At first, they scoffed. They doubted. They rolled their eyes. Good luck to anyone crazy enough to try mounting a music festival in the middle of the perennially dreich Scottish summer. DF Concerts were crazy enough to try and later, those same scoffers danced. They moshed. They drank copious quantities of lager, and couldn’t imagine a time when T in the Park was not part of the musical landscape.
In 1994, the first T in the Park attracted 17,000 revellers to a country park east of Glasgow. Three years later, the festival moved to its current site on a disused airfield near Kinross, added the Slam Tent, then the T Break Stage for upcoming acts, and has grown to accommodate a horde of 85,000 people over three days every July. Its international success encouraged other Scottish festivals – Wickerman, Belladrum, Rockness – to establish their place in the summer calendar.
But T in the Park is still the daddy of them all. We asked some of the artists performing at this year’s 20th festival, and the organisers, for their T in the Park memories and what the festival means to them.
Scott Hutchison Frightened Rabbit
I think to any Scottish band, playing T in the Park is a bit of a milestone. Having attended as a fan in my teens years ago, when we finally got asked to play in the T Break tent in 2008 it was a really special occasion. The crowds at T are unlike anything else I’ve experienced – rather wild and very, very ready to sing and get caught up in the show. Can’t wait to play it again this year.
I feel very proud to have such an amazing festival which we see as a home one. It’s one of the most successful in Europe and we have played it a handful of times.
Andy Dunlop Travis
I still remember vividly growing up as a young music fan in Scotland pre T in the Park. The thought of going to a festival involved getting yourself to Reading or Glastonbury which, at the time for most of us, just wasn’t an option. Suddenly, there was a fully formed festival right on our doorstep. Not only that, but as a young, struggling band we actually got to play it, albeit in the comedy tent before that guy who said “donkey” a lot, with a broken-footed drummer. Plus we got to see Rage Against the Machine play an incendiary set, the Primals at their majestic height and Oasis before they were OASIS.
Since then, it’s played such an important part in our history, from playing a crammed King Tut’s tent to some amazing main stage appearances. As a Scottish band there really is no place greater to play. The highest praise I can heap on it is that it is the festival equivalent of playing a show at the Barrowlands.
I first went as a punter when I was 14 or 15 – it was the year that Oasis played and they’d just released Heathen Chemistry. My mum taped it off the telly and me and my mate were down at the front of the crowd. It was cool. We were in a covers band at the time and we did loads of Oasis tracks.
I would always imagine being backstage at T. It seemed a million miles away. You’d picture golden fountains behind the stage. The first year we played we were on the T Break Stage. When we got back to the campsite, we felt like proper celebrities. The next year we headlined the King Tut’s Tent. It was a big transition. We’ve done the main stage a couple of times now so we’ve always upped the crowds. This year will be the biggest crowd we’ve played to. It’s more nerve-wracking playing in the light of day – you can’t avoid eye contact. But there’s something that feels safe about T in the Park. It’s great playing there and seeing all your pals on shoulders. I’ve pretty much seen every band under the sun at T in the Park.
T in the Park is always a massive highlight to our tour - I can’t wait to play the closing night this year to one of the best crowds in the world!
We count ourselves lucky and blessed to have been given the responsibility of hosting the Slam Tent at T in the Park for much of the 20 years of the festival. From the first time we put it on in 1997 to the current year’s event we have put all of our expertise and knowledge into it to make it as good as possible.
Our mission was always to develop an event within the main festival with the world’s best cutting-edge dance music talent while never forgetting that people who come to T in the Park are there to have a good time and join in one of the biggest party weekends of the year. T in the Park is famous with music lovers and festival-goers the world over and we have strived to make the Slam Tent a must-play event for DJs and dance music artists and a regular occasion for Scotland’s dance music and club fans as well as a must-visit event for techno tourists from far and wide. It’s also one of the best gigs we play all year no matter how far we travel and the crowd are second to none.
Craig and Charlie Reid
Since we returned to performing live in 2001 after a seven-year break from touring, the number of people we play to at each T in the Park festival and the fact that it seems to be a coming-of-age ritual for so many young Scottish people means that it has been possibly the single most important event in rebuilding our audience in Scotland.
Head of Sponsorship, Tennent’s Lager
It’s hard to pick a favourite moment from the past 20 years, but I’d say The Killers have provided me with a few highlights. Mr Brightside for me is the ultimate T in the Park anthem – I remember seeing them perform it in 2004, the very first time they played the festival, and it was a real hairs on the back of your neck event. Watching Brandon Flowers join New Order on stage the following year for a rendition of Crystal was another brilliant moment. I think they’re going to take it to another level this year when they close the Main Stage on the Sunday night – it’s going to be a pretty incredible finale to the 20th year celebrations.
In 2001, Noel Gallagher came to T to see Proud Mary, and I got a call from his now wife Sara MacDonald asking for a couple of backstage passes for them both. That year Paul Weller was playing Stage 2, so I drove them down to the side of the stage to watch his set. What I didn’t realise was that Noel had arranged to get up on stage and play some Jam numbers with Paul, and when he joined him on stage to huge roars from the crowd, it was a truly magical moment. Watching the pair of them perform English Rose is something I’ll never forget – you just knew you were watching something special.
• The 20th T in the Park is at Balado, Kinross, 12-14 July. www.tinthepark.com