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  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.