DCSIMG

Bands, burgers and queues: Balado at its best

"I’M with the band," said the girl behind me, totally without shame. This is the oldest trick in the book, the ruse to use when all else fails, the last resort of the poor, the desperate, the ticketless and, of course, the professional chancer.

"Which band?" grunted the Rock Steady heavy, steady as a rock. "Coldplay," she said. Gwyneth Paltrow, the blonde, glacial squeeze of the dadrock faves’ singer Chris Martin - it couldn’t be, could it?

I turned round, to be greeted by an even more stunning vision of femininity. A wee weegie bauchle in a bright orange Rangers away strip, three-quarter length combat breeks, diamante flip-flops, aviator shades, lugging a ginormous plastic bottle of Coke that, as sure as this was a Scottish rock festival, was mixed with something friskier. Good old T in the Park. You cannae, as they used to say, whack it.

The country’s top fest and premier gathering of neds kicked off yesterday amid Perthshire’s gentle rolling hills. REM brought the first day to a close just before midnight while Gwynnie’s man’s band headline tonight, a fitting finale to the 10th anniversary shindig.

You always know where you are with T in the Park and that place is Balado. A decade ago, Balado barely existed on maps of Scotland let alone one pinpointing the great festivals of the world. Now it’s where we all go every July, 110,000 of us, to stand in a field, drink beer, walk around a bit, bump into old friends, drink more beer, lose current friends, and listen to some music, relaying it home by mobile.

And, naturally, you do a heck of a lot of queueing.

Ten years - and 1.5 million pints of the sponsors’ finest lager necked before this one got going, shortly after midday. It’s those routines we love the most, and the queueing began back at the gates. A gold plastic wristband will later grant me access to hospitality - nicer grass, fewer neds, but even fewer celebs - but it doesn’t get me straight in. So I waited and waited and dreamed up my all-time favourite festival line-up.

How about Brian Jones-era Stones, Brian Eno-era Roxy Music and Viv Stanshall-era Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band? Great, but maybe too English, because T in the Park is incorrigibly and ineluctably a Scottish affair.

OK, then chuck in The Proclaimers singing ‘Sunshine On Leith’ on a loop.

Only one element of the great gig in the sky came to pass yesterday, and Craig and Charlie Reid were main-stage late-afternoon highlights as the sun blazed down. Meanwhile, over at the NME stage, Kings of Leon - this year’s great, white, hairy hopes of rock - tried to revive the ghosts of the Allman Brothers (ah, you remember them, old yin, good for you).

Most things about T in the Park are predictable. Apart from the weather - that’s predictably unpredictable. You wear a T-shirt, but you also take a North Pole-tested one-piece snowsuit and wader-dungarees, just in case.

Come prepared. A stall set up by Tayside Primary Care was dispensing free condoms. Maybe T in the Park was hoping to beat the record set last month by Glastonbury of 20,000 festival bonks, mostly to REM, but surely it was over-ambitious to limit the challenge to just Dundonians.

If you had lost your religion, and all hope, the Samaritans were there to help. They had two tents on site, one run by the offshoot Festival Samaratins.

"Lots of people - mostly young men - come to events like these to blot out their troubles," said helper Cynthia.

There seemed little wrong with the young men I encountered at the Bacardi Bar, as they leched at some girls who didn’t make it through to the Appleton Sisters Lookylikey Contest (Scottish Heat).

"Anybody in the house tonight?" hollored the DJ, getting a bit ahead of himself, for it was still afternoon.

When day eventually turned to night, the queues just got longer and longer. Queues for the beer-stops. Queues for the burger stands, and what a choice. Select Burgers! Supreme Burgers! Ultimate Burgers! You really could get anything you wanted at Balado yesterday. Legal Highs, boasted one stall. Serious Massage, promised another. The Rudest T-Shirts In The World offered "How many men does it take to open a can of lager? None - it should be open when the bitch gives it to you."

It didn’t sell well, and maybe no surprise. Those Dundee lads were taking the bonkathon seriously.

Flaming Lips are useful when chatting up Appleton clones, and the band of that name were in the right place mid-evening after the White Stripes had pulled out of the Caledonian clamjamphrie. Promoted to the main stage, a nasty clash with REM was thus avoided. Perfect.

Great sounds. Automatic sunshine. Girls who smile back. And, yes, burger fug and neds and lots and lots of queuing, for the ever-more-pongy cludgies and the antique buses home. After 10 years, such festival hassles become almost pleasurable.

 
 
 

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