As if in atonement for a couple of unfortunate years of T In The Park, organisers have done a very slick job on this urban, non-camping proxy, says Fiona Shepherd
TRNSMT was a terribly civilised affair on its first day - which may not be everyone’s idea of a good festival but most likely reflected the demographic of older indie fans who have found little to love on the T bill of recent times.
Everything Everything are the kind of arty act who would elsewhere have been exiled to the fringes. But at TRNSMT they found their sometimes wilfully quirky, rhythmic indie politely received on the Main Stage as festival goers filed on to the Green and started to get acquainted with the compact and bijou site where you were never more than a stone’s throw from a proper coffee, an artisan food stall or a small stage hosting an up-and-coming band, be it Bang Bang Romeo delivering some appropriately ballsy blues rock from the Jack Rocks tent or the amiable indie and funky electro pop from Paisley foursome The Vegan Leather on the King Tut’s Stage.
Rag N Bone Man, the breakthrough success story of the year so far, was the first big draw of the day, turning in an inoffensive set of smooth, conservative MOR soul, not a million miles from the safe balladeering territory occupied by Emeli Sandé. But the attraction seemed to wane the moment he had dispensed his monster hit Human and the rest of his set was dutifully consumed.
Back over at the King Tut’s Stage, LA quartet Saint Motel soundtracked the first slivers of blue sky with their exuberant sax-powered pop delivered with a modicum of swagger - at least compared to most of the modest types on today’s bill.
London Grammar may well have been the most modest of the lot, vending tasteful coffee table mood music for the chilled mindset. Singer Hannah Reid has a rich jazz-tinged alto voice, best showcased on the a capella opening of Rooting For You, but the music and performance was a tad too low-key for this stage of proceedings. Keyboard player Dominic Major was looking forward to tasting his first Irn Bru - it didn’t get any more rock’n’roll than that.
In contrast, there was probably no better environment in which to take in a Belle and Sebastian show than a city park in the evening sunshine – “your park”, in fact, as civic-minded frontman Stuart Murdoch was quick to remind the masses, and the location where he wrote Judy and the Dream of Horses, one of the breeziest numbers in a thoroughly charming set.
Despite superficial appearances, Murdoch is no shrinking violet, and embraced the group’s biggest ever hometown show, throwing in some background info on the meaning of their more oblique poetic gems, including The Stars of Track and Field, their winsome paean to attractive sporty types, and living just a little dangerously down in the photographer’s pit, where he canvassed for volunteers to join the band for the traditional stage invasion/danceathon to the joyous groove of The Boy With The Arab Strap and disco delight The Party Line.
Some fans in the front row were not for moving before the main event but Belle & Sebastian were no mere aperitif to Radiohead, as Murdoch humbly suggested. However, that was it for party tunes. As the sun set and the full moon appeared, Radiohead delivered a bloody-minded marathon of a set which confirmed that their admirable lack of compromise extended to their festival headline slots.
This was a handsomely appointed but largely introverted performance, short on anthems, at least until the encores finally rolled around. The moving Pyramid Song was more fragile than ever, imbued with a devotional ache. Dynamic contrast came from a number of gentle, insistent grooves, Everything In Its Right Place being the one to click with the crowd and temporarily halt the chatter round the edges of the main arena.
But the audience stuck with them and, late in the day, a very pretty No Surprises was eagerly seized upon by a crowd looking for catharsis. In the 20th anniversary year of their classic album OK Computer, its lead single, Paranoid Android, which changed everything for the band back in the day, had lost none of its potency as the Bohemian Rhapsody of the 1990s.
“This is a very old one,” announced frontman Thom Yorke. Could it be a rare reprise of Creep, unexpectedly rolled out a few weeks ago for Glastonbury? No, not quite that old. Rather, we were treated to the relative bite, attitude and, dare we suggest it, rock’n’roll of The Bends. By this stage, Radiohead were almost behaving like crowd-pleasers, sending everyone home to the strains of Karma Police, an anthem which really did resonate to the back of the field.