Saturday at 2000 Trees proved once again that, while there are many differing opinions on what the best festival in the country is, there are certainly none that have a better eye for talent than the Cheltenham-based event. This was a lineup of old heroes, new contenders, and more than a few surprises. Oh, and possibly the best band on the planet on at 2pm.
The band in question is Dead Poet Society. We have talked about this band on this channel before, and Saturday’s set reaffirmed our view – this band is special. Starting off to a sparse crowd, they quickly drew in interested bystanders to the main stage with their glorious noise, ending in a full moshpit and singer Jack Underkofler endearing himself with some early-afternoon crowd-surfing. From the singalong blues rock of ‘.CoDa.’, the savage noise of ‘.Salt.’ and the tender vocals of ‘.AmericanBlood.’, the Californians showed the full range of their skills, and surely won themselves a lot of new fans in the process. Oh captain my captain, what a band.
Speaking of hotly-tipped new bands, Enola Gay were next. The Belfast band have built themselves a fearsome reputation behind their incendiary live shows and any doubts as to whether this would translate to the festival stage were quickly dispelled with an intense, fiery set. Their mix of noisy guitars, sharp electronic effects and groovy drumming was absolutely intoxicating, driving a lively moshpit into a frenzy and never letting up. They have really good songs too, particularly recent single ‘Leeches’. Frankly, I was exhausted after watching these, but dying to see them again.
I needed to decompress a little after and Electric Six were just the ticket. Sure, everyone was here to see ‘Danger! High Voltage’ and ‘Gay Bar’ but the cool tunes and Dick Valentine’s fun banter kept a large crowd engaged throughout. There was a real party atmosphere for this one with inflatables galore, a chap standing on the crowd in just his underpants (I would say I salute you, sir, but you definitely beat me to it), and what my son described as the most polite crowd he had ever seen, more conga line than moshpit. Particularly entertaining was Valentine’s story (probably fictitious) about how a woman had stopped them when they were filling up with gas in Bourton-on-Water (sic) to tell them that Electric Six weren’t cool any more. Of course Electric Six are cool. They always will be.
Next up were the first big surprise of the day, Black Honey. This author had largely disregarded this band after seeing them perform an uninspiring support set for Royal Blood in late 2017, but it is now apparent that that was a massive mistake. This band is unrecognisable from that incarnation, displaying powerful riffs and some truly sensational vocals from Izzy Phillips. Set-closer ‘Corrine’ was probably the song of the day and you kinda felt like you were watching a band that could end up playing much bigger stages than this.
The next big surprise was The St Pierre Snake Invasion, not because they were great (they always are), but because they weren’t supposed to be there. Their booking to replace the illness-hit Loathe had been announced on social media, but this was of limited use given that basically nobody had any signal at the festival site. No matter, the Bristol five-piece absolutely tore it up with an explosive set, based heavily around magnificent recent albumGalore, which inspired (among other things) an outbreak of rowing in the middle of the moshpit. You don’t see that every day.
Next up were Pitchshifter, and this was maybe the big story of the day. The industrial rock pioneers were playing nu-metal before nu-metal was even a thing, and incorporated drum-and-bass into a rock sound alongside acts like The Prodigy, but had not played a show in five years before last weekend. The large and vociferous crowd for their set, though, proved that they were far from forgotten, and they responded with a quite magnificent set. ‘Microwaved’ and ‘Genius’ were expected highlights, but probably the best moment was the fearsome bass of ‘Subject to Status’. Great to have them back.
After all this, it was hard to believe that anyone could possibly have energy for more. Yet, they had to, because the headliner was Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes. The Rattlesnakes had been largely dormant so far in 2023 prior to Saturday, and they clearly had some excess energy they wanted to burn off. Their 19-song set was a foray through all of their best work so far, and it certainly did not disappoint. Particularly memorable was the large women-and-nonbinary-only moshpit that Frank created for ‘Wild Flowers’ – this is something that he does quite regularly, but on Saturday night, it was ENORMOUS, and UTTERLY INSANE. The sight of girls running excitedly towards the front when he announced it was really quite something, and a timely reminder that we need to foster an environment where girls feel safe to do this all the time.
Goodness me, what a day. 2000 Trees bookers, you guys are too good to us. See you next year.