There’s sweltering sunshine around the now legendary grounds of Balado, and Scotland’s biggest festival is ready to say one big goodbye to the airfield that many have enjoyed the best parties of their lives in for just short of two decades.
Yes, T in the Park, whether you personally love it or hate it does have a special place in the hearts of the masses and it’s for that reason that for over its 21 year history it has risen to be one of the world’s biggest festivals and for one weekend a year a lonely airfield near Kinross becomes the fourth biggest town in Scotland.
This year it’s advanced further with Friday becoming a full day event for the first time and Saturday’s curfew extended to 1am, albeit we do see the absence of the Transmission Stage, the festival’s usual fourth stage, which does leave slightly less choice on the bill but allows the opportunity for BBC Introducing and T Break to really step up to the plate.
It’s T Break where I start my day for the fuzz layered swagger of Dundee boys Vladimir, and they don’t let down in front of a reasonably healthy crowd for a first act at the notorious local band tent.
Their sliding guitars and sneery vocals are blanketed in plenty of rock star attitude and after bursting on the scene last year they’re now making a firm grasp, expect plenty more from these guys in the next year.
Following Vladimir I get my first taste of music in the sunshine as upcoming popstress Charli XCX opens the main stage, as I wander over she’s performing a funky cover of ‘I Want Candy’ in what appears to be just a nighty and one that does become rather revealing in the windy conditions up on stage.
Still this is the moment that T in the Park 2014 gets to enjoy it’s first number one single of the weekend in the form of the track XCX penned and performed with Icona Pop, ‘I Love It’, and this gets the first unsuspecting screams for those who have came down for the early afternoon sunshine.
This is quickly followed by another top 10 effort with her featured track with Iggy Azalea ‘Fancy’ and followed by the only track I witness from last year’s glorious dark wave album True Romance in ‘Grins’, before choosing to end proceedings on latest single ‘Boom Clap’, it’s a fun way to start the day in the sun and shows wee Charli’s progression since we saw her in front of 100 or so people a year ago in the ABC2.
Following that I take a bit of time to re-familiarise myself with the set up taking the time to catch a few potential soaring pop hits at the Radio 1 Stage from the foot tappingly captivating Foxes, whose face is everywhere this weekend, and some powerful grunge grooves from Derbyshire brothers Drenge, who play to responsive crowd in King Tut’s Tent.
All that wandering about in the sunshine becomes a bit tiring but at a festival like T you always want to try and take in a bit of everything on offer, still the potential of seeing the disco enthused, pop rocking sisters HAIM in the sunshine of the Main Stage is too good to resist.
The addictive handclaps and bass licks of ‘Falling’ kick off proceedings as the trio instantly get into their sugar coated groove, but they quickly prove their more than just Stevie Nicks wannabes as Danielle Haim’s grimaced solos and the rollicking hard rock of Alana Haim fronted ‘Oh Well’ prove testament to that.
The trio returning from last year hold T in the Park in high regard as Este Haim admits losing herself to Kendrick Lamar last year was one the best moments she’s had in recent times before pulling off a sun drenched cover of Beyonce’s ‘XO’.
A three girl drum assault polishes of ‘Let Me Go’, and the set, as HAIM provide one of the early festival highlights before giving way to Imagine Dragons, who I give a couple of songs before moving on from their rather mediocre alt rock to cover some new names, to myself at least.
This comes in the shape London Grammy nominated produced MNEK who sports a colourful shirts/shorts combo and a powerful soulful voice that saw him reach number four in the charts on Gorgon City’s ‘Ready for Your Love’.
The set is loads of fun and jam packed with funk filled beats, sassy pointing from wonderfully harmonious backing vocalists and a few well picked covers includes Sly & the Family Stone classic ‘If You Want Me To Stay’.
Over at the King Tut’s Tent Glasgow trio CHVRCHES have the crowd in the palm of their hand from the off with recent single ‘We Sink’ and it’s truly testament to how far these guys have come in such a short time that the huge tent is rammed.
Still, this would be my fifth time of catching them since they graced the Transmission Stage last year and although the set, entirely taken from debut album The Bones of What You Believe, is strong it does feel time for a breath of fresh air, time to take a step back produce that follow up.
Regardless the Balado crowd lap it all up as energy levels fly through the roof for Martin Doherty fronted soarer ‘Under the Tide’, which provides a nice contest from Lauren Mayberry’s always delightful but almost delicate delivery.
Still, closer ‘The Mother We Share’ sounds fresh as ever and will be a staple for years to come as they end on a high and the majority of the crowd make the difficult choice between a ginger muppet and some Welsh bore-rock behemoths.
Naturally I choose a stint in T Break as the stage ends with three of Glasgow’s most encouraging acts, Deathcats are up first and turn up their usual summery surf pop style and provide an ultra fun set to a small but enthusiastic crowd, which reads as a who’s who of the Glasgow alternative pop scene at times.
These boys are consistent as ever and frontman James McGarragle’s slanted vocal hooks dig in deeper with every listen, last year’s ‘I Wish It Was Summer’ feels the most apt, McGarragle introduces it by quipping “this one’s about getting your taps aft,” after a day of scorching sunshine – there’s total sunglasses tan coming my way for certain.
The next local favourites are TeenCanteen and I’m again thanking my lucky stars that T Break is here, as the four girls appear faces covered in shiny stuff and sweetener covering their tunes.
It’s a pure sugar coated delight as ‘Honey’ rings round for a growing T Break crowd, some slightly bashful soft spoken chat introduces another charming fuzzy indie pop ditty and this continues through the entire set that culminates in the soft keyboard led ‘Vagabond’, delightful stuff.
It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t head over to see at least some of the Pixies, but as I arrive for the Tut’s Tent headliners you’re instantly hit with the poor turn out and the ultimately flat, rather underwhelming performance only goes to justify why; at points it could well have been that guy from The Shield up there as Black Francis’ usual howl seems lost in the midst of performance.
Still as they throw in some hits the gathered crowd take things up a notch, ‘Hey’ being a particular early highlight as Francis manages to hit comfort zone for a few minutes, it’s not enough though and I head back to T Break for a performance sadly seen by few that could be one of the sets of the weekend.
Tuff Love don’t seem to care about the lack of crowd as they blister through an engrossing set filled with head nodding hooks and summery vocals, the Lost Map signed trio are a delight as their bright grunge tinged guitar pop sound more than outweighs a lacklustre Pixies or the tartan trousered, bearded twits doing their Scottish Foo Fighters impression for the masses.
After Tuff Love, just out of intrigue, I wander over to make the last twenty minutes of the Pixies, and although I am greeted by the glorified majesty of ‘Monkey Gone To Heaven’ and ‘Debaser’ back to back a touch of needless guitar wankery from Joey Santiago kills the vibe and even fan favourites ‘Tame’ and ‘Vamos’ can’t seem to lift it again.
Closing on ‘Where Is My Mind?’ gives everyone a glorious if short lived reminder of how good the Pixies back catalogue is and allows one more track to be ticked off the bucket list, however it’s all too unconvincing and it’ll simply be a case of if we’re ever to see the Pixies again it’ll need to be a case of simply Deal or no deal!
Words: Iain Dawson
Photos: Bill Gray