T in the Park – Saturday
- Mark Robertson
- 13 July 2009
The List’s music editor Mark Robertson gives his verdict on some of the big names at Scotland’s biggest music festival.
Just because the BBC Introducing stage is tucked away – rather unfairly – behind the fun fair on the T site, it doesn’t stop Young Fathers (●●●●) from turning their modest crowd into the first moshpit of the day. Their self-styled, party-bound, electro-hip hop party skwonk is the perfect blend of the boisterous and the amiable – if only more people were able to accidentally happen upon this stage, the rewards for both crowd and artists would be far greater.
Similarly, Irish quartet Fight Like Apes (●●●) may look like a raggle-taggle bag of Cure tribute auditions teamed with a stalky 13th disciple but their trash metal-from-keyboards musical hailstorm is pretty breathtaking, even without them taking a couple of folding chairs to the stage and barriers for percussive effect. Was theirs the first abortive attempt of the weekend to scale the tent-rigging?
Viewing Katy Perry (●●●) from afar on the NME Radio 1 Stage there was only time to admire the tartan frock she clearly purchased just that day from a souvenir tat shop on the Royal Mile. Only the rush of oestrogen as literally hundreds of women charged for the stage whenever Perry launched into yet another would-be lady-empowering anthem distracted from the fact. The power of pop indeed.
The first band to draw a serious crowd on Saturday were the first ones to unite young and old, rude boys and wise guys alike. The reunion of the mighty Specials (●●●●●) was good news for all concerned as so many have never experienced the dynamic magic of their live sets, and this hour, from a bunch of old geezers – albeit the most sharply tailored men ever to grace a T stage – was nothing short of a religious experience. Songs of anger and frustration, depicting political unease, teenage pregnancy, urban violence reconstituted as vivacious, ingenious mid-afternoon celebration of life? Oh yes.
The T Break Stage lacked the general pre-event hoo-ha of previous years, the organisers having done away with showcases and the like, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t a wealth of meaty goodness to chow down on. Cheerily deranged Glasgow duo Bronto Skylift (●●●●) do the kind of guitar and drums hurricane that invokes a more untidy, Dinosaur Jr-go-to-hell vibe than the three great duos of our time: The White Stripes, Lighting Bolt and Simon and Garfunkel, but putting the greatest hits of all three in a blender and drinking them down in one would have the same disorienting effect.
Long lost US underground alt.rock outfit Rodan are the spiritual godfathers of T Break quintet Trapped in Kansas (●●●) who bring an ear opening set to a white hot, molten climax with their own brand of post-rock growl. Bigger stage next year for these chaps please.
The second (or is it third?) coming of Jane’s Addiction (●●●●) was never going to be a bad thing and they showed up like proper rock stars replete with capes, C&W-styled catsuits, rippling six packs and leather bell bottoms straight out of the dressing up box and up there, unperturbed by the second stage placing or evening gloaming descending onto Balado. ‘Mountain Song’, ‘Three Days’, ‘Been Caught Stealing’ and ‘Ocean Size’ gave us a proper rock show with big pompous rock songs.
It would have been fitting perhaps, if the heavens had opened for Nine Inch Nails (●●●●●), a layer of meteorological gloom to add to Trent Reznor’s bombastic scree, but the hurricane force electrical storm from the NME Radio 1 Stage headliners was of such force, clarify and accuracy that it all made sense as to why they were topping the bill. To the untrained eye or ear, Reznor’s nihilistic barking could be mistaken for a millionaire’s posturing petulance and noise, but NiN’s power and fury rendered them among the most intense musical experiences T in the Park has witnessed. Not since the appearance of Rage Against the Machine some years back has Balado known such, well, rage. Reznor’s songs may be filled with rancour but they know how to poke at all the right sweet spots the pop tarts Katy Perry and Lady Gaga were working over earlier in the day, and this abridged set (the stage was running about half an hour late) finished with mammoth chant-along courtesy of ‘Head Like a Hole’, before they brought things crashing back to earth with a frail, acoustic rendering of ‘Hurt’. The song, known to many through the tremulous cover by Johnny Cash, sits alongside The Special’s finishing with ‘Ghost Town’ as the darkest climax to a set T in the Park has seen in recent memory. Not typical T fare, perhaps, but all the better for it.