Review: T in the Park Saturday

Jessie J takes to the Main Stage at Strathallan Castle. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Jessie J takes to the Main Stage at Strathallan Castle. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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SCOTSMAN critic Fiona Shepherd reviews day two of T in the Park at Strathallan Castle

T In The Park Saturday

Strathallan Castle

Star rating: ***

Day two in T In the Park’s new home and the going is fair to muddy. The Strathallan site is more compact than Balado, and more picturesque too, with woodland ringing the area and a petrified trunk in the middle of the main arena serving as a handy meeting point. Uninterrupted views of Strathallan Castle were freely available to those in posh camping, while day trippers could spy its turrets from the Healthy T hillside and over and beyond the occasional hoarding by the non-picturesque toilets.

The fun began before reaching the site with massed selfies on the commuter bus but the queue to get in at the East Gate, with some festivalgoers waiting two hours to gain admittance to the site, was enough to kill any pre-T buzz.

Once through the gates, the atmosphere was altogether more contented, even though there were only a succession of identikit indie bands to be heard over lunchtime. For the sake of distinguishing the undistinguished, The Coronas aspired to be angsty and anthemic, while Circa Waves cranked up the chirpy pop angle to the pleasure of a good-sized crowd and Palma Violets attempted to rouse some rabbles with their more garagey approach.

In contrast, an old ex-hobo wielding a succession of knackered homemade instruments playing some pretty basic blues connected in a way those young bucks can only dream of. Seasick Steve charmed the main stage crowd with his primal racket and love of Scottish accents. “You’ve really got something going there with the talking thing,” he opined quaintly. “Thank you for the great job,” he added, echoing the sentiments of his fellow performers in the face of the eternally enthusiastic T crowd.

As always, T in the Park is a land of contrasts, and not just musical ones. As sure as intense sun follows downpour, there will be a blaring funfair right beside some chilled hippy stalls offering face painting and friendship bracelets, or a cocktail bar which pumps out a constant stream of ravey davey dance tunes to party people along with their mojitos or mixed drink of choice.

Mid-afternoon belonged to the pop girls. Charli XCX has written some of the biggest hits of the last couple of years, including Icona Pop’s I Love It and Iggy Azalea’s Fancy and brought that snotty pop attitude to her non-stop colourful, cartoony set, driven along by her glamorous girl backing band.

Further evidence that T In The Park was bucking this year’s tendency towards overwhelmingly male-dominated bills came from Marina and the Diamonds, unfortunately scheduled to play at the same time as Charli.

The two singers share some musical traits and crossover in their fanbase but if Charli is broadly for the younger kids, Marina offers something for the teenager developing more sophisticated synth pop tastes. Where Charli shouted, Marina soared on the plaintive likes of I Am Not A Robot, her stylised set landing somewhere between Kate Bush and Hot Gossip.

Next, to Jessie J on the main stage to complete the pop diva triumvirate. This season’s essential stage prop - a throne - was arguably an indication of where she would place herself in the pop pecking order. She at least ingratiated herself to the crowd with her T in the Park shirt but alienated the ears by shamelessly over-singing everything.

The first serious rain shower of the day sent a host of festivalgoers scurrying for the King Tut’s Tent to catch Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott, erstwhile frontfolks of The Beautiful South.

Heaton’s former Housemartins mucker Fatboy Slim packed out the same tent the previous evening with his cut-and-paste DJ party; Heaton is a generally more curmudgeonly figure but a set stuffed with the many hits he has written for both bands across the year was just the T ticket.

The acerbic likes of Old Red Eyes is Back and Don’t Marry Her, F*** Me made for the most entertaining singalongs of the day, while the communal a capella Caravan Of Love was a pretty special moment.

There was more sublime singing from London soul funk collective Jungle who wielded a subtle, seductive power with their high harmonies but also built up a part atmosphere over the course of their disarmingly pitched set.

St Vincent’s quirkily choreographed performance was dedicated to “the freaks and the others” of the nation, but could have been enjoyed by anyone who could withstand the tent-quaking volume of her idiosyncatic electro rock and her fabulous fuzz guitar playing.

The Proclaimers are practically an annual fixture at T, and it’s not hard to hear why. Their lusty love songs and finely crafted but unpretentious anthems are the perfect festival soundtrack, as the Tent Full sign attested.

Outside, there was serious congestion as almost all the site traffic over increasily gloopy ground was towards the main arena to catch The Libertines. Pete Doherty and Carl Barat’s microphone-sharing chemistry and the romance of their rough-round-the-edges punk melodies were in marked contrast to the blaring ravey megamix served up by headliner Avicii from the world’s loftiest DJ booth.

Across site, former main stage openers Twin Atlantic closed proceedings in the Radio 1 arena, seizing their moment and not letting go.