2000trees 2014: The Definitive TwoBeatsOff Overview

This year, I decided to put a big middle finger up to Reading and Download. I said sayonara to Sonisphere and a big ol’ screw you to Glastonbury. No, this year, I decided to do something a bit smaller and a bit more local. I decided to do something where I didn’t need to camp, where I could just hang about and check out some stuff I’d never heard of before, and where I didn’t need to pay in excess of £200 for the privilege.

This year, I had a bloody nice time at 2000trees.

There were a lot of highlights, so I’m going to give everything nice headings and make it easier for you to dig out the good bits. There were a lot of great bands over the weekend, some gourmet food choices and plenty of glorious sunshine to keep us all going. Beautiful.

The one band you should have seen were…

The Blackout were on absolute top form this weekend. Those lads from Merthyr know how to party, as Sean Smith demonstrated early on by storming into the crown and starting a circle pit around himself. If you’re just a fan of witty stage banter, then The Blackout have you covered – during ‘We Are The Dynamite’, Sean Smith gave a bunch of uncool non-participants the choice of ‘have fun like everyone else or fuck off!’ And there were plenty of other golden moments too. But all in all, The Blackout have a great selection of big rock stompers, all of which came out to play at 2000trees and simply made the festival for me. Great stuff.

The five new bands you’ll love are…

Slaves – this two-piece punk band from Royal Tunbridge Wells are rowdy, abrasive, witty and disgustingly noisy. Entertaining to watch, unbelievable to listen to. Definitely your new favourite band and my top discovery of the weekend.

DZ Deathrays – it’s all about guitars and drums this year and nothing else. DZ Deathrays played a blinding set of scuzzy garage-punk thrashers to finish off the weekend. If you like it loud and proud with extremely catchy riffs, these guys are for you.

Youth Man – these Birmingham punks are equally terrifying and mesmerising. A bit doomy in places, a bit frenetic in others, they’re completely captivating. The music’s stupidly smart, and the live show is bloody mental. We reviewed them a while ago and loved them.

I, The Lion – if you like big Biffy Clyro-esque sounds but with more guitar smashing and lyrics that make even less sense, you’ll love I, The Lion. These Cheltenham locals opened up the Saturday and set the bar incredibly high for everyone else to follow.

Jamie Lenman – can you count Jamie Lenman as a new band? I will anyway. You may not have heard him as a solo project rather than as the former front man of the now-defunct UK titans Reuben. This year, he did a proper hardcore set based on the ‘Muscle’ side of his incredible album Muscle Memory (see our best of 2013 for more) and drew one of the biggest crowds of the festival.

Okay, the other bands you should have seen were…

Gnarwolves, Johnny Foreigner, The Bronx, Blood Red Shoes, Arcane Roots, Tall Ships and The Computers were all pretty good as well. However, special mention goes to Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip, who blasted out an amazing set of beats and bars. A massive rave went down on Thursday night, and it was great to finally catch DLS VS SP live!

The one band you’re going to miss are…

The last Kill Chaos set ever happened at 2000trees. Gutting. At least we’ll still have the records, right? PromisesPromises only just came out after all! I only discovered them last year on Jamie Lenman’s first solo tour and I am sad to see them disappear already. Here’s to seeing what happens next…

The most surreal festival moment was…

Seeing Dave McPherson off’ve InMe stroll out onto Jamie Lenman’s set to do a bit of screaming, without actually knowing the words, was a little bit bizarre. I know he was playing this weekend, but InMe were never really a shouty band at all. Kind of weird but mostly wonderful.

The best food stall was…

Props to Wide Awake Café for their delicious iced lattes and veggie burritos! Check them out at a festival near you.

The coolest item of merch was…

Uh, 2000trees sunglasses for a fiver? Yes mate.

Festival Dickhead of the Year Award goes to…

There was a guy who sat down under a tree and pulled out The Diary Of Anne Frank to sit and peruse on Friday afternoon. What a knob.

So, will we be doing 2000trees again? The answer is a great big resounding yes. What a good festival.

Notes from the Keybed: This Month in Synths

We bloody love synths at TBO. Usually in conjunction with very loud, shouty metal. But if you’ve been clamouring for a handy guide to this month’s electronic action, look no further than Charlie’s new column, Notes from the Keybed.

March was dominated by the somewhat sudden appearance of Skrillex’s debut album Recess. With little warning the US brostep don followed up his four-year run of EPs with a surprisingly diverse ten-tracker, showcasing his uncompromising production style from the mosh pit starting ‘Try It Out’ and ‘Ragga Bomb’ through to the glitch hop of ‘Doompy Poomp’ and the Burial-esque closer ‘Fire Away’. Having been used to the more immediate format of EPs the album does feel a bit disjointed in places, but it will inevitably propel Sonny Moore to even greater commercial success with radio friendly EDM singalong ‘Ease My Mind’ destined to soundtrack the festival fields of Summer 2014.

Continuing the theme of ‘orrible bass noises comes a new single release from Leamington’s finest Girls That Scream, who drop their cover of Labrinth’s Earthquake’. This live favourite has been doing the rounds at their shows for over a year now and has all the bounce of the popstep original countered with the band’s trademark eight string riffery and screaming vocals. It’s available now as a free download from SoundCloud.

Over to the indie world and the fantastic Fight Like Apes released a blinder of a new single in March. ‘Crouching Bees’ advances the Irish quartet’s love of 80’s synth music with a more mainstream pop sheen, which will surely appeal to today’s post-Chrvches hipsters. Although the single hints at a new-found maturity, the video will reassure fans of their earlier more playfully offensive material, ending with what can only be described as a masturbatory paintgasm. New EP Whigfield Sextape is out in May on Alcopop! Records.

More synth-packed new releases to make sure you pick up include wistful English singer-songwriter Paul Thomas Saunders’ debut album Beautiful Desolation. The record is out now and features stunningly heartfelt songwriting combined with shimmering synth sounds. Highlights include the haunting keyboard loops of ‘Kawai Celeste’ and euphoric string sounds of lead single ‘Good Women’.

This month also saw the release of a five-LP box set commemorating much-missed rave rockers LCD Soundsystem. The Long Goodbye is a recording of the band’s four hour long live show at New York’s Madison Square Garden, mixed by founding member James Murphy and featuring hits such as ‘Losing My Edge’, ‘Daft Punk Is Playing At My House’ and ‘Dance Yrself Clean’. It was released as part of Record Store Day on 19th April.

Synth punk fans need not despair though as taking up the mantle left by LCD are the frankly aces Heartsrevolution, who released new album Ride Or Die this month on OWSLA. The title track is a distorted riff-out for fans of Crystal Castles and Sleigh Bells. With an abundance of black and pink visuals, riot grrrl vocals and speaker smashing synths, the album is well worth your time.

Finally this month’s Keytar Hero award goes to Ben Rausch, who has been touring the UK with Johnny Foreigner, providing visuals controlled by a wireless Roland AX-7 keytar called Seafox! Tru punx.

Review: Johnny Foreigner – Stop Talking About Ghosts [single]

Fanboy alert! I need to start this review with a confession that Birmingham indie-emo-popsters Johnny Foreigner have been my favourite band since the release of third album Johnny Foreigner Vs Everything in 2011. Therefore it is hard to stay impartial, but let’s be honest, this is JoFo we’re talking about. How could this ever be a bad review?

There had been a lot of hype over the band’s upcoming fourth album You Can Do Better, with fans desperately hoping that it can in some way live up to the perfection of the last one; an expansive 17-track cocktail of beautifully heartbreaking slowies, breakneck indie rock-outs, and everything in between. In many ways the lead single throws off the shackles of that record, from the title ‘Stop Talking About Ghosts’ (srsly, leave the past in the past dudes) to the shout along chorus of ‘the hardest part is letting go’. At just 2 minutes 30 it rips apart any lingering doubts fans may have and replaces them with a back to basics approach fuelled by all the punky powerchords, rapid drum rolls and duelling vocals first heard back on 2008’s debut ‘Waited Up ‘til It Was Light’. That’s not to say that the band hasn’t progressed since those early days though. The addition of second guitarist Lewes Herriot has upped the intensity, matched with a far superior production and more lead vocals by bassist Kelly Southern, who takes a notably more prominent role on these new tracks.

Continuing the theme of drowning ‘…Vs Everything’ in its own reputation and wiping the slate clean is the second track on this digital single, a rousingly noisy reimagining of piano ballad ‘Johnny Foreigner Vs You’. Tagging a defiant ‘…and Everyone You Love’ onto the end of the title and replacing melancholy with melodrama has resulted in something sounding like the Pixies doing a pissed-off waltz with amps cranked to 11. Completing the package is ‘Hit’, a quirky slacker anthem that prove JoFo still know how to make a killer b-side.

Stop Talking About Ghosts is available now as a pay-what-you-can download from Bandcamp with proceeds going to Cavell Nurses Trust, a charity organisation that offers emergency financial support to nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants. The new album You Can Do Better was released on Alcopop! Records on March 10th and the band are currently touring the UK to support it.

5 out of 5 high fives!