After a rather easy ride back the previous night, leaving before the full on headliners finished, we decide to opt into a car park a bit closer to the festival site; little did we know how much hassle this would cause, but more on that later.
Popping down to the media bit for the small portion of time that tins of T actually made it to the fridge I boost out just as quick to catch the openers at T Break.
AmatrArt provide a nice synth filled wash to ease us into proceedings, withplenty of quirky clicks that combine with pleasant pop sensibilities, making them stand out from the plethora of electronic indie rock acts trying to break just now.
At times they touch on soaring and rarely are they not engaging and the fact they drag down a moderate crowd, considering the gates only opened minutes before they took the stage, sits them in pretty good stead.
Opening the BBC Introducing Stage for the weekend is Edinburgh’s Stillhound, playing just there second ever gig – managing to get such a gig with so little live experience is impressive, however sharing a drummer with charming pop duo Honeyblood must have done them no harm.
Regardless their sound is full of fun slanted guitars and sparkling synths, and shows plenty of promise; for band that have only played together live on one other occasion the set is impressively polished as the they inject some future dance floor fillers into the early T in the Park afternoon, while showing a cool assurance in their second show that many band’s won’t get after a hundred.
I dash back over to T Break, thankfully less than an minutes jaunt away, for the start of Catholic Action, and after a promising few releases things are really starting to blossom for these guys.
Chris McCrory cuts a confident figure centre stage as they deservedly pull and successfully woo a healthy crowd with their scratchy melodics, bouncing energy and classic, sometimes almost chanted, addictive vocals.
McCrory loses himself from time to time behind his mop of hair, but there’s always a real assured vibe about his delivery, occasionally touching on a full blown rock star vibe; this has been said before, but from the rumours I’m hearing you may just have missed you last chance to see these guys in a small tent.
Fast forward 90 minutes and the ever active McCrory, who has also produced a number of high quality records, as well as playing in multiple bands, is back on stage; this time he’s behind the kit, as him and guitar/vocalist Corrie Gillies take the stage for Pinact’s set.
Pinact have become renowned for their buzzing live shows and today’s set only justifies that; from the very off it’s a fully fuelled energy fest of fast, fun songs delivered with a joyous sneer.
They take pages from the lo-fi indie rock book, but add in all the better aspects of pop punk to deliver a never resting, explosive burst of fast, fussy, vibrant playing and urgent vocals that are enough to shake anyone from their hangover, if the first flat pint hasn’t helped.
My first taste of the bigger stages today comes over at the Radio 1 where one the most interesting pop emergences over the last year, Charli XCX, has already taken the stage.
Last year she held a fairly quiet early slot of the Main Stage and caused a stir, mainly down to her revealing attire, rather than her fresh pop hooks.
Today’s she commands a much larger crowd; gone is pretty much all of her fantastic, critically acclaimed, fairly under the mainstream radar, 2013 album True Romance and her massive hit for Icona Pop, ‘I Love It’, is relegated to a lower slot in her set, as in the last year this girl has really taken off.
Huge singles like the gloriously addictive ‘Doing It’ blasted her well into the public eye, and it fires an early dose of soaring pop brilliance over the mid afternoon crowd and makes sure last year’s questionable outfit is well forgotten.
Today she’s clad in a much less revealing zebra print two-piece, while her, all girl, band are all clad in silver in front a podium and a giant love heart sporting her latest album’s name, Sucker.
It was plain to see two years ago, when we caught her play in front of a hundred or so people in the ABC2, that she was set for bigger things and the fact she continues to push the boundaries of mainstream pop makes her one of the most exciting acts in the charts right now.
It’s still a bit early for the crowd to be in full flow today, or maybe they’ve just fled in fear that they won’t get away before this year’s most annoying band, Years & Years, take the stage.
Probably her most generic single to date, ‘Break The Rules’, receives the biggest reaction from the crowd, but as she demonstrates some impressive rap chops, taking Iggy’s part during ‘Fancy’, and closes on the huge sing-along that is ‘Boom Clap’ I’m left more than satisfied with my pop hit of the weekend.
Did I mention it’s been raining today, well it has on and off and it’s pelting it down when Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott, from The Beautiful South, take the stage in the mobbed King Tut’s Tent, and it’s hard, for even those who’ve just stumbled in avoid getting wet, to suggest that this isn’t impressive stuff.
Both singers still possess impressive voices, and while I’m not as familiar with all the classics as a lot of the older faces around the tent, it’s still an engrossing set of catchy jangly pop numbers.
Still as the big hitters start to filter into the setm ‘Don’t Marry Her’, ‘Perfect 10’ and even some of Heaton’s Housemartins material, things seem to gain an added push, which makes this a much more memorable set that many would have had it marked down for.
If you’re not convinced by the end the of the impeccable, set closing accapella of ‘Caravan of Love’ that you’ve made the right choice coming here over Jessie J, then there’s something seriously wrong with you.
A lull in the line up where the cringy voiced George Ezra takes the Main Stage, Enter Shikari bizarrely play Radio 1 (I was tempted to go see what the crowd is like) and those guys Jungle, that have that one song that’s quite good, but sounds like everything else they do, complete the larger stages and nothing that tickled my fancy hit the smaller ones, means it’s time for the compulsory visit to the Slam Tent.
Being honest, I had this slot penciled in anyway, Jackmaster b2b Joy Orbison is easily one of the stand out slots on a line up that always packed with some of techno’s bit hitters.
There’s something a bit off about the tent this year; in Balado it was always a trek away from everything, quite fittingly as for some the Slam Tent is a yearly pilgrimage to get off your face and have a good time and not for the younger ones wandering about to see some chart toting band.
This year it is right next to the Main Stage, less than a minutes walk, and when you walk in you notice instantly why this so wrong… There’s so many youngsters here.
Yeah you’re never too young to get into good tunes, and what’s on at the Slam Tent is generally miles ahead of the like of Guetta and Avicii, on the open air stages, in terms of sheer musicality, but when you consider the Slam Tent’s reputation it’s not something you want to mix with young teenagers; without going into detail it feels questionable to say the least.
The set however is blasting, as expected it’s to the heavier dance end of both individual’s sets, but the Slam Tent as laps it up despite it seeming much quieter than the den of noise it was in the past.
A jaunt back to the Tut’s Tent for the unrelenting brilliantness that is St. Vincent means walking through a field where The Script are mid set, a couple of hilarious pictures of my pal with her fingers in her ears and witnessing a few grown men singing along (shame on them) and we’re free and ready to experience one of the best acts on the whole bill.
Unsurprisingly Annie Clark and co. draw a relatively small crowd, it is T after all; but from the instant she emerges, looking like some crazy, hot, space robot lady, and blasts into ‘Marrow’ we don’t look back.
Like The War On Drugs yesterday, this isn’t the best place to see St. Vincent, regardless Clark is an insanely talented guitarist who crafts her songs in such a mesmerising way that it’s easy to get lost in her set, while her performance is clinically choreographed yet spectacular, something that has been an ever present since her time touring with David Bryne.
St. Vincent is someone that should be seem by the masses at festival’s of this size, but should isn’t good enough and as she tops her podium, giving a similar spiel about “freaks and others” that she did at her ABC gig back in August, it feels somewhat of an injustice.
Today’s set doesn’t quite have the full glitz of her venue sets and she doesn’t have any speakers to climb/fall off, but there’s enough to shake up excitement from any newbies that might have wandered in uninitiated.
There wasn’t much that could follow that for me, but my flat mate was up today and eager to relive her childhood, for which I was dragged along for the ride, meaning I was back at the Main Stage; albeit after struggling to stay above ground during a mass of congested people moving between stages in both directs.
I was never a fan of The Libertines, that said I had never given them much chance, of course I was aware of them, it was hard not to be growing up in a time when Pete Doherty was headline news every other day, but that aside I went to see them willing to be won over.
In short; I’m not, yes the crowd is massive and well up for it, belting out each song word for word, that’s what festival set’s are all about after all, and the band seem well into it Doherty and Carl Barat interacting like the best of pals, but it feels off, not necessarily the quality of the songs, but the sound seems washed out in the rainy field and it’s only the crowd’s unrelenting knowledge of every word that keeps it afloat.
It’s particularly noticeable when they play newer tracks and there’s no en mass crowd participation to back the band up, still the majority of the crowd seem to enjoy it and that’s the main thing, right?
A quick wander back over to T Break and the haze is beginning to come over me, I catch the end of Other Humans high octane set before it’s time to make a move and beat the traffic for another day.
Or so we thought! The car park is a mess and we had been directed to park on a hill earlier, despite our protests, so, after a good half hour trying to get up the hill and out of the mud, which needed four of us pushing in the end we get onto the flat.
Still, we need another set of people pushing to get us out causing much hilarity from the back of the car as sets of puzzled looking girls get hit with the line “Little Mix! Push the car!” and a rendition of Camera Obscura’s ‘Let’s Get Out of This Country’, with “country” naturally changed to “car park”, goes down a treat.
So, day two doesn’t go quite as smoothly, but we get home for a wee rest before the final day’s activities.
Friday – Sunday
Words: Iain Dawson
Photos: Bill Gray