With memories of a litter-strewn airstrip and 80,000 dancing, drinking, singing, colliding, wretching, cavorting, exposing, stumbling, pissing people fading as fast as my sunburn, it’s time I posted my second annual T in the Park roving report…
Straight off the trusty shuttle bus – via the bar, of course – we decide to sample some sounds, so off to the Main Stage.
The sight of a 60-year-old man playing guitar with his crotch and posterior makes for uncomfortably embarrassing viewing. But Eddy Grant compensates for this rockstar faux-pas with a grin-inducing clutch of reggae hits. ‘Electric Avenue’ may be the crowdpleaser, but it’s the off-beat reggae grooves like ‘I Don’t Wanna Dance’ that get the early afternoon crowd bobbing on the spot.
Grant can still put on a sprightly show, but he was clearly surprised by the reception: “I don’t know how you have so much energy. It must be the oats!” No Eddy, we suspect it’s something less wholesome.
One lager later and with the early afternoon proving unsurprisingly bereft of must-sees, it was time for a casual mosey on down to the T Break tent. Haight Ashbury, the Glasgow band named after the San Francisco hipster area, were obviously aiming to recreate something of that whole 60s vibe with their steel guitar and wispy hair. But their moody, plodding indie was just too morose for this phase of the festivities.
Blinking in the intermittent sunshine, I then find myself wandering past the main stage as Kate Nash does her spoken/uh-oh/Topshop-angst thing far away on stage. With her set-up resembling a submarine school disco, it was kinda appropriate, if not satisfying, that the music that billowed over our heads sounded like a carefully orchestrated fart in the bath.
Which only left one option: Will Young. A swift appraisal of his Pet Sounds Arena set revealed a surprisingly enthusiastic crowd of onlookers singing along to his soppy hits. The standard-issue R’n’B backing band didn’t look the least bit embarrassed by having to play with the Pop Idol warbler, but one song was really all we needed to hear. Such high hormone levels in such a confined space cannot be good for the health.
A bit later and with a full tent, the stage is set for a triumphant show by MGMT. Bandanas and sunglasses play into their exotic prog-rock allure, and ‘Electric Feel’ injects some energy into a sluggish start, but just when they’re about to assail us with readymade anthem ‘Time To Pretend’, the low-end of the soundsystem audibly explodes. The crowd stay on-side for the remainder, but this could have been so much better.
With one and a half album’s worth of recorded music in the can, The Twilight Sad are a strange choice for the T Break tent. But instead of acting all complacent and ‘T broke’, the band are in typically uncompromising form: a few new songs are tantalising, but ‘Cold Days From the Birdhouse’ is one of those shut-eye, unforgettable festival moments.
My only trip to the terminally uninspiring Radio 1/NME Stage is inspired by The Raconteurs. On the back of Consolers of the Lonely, they are a band gleefully indulging in their American-ness, with bluegrass fiddle on ‘Old Enough’, stadium rawk on ‘Salute Your Salution’ and Detroit pop classicism on ‘Many Shades of Black’. It’s unfair to lay all their success at the winklepickers of Jack White of course, but his scintillating talents upgrade many an average song tonight.
With the poor, misguided ones herded towards the Kaiser Chiefs, the enlightened among the hoards swarm to the Main Stage for one of the most exciting T headliners of recent years: Rage Against the Machine. And they were rewarded with an awesome band on awesome form. De La Rocha’s defiant posturing and Morello’s jaw-dropping guitar playing belie the passage of time that’s elapsed since their 90s heyday, and blistering tracks like ‘Guerilla Radio’, ‘Know Your Enemy’ and, of course, ‘Killing In The Name’, inspire scenes of bodily carnage from where I’m standing a few yards from the front. De La Rocha’s anti-Bush rant (“When I said George Bush should be assassinated, I meant he should be tried as a war criminal and hung as a war criminal!”) is the only respite in a scintillating show.
I stumble towards the Edinburgh bus queue tired, cold, drunk and mud-splattered. The journey home is going to be rough, and the random girl who sits next to me and asks – constantly – if I unerstaun her wasted ramblings isn’t helping.
Versions of these reviews were written for The Skinny