Thursday, 23 July 2015
T in the Park 2015 Review - Friday
With this year being the first in 18 that T in the Park has not been held at the beloved Balado site, I think it's far to say that the question on everyone's mind as they set off for Strathallan Castle is what would the new site be like?
And it's a question with many nuances, for example what will the drive up (and later home) be like, how will parking be, what will the layout of the stages be? It's also a question that will provide different answers to different people, so for the purposes of our T in the Park reviews of each day, I'm going to focus on the music on offer, while saving my observations on the new site for a separate blog post later on.
Which means heading straight to the Main Stage to catch the band opening the festival and at the same time bagging the ceremonious honour of being the first band to officially play Strathallan Castle. It's perhaps no surprise to see the polished synth-pop trio Prides adorning the Main Stage. It's a trajectory they have been on for a while, and what with their debut album The Way Back Up also released today (10th July) it feels like the stars are aligning for the band.
The crowd who have gathered at the front of the Main Stage get it. Prides are here for a party. And you know what, despite the early slot, despite the light drizzle, and despite the distinct lack of festival atmosphere, that's exactly what they achieve. With tracks like Higher Love, opener Out of the Blue, and set closer Messiah getting the full sing-a-long treatment, the obligatory balloons, and the crowd jumping and clapping along, it's a great start to the festivities. What I particularly liked about Prides billing was that it was a Scottish act opening the Main Stage (something which was repeated with The LaFontaines on Saturday). For the three guys on stage, who have collectively been to T in the Park 22 times between them, to open Scotland's biggest music festival, whether you like Prides or not, it shows the festival recognising the talent on it's own doorstep.
Next up it's over to the King Tut's Tent to see The Twilight Sad play practically the same booking they had last year. With the success and rejuvenation that Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave has had for the band, it's perhaps a no-brainer to bring them back for another run at the festival crowd.
Opening with There's A Girl In The Corner lead singer James Graham is deep into his focused on-stage performance. Throwing himself about with the belief of a man who knows his band and his music were built for stages like these and bigger. Much of the set comes from the aforementioned album, but there's always a special place reserved for the ear-splitting I Became A Prostitute, and the anthemic Cold Days From The Birdhouse, which closes the set.
Perhaps ear-splitting isn't the best description in this particular case, as the noise levels do seem - perhaps forcibly - reduced compared with past Sad gigs I've been to. Such is the case with festivals slots however, and in all honesty it doesn't take away from what is a impassioned performance. I had the pleasure of speaking with James afterwards and he extolled the virtues of letting your music do the talking. As the tent got busier and busier during each track it's clear a lot of people are listening to what The Twilight Sad have to say.
After a brief bit of downtime, and the severe displeasure of having Duke Dumont attack my senses, I gathered again in the King Tut's Tent for Hot Chip. I've not seen the band in a good few years - okay since they toured in support of 2008's Made In The Dark - so I was brimming with anticipation for this one. So were thousands of others as the tent was suitably packed for one of the finest, and most consistent, indietronica bands of the last decade.
Yet while it was busy there was is a noticeable lull in atmosphere. Personally I find it hard to pin that on the band, as they are flawless in their collective wizardry, and synchronized dance moves, dipping into their hit-laden back catalogue for tracks like Ready For The Floor and I Feel Better. No instead it feels like the crowd are - depressingly - gathering in anticipation of Fatboy Slim. And then it hits me. Over and Over came out NINE years ago. Whereas I was front and centre clubbing when the track dropped, for many 'newbies' in the crowd it was a hit from yesteryear. God I'm old. That feeling is forgotten though when the cowbell strikes and we all start to get "laid back". The track is the band's opus and they use it to ignite the crowd into a frenzy with Joe Goddard shouting the infamous T in the Park chant from the stage. He knows what he's doing that man.
Finishing their set - as they did at Glastonbury - with an incredible cover of Springsteen's Dancing In The Dark which almost unnoticeably morphs into All My Friends by LCD Soundsystem is a stroke of genius. At least to me and the other appreciative fans around me. For many of the fresh-faced youngsters it's a tribute lost on them. Cé la vie.
If the crowd at Hot Chip not appreciating the impromptu cover of the Boss annoyed me, then it was only a precursor to the feelings I'd harbour as we moved over to the BBC Three / Radio 1 Stage to catch American troubadours The War On Drugs.
With their album Lost In The Dream earning plaudits the world over - the band found themselves rather bizarrely nominated for a Brit Award - their booking for the festival is well earned. But while I applaud the DF Concerts team for snapping up the band, questions have to be asked about their scheduling between David Guetta and Afrojack.
The resulting quandary is a crowd made up of those looking to enjoy Adam Granduciel's tales of American woe, steeped in the traditions of Springsteen, Dylan, and Petty, those leaving from Afrojack, and those looking to get prime placing for headliner David Guetta.
Unlike in Hot Chip where the lack of appreciation seemed more generational than anything else, this setting is a straight up musical mismatch. The apathy, and in some audible cases outright disdain, of large swathes of the crowd makes the whole set rather unenjoyable. Which takes nothing away from the musicianship and professionalism of the band, who give it their all, either oblivious to the crowd or in defiance of them. As much as I can pick them out highlights include Under The Pressure and Red Eyes both of which induce in me the vast potential of the open American highway.
Which brings me to headliner time. A tough choice I'm sure you'll agree. Guetta, Kasabian or Mark Ronson are the acts the festival organisers have booked for the main stages. Luckily there's always another way.
I spoke already about how good it was to see Scottish acts open the Main Stage. It was equally great to see Hector Bizerk being given the opportunity to close the Transmission Stage. The band don't need any introductions around these parts, and in my mind this was lining up to be a highlight of the weekend.
Never ones to disappoint Hector delivered on expectations plus some. From the moment Louie swaggered out on stage, casually mentioning to the crowd that this is indeed a headline slot at T in the Park the crowd are with him every beat, rap and bassline of the way.
Let's not pretend the tent was bursting at the seams. It wasn't. But Hector Bizerk shouldn't see this as a negative rather than a reality of festival puntery. What should be more inspiring is those who came into the tent and left dyed in the wool Hector Bizerk followers. Because on the strength of their set, anyone not already converted to the hip-hop band's music, was singing their praises after.
As for highlights? Where to start. Tracks Festival Boy, Rust Cohle, and Skin and Bone from their latest EP are fresh and showcase the band in their current thinking. Older anthems like Bury The Hatchet and Colombus also provoke en masse sing-a-longs making it hard to think when the band can ever drop these tracks from their setlist! There's an unexpected treat as the band perform a 'festival' cover of Blur's Song 2 to the delight of the crowd.
And that is that. Day one of T in the Park done. Hector Bizerk have crowned a day of great music, but questionable crowds.
- Words by Neil Wilson / Pictures by Bill Gray