WHAT. A. WEEKEND.
This was my second year at 2000 Trees festival in Cheltenham. Last year, I’d heard so many good things about the festival that I booked my tickets before any bands had been announced. Subsequently a line up that included all my very favourite bands was released including Pulled Apart By Horses, Dinosaur Pile-Up, Tigercub, Jamie Lenman, Black Peaks, Puppy and Milk Teeth amongst others. I had a superb weekend away.
This year, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go back or not. Having seen such an amazing line up the year before, surely this year couldn’t be as good? So I decided to wait until the acts were announced… and when they were, I was pretty underwhelmed. Out of the first wave of bands revealed, only Turbowolf caught the eye. Yet I knew how special the festival was. It has a really great atmosphere and a crowd of people that are genuine music enthusiasts, as opposed to just wanting to go get wasted all weekend. I still didn’t want to miss out.
So I made a compromise, and decided to volunteer as a steward. Stewarding involves working a 4 hour shift each day of the festival; a morning, an afternoon and an evening. It means your ticket only costs a fiver, plus you get fed a meal during each shift and you get access to the VIP facilities.
In the lead up to the festival, more bands were added to the bill, and more names that I knew I’d want to see, but ultimately by the time the stage times were announced, there were only 5 performances across the entire weekend that I knew I wanted to go to. Stewarding still seemed like a decent option.
As a steward you’re also required to travel to the festival a day early, which meant being on site Wednesday evening when England played their World Cup semi-final versus Croatia. Luckily they screened the match for us, as well as providing a welcome barbecue and even some free drinks. On checking into the stewarding office they were happy to try and work around the bands you want to see, and I got assigned a shift pattern that meant I could go watch all of the acts I most wanted to.
The next day my festival kicked off with the early stewarding shift from 8am to midday. I got to be the ‘Family Camping Police’ having to tell arriving festival-goers not to camp in the family section unless they had kids. Having finished at midday, the festival didn’t actually officially start until 2pm, so I had chance to wander around and reacquaint myself with the Upcote Farm site.
Music for me started with Haggard Cat doing a short, unannounced set of Nirvana covers on top of a beer van. An awesome start to the weekend.
I got to see so many awesome bands over the 3 days. Too many to properly review, but in short there were two main groups:
- Bands I already love who smashed it included Turbowolf, Press to Meco, Sœur (twice), Black Peaks, Haggard Cat (also twice), Gender Roles and a very hungover Demob Happy.
- Bands I didn’t really know before, but definitely need to hear more of such as Avalanche Party, Forever Cult, Basement and Fangclub (who closed their set with a ridiculously good cover of ‘Heart-Shaped Box’)
My other stewarding shifts were the Friday afternoon, which I spent welcoming new attendees and handing out wristbands, and then Saturday night from 8pm-Midnight which I got to spend at the Forest Stage supporting security. I felt very lucky to see so much good music in-between all of that.
But whilst ‘Trees is soooo much about the good music, I’ve also come to realise that this isn’t what makes it special. I really think the people who go (as well as people working there) help create a really special vibe and almost a sense of community.
For instance, though I went to the festival alone, I actually ended up camping with two guys I’d camped with last year. They were really welcoming the year before, and seeing them again was like bumping in to old friends. We actually ended up hanging out more this year (they were there to steward too), and a few other guys (all strangers before the weekend) also joined in with the group.
Then there were the people inside the arena who just enjoyed good music. I had 2-3 moments during bands when kindred spirits who were in to the same song would make eye contact and before you know it you’re sharing hugs and high fives and maybe even a drink (…props to the guy that was feeding me Red Stag during Sœur’s Neu Stage set!).
And you even get to enjoy some camaraderie with the bands too. I had drinks and even some silent disco dancing with various bands that I’ve come to know throughout the weekend. And that wasn’t even using my VIP access, that was just bumping in to them in the arena, as they seemed to be really enjoying the festival too.
For anyone who’s considering it, I’d definitely recommend stewarding – it’s a really nice way to have some involvement in the festival and without volunteers the event will struggle. Having said that, I’m not sure I’ll do it again, as there’s so much going on over the weekend even if the band line up isn’t to your taste, and it was pretty tiring fitting everything in as well as putting in a shift.
I came away from the weekend with such a buzz. I think I watched less music at this year’s festival, and there were definitely fewer bands that I really knew, yet I somehow came away having an even better time than the year before. And as for next year? Well, I went and bought my ticket already! See you next year ‘Trees!