Festival Review

T in the Park 2015

#HelloStrathallan isn’t without its issues, but the bands - and crowds - are still on point.

Last year, Scottish festival goers were forced to say #ByeByeBalado as T in the Park were forced to move home after having taken place in the airfield since 1997, but this year it’s #HelloStrathallan. Smaller, in a more rural area, there were a lot of questions raised beforehand about the upheaval to a new site; some elements seemed good, others not so much.

And since, there have been a whole host of stories from no room in campsites, some sleeping in cars because they couldn’t get out, others walking down unlit country roads at night, long queues at entrances, day ticket entry troubles and what’s now been dubbed ‘the Proclaimers crush’. Then came the chaos in trying to leave, and the follow-up reports suggesting it may face being shut down.

The new site is smaller, and the theory in dipping from stage to stage is sound; the Main and Radio One stages feel far easier to access between bands. But, the layout – and crossover - also sees several bottlenecks form, and coupled with that of the King Tut’s Tent and Cocktail Cocktail, causes more than a few crushes.

Teething problems aren’t limited to the layout, either. Day ticket entry sees people queuing so long they missed bands, despite gates opening just as the first was due to go on; no word from staff leaving many frustrated, resulting in the dangerous gate rush from ticket holders at one point. Balado had its issues at the start, and several of these will likely prove harsh lessons learned for Strathallan.

Once in, however, T in the Park is in full swing.Kicking things off on Friday on the Radio One stage are Lower Than Atlantis whose banter is often misfired and requires a second asking to get participation; perhaps people are still half asleep, but it sure feels awkward. While calling for people to ‘do Scotland proud’ in their response, they just seem a little bit grumpy, but on a technical level, sound as savvy as you’d hope.

In stark contrast, Prides seem ready to jump down from the Main Stage and give everyone a gleeful hug. Today's set is their album release show, they say, and so treat it like one massive party. Their excitement is infectious. As they close with the triumphant 'Messiah', it's here that the T party has truly begun, big balloons an' all.

Slaves do what they do best, pulling it off by not really giving a crap. They stroll on, do their thing, tell people to put their phones down and live through their eyes, continue, and it's everything people both wanted and expected from the duo. "Boo me? Boo you!" says Isaac Holman, as his snare fails him, leaving them to persevere with just guitar and vocals. Never fazed, persevere is exactly what they do, and as they reach 'The Hunter' with all working again, it's proof of the power of two even in a large setting.

The Wombats waste no time in thrilling arguably the biggest crowd so far; 'Moving To New York' has the masses dancing, while the band leap around with an enthusiasm you can't help but fall behind. People come to festivals to have fun, and this is it, pure and simple.

Hozier follows suit, wooing the crowd with his slick vocals and a backing band and singers who really flesh out the live show, and through the mammoth 'Take Me To Church', he managed to make even those peeking up from the back feel included.

Local boys The LaFontaines kick off Saturday with a party. Stage size will never be a barrier for Kerr Okan to bridge the gap with the audience, fraternising with the early morning revellers as they would in tiny venues. Circa Waves continue with a swing, their infectious summer tunes proving the perfect wake-up cocktail for those lagging festival goers, with 'T-Shirt Weather' feeling apt.

"Let's get down to it," says Seasick Steve, before launching into a bluesy fuelled set. It's hard not to warm to him as he proudly declares "You rock!" at several intervals, chugging beer much to the crowd's delight and putting on a great performance. One of the few this weekend's crowds allow to indulge in extended solos.

Charli XCX and her band are quick to take the title of T in the Park's best set of the weekend thus far on the Radio One stage. No set couldn't be improved with the largest inflatable guitar in the country, and it's used to her advantage through an upbeat set so full of hits no one in the vicinity stands idly by. Marina and the Diamonds, meanwhile, is more crafted in her manoeuvres, pelting out her songs with an odd elegance that reverberates off the sides of the King Tut's tent.

The Vaccines don't really do long songs, so each is a condensed burst of energy that allows the crowd to go a bit mental, take a moment's reprise to breathe, then get straight back at it in a full throttle. St. Vincent isn't quite so brash; while she fits the weekend's apparent monochrome dress theme, her robotic movements and synchronised actions with bandmates make for an unusual but interesting twist on a set that stands out. She can command a stage with minimal effort, and does.

The Libertines are a quintessential T band, and they're met as such. 'Can't Stand Me Now' causes arms to be slung around fellow festival-goers in delight, and while there are some jarring moments, Pete Doherty and Carl Barat work off one another with such a chemistry, it's easy to overlook occasional lulls.

Saturday closes with one of the festival's regulars, who've grown from T Break players to fully fledged headliners, and Twin Atlantic set their sights on making it one to remember. Through confetti explosion and rainbow streamers, little can dampen the spirits of thousands who lap up the set. "You're already wet," beams Sam McTrusty through the downpour, "so you might as well get muddy too." On command, thousands crouch down in the swamp to leap frenetically into 'I Am An Animal', an energy that carries them through to the singalong of the weekend, 'Heart and Soul'. They came, they saw, they conquered six times before, but it's lucky number seven for Twin, who continue to find ways to smash to a higher level.

The night is somewhat soured for thousands for the second night in a row, though, as the traffic troubles of the road in and out, the single-track, one-way roads that were deemed not fit to facilitate an event of this size, work in cahoots with the weather. To have a car park on a steep hill is wishful thinking that Scotland can go three whole days without rain, and to do so without any form of aid, like wood chips, or a central track for people to get to, is nothing but an oversight. After Saturday's downpour, cars slide around dangerously, dozens abandoning their own vehicles to help push those struggling up hills for hours on end. Staff are nowhere to be seen for the first four to five hours, until reaching the exit, and it's only down to the people coated in mud, knackered from helping that most people manage to get out. But upon reaching the roads in the early morning, queues still persisted, with many not exiting the car park until 4-5am, let alone getting home.

So unsurprisingly, Sunday sees festival goers rising later, the weekend's issues taking their toll. Arriving later, too, as there are yet more backlogs on the single country road, causing a bunch (*cough*) to miss stellar bands like Marmozets and Wolf Alice, but battle on they do for one final day of music.

Jamie T is one of the weekend's biggest draws crowd-wise, and his set doesn't disappoint. Another ideal for T, and by the time he kicks it out of the park with 'Zombie', he's managed to hit a new personal high for the festival.

The Xcerts have a humble audience, up against behemoths like Stereophonics, but it's a dedicated one. Their forty-minute set is met with excitement and solid singalongs, and the band top off the weekend with 'There Is Only You', the emotive and powerful offering from their album of the same name, that typifies how the band are on top form, and make dodging the bigger names absolutely worth it.

T in the Park has no worries in putting together a line-up and running a technically good festival, that's been proven again in 2015. The atmosphere is great, the crowds fantastic, but the voices of genuine and constructive complaint continue to strengthen in its wake. Their challenge is, if they're to keep it at Strathallan, to prove these are just teething problems. Many have vowed never to go back, but those who do will find it difficult to give them a third chance if they're sitting at 4am without a sign in sight, just desperate to go home.

Photos: Sinéad Grainger

Tags: Charli XCX, Marina, Peace, Prides, Slaves, T in the Park, Festivals, Reviews, Live Reviews

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