T in The Park Festival, Balado, Nr. Kinross, 10th - 11th July 2004
T IN THE PARK - BALADO, NR. KINROSS, SCOTLAND, 10-11/7/04

2004 saw an unprecedented demand for this Scottish festival, with tickets selling out in record time. This is in a large part due to previous successes, including last year’s celebratory ten year anniversary, that has established T as a firm British festival heavyweight. The stellar line-up as outlined below may also have had a bearing on this year’s popularity. 120 bands and 120,000 people, as well as a reported 10,000 free condoms makes fascinating statistical reading, but more importantly is an effective way of summarising the success of this year’s festival. Mainstream music journalism, BBC3 highlights and even the tabloid press praised every aspect of this year’s festival, from the audience to the wide ranging acts participating.

So up bright and early (relatively) led me to my home for the day – the NME stage, and the domain of apocalyptic rockers Kasabian. Closing song Club Foot was cockily announced by Tom Meighan as ‘what you are here for’ and the dark and menacing bass based riffs and almost tribal drumbeats certainly set a high standard for the day’s bill.

Local indie group Dogs Die In Hot Cars are next up and are met with a rapturous reception from the home crowd. The set was a mixed one; the two latest singles Godhopping and I Love You Cause I Have To were slipped in together mid set and the catchy Apples and Oranges set up a wave of appreciative foot tapping. Other efforts failed to meet the grade, a song dedicated to Paul Newman’s Eyes was embarrassingly obscure. Despite this mixed reception Dogs Die In Hot Cars made a satisfactory debut to the second stage of a festival, no doubt buoyed on by the local support.

A brief break from the crowd saw me eating overpriced and tasteless baguettes, offering a chance to enjoy the jazzy and funked-up Zutons from afar.

Even to the initiated the set up to the following act must have seemed bizarre. After the standard sound check and other roadie nonsense the invasion of the NME stage by large amounts of foliage and plastic wildfowl heralded the imminent arrival of British Sea Power. A band with an unusual emphasis on plastic ornithology and WWII memorabilia, they manage to back it up with a distinctive style. Indeed the procession of the keyboardist banging a large drum whilst making his way through the crowd accompanied the crowd pleasing Remember Me and Flavours in the Beetroot Fields. At least there were no stage invasions and assaults from dressed up grizzly bears a la’ previous efforts.

Shivering with anticipation in the front row as Funeral For A Friend launch into She Drove Me To Daytime TV, I can only picture the shocked expressions of those poor folk buying a hotdog following their long awaited viewing of Pink and the Black Eyed Peas as Matt Davies screaming vocals soar across the Festival field, and display a band with a level of energy that few others could muster over the weekend. Let us be clear, Balado is not the place to come for emo, and I doubt very much FFAF will have made themselves many new friends, with the covered area in front of the stage remaining half empty throughout the set. Most sane people would not equate the guitar thrashing and backing roars of breakthrough single Juneau as ‘music to make out to’ as Davies claims it to be. For the moshing faithful however FFAF yet again demonstrate why they are the forerunners of the emo/post hardcore whatever you want to term it genre, and soar through a few old school classics in addition to the highpoints of their album.

There could be less of a contrast possible as the area is swarmed by a full cross section of festival goers for Keane, who met the demand with a breath taking display of high reaching vocals, brilliant hitting of the ivories and some of the fastest head nodding around from Tim on Piano and Richard on Drums. Meanwhile, Tom appears to be unable to extricate himself from the giant yo-yo that holds him as he runs off the stage before swiftly returning, leaping to the front, and then bouncing back into the darkest recesses of the NME stage. Then back on he runs again. Every song is met with applause and girls hoisted on shoulders. At the risk of over sensationalising things, the overcast skies allow a few rays of sunshine to pierce the clouds as the chorus for Everybody’s Changing is chanted back at the band. Everywhere you look people cannot help but grin at each other. For me, Keane found the epitome of the perfect festival atmosphere.

Leaving half way through the finale of Bedshaped, I rudely pushed my way through the throngs into the rapidly filling King Tuts Wah Wah Tent for Ash, no mean feat considering it soon overflowed the doors. In a dark, dingy expectant tent, Tim Wheeler marched on stage holding his customary flying V guitar fixed with some form of flame thrower, sending flames high into the tent. The electric and dramatic atmosphere was swiftly crashed by the opening chords of Meltdown. If there’s one thing Ash excel at, it is making music to pogo to. For the next 60 minutes or so the band stormed through a fantastic set of the new heavier tracks and old favourites accompanied by a bouncing wave of humanity throughout the tent, and following customary set closer Burn Baby Burn the band leave to exhausted but appreciative applause.

Happened to catch the Wu Tang Clan in action. Went for a plate of chips.

The adventures of Mr Pete Doherty account for a large amount of music journalism these days, and the Libertines’ will-they-wont they festival saga has kept them in the speculative spotlight. Doherty failed to leap on stage as many (myself included) hoped would happen, but the remaining trio supported by stand in Anthony Rosomando showed the crowd that they could more than cope without the co-front man. A tight and succinct set comprising of the classic Libertines’ singalongs as well as a whole host of new material was showcased. Upcoming single dedicated by Barat to his absent band member, Can’t Stand Me Now, and Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads went down a storm. Did this outing demonstrate that the band could continue to divide and conquer without their most infamous member? I think so.

And so we dived into the centrefold for closing Saturday headliners Muse. The opening guitar riff of Hysteria set the crowd into their own hysterical frenzy, pushing and jumping, shouting along or merely standing back and enjoying the show. Muse’s previous festival outing headlining the closing day of this years Glastonbury was seen by many as a band defining moment, firmly cementing the trio as the leaders of modern British rock. Tonight’s set reinforced such claims. The wave after wave of tight and sharply executed songs ranged from the slower moments of current single Sing for Absolution to the breathtaking closing crowd pleasers of Time is Running out followed by Plug in Baby, which saw half the festival in a wave of motion. Customary confetti explosions accompanied by The Darkness’ fireworks popping behind the stage was a fitting end to the festival as Chris Wolstenholme clambered into the front rows of the masses to twang away at the closing chords of Stockholm Syndrome. Matt Bellamy looked down with satisfaction before beating the hell out of the drumkit. Day one down.

Despite the haphazard and disorganised feel to much of their songs, the Razorlight set was one of the tightest on offer. Even for someone who has resisted the seemingly unstoppable popularity of this Swedish-British outfit, it was hard not to be impressed by the strength of this stripped down rock and roll band. Singles Stumble and Fall and Golden Touch showed why their debut album reached the higher echelons of the pop charts, and crowd pleasers Rip It Up and Rock and Roll Lies did a fine job of rousing the early morning crowd. Lead singer Johny Borrell’s drunken sojourn into the masses was halted as he was dragged away by security for inciting a mob of fans to the side of the NME stage.

Stellastarr* were initially to be used as a stepping stone to the front of the packed crowd in anticipation of the subsequent act. However they proved to be an upbeat and lively group, and although much time was spent ogling Bassist Amanda Tannen, songs such as singles Jenny and My Coco went down well. They looked far more relaxed than their previous outing supporting the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and although the second stage of a leading festival is no intimate arena, they did not give the same impression of being completely dwarfed as they did in front of the 100,000 people at Hyde Park.

Ah…The Killers, bright young upstarts from Las Vegas who have taken the UK by storm following the runaway success of singles Somebody Told Me and Mr. Brightside, and Top 5 album Hot Fuss. Its been a sweet six months for Brandon and co, touring half filled intimate venues to being widely acclaimed as (dare I say it) ‘the next big thing’. Despite a rather nervous demeanour, not helped by a few technical hitches with his synth, Brandon Flowers led the band through a short and sharp 35 minutes of irresistibly catchy indie-pop. The two singles obviously went down a storm, but it was Glamorous Indie Rock and Roll and All These Things I’ve Done that were the surprise favourites, reaffirming the bands decision to release the former only on the UK album, and release the latter as the next single. In my humble opinion, The Killers are one of the most refreshing, exciting and enjoyable outfits around, and if the rapturous applause that bade the band farewell was anything to go by, I am not alone in that view.

The excesses of Scotland finally caught up with us, and it was time for food, a sit down and one or three beers. Fully refreshed we began the long slog towards the Main Stage halfway through the Kings of Leon. Maybe the distraction of trying not to stamp on people, maybe the still present lethargy, or maybe that Kings of Leon festival feeling where they just fail to look at home on a larger stage, but the Kings failed to shine. They appeared to be rather swamped by the surroundings and the size of the crowd could not convey the normal raw intensity of their trademark jangling rock.

To be fair to The Pixies, I am not the biggest fan and only know the classic singles so it can be hard to get involved. I wasn’t interested when they defined indie rock as we now know it. However, from today’s performance, they failed to convert one more fan. Although the set was tight, and several songs stuck out as being exceptional pieces of brooding music, if The Pixies released a debut today they would fit straight in with the rest of the myriad of current rock bands. It is only because of their status as grandfathers of indie that they are so legendary, and I’m afraid I do not feel them to deserve the hype. Today however, I am probably in the minority, throughout the weekend, the number of Pixies T-Shirts beat any other varieties, and the majority of the crowd seemed to enjoy the offerings. The ability to introduce Monkey Gone To Heaven, arguably their most populist song, early into the hour and ten minute set is a testament to their longevity and success. The recognisable classics of Here Comes Your Man, Debaser, and Wave of Mutilation to name a couple were very impressive. Don’t get me wrong, the band were very good, but for all the hype surrounding them and their comeback, you just expected that little bit more. Despite patiently waiting, it just didn’t materialise.

Despite arguably my personal biggest letdown of the weekend, the prospects of The Strokes did a good job of softening the blow. However, as we plodded into the front, there was another twinge of remorse at the thought of Snow Patrol arriving onto King Tuts Tent imminently. The biggest disappointment of the weekend was the decision to place my two favourite bands head to head. Julian and co had that extra degree of pressure to perform!! From the exuberant entrance onto the stage and the opening riffs of Reptilia, the crowd knew they were up to the task. A storming set of the best bits from both of their acclaimed albums, as well as a repeat of their Clash cover Clampdown, saw Julian in fine form. Not normally renowned as one of the most interactive front men, he chatted to the crowds, told jokes and wrapped a Scots flag around himself, winning the affections of the crowd. No doubt this was due to the excesses of backstage, and most of the Casablancas wit was lost in a sea of cheers and slurred speech. Nick Valensi was carried from the stage with a wine bottle in one hand, showing that The Strokes continue to hold their mantle as current kings of garage rock, in terms of its infamous lifestyle and the music itself. A huge number of established and up and coming acts have shone this weekend, but it will be a few more festival seasons before Julian and co are knocked off their pedestal. Another resounding performance ended by Take It or Leave It, with the destruction of the drum kit silencing any calls for an encore. However a lone Scots bagpiper appeared to bring the weekend to a successful close.

Bring on T in the Park 2005.

Stuart Davey