SCOTSMAN critic David Pollock sums up the third and final day of T in the Park 2015
T In The Park Sunday
Star rating: ***
“I was in the war / you were in the war...” crooned Everything Everything’s singer Jonathan Higgs during No Reptiles, a stand-out track by one of the more critically adored artists on Sunday afternoon’s T in the Park bill. Looking round, we felt his pain. Even in the King Tut’s tent a thin film of mud covered the ground, while his audience were dark-eyed but up for one more go round the defining Scottish rock festival’s unfamiliar new site in a Perthshire forest glade.
That the sun came out and the rain finally held off for the third and final day of the event was no small consolation to those who had braved the whole weekend. There can be little envy for Geoff Ellis and the other organisers of T, who were faced with the task of uprooting all that tens of thousands find comforting and familiar about T while facing all the logistical problems of a start-up festival on a grand scale. Things weren’t perfect, but only the traffic chaos of Friday can be laid at the door of the organisers, and it was quickly and efficiently sorted by the next day.
Otherwise, that brighter weather heralded what can only be described as a successful conclusion to T’s first incursion into its more scenic, more compact and somewhat more crowded venue. The bill for this third day was at once nicely varied and packed with artists who seemed like safe bets for T’s more traditional crowd. Gone was the contrast of the previous two nights’ face-off between traditional British white male rock and more global and contemporary EDM tableaux (Kasabian and the Libertines alongside David Guetta and Avicii, respectively) - instead, two giants of the mid-’90s Britpop era faced each other across the guitars versus machines divide instead, with big draws Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and the Prodigy taking the headline spots on the two largest stages.
With noisy Welsh rockers the Stereophonics - ever-popular in Scotland - in the second main stage position, it was as though T had consciously taken the decision to return to the particularly ‘90s-centric heyday of British popular music which spawned the festival two decades ago. Another reformed veteran of those days appeared earlier in the day on the BBC Three/Radio 1 stage, when Scotland’s own Idlewild returned before a modestly-sized but particularly passionate audience. More reserved and pastoral in their quieter moments, perfect for a crowd still in recovery from Saturday night, they were still capable of ferocious sucker punches like the serrated A Modern Way of Letting Go, easy but deserved crowdpleasers to fans who remember their energetic but considered quality.
“Come and see us in December and you won’t be standing in mud,” plugged singer Roddy Woomble before they left the stage, and that might have sold the idea to many. There was no escaping the mud left over from the day before, whether on the slow (but mercifully short, compared to Balado) trudge between stages or on the precarious slope of danger near the west gate. The going was slightly firmer in the tents, so it was fortunate that these were where much of the day’s most interesting music occurred. The Slam tent was, as tradition dictates, a particularly joyous law unto itself, with cheery dancers and clubbers out of their natural habitat pitching themselves before a procession of more credible house and techno DJs including Claude Vonstroke and Maya Jane Coles.
The King Tut’s tent, meanwhile, fired off a succession of fine performances, including young electro-shoegazers and recent surprise album hits Wolf Alice, while Everything Everything were a lively vision in matching red leather jackets, playing twitchy electro-pop in Spring / Sun / Winter / Dread and Photoshop Handsome, and a weird but perfectly-synched fusion of house beats, surf rock and funk-laden rap on Distant Past. With its oddly unnerving chorus of “it’s all right to feel like a fat child in a pushchair / old enough to run / old enough to fire a gun”, No Reptiles came closest to a political thrust amidst the gaggle of largely apolytical stars on show.
Later on the same stage, Washington State’s eight-piece indie orchestra Modest Mouse delivered a typically densely textured and emotive set, quite at odds with the by the book post-post-Britpop pose of shaggy-haired youngsters and this year’s big things Catfish and the Bottlemen elsewhere, who made youthful revolt sound like a career choice akin to accuntancy and did a good job of not looking nervous. Back at Tut’s, 20-year-old Dutch EDM producer Oliver Heldens’ ground-shaking club set packed the tent full.
Prior to the late evening’s blokey headline incursions, meanwhile, two very different female artists took to the stage. First, Brittany Howard’s striking, controlled blues and soul hurricane Alabama Shakes; then the altogether more pop stylings of Paloma Faith, a woman who has taken her own blues and soul direction, although her voice was bolstered by two powerful backing singers here. A prime Saturday night television entertainer, she looked striking in a combination of low cut cream dress, yellow cape and impossibly high gold heels, swatting the air with a japanese fan and earning the largest cheers for hits like Picking Up the Pieces.
In the spirit of a day where everything seemed to come together, though, her heartfelt call for “empathy, compassion and equality, and anyone who thinks I’m being naive is probably a bit angry” hit the right note. It wasn’t a vintage T in the Park day, but it was finally, recogniseably T in the Park again.