If you went to T in the Park last weekend with the wrong attitude it could quite easily have seemed like some sort of Neanderthal hell on earth. Your hair will have been drenched with beer launched from up to 50ft behind you. You’d have witnessed rows of men urinating against every inch of wall in sight. If you accidentally bumped into someone’s pint you could have ended up in a fight or made a new best friend.
But, as the fan who got punched by Amy Winehouse at Glastonbury diplomatically put it, it’s all just “part of the experience”. Whether this was your 1st or 15th T in the Park, it doesn’t take long to figure out that this festival isn’t really about the music for many punters.
But for The Pop Cop it most definitely is, and a trip to the Futures Stage to check out London newcomers WHITE LIES seemed as good a place as any to begin our T party on Saturday. Their dark pop follows the Joy Division -> Interpol -> Editors progression and they have a flair for making the kind of driving, epic songs that end up in indie discos. Good start.
Next on our hitlist was SONS AND DAUGHTERS in the King Tut’s Tent, who were satisfyingly raucous and full of their usual feisty Glaswegian swagger, while guitarist Scott Paterson was clearly the winner of the prize for the weekend’s most ridiculous sunglasses.Wearing matching pillarbox red trousers and exposing their pasty white Scottish torsos, the BIFFY CLYRO boys looked like three traffic cones from the distance we were away from the Main Stage. Their most recent album Puzzle has armed them with a plethora of singalong material and slick forthcoming single Mountains proves Biffy won’t be altering course until they’re headlining this festival.
WE ARE SCIENTISTS are a strange one. They have forged a reputation for being a must-see live band pretty much entirely on the strength of their (admittedly witty) between-song banter. There was plenty of it at the Radio 1 / NME Stage but you couldn’t help thinking it merely papers over the cracks in their disappointing Brain Thrust Mastery album and the fact that they struggle to reproduce the best moments of With Love And Squalor on stage.The Pop Cop stayed put to see THE PIGEON DETECTIVES, who play fun, frantic guitar pop and possess a frontman who can’t stand still for a second. Matt Bowman climbed the stage scaffolding, dived into the crowd, performed about a dozen scissorkicks and barely paused for breath. Pretty much the perfect festival band then.
THE FRATELLIS could certainly learn a thing or two from the Pigeons in terms of presence. They might have the knees-up pop formula sussed but they gave a good impersonation of a band thoroughly bored of playing their own tunes. So much so that better entertainment was to be found during their set by watching fans attempt to bypass security to sneak into the already-full Main Stage pit area. We watched one chancer get rugby-tackled to the ground, while another guy (the speccy one below) had four attempts at breaking through before a pissed-off steward had the last laugh by tearing up the ruffian’s weekend ticket in front of him.Saturday’s headliners pitted Rage Against The Machine against Kaiser Chiefs against Ian Brown against INTERPOL. Seeing as we only go to watch bands in capital letters, you should already know we opted for Interpol. And hot damn were they good. Yet it could all have gone so horribly wrong after about three songs in when guitarist Daniel Kessler and his immaculate suit were introduced to the contents of a lobbed water bottle. After mouthing “Fuck off” then “Fuck you” to a punter (which suggested he had identified the tosser), Kessler simply got on with the show with renewed vigour and proved to be something of a hero. A few songs later a group of fans at the front of the Pet Sounds Arena were chanting his name and by 22.50 all was forgiven as the New Yorkers ended an hour of skin-crawlingly glorious music with the riotous Roland.There’s nothing like half-an-hour of BRITISH SEA POWER to banish those Sunday hangovers. If an award existed for the Most Improved Band it would surely go to this lot. You could have accused them of being indie makeweights until they pulled a red sock out the white washing with their third album, Do You Like Rock Music?. You just had to be in the King Tut’s Tent to see and hear proof that studio trickery isn’t behind their new-found ability to make it sound like there are four times as many of them playing than there actually is.While having a quick breather in the Media area The Pop Cop spotted Tim Burgess sporting a hideous new hairdo before we bumped into our old chum Matt Berninger of The National, who was reassuringly charming and friendly.If you’re looking for a T in the Park coming-of-age moment then VAMPIRE WEEKEND delivered just that in a rammed-full King Tut’s Tent. The Americans have somehow found a way to take the quirky, sparse feel of their debut album and subtly bounce them out from the stage as irresistible bite-sized pop classics. Nobody left the end of their set anything other than euphoric and you can be sure their days of operating just under the mainstream radar are coming to an end.
AMY WINEHOUSE at the Main Stage. We couldn’t not be there. It wasn’t a ramshackle mess, nor was there any physical violence or controversy. In fact it was just dull, peddling and top-heavy on jazzy numbers that a massive T in the Park crowd were remarkably patient with (c’mon, if anyone was going to be on the receiving end of a pint of Tennent’s finest…).Relief from the tedium was reliably provided by THE NATIONAL in the Pet Sounds Arena, who were worth the £20 charity donation entry fee alone. There was something for everything. The moshers went wild to Abel and Mr November, the restructured live versions of Secret Meeting and Baby, We’ll Be Fine would have given cool musician types something to discuss, while the romantics had a chance to get all misty-eyed with Slow Show.Bringing a miraculously mud-free festival to an end on the Main Stage were REM. Despite understandably but unexpectedly devoting a large portion of their headlining set to their new album, every world-beating hit like Electrolite, The One I Love, The Great Beyond and Man On The Moon just served to remind what it takes to be a legend in this game. The sight of Michael Stipe swapping hats with the entire front row as he sang Losing My Religion capped the best T in the Park in years.
Of course, you can do it all again next year by buying your 2009 T in the Park tickets this Tuesday from here.
4 White Lies – Death
b October 3, King Tut’s, Glasgow (tickets)
4Biffy Clyro – A Whole Child Ago
bAugust 25, Zavvi, Buchanan Street, Glasgow (instore)
4Paolo Nutini – Jenny Don’t Be Hasty
bAugust 30, Hydro Connect, Inverary (tickets)
4British Sea Power – It Ended On An Oily Stage
bOctober 10, Fat Sam’s, Dundee (tickets)
b October 11, ABC, Glasgow (tickets)
4 Vampire Weekend – A-Punk
b October 29, Barrowland, Glasgow (tickets)