Timothy van Sas
Timothy van Sas

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Eight reasons why Two Thousand Trees is [edit] radio’s favourite festival… and should be yours too!

What do a kangaroo rugby tackled by a dinosaur outside of a chemical toilet, a BTEC national certificate for being a level three princess, a drunken voicemail in which the offer of whisky and ‘bum touching’ is made and a beautiful poppy filled field in the Cotswolds have in common?

They’re my own personal highlights from the past fours years of attending Two Thousand Trees!

The festival, which is known simply as ‘Trees’ to regulars to Cheltenham’s Upcote Farm, has built a strong reputation on ‘doing things differently’ to other festivals. Started by a group friends who had become sick of paying over the odds for drinks and everything else at the commercial festivals the group have succeeded in removing all the corporate bullshit that follow music festivals around like a bad smell.

Their ethos is simple; instead of trying to fleece everyone that comes the entrance gates, the organisers at Trees cultivate a space in which commerce is a by-product of everyone actually enjoying themselves; a refreshingly novel approach.

So with that in mind here are [edit] radio’s eight reasons in which Trees shreds all over any other music festival…

The Music: By only booking acts that are signed to independent labels, the artists gracing the four stages at Trees represent the finest grassroots acts the UK has to offer. Over at the festivals smallest stage, the acoustic focussed The Croft, you’ll find live loungesq sets by bands like Crazy Arm alongside exciting local talent like Andy Oliveri. If that’s too soft for your tastes and you want something heavier, then venture into The Cave and you’ll find the take-no-shit sounds of Gnarwolves and festival favourites Oxygen Thief . If a more eclectic mix is more your scene then The Axiom is the place for you and will feature everything from Wolf Alice to Three Trapped Tigers to DZ Deathrays. If you’re interested in more mainstream sounds then rock-duo Blood Red Shoes, the Brit-hop of Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip and stadium sing-alongs of Frightened Rabbit await you on the Main Stage.

To get a flavour of what’s on offer download our festival Mix-Tape here.

The festival brings the UKs Independent music scene together: As by-product of this booking strategy, Trees becomes something of a Mecca for the fans, promoters, artists, journalists and photographers of independent music from all over the country. Meaning that you are as likely to bump into familiar faces from past shows, as you are to make new friends.

A genuine lack of ‘festival dickheads’: This might seem a little harsh, but most of the mainstream festival have their fair share of Dickheads. You know the people I’m on about; the ones that think 4am is a good time to shout ‘ALAN’ at the top of their voice or will happily walk into your campsite to try and sell you ketamine (both have happened to me at other festivals). It might just the lack of Capital FM acts on the bill, but thankfully at Trees there’s a communal feel good atmosphere even once people have had one too many.

The fancy dress competition:  Every year at trees there the Saturday has been designated Fancy Dress day and with a free set of tickets to the following years festival on offer there is no shortage of effort made. From years gone by my favourite entrant (and winner) was the Beastie Boys inspired effort (pictured below); simple but effective. This year the theme is TV Shows/DVD Box Sets – hope someone goes as Fred Savage from the Wonder Years.

You can take your own booze…ANYWHERE: Yes you read that right. If you’re short on funds and have the mighty arms to take crates and crates of beer into the festival, then the staff won’t stop you from taking it wherever you want. Note: If you like your spirits then decant them into plastic bottles as no glass is allowed on site, which as rules go is pretty sensible.

Little Lebowski’s: Whilst you can take your booze wherever you like, when the sun is beating down (as it was last year) then there’s nothing better than a cold pint of ale, cider or even a White Russian to slake your thirst. With prices reasonable and the drink all of good quality, trust me once you’ve finished your warm tins of Carling and have reached the happy-drunk phase you’ll be in Little Lebowski’s to quench your thirst anyway.

The Bacon Sandwiches from Hall’s Dorset Smokery: This has become something of a Trees tradition for my friend Mark (who is also the lad who named The Croft stage) and me (that’s us pictured below). Every morning we cured our sore heads with one of Hall’s Dorset Smokery’s bacon sarnies that, aside from the ones served at St. John Bread and Wine, are the best I’ve ever eaten.

No matter the weather, it’ll be amazing: Normally when it pisses it down at a festival and things get boggy, it puts a big of a downer on the festival, however Trees is exception to that rule. Want proof? Talk to anyone that went in 2012 where, after the wettest June on record, the festival not only went ahead, but also ended up concentrating the pull-together spirit that the festival already exudes.

The door into the forest: This was a new addition to the festival in 2013 and one that benefited from some excellent weather to boot. Set at the foot of the main campsite, is a small front door in the adjacent woods. It looks odd but at night, it’s like the wardrobe leading to Narnia where anyone who walks through will be transported into a world of unplugged artists playing to small crowds in a fairly lighted woodland clearing. Magical.

With the numerous craft tents dotted around the festival, the delicious Pie Minster in the main arena, the glorious busking stage or the various places that Addistock (a festival within a festival) will pop-up, there’s more I’ve left unsaid about Trees and rightly so. After trying sum up the beating heart of independent music festivals in the UK shouldn’t be an easy task.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

We’re on each others team – What would the FIFA World Cup would look like if the teams were replaced with Beyonce, Kanye West, Miley Cyrus, One Direction and other popstars.

As the popularity of Buzz Feed has proven, obtuse discussions about popular culture are one of the world’s favourite pastimes. Whether it’s a list of the 10 classic episodes of Seinfeld that would no longer work in the mobile phone era, or a collection of GIFs from Game of Thrones, virtual audiences can’t get enough.

So when my friend suggested over coffee that Belgium were the “Alt-J of the World Cup; the hipsters choice for winners” it’s fair to say that the idea snowballed somewhat. Which team was the best match for Britney Spears? Which musician embodied the continual heartache that England constantly put its fans through? And just who the fuck would be Iran? Well fear not - all these questions are cleared up below.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Love Is Watching Someone Die

What Sarah Said - Death Cab For Cutie

The origins of this blog were forged over a decade ago. I was a 20 year old boy who had never been laid and was still coming to terms with the death of my sister. I weighed 22 stone, spent my nights drinking in the pub and hid everything under a mask of laughter.  I loathed myself and things were about to get worse. One day whilst on my lunch break at work – at the time I was working a dead-end job as a purchase ledger clerk – I received a call.

“Mister Lawson?” asked a calm voice.
“Speaking,” I replied.
“This is Doctor Brookes; I’m in charge of your fathers care. Were you aware that he was admitted to hospital?”
“No, the last update I had was a month ago to tell me that he had gone back into full-time care.”
“I’m afraid to tell you that his condition has been deteriorating for some time and that this morning he collapsed on the ward. He’s stable… for now but it would be best if you could come into the hospital.”

It was a call I had been dreading but not prepared for.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

The Evolution of Fanzines

A look at the history of fanzines reveals more about their writers than the music

The first time I encountered a real fanzine was at a festival. I hadn’t slept for 24 hours, was covered head to toe in what I hoped was mud and feeling the satisfying effects of a large amount of gin. Called Applecore, the small, photocopied ‘zine was thrust into my hands by an ordinary looking guy called Henry, cost me £1 and could easily have been mistaken for a school project. I shoved it in my bag, forgot it existed and three months passed before I finally took a closer look at a form of publishing that has become an obsession.

Within its rough A5 pages I found a new form of writing that I had never considered, which paired music opinion and travel in intelligent diary entries, written with a delicate touch. As I read from cover to cover, questions began to reverberate around my mind; what motivated Henry to write about music? At what point between pressing play and the end of a song did he become compelled to commit his thoughts to the page? The subject spiralled out of control and began to broaden. After all, Henry isn’t the only ordinary listener writing about music, heck, all critics start off their career as amateurs.  So I decided to take a look at the history of fanzines and their offspring – blogs and webzines – to figure out what inspires ordinary listeners like Henry to pick up a pen in the first place.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

You Will Never Die

Youth Lagoon - Dropla

Don’t believe what your mum told you, telling lies isn’t bad, it’s an essential part of surviving daily life. Not because we all need to hear little fibs from time to time - “No honey, you don’t look stupid in that” - but because if we didn’t tell ourselves some massive whoppers, life would become an excruciating exercise in futility. How else could we muster the energy to get out of bed, when deep down we know everyone and everything we love will eventually die?

Faced with a truth this bleak, lies (or ignorant acceptance) are wholly preferable. They satisfy our desire to find meaning and are seductive temptation which organised religion has preached for centuries.  It’s this that forms the beating heart of Youth Lagoon’s ‘Dropla,’ a track which glows in the warmth of heavenly strings, whilst pastor Trevor Powers cleanses your weary soul with every solemn repetition of his sermon, “You will never die.” 

Through this affirming baptism, Powers gives you the permission to forget the ugly truth. Providing the strength to face your mortality with dignity and without fear and proving that sometimes a lie is not only more beautiful but more important than the truth.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Sometimes I get problems that are hard to solve

A few years ago I had a vivid dream about falling down a flight of stairs and breaking my front teeth (just the though of it makes me shudder). It felt so real that even though I’ve made it through 32 years without any such injury, whenever I have walked downstairs since, I feel anxious.

It’s this sort of irrational fear that The Knife’s utterly compelling track ‘Full Of Fire’ feels like. A micro panic attack where normal thoughts suddenly implode and form a tension filled vortex of sawtoothed synths, hidden voices and overbearing rhythms that invade the waking world with every horrific dream you’ve ever had.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Let Me Show You A Few Things

Justin Timberlake - Suit & Tie

Sorting out the details of a wedding is an exhausting process. Like all creative endeavours you start with a daunting blank page, that offers an almost infinite amount of options. Do you want organise the day of your dreams, one that all your loved ones will enjoy or something in between?

It’s a bewildering amount of choice and there is little wonder that couples take years to plan out every little detail. As a newly wed himself – Timberlake tied the knot with Jessica Biel last October – the pop star has used the anticipation of his own nuptials to draw a neat parallel with the excitement of finally releasing new material after a four year wait.

The new track, Suit and Tie, opens with Timberlake psyching himself up, “I’ll be on my suit and tie shit, tie, shit / Let me show you a few things.” A steadying pre-ceremony chant, paired with a deep breath of reversed trumpets and a short pause to steady any nerves before launching into an up-to-date Marvin Gaye number that despite the superfluous efforts of Jay Z, guides the listener on a rousing first dance. 

Whilst it’s not quite as thrilling as the first time you heard ‘Future Sex/Love Sounds,’ it’s another high class return from Timberlake, making his proposal to take you on The 20/20 Experience worth accepting.