80Trees — A Promising Taste of 2022’s 2000Trees & ArcTanGent
80trees | Bristol
Photos: Molly Davies
27th November 2021 - 80Trees at the Exchange and The Fleece
80trees - the love child of 2000Trees and ArcTanGent - saw a collection of the sister festivals’ favourite acts of 2021 take to the stage at the Exchange and The Fleece in Bristol.
I arrived at the Exchange mid afternoon. It was freezing, and the inside of the iconic Bristol venue was packed with bearded men and the occasional woman with neon hair. Alone and awkward I bought a hooch and started to plan my night.
I first went to 2000Trees in 2017. I had been living in London for 6 months, was horrifically depressed but blissfully unaware of mental health disorders, and on a whim packed a bag on a Thursday morning to meet my friend who wanted someone to work a bar shift with at the festival. Somehow, three days spent in a field, listening to new bands with no expectations and shadowing one of the resident photographers completely changed the trajectory of my life. I got back to London and within 72 hours had handed in my notice at my job and on my flat and planned to move to Bristol which is, in a roundabout way, how I ended up in the Exchange, hooch in hand, on a rainy Saturday.
As with all my previous jaunts to 2000Trees, I decided to leave my experience up to fate and follow my nose to see which acts I would discover. If my past few years at the festival taught me anything, it’s that their line-up curation is always top-tier and bristling with exciting new talent. For once, this didn’t turn out to be the best approach. I quickly learned The Exchange was to take an ATG-approach with its more instrumental-leaning line-up and, chasing after the 2000Trees experience I’ve been sorely missing, I downed my hooch and headed over to The Fleece in a hurry.
I arrived just as Masca, a Bristol-based heavy pop two piece, were taking to the stage. The two were completely in sync with each other, with lead guitarist and vocalist Tina Maynard confidently carrying the majority of the melodic load and drummer/vocalist Jack Hamilton expertly holding down flawless rhythms. Drum fills are executed with the flick of a wrist almost as an afterthought. Maynard, previously of grunge-pop group Sœur, flits between solid bass lines to building sparse bar chords that grow into fully formed breakdowns with ease.
"I don't think I've ever dropped a plectrum whilst playing something that needs a plectrum before. My fingers are fucked" jokes Maynard, "this next ones called break your heart. It has nothing to do with breaking hearts but did when we started writing it. Any suggestions then please let us know!" The track is a banger. There's an edge of Tool to their sound but with lyrics that could be straight out of a diary. The chorus lands like a tide with shouts of "I don't wanna know". With such a distinct and uplifting sound, the pair feel like they belong in sunny LA.
Next up was The Hyena Kill, a mancunian alt-rock outfit. Like a throwback from 2009, their sound flits between elements of rock and punk interchangeably. Their tracks could form the soundtrack to a high concept sci fi dystopian epic. Singer Steve Dobb announces that it’s their first time in Bristol before launching in to the next track, "This is a fucking old one. This is off our first record." Drummer Lorna Blundell isn't even breaking a sweat; the barrage of noise coming from the bass and guitar defined only by the thrash of cymbals. Dobb transitions from a heavy chest voice to nasally scream as easily as someone goes from skipping to running - the result of years in the game. It’s a perfect reminder of why I love heavy rock.
I rush back to the Exchange to catch Mutant Thoughts, a Bristol-based maximalist art-rock band whose sound is a bit like the Mars Volta if they never defined the edges of their songs.
"We’re reprehensible on social media outlets and we've got some merch out front if you want to chat to us. We're fucking knackered!" laughs lead singer and synth extraordinaire Han Luis Cera. The band almost sits in two parts, with drums and bass locked together and steady, with Cera’s synth and vocals sitting atop the rhythm section, creating mesmerising textures of sound. It’s a lot of fun. The band overall happy and sunny, the influences from Cera’s native Columbia really shining through in the structure.
Overall, 80trees was a dazzling taste of what’s to come at both 2000Trees and ArcTanGent as the two festivals make their long awaited comeback next year. The only downside, as a woman in music I couldn’t help but notice, was the lack of women on stage - and I couldn’t finish this piece without mentioning it. With brilliant performances from Masca and The Hyena Kill, who both contain a single female member, I have my fingers crossed that each of the full festivals in 2022 will push more women and non-binary acts to the forefront. Please!