Thursday, 18 July 2013

T in the Park review

Last Friday I spent the day at T, and wrote the following based on things seen, heard and felt that day. Read on (if you want)...

Staying dry has always been more of a bonus than an expectation at T in the Park, making this year’s scorching weather a jackpot coup for the festival’s 20th edition, where the only things redder than the T logo are the scorched hides of the crowd’s taps aff quotient. The heat makes the now traditional ‘Fancy Dress Friday’ a real feat of human endurance, as power rangers, supermen and at least two full sets of Pixar toys visibly welt beneath makeup and lycra – presumably praying for a little cloud cover and making a mental note to dress as something more airy in 2014.

Between acts, vox-pops on the stage-side screens remind everyone just how much T has grown in its double-decade lifespan, from svelte Strathclyde debut to the 85,000-a-day colossus that now bestrides Balado. Inevitably, its four-fold expansion has not been without growing pains, with recent chart-plucked line-ups attracting vocal deriders even as they pack in the crowds. But despite being top heavy with budget-swallowing big guns (not to mention riddled with TV talent show dregs further down the bill), this year’s anniversary event seems comfortable in its modern, pop-oriented skin, delivering on scale whilst still accommodating token nods to tastes outside the Radio 1 playlist.

So, while the back-patting slogans printed across every plastic pint glass proved a tad hyperbolic (“the happiest place in Scotland!”; “the best crowd in the world watching the best bands in the world!”), T20’s respectable haul of highlights allows it to walk away once more with its sun-crisped coupon held high.


Tasked with inaugurating this year’s T Break roster, Deer Lake have the misfortune of starting their set with populists par excellence The Proclaimers still midst-500 Miles a few hundred yards away on the main stage. Where the Reid brothers’ alt-national anthem whips spirits higher and higher, Deer Lake’s earnest emoti-rock keeps enthusiasm on a lower pegging – a contrast that regrettably translates into an occasional languor. But as the tent’s population swells so does the band’s stature, with the eyes-closed alt-pop of Japanese Lucky Cat and sky-scraping single Like Ghosts demonstrating pronounced promise. To paraphrase another of the Reids’ hits, they’re on their way.


Showcasing an impeccable line in Deal-icious fuzz-pop, Honeyblood’s two-piece guitar/drums setup packs real punch. Sweetening brawny garage rock with bright vocal melodies, the components of their sound are well worn yet worn well, with Super Rat’s lyrical snarl and the sun-kissed pep of Killer Bangs encapsulating the duo’s vibrant appeal. It’s no wonder they seem confident (struggles with set order aside), with between-song chat endearing them to all in earshot and a too-close-for-comfort pint lob taken comfortably in their stride. When Honeyblood express disappointment that their slot clashed with Haim, there’s a feeling that it’s the Californians who missed out more.


James Skelly and the Intenders are no strangers to T, with both frontman and backing band having previously notched up a fistful of appearances as The Coral. With said act on hiatus, Skelly’s underwhelming solo album Love Undercover is ostensibly the order of the day, and though the likes of mod stomp You’ve Got It All and pouting blues-rock number Do It Again find advocates amidst the modest crowd, it’s only when the set introduces picks from The Coral’s back catalogue that the spark catches amongst the majority; when Dreaming of You’s familiar bass-line bounces forth, the nostalgia hit is particularly potent.


From the bright lights of the fairground rides to the relentless breakbeats being laid down by Chase and Status over on the main stage, Friday’s dusk is filled with restlessness and commotion. Placed amidst it all, the title of Steve Mason’s recent album Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time (an allusion to the easily distracted) acquires fresh resonance, but there’s little risk of losing focus in the company of so engaging a performer. Highlights include Lost and Found’s subtle majesty and the gently soaring A Lot of Love, with the latter blossoming into an intimate anthem as voices from the crowd join Mason for the chorus.


From the Manchester Velodrome to the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, recent UK visits from Teutonic technopop forefathers Kraftwerk have tended towards esoteric, special event status, making their presence atop today’s King Tut’s bill as incongruous as it is welcome. In the countdown to launch, a test screen projected on the rear of the stage gives the audience a chance to break in their 3D glasses – a novel stereoscopic spectacle that seems to have attracted people in and of itself. But while it’s the technetronic backdrop that (literally) stands out most, it's the music that earns them a roaring ovation. Iconic yet anonymous in wireframe jumpsuits, the near-motionless men-machines cycle through ever-fresh futurist odes to circuit-boards and space-labs, with the hypnotic precision of tracks like Numbers making clearer than ever the debt owed by just about anyone to wield a moog or program a sequencer since. In a word: wunderbar! 

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