Gig Review: T in the Park, Balado, Scotland, Saturday July 8, 2006

A week before T in the Park I was not even going, but a couple of almost face-value tickets later (yeah, I know, don’t buy from touts, but I don’t think this was a tout and it was still cheaper than either V or Leeds) and my rock chick friend and I were on our way to Scotland in the dark on a Friday night with a tent, lots of Pot Noodle and and a ridiculous amount of coffee. Six hours later we had a makeshift home in a field 4 miles from the actual festival and loads of plans about how to avoid bad band time clashes the next day.

The Guillemots at T in the Park 2006Saturday morning began with sunshine, a lift into Milnethorp, a 2 mile walk and the Guillemots playing in King Tut’s Tent. The Guillemots are currently one of my favourite live bands and they were the perfect start to the day with their gleeful, orchestral pop. They played a short but energetic set consisting primarily of the singles: “Trains to Brazil,” “Made Up Love Song #43,” and “Who Left the Lights Off Baby” as well as a manic “Go Away” before finishing with the intense, meandering “Sao Paulo.” Supplemented by 3 backing singers and some horns, they had the crowd in the palms of their hands, screaming madly for Fyfe, besuited all in red and with his usual smile.

What a way to start our festival then, as we wandered over to the Radio 1/NME Stage to watch The Cribs, a band I’d seen a few years ago opening for Death Cab for Cutie and who had not impressed me. But, more recently I liked the “Hey Scenesters!” single and I had picked up their album on the cheap and it’s surprisingly good. So we planted ourselves on the grass, not even able to see the screens in the crowd, and listened to them deliver a reasonable set of Strokes-inspired rock tunes with some good riffs and a lot of enthusiasm in the crowd. They sounded okay, nothing amazing, but it’s always a different vibe when you’re sat near the back than when you’re down in the trenches.

The On/Offs at T in the Park 2006From there we wandered over to catch the On/Offs at the Futures Stage. I’d been reasonably impressed with them when The Ledge and I saw them open for Battle a few months ago. Since then, they’ve progressed slightly, sounding less like The Jam and more like The Futureheads, or perhaps a combination of the two. They were enthusiastic, despite being in a tiny tent to a very sparse crowd, and delivered their spiky rock tunes with such gusto that my rock chick friend has been pestering me to inform her the next time they play in Manchester, so taken by them she was. If that’s not a result, I don’t know what is.

That was the last of my leisurely stroll through bands I thought I might find interesting and the point at which things started to clash. I found myself agreeing to watch ten minutes of the Kooks, mainly because my friend wanted to try to grasp the appeal of a singer who she reckons sounds like he’s plagued with a Tourette’s style vocal tick when he sings. There was no appeal and we very speedily fought our way through a massive crowd over to the main stage to see Placebo, always a festival favourite for me. Sadly they were not on their usual form. Maybe it was because they’re promoting a new album which I have yet to hear and maybe I just was not drunk enough, starting to fade a bit from lack of sleep and fretting about whether to watch Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and the tail end of Franz Ferdinand, or Clap and then all of iForward Russia!. Either way, it was not the most dynamic Placebo performance ever, they seem to plod on doing the same thing forever, per usual. I did enjoy hearing “Nancy Boy” though. And Brian Molko, from what I could see of him, looked snazzy in a suit.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah at T in the Park 2006After some food, I made the difficult decision to watch Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and then run over to the main stage and watch the end of Franz Ferdinand, foregoing iForward Russia! who I am sure delivered a blistering performance, but who I’ve seen recently. I haven’t seen Franz since they released their second album. In any case, it was down to the front of the Pet Sounds Arena for CYHSY in amidst a friendly crowd who were as intrigued as I when the roadies started putting up a curtain at the front of the stage, which I have since learned was actually for Sigur Ros. While the opening song was a bit nonchalant, they soon picked up the pace, with Alex Ounsworth delivering some bizarre happy dancing, and the band inspiring gleeful singalongs to “My Yellow Country Teeth” and “Clap Your Hands” the last verse of which was sung, rather than chanted. A new song sounded fabulous, despite slightly dodgy sound, and I was pleased to hear my personal favourites “Over and Over (Lost and Found)” and “Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood.” I could have spent another hour in that tent watching them quite happily so cheerful and inspiring were they, much like the previous two occasions when I’d seen them, only this time it was to a much bigger audience.

When I emerged from the darkness of the tent it was into steady rain, so, pulling on my rain gear as I ran, I made my way over to the main stage in time to hear Franz Ferdinand performing the end of “Fallen.” Realising I would never get close enough to see anything I found a spot where I could at least see the screens and proceeded to enjoy energetic versions of “Darts of Pleasure,” “Matinee,” “40′” and “This Fire,” the last of which ended the set and apparently featured a range of guest drummers, but I couldn’t tell from where I was standing, particularly as I was being besieged by a young lad who insisted he knew me from a pub somewhere in Glasgow. As I’ve only been to Glasgow to see gigs twice, and have only ever been in one pub there once and that about 8 years ago when this boy was probably only about 10 years old, I think he was probably mistaken. Wrapped up in a rain poncho with the hood pulled low, I doubt he could even really tell what I looked like. But it was entertaining. Pity it distrated me from Franz who sounded like they were onto a brilliant performance, and the crowd was certainly excited by it.

After they finished, I took myself off to find my friend and the beer tent. She’d had quite an adventure herself, down closer to the front of Franz than I, bumping into old acquaintances she had not seen in over ten years. Welcome to T in the Park. Beer acquired, we wandered back into the main stage crowd to watch the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a band neither of us love, but also a band so legendary and so famed for their live shows that we both figured we should watch them at least once in our lives. We sort of managed. Walking through the crowd in our rain gear, people stopping to offer us cash for our ponchos, bum a light off my companion, offer us drugs, drinks, hugs, flags and idle chatter. It was the friendliest crowd at a gig I’ve ever experienced. Everyone wanted to know how far we’d driven, everyone wanted to tell us how much fun they were having and everyone wanted to share their fun with us. We got to wave a flag, we got to dance, we met people from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and eventually, for about 15 minutes near the end of the evening, we did, finally watch the Chilis perform their final few songs, dancing about like mad fools to “By the Way” and “Give It Away” merely because we could. It did inspire some silly dancing around us though.

All in all it was a fantastic day, despite getting soaked to the bone walking four miles home in the dark. We crawled into our tent by midnight, there was nothing else for it in the rain, and dropped off dreaming of the possibilities for day 2 of T in the Park.

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