With a music festival as popular as T IN THE PARK you don’t have the luxury of deciding whether to go at the last minute. If you knew that this year’s weather would bring (in order): driving rain, glorious sunshine, heavy rain, torrential rain and gale-force winds, you would quite rightly question the sanity of putting yourself through such tortuous conditions in the name of band-watching.
Yet every year I, and 80,000 others, find it impossible to resist the urge to take on whatever TITP and a Scottish summer can throw up.
The traditional late Friday afternoon start sees me arrive just in time to catch THE TEMPER TRAP playing their freak tune Sweet Disposition – if you’ve heard the band’s weak debut album you’ll know nothing else they’ve got comes close to it. That might go some way to explaining why it is immediately followed by a mass exodus even though the Aussies have one more song left.
KOBI ONYAME’S smooth hip-hop and stage confidence gives the T Break Stage a welcome morsel of variety from the usual white boys with guitars, while MAYER HAWTHORNE & THE COUNTY come across like a chat show house band with their funky, lounge sound.
JAMIE T is just on the right side of arrogant. After a missile is hurled his way on stage, the Londoner cockily encourages the crowd to carry on, saying “We’ll just throw them right back at you”. Fortunately, he’s got a song as likeable as Sheila to serve as a distraction technique and by the time Sticks ‘n’ Stones is trotted out, well, we’re all best mates again.
With their unflinching homage to ’80s New Order and repetitive kick-drum beat, Manchester band DELPHIC could easily be dismissed but their live show is much better than expected, full of electronic jiggery and intelligently-crafted pop songs such as Counterpoint, Doubt and Halcyon.
HOT CHIP have similar indie-dance roots but with much less emphasis on retro. After initial teething problems with the sound they seem to be hitting their stride, but 25 minutes into a set that is scheduled to last an hour they walk off for reasons unknown. A stage-hand attempts to make an announcement to the confused crowd by megaphone without success, before the band eventually return 10 minutes later blaming a power cut. They make up for lost time with raucous versions of Over & Over and Hold On, although Ready For The Floor is unexpectedly flat.
Guitar heroes MUSE deliver showmanship and monster riffs aplenty, and give the crowd everything they would come to expect from a stadium-filling rock band, despite Matt Bellamy’s geographically atrocious shout of “Hello Glasgow!” at the start of their Main Stage headlining slot. A ridiculous, pompous 100-minute show could only end with their most ridiculously pompous song, Knights Of Cydonia, with its caterwauling vocal intro and horse-hoofed drums.
Canadian indie favourites BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE are OTT in their own way, somehow deeming it necessary to squeeze eight members on stage, including five guitarists on some songs. The curious thing is that they struggle to take advantage of their numerical advantage, showing precious little in the way of variety.
Arguably two of the best up-and-coming bands to be found at T in the Park were ADMIRAL FALLOW and WASHINGTON IRVING, both at the forefront of the New Woodwind Movement (joke) thanks to some classy flute and clarinet contributions. If you haven’t heard Admiral Fallow’s Boots Met My Face then you’re missing out on one of the best Scottish albums in recent memory, in which Louis Abbott steals the show with his heartwrenching songwriting. Judging by the size of the crowd they attract at the BBC Introducing Stage, word is getting out.
Washington Irving have more of a Celtic flavour to their upbeat indie-folk sound and are every bit as winning, with no shortage of pop harmonies. Sisi, in particular, hits the mark with its clever chorus of, “I don’t need a new leaf, I need a new tree”.
Arriving at the King Tut’s Tent just in time to catch the last two KATE NASH songs only confirms that a) she has restored Foundations to her set after refusing to play it earlier this year, and b) her new angry rock chick image looks awfully contrived.
It would be little surprise if FRIGHTENED RABBIT didn’t know how big they had become given that they’ve ignored Scotland all year, with their first proper hometown gig to support their latest album The Winter Of Mixed Drinks not scheduled till December. But after filling the largest indoor stage at T in the Park and sparking singalong moments aplenty, they leave the stage declaring it the best day of Frightened Rabbit’s rags-to-slightly-better-rags existence.
WE ARE SCIENTISTS are in a class of their own in terms of wit, with the insult trading of Chris Cain and Keith Murray often more engaging than their songs, which wildly vary in quality from the obvious high points of their With Love And Squalor album to the more muddy clatter of their recent work.
LAURA MARLING is the real deal when it comes to talent. Her voice has an astonishing quality, steeped in a character and sincerity that makes a mockery of her 20 years. All that, though, is undermined by the lack of memorable songs in her armoury (Ghosts apart), particularly when she waves off her backing band mid-set.
Twelve months ago MUMFORD & SONS had the dubious honour of being first on in the King Tut’s Tent – before Iglu & Hartly (!) – to the smattering of wise souls who had managed to make it out of their tents at noon. This year they topped the bill on the same stage and provided the most memorable, joyous, triumphant, effervecent set of the weekend. Following and charting the success story of a band so deserving is what this blog exists for. Mark these words, Mumford & Sons will have headlined the Main Stage here by 2012.
Oxford-based FIXERS are the only band I saw who managed to drive people away from where they were playing, with punter after punter literally turning their back on the directionless dirge coming from the BBC Introducing Stage.
BILLY TALENT have no such worries, with the Canadian punk-rock group’s singer Ben Kowalewicz a genuinely convincing frontman with energy to burn on the Radio 1 / NME Stage. Announcing that you’ve just got engaged to a Scottish girl never does any harm either.
Another fairytale story belongs to KASSIDY. As The Pop Cop’s photo shows, just two years ago singer Barrie O’Neill was working as a photo-runner at T in the Park. This year he and his three all-acoustic bandmates were the ones getting their pictures taken at the King Tut’s Tent, where they overcame a nervous start to show enough to suggest they’ll be a festival favourite for years to come. Undoubted standout was the slow-burning I Don’t Know, which could prove their breakthrough single.
THE VIEW are not so much on fire but being blown around the Main Stage by gale-force winds that make the sound coming out of the speakers even less appealing than normal.
The Pop Cop’s T in the Park 2010 is topped off by TWO DOOR CINEMA CLUB, who do full justice to the intelligent guitar-party sounds of their incessantly rewarding debut album Tourist History, which you really ought to get your hands on.
All photos (even the rubbish ones) © The Pop Cop
Mumford And Sons – Lover Of The Light (session)
Hot Chip – Hold On
Laura Marling – Ghosts
Two Door Cinema Club – Undercover Martyn (demo)