2000 Trees Festival live review - Cheltenham

Post-rock and progressive metal acts bring an eclectic touch to this Cotswold's rock fest.

crowd at a prog gig
(Image: © Katja Ogrin)

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As the festival gets up to full tempo, there are probably a few members of the audience casting their minds back to 2011, when And So I Watch You From Afar headlined this very stage during their raucous tour in support of Gangs. Ending that set with both guitarists crowdsurfing, it’s fitting that on the Gangs tunes played by ASIWYFA tonight, like Search:Party:Animal and Gang (Starting Never Stopping), there’s boisterous crowd interaction.

When guitarist Matt Reynolds jumps from a speaker stack off the main stage, it’s clear that Heck have decided to kick off the second day in style. Taking their cues from experimental bands like Dillinger Escape Plan, they’re clearly as inspired by the stage antics of their heroes as their riffs, breaking drumsticks, stands, guitars and themselves with reckless abandon.

Though their last EP, 2015’s Heaven & Earth, was impressive, Arcane Roots owe their fans a second album. Luckily, that’s just what they announce during an intimate acoustic set in the forest after their storming main stage performance. If Nothing Breaks, Nothing Moves is probably the high-water mark of their main set, while single Over & Over works well on an acoustic guitar.

Animals As Leaders definitely take the prize for most technical band of the weekend, and though on paper it’s somewhat of an odd booking, the tent is full.

What’s perhaps most interesting about SikTh is how cuts like Philistine Philosophies from their new, crowd-funded Opacities EP, hold up so well when put up against their more popular old material. A key influence on many of the biggest technical and progressive metal bands in the world right now, it’s no surprise to hear Animals As Leaders for one give them a shout out during their set; nor is it to see members of young Prog-approved bands like Cleft in the crowd.

Finally, it’s up to Refused to close the main stage. Although they play four songs from excellent comeback album Freedom, it’s their seminal 1998 album The Shape Of Punk To Come that has the most airtime. This is fitting, because so many of the bands this weekend are influenced by it. Rory Friers from ASIWYFA credits it as the moment he realised technical guitar playing could be cool. Refused Are Fucking Dead and set closer New Noise both cause a near riot, with the latter ending the festival on a breathless and sweaty high.