Tasty treats on offer at T party

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THE gods of rock were initially merciful to their followers. As 75,000 music fans waited excitedly for the biggest-ever T in the Park to get under way, dark clouds threatened a downpour. It seemed a traditional festival mudbath was imminent.

But, within minutes of the entry klaxon sounding, the skies had cleared and the masses descended, complete with Kate Moss fashion wellies, Paris Hilton shades and the cool swagger of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the much anticipated headline act.

Most seemed to have found their way to the cavernous Slam Tent to get the party started, happy to be the other side of a new 8ft-high fence designed to keep non-ticket-holders out.

Enigmatic performances from El Presidente, Manu Chao and Maximo Park set the pace for the day ahead. The queues for the beer tent grew faster than Johnny Vegas's bar bill as the hordes streamed past the rows of stalls and burger bars.

The fans needed to start by getting their bearings: with 170 acts on more than 11 stages, and the talents of the Chilis, The Who, Franz Ferdinand, The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys and the Editors scheduled, there would be plenty to navigate over the coming two days.

Growing in size year after year, there was still no sense that T has lost its gold dust: vibrant colours, arched tents, throngs of saltire flags and excited punters left little doubt that the emphasis was on living life to the max.

By noon, just an hour after the gates had opened, a hapless barman looked momentarily harassed by a demand from a flailing Aberdonian for six pints of Tennent's, before brightening up and casting an eye into the crowd in the hope of a glimpse of Charlie's Angels star Drew Barrymore, who's allegedly here to see the Strokes drummer Fabrizio Moretti, her current beau.

Emma from Oban, also in the drinks queue, admitted her highlight would be seeing The Lord Of The Rings star Billy Boyd de-hobbited and talking about making poverty history throughout the weekend as part of Christian Aid's The Beat Goes On campaign.

"I won't stalk him exactly", she confessed with a wink, "though he does bring out my inner Gollum."

At one of the plentiful burger bars, a Who-loving burger-flipper said he hadn't missed a T in the Park in five years.

"It gets better and better every year. Even when the line-up isn't full of my favourites, the craic is always amazing. Sure, the punters can get a bit unruly as the weekend goes on, but the Scottish mentality of knowing how to have a good time always prevails."

Chris Lucas, 26, and Alison Bickett, 27, animal keepers from Stirling, showed little concern about having to rein anyone in. "I come every year and it never disappoints," said Lucas. "It's an institution and I can't imagine a year without it."

By early afternoon, the gods of rock had ordered clouds to reappear and allowed the odd shower, a precursor to the soaking which was delivered to the faithful as the daylight began to fade.

Doctor James Richard loitered with anticipation outside the NME tent, waiting for The Kooks to come on. The medic struck gold after his friend was dumped by his girlfriend and suddenly had a ticket going spare. "What can I say? I salute his ex: I get to see The Kooks and the Red Hot Chili Peppers."

A year on from G8 and Live 8, there was a sense that political and social issues were very much the flavour of the day.

The St Andrews Hospice had pitched up for the first year, massive saltire flags draped around their shoulders. One merry worker, selling teddy bears and wristbands, said: "We're having a great time. We're here to raise our profile and so far the people have been great."

At the Amnesty stall, Susan Stein, the group secretary for Amnesty in West Fife, was giving out fuchsia pink earplugs brandishing the words: "Think about what you need to think about."

Stein hoped to borrow some of Glastonbury's more socio-political thunder. "The hope is that with Glastonbury not on this year, there might be a few more socially conscious music goers at T in the Park. Musicians and political issues have become more and more entwined in the last year so we're hoping to get a really good turnout today. So far the response has been great. The atmosphere is brilliant and we just hope that people will come in throughout the day."

Morag Watson, education policy officer at the World Wildlife Foundation, has had a stand at T in the Park for the past four years. She said: "T in the Park just gets bigger year on year. It's becoming so much more than a music festival, with more outlets for people wanting to educate themselves beyond simply the music. Everyone looks happy, the turnout is massive and they [the festival-goers] just seem to be a really great bunch."

Geoff Ellis, the chief executive of festival organisers DF Concerts, was happy to see the tens of thousands of festival-goers, including First Minister Jack McConnell.

He said: "The event got off to a great start on Friday night with more than 30,000 arriving to pitch their tents. The first bands kicked off to a fantastic reception.

"The site is getting bigger every year and that gives us scope to bring in more elements each time, whether they be about being more environmentally friendly or supporting the people that want to have a voice here. It's been a great success."

Red Hot Chili Peppers warm up a rain-soaked but happy crowd

"I WISH I could warm you all up; come out there and wipe each and every one of your bum cheeks with a cloth, but I can't." Anthony Kiedis has been through the mill with his music and his personal life, but surely not even he should be subjected to that on the night the Red Hot Chili Peppers took pride of place as the headline act at last night's T in the Park.

The Chilis took to the stage with all the class you would expect from one of the world's most enduring rock acts. Flea skipped on in a pink lycra studded catsuit and launched into a guitar solo, with Kiedis following in a slick black musketeer-style outfit, and 'Can't Stop' came strutting out across a rain-drenched Balado.

Outright winner for spectacle of the night, however, was Alison Goldfrapp. Cooler than Kylie and much more of a minx than Madonna could ever be, Ms Goldfrapp apologised for having a sore throat before gliding her way through six of the band's slinkiest numbers.

Her stage companions were a series of 'wolf ladies' who danced and prowled accordingly. 'Number One', 'Strict Machine' and 'Ooh La La' came out in a non-too apologetic style, with such a heat that you might've forgotten the rain. Just maybe.

The biggest Scottish band in the world, at Scotland's biggest music festival, had a fitting welcome last night as a rain-soaked crowd erupted at their arrival and were greeted with the trademark toothy grin of Alex Kapranos, and a sincere: "Nice to see you again, nice to be home."

Launching into 'Come On Home', Franz Ferdinand took no time in warming up the fans with a string of now-familiar hits. The Glasgow boys proved that, two albums in, and with an international touring schedule that had them jetting in from Croatia yesterday afternoon, there's no fear of losing the home support.

Earlier, Kaiser Chiefs leading man Ricky Wilson gave the sort of suave, energised performance reminiscent of Kapranos circa 2003. As they broke into electric post-punk anthem 'Every Day I Love You Less And Less', and provided a taster of tracks from their forthcoming album, there was little doubt that this is one outfit that could be headlining in Balado in years to come.

At teatime, pop-rockers Orson had launched themselves onto the stage with the crowd-pleasing intro: "Scotlaaaand! You feeling alive?"

The rapturous applause was all the answer they needed. It was a big rawk show in true American style, with singer Jason Pebworth tilting his trademark hat and warbling with all his might.

Earlier, the Duels were technically the first band on the main stage, but unfortunately came and went while everyone was busy booking their place in the queue for the beer tokens.

That left room for Scotland's very own El Presidente to take pride of place as the first main draw of the day. Can Scotland really have produced a successful funk band? El Presidente seem determined to convince us so.

As they said themselves: "El Presidente is all about partying," and songs such as 'If You Say You Love Me' and a new song off their forthcoming album Late Night had the already stripped-off and saltire-waving crowd swaying their hands in the air.

FIONA LEITH

EXTRA!

See exclusive images from T in the Park here