That’s what I set out to find out at this year’s event at Balado; the sky’s overcast and rather glum (what do you expect, it’s bloody Scotland) but the crowds are swarming the site and there’s a palpable feeling of extreme anticipation as this year’s line-up is meant to be one of the strongest yet, and coupled with some of the traditionally most excitable crowds in Britain I head over to the arena site with considerable expectations.
Having woken up rather late I arrive at the NME stage just as local heroes Dogs Die In Hot Cars leave the stage. As I was still cursing myself for being such a lazy twat The Zutons take to the stage to induct the crowd to their brand of Mersey psychedelia, kicking off with the guitar- canoodling ‘Zuton Fever’. Considering it was still early on in the day’s events, the crowd was impressively sizeable as the Scousers traipse through their recently released debut ‘Who Killed The Zutons’, and they were almost at boiling point as the band conclude with the earth-shattering ‘You Will, You Won’t’. British Sea Power had the unenviable task of following them on the same stage, and they spent the next half-hour demonstrating their straight-up guitar clashings with selected tracks off their ‘The Decline of British Sea Power’ and the forthcoming ‘Spirit of St Louis’ albums. Although tracks like ‘Fear of Drowning’ and ‘Apologies to Insect Life’ had flashes of inspiration, they did little to keep the crowd’s attention despite the appearance of their one-armed snare smacker who waded into the crowd towards the end of the set.
Faced with the prospect of either Pink or Speedway on the other main stages, I had little choice but to hang around for the appearance of Welsh die-hards Funeral For A Friend. Not introducing any new material into their energetic set was a bit of a mistake, but if truth be told even if they had it would have been hard to make the distinction. And so it was apathy turning into tedium as Keane take to the stage. Songs like ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ and ‘Everybody’s Changing’ are greeted by the crowd as if they’ve just seen a Coldplay covers band. At best that is what Keane are, although Wet Wet Wet would probably be a more appropriate name, and as lead singer Tom Chaplin is busy introducing one of their more drab numbers… “This song’s about unrequited love……something that’s happened to me recently” he didn’t notice me standing near the front of the stage, ready to jump on and clothesline him with a Les Paul. So thank fuck for the Wu Tang Clan. Only a handful of them turn up, and although there’s no Ol’ Dirty Bastard or Method Man, the peace-loving, kung-fu appreciating Clan were on top entertaining form, taking most of their picks off ‘Wu-Tang Forever’ and ‘The W’, and closing with the bombastic ‘Gravel Pit’.
And so I leave a sea of W-shaped handsigns to head towards the Main Stage where last-minute replacements The Charlatans were already in full flow. Playing a greatest hits set The Charlies were always going to go down a treat, and with tracks like ‘Weirdo’, ‘How High’, ‘Just When You’re Thinking Things Over’ and ‘One To Another’ they certainly didn’t disappoint. Although Tim Burgess could never hold a note to save his life, he did restrain himself from too many falsettos, which was unquestionably a relief. So it was up to Muse to close out the evening. Despite the recent heartbreak of Dom Howard’s father death only a few hours after their recent glorious Glastonbury set, it rarely showed onstage. The band kept the banter to a minimum as they tore through a set consisting of material from their three LPs, with ‘Butterflies and Hurricanes’ being a particular highlight amongst the obvious hits like ‘Plug-In Baby’, ‘Muscle Museum’ and ‘Time is Running Out’. If there were any doubters who thought that Muse were not big enough to sit in the top hierarchy of rock’s premier league, then tonight’s set would surely have put pay to any scepticism; tonight they have undoubtedly triumphed over tragedy.
So it was up to rock’s newest bigmouth to open the second day of T in the Park, as Johnny Borrell’s Razorlight take to the NME stage. The set’s expectedly taken from recent debut ‘Up All Night’, and recent singles ‘Golden Touch’ and ‘Rip It Up’ already sound like bona fide classics; on today’s showing the band may actually live up to the hype that their frontman has built up for them. New York’s Stellastarr* follows, and showed how criminally underrated their debut album is, with ‘Jenny’ and ‘My Coco’ being the pick of the bunch.
Franz Ferdinand’s set at T was always going to be a bit of an event, being one of the buzz bands at the moment and being Scottish and everything. Lead singer Alex Kapranos looks nervous as hell, perma-grin on his face as his band rip through their debut album almost as it is recorded on the LP; songs like ‘This Fire’ and ‘Take Me Out’ are obvious trump cards but the band were merely solid if not unspectacular. The first foray into the X Tent led me to sample the live delights of Liverpool-based The Open, and the dark constraint of the tent was perfect for the band’s moody atmospherics. ‘Bring Me Down’ and ‘Close My Eyes’ are both epic as they are disturbing, and it should only be a matter of time before The Open bring their sound to a bigger stage.
Mmm…The Thrills or The Rapture? Being a vehement hater of all things Thrills, I head back down to NME stage for some of NYC’s finest disco-pop. Lifting material off their ‘Echoes’ LP, songs like ‘Heaven’ and ‘Sister Saviour’ are very good for the festival merrymaking atmosphere, but for all the happy-clappy party tracks there was very little substance to their set, and I’m already queuing up for a pint of Scotland’s finest at the Tennant’s tent by the time they bring their set to a close with ‘House of Jealous Lovers’. Indie veteran PJ Harvey was up next on the main stage with two drummers but despite being admittedly unfamiliar with her work, ‘Good Fortune’ and ‘Who The Fuck?’ stuck out in a set full of dirty blues riffs. Following Ms Harvey were country rockers Kings Of Leon, who debuted a substantial amount of new material as well as choice cuts off ‘Youth and Young Manhood’. ‘California Waiting’ rubbed shoulders with Kings favourites ‘Red Morning Light’ and ‘Molly’s Chambers’ and although the new material bar one were not as immediate as their established material, nevertheless the crowd were still lapping it up.
And so it’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for, the live return of the legendary Pixies. Time hasn’t been too kind to the Boston quartet; as they proved when they shuffled onto stage that they were giants not just in the musical sense. But who cares? The Pixies blitz through their extensive back catalogue, with favourites ‘Gigantic’, ‘Monkey’s Gone To Heaven’ and ‘Debaser’ cluttering a set consisting of close to twenty-plus songs. And as ‘In Heaven’ gives way to ‘Where Is My Mind?’ there was a general realisation that the band’s live return was everything that one could hope for, and more. But who could possibly follow a set of such importance and hype? If there’s one band that knows more than anyone about hype is The Strokes, and they really did give it their all. Taking an equal amount of material from ‘Is This It?’ and ‘Room on Fire’ the New York quintet roared through their set with ferocious velocity, closing the festival with a rambuncious ‘Take It Or Leave It’. And as one man and his bagpipes came on stage to bring proceedings to a close with fireworks going off in every direction, what can be said of the festival as a whole? Shit weather, friendly people, great bands. Nuff said.