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Unexciting news: Kings of Leon, Snow Patrol and Katy Perry set for T in the Park

T in the Park

Yes, T in the Park today announced the first three acts on its 2009 line-up:

Kings of Leon, Snow Patrol and Katy Perry.

It’s all a matter of taste of course, but by any standards this is a paltry way to raise the curtain on Scotland’s biggest music festival.

Kings of Leon may now be one of the biggest indie-pop bands in the world, but 2009 will be their fifth appearance in something like seven years.

Equally, the boring-as-watching-cement-dry Snow Patrol are no strangers to Balado.

As for Katy Perry, well that’s just a sly marketing gimmick to rope in the teenyboppers. Right?

The question is this: does this mean that any or all of this tiresome trio will be headlining the main stage? If so, why couldn’t T in the Park organizers DF Concerts have aimed a bit higher? Rage Against the Machine were an inspired choice last year.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be too quick to judge. There are plenty more announcements to come. I just hope they weren’t aiming to start the revelation process with a PR bang, because this is a low-decibel whimper.

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Connect 2008: roving report

Mud, glorious mud at the Oyster Stage

On top of the ‘live’ blogging I was doing for The Skinny while in the muddy environs of Inverary last weekend, I’ve also cooked up another series of rehashed mini gig reviews for the magazine. This covers pretty much everything I saw, with the exception of The Roots, who were so disappointing in the acoustically shite Unknown Pleasures Tent that I couldn’t bring myself to write about it.

Ladytron

Plonked behind eight synthesizers, black-clad and distant, like a state-sanctioned pop group of the former Soviet Union, Ladytron are definitely no festival band. Rocking their Eastern Bloc, disco-in-a-tower-block style for all its worth, they are pretty unemphatic in this open-air arena, but Seventeen and set-closer Everything You Touch remind us that they have produced some of the best electro-pop since the Human League.

Manic Street Preachers

There have been those, myself included, who wrote off the Manics as Britpop dinosaurs. How wrong we were, because Bradfield, Wire and Moore rollick triumphantly through their back catalogue, plucking out fan favourites such as Motorcycle Emptiness, Of Walking Abortion, Everything Must Go, You Love Us and tailor-made final song, A Design For Life. Covering Rihanna might smack of ageing desperation, but they’re still a superior live band.

Kasabian

With divided loyalties between Kasabian and Mercury Rev, I can only attest to the first half of the former’s Friday headlining set. They could have ended with a cover of the Postman Pat theme for all I know. But early on it’s business as usual: big, swaggering indie hits like Processed Beats and L.S.F, an impressive lightshow, and the newly long-haired Meighan’s hilarious rock-God complex.

Mercury RevMercury Rev

Having enjoyed the Kasabian spectacle for 40 minutes, it is a sense of musical duty that makes me head over to catch the remainder of alt-rock veterans Mercury Rev. Swirling clouds of dry ice may conceal them, but the music is clear, direct, and loud. Their take on Talking Heads’ Once In A Lifetime, with layers of intense guitar and crescendo, is immense, and they save Goddess On A Highway for a rousing encore.

Late of the Pier

Late of the Pier live up to their name, with their set delayed an hour as they’re moved up to replace the cancelled Joan As Policewoman. An early afternoon in a muddy field is not the best context in which to enjoy their schizoid, experimental pop, but the musicianship and free-range clattering of this freshly-hatched quartet are still mightily impressive. They’d sound phenomenal in a claustrophobic wee club.

Friendly Fires

Friendly Fires arrive hot on the heels of their self-titled debut album, and they match the hype with a sprightly set of punk-funk. Singer Ed Macfarlane is the main source of entertainment: dancing crazily in skin-tight clothes, a maniacal glare in his eyes, firing off plumes of confetti in all directions. Their music is anything but original, but it still injects some firey fun into a damp Connect.

SpiritualizedJ Spaceman

Spiritualized are one of the most highly anticipated acts of the weekend. We know Jason Pierce’s death-cheating tale, and it’s extra-special to have him, with full electric band, back on stage. They offer no connection to the audience though, facing each other like a studio band, and the set doesn’t nearly delve deep enough into their back catalogue. Just as well the few classics we do hear, like Come Together, are awe-inspiring.

Grinderman

If one band was made for the live setting, that band is Grinderman. On record, Nick Cave’s side-project comes across like cod-badass; it’s only when confronted with his spitting, lanky, wildly gesticulating frame at close quarters, along with his destructive, bearded side-kick Warren Ellis, that you get it. They run riot, dragging us all along with them on the road to oblivion – and huge fun.

ErrorsErrors

One band on the Your Sound Bandstand I am determined to see is Errors. The touted Glaswegians combine esoteric electro with crunchy post rock, and they play a blinding second-top billing set on Saturday night, to a sizeable segment of Scotland’s music-loving fraternity. Salut France and Toes are great, but, as was the case at their Triptych gig, it’s Mr Milk that stands out.

Young Knives

Young Knives are a head-scratching lot. One minute you’re enthralled by the wacky Britpop revivalism of Terra Firma, the next you’re tuning out, put off by the very same-ness of their guitar-bass-drums formula. They do their best to cheer the sodden Sunday early-comers with some witty asides, but it’s impossible to really let yourself forget the conditions with such ironic fare.

SantogoldSantogold

If anyone can dispel the rainclouds – or help us forget them at least – it’s Santi White, the effervescent urban diva behind Santogold. Although a delayed arrival means they only play half a dozen songs, White, in a shiny blue jumpsuit, gets the plastic ponchos in the crowd moving with Lights Out, You’ll Find A Way and The Creator.

Elbow

It is more a lack of options than any fanboy enthusiasm that draws me to the Oyster Stage for Elbow, and this flat set of sleepy indie only embeds my prejudice. The bluesy single Grounds For Divorce does redeem matters slightly, but their uninspiring attempts at emotive, lighters-in-the-air ‘moments’ fail utterly in this early evening slot.

The Gutter TwinsGreg Dulli and Mark Lanegan

In the general hubbub of Connect, it’s easy to overlook two of modern American rock’s true greats. With little fanfare, The Gutter Twins, fronted by Mark Lanegan and Greg Dulli, take to the stage before a sparse crowd. But instant respect is granted to the ever-morose Lanegan, who growls through the songs on autopilot, backed by the loudest, heaviest band of the weekend.

Sigur Rós

The dusk mist hanging in the pine forest on the hill behind the Oyster Stage provides the ideal backdrop in which to enjoy the mystical splendour of Sigur Rós. They open with the sublime Sven-G-Englar, and even reveal a sense of humour when a brass section marches on stage in See You Jimmy hats. The rest of their extensive set is rarely less than spellbinding, and they even trash their drumkit on exiting.

Franz FerdinandFranz Ferdinand

During their only festival appearance of the summer, Franz Ferdinand play a set that acts as a reminder of their sophisto-pop appeal and reveals the musical direction in which they’re headed. Hits like Michael, Do You Want To and Take Me Out rev up the masses, but another half-dozen new songs get an airing, the majority of which boast a fuller, synth-ier and funkier sound than we’ve been accustomed to.

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T in the Park: Saturday roving report

Eddy Grant opens the Main Stage

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.

MGMTA 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.

Rage Against The MachineWith 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

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