indie anthem that it has but wherever you pigeon hole it it’s one hell of a tune. The Beat that My Heart Skipped is also a highlight, along with the opener from Pip’s last solo outing “Introdiction“.
He drops the mic and the music is ended for the night after a cover of Prodigy’s Voodoo People and what a night it has been. This was only seven bands, a warm up for the main event. Even so it’s going to take a little bit of recovery from everyone afflicted by them this evening.
Later on I happened to catch Jim Lockey of Jim Lockey and the Solemn Sun who happened to mention he’s playing a secret solo show tomorrow night behind door number 7. More on that tomorrow…
Huge thanks to Dominic Meason & 2000 Trees for photography