Thursday, 12 July 2012

Live review: T in the Park 2012, Balado Airfield, Kinross, Sunday 8th July

 As the Sunday morning innocently presented itself as a day with no rain and lots of potential and friends still felt a sense of achievement in picking up girls, we awoke and celebrated our good fortune by drinking lots of alcohol. At no point did we think our day would be spent meeting some other old friends from school, or having to fight off some drugged up losers that lived next to them with words, but these were just some of the delights the day presented itself with.

 But, let's try and focus on the more music related delights. You might think I'd go into detail about how terrible I thought the set from McFly was and no matter how much they want to be a rock band, their music remains watered down pop rock for kids. But I won't even bother. More importantly however, is the sharp and utterly immense show from Twin Atlantic, a band rising at a fairly rapid rate to become the UK's favourite names in modern rock music. They're easy to fall in love with as frontman Sam McTrusty addresses the crowd, stating that it was just four years ago that they were the ones buying their tickets and camping int the mud before launching into heartfelt renditions of Yes I Was Drunk and Dreamember before triumphantly closing the set with Make a Beast of Myself and Free, where looking around, you can't see one hand that's not in the air or hear one voice that's not singing along. Welcome to being celebrated rock stars guys!

Bombay Bicycle Club don't really seem like a band that should have become so massive. Their daintily played songs with undeniably strong melodies should have been one that stayed underground for hipsters. Yet, they've gotten to the point where songs like Beg and Ivy & Gold can be pulled off with total genuineness on the main stage and everyone can dance to them with a massive grin on their face. It's a pleasant surprise for all involved.

 I've never actually given Keane much coverage on this blog before, and frankly don't expect me to start any time soon, but with their array of well crafted pop rock songs, they take to the stage armed with hit after hit, as the likes of Spiralling and Crystal Ball has everyone on their feet moving, while the delicate anthemic qualities of Somewhere Only We Know and Bedshaped has everyone swinging their arms with a sense of major triumph. It's a beautiful moment for the band that many assumed had become washed up and irrelevant. They can still hold a massive audience in the palm of their hand.

 And if their performance sees people being held in place, what follows is people being let loose to cause total mayhem. I'd heard good things about Chase and Status as we made our way to the front of the row, that despite being a dance act, they could put on a fierce show that even convinced Download Festival, but as good old Duncan and I found ourselves near the front and met two girls that I had never seen in my life but Duncan remembered from a party in January, who then proceeded to cover us in face paint, I wondered just how violent the show could really get. Within five minutes of them opening My face paint was pretty much replaced by mud and bruises. The static playing of delirious dubstep tunes with greasy breakdowns effortlessly brought out the more energetic and brutal sides in the people there, creating even bigger mosh pits than Enter Shikari. And it's when they unleash the instantly recognizable bassline from 1992 and blasting synthesizers begin pumping out beats that replicate Tom Morello guitar riffs, that everything becomes total carnage. They launch into their cover of Rage Against the Machine's Killing in the Name and by the time they have I've already found myself in the centre of the pit grabbing onto the head of some guy I've never met, as he does likewise and start screaming at each other. Anyway, sorry to spoil your reunion pleasantries Duncan.

 You can always rely on Elbow to give a solid charismatic performance, as Guy Garvey always presents himself as a frontman of clear charm and class. Their overall performances sometimes have a thing for falling short of expectation and while the amount of people waving their hands to One Day Like This stretches to the back of the stage, other performances of the likes of The Birds, Mirrorball and the simply amazing Grounds for Divorce don't really sound as good as they do on record. Plus the set leans very heavily on material from The Seldom Seen Kid and Build a Rocket Boys! Not that that's strictly a bad thing, it would just be fun to see more Leaders of the Free World material be played. Anyway, I'll save writing about the headliner for the end, so I can finish the review in a major epic way.

 Over at the Radio 1/NME Stage, proceedings don't really get off to a good start. I just say that because I really don't like The Subways, the first act taking to the stage. And with their selection of lame indie rock songs with bland lyrics unleashed in full force and a rather lame unenthusiastic crowd reaction, I can look smugly at their efforts and continue to state that they're a shit band. Ha. And Billy Lunn can jump impressively all he wants. His music is still terrible.

 Obviously the levels of enthusiasm and musical quality move to a higher position when the stage is graced by the wonderful presence of folk punk troubadours Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls who launch into their set with a graceful performance of If Ever I Stray before gently turning out a set of beautifully crafted songs with the kind of lyrics people get tattooed on their arms (Rather than pictures of pandas, eh?) so strong are their messages and beauty. Turner's sense of soul and passion really lights up the stage.

 At the King Tuts Wah Wah Tent, the events are kicked off by Ireland's indie starts The Coronas, who deal in the same kind of soft, delicate and passionate indie rock that Snow Patrol deal in with perhaps a bit more of a stomp and a greater level of hooks. It certainly serves as a most effective way for punters to shake off the Saturday Night drunken blues. Eerugh, no photos!

 At some point after The Coronas, the King Tut's tent gets absolutely jammed with people for a certain set of minutes and it's obvious as to why, it's time for a set from Fun. who put on as energetic performances as they can during the auto tune heavy Some Nights but the only reason that anyone is here today is to hear the colossal We Are Young. So, they give their all in that performance, but they're not exactly winning any new bands. They're not winning me over.

 When the tent next fills up, it's for more genuine reasons than just one song. Everyone wants to stick around to hear indie rock's new poster boy Miles Kane, who's performances of Inhaler and Better Left Invisible are packed with breathtaking levels of energy and raw passion making it something of an unexpected highlight... that... I... never... saw. Some critics have been saying his music is like The Beatles of this generation. When you really take in performances like these, it's understandable.

 Armed with a collection of short and blindingly sweet indie tunes, The Enemy blast into power at the King Tuts. Having created solidified modern classics like Away From Here and We'll Live and Die in These Towns and have also found themselves back on the rise with life-affirming new anthems from Streets in the Sky, the audience light up for them. Needless to say, the audience light up for them with hands flung up in the air.

  On a sharp contrast, The Enemy is followed by a set of turntables, dazzling visual effects and musicians that have a strong idea of how to make a room jump up and down. Without any real interaction and a seamless flow to their songs, Nero get the room on their feet effortlessly, as delirious jumping and screaming along to the the dubstep tunes occurs with the playing of Promises and Me and You. The bass is monolithic and probably serves as half the reason the tent is jumping up and down. It's literally incredible. When it concludes, I am left with a polar opposite reaction to the total denial of dubstep from other rock fans. Dubstep is rock n' roll.

 And if dubstep is the new rock n' roll, then like rock n' roll it needs an icon. And in terms of icons, Skrillex is dubstep's Slash, only without the top hat, the shades in the glasses and half the hair is missing. And of course, instead of shredding, his basic action is to press a Play button on a computer, dance around in a crazy style and use massive electronic effects and visual displays, while the mentally constructed musical arrangements he's composed blares out with equally crunching bass. And you know, it works. During the breakdowns in First of the Year (Equinox) and favourite of all my friends Breakin' a Sweat, there is essentially one massive moshpit. The entire gig is a moshpit!!! Fuck yeah!!!

 Lots of new names in alt rock are appearing at the Transmission Stage today, starting with Zulu Winter, whose run through on icy indie rock songs makes them sound like the missing link between White Lies and Coldplay. The tunes are a bit unimpressive but are enough to wake up the crowd in style and of course prepare the crowd for a much cooler line up of rock and roll bands.

 Following Zulu Winter is a much cooler prospect. Minneapolis quintet Howler board the stage packed with hard hitting riffs packed in the form of melodic surf rock songs. With hits like Back of Your Neck and I Told You Once on their side and a legion of new fans that have worked out that they're different to any other bands emerging from the indie scene this year, they storm the set with ease. Where are the photos? They're actually good!

 It;s difficult to imagine the kind of crowd that Spector can draw in, but with their immersive backdrops fitted into firm melodies and the bizarre-yet-immensely talented vocal performance of Fred Macpherson and of course massive positivity from good old NME, there's a big crowd to joyfully sing along to Never Fade Away. It's a sweet sight and you can imagine they're going to go far.

 Moving from simple indie bands to some very pure rock n' roll the stage is taken to by the dusty riffage of Band of Skulls. Onstage, the performance of Bruises and The Devil Takes Care of His Own present them to be a much more fierce act onstage that aren't afraid to get more in your face. Especially with the vocals of Emma Richardson having a more prominent appearance, the run-through's of their songs are so much more wild and chaotic. It is rock and roll.

 Returning to a poppier front of alt rock with a more chart friendly edge, Reverend & the Makers charge through their major hits Heavyweight Champion of the World and new The Wrestler with great ease. Having returned from a brief hiatus, the band are on top form, but ultimately the band prove themselves to be a band that provides some basic indie rock songs, that have been around along enough to be popular.

 Probably one of the most sophisticated bands on the bill are tonight's headlining set from The Horrors, whose third album Skying was one of my favourite albums of last year. The selection of hook filled dream pop melodies on Still Life and Changing the Rain charm the audiences, causing a major swing within the audience as well as making them all dance and swat arms. Yeah, it was pretty much a perfect way for the stage to go out. No photography. Sorry.

 I should really talk about the set from Dry the River, but I need to leave soon, so I don't think I'll be able to so let's move onto the main event that ended the night and the festival.

 And what a set it was, with the exception of Enter Shikari, these guys were the highlight of the weekend. Kasabian take to the stage with bouncing energy and charisma as with the intro of buzzing electronics, they launch into a storming rendition of Days Are Forgotten. From there on, we are treated to some of their greatest hits that let the crowd go absolutely mental as well as letting some lesser known songs like I.D., one of my favourite songs from their debut album come out, serving as a massive treat. However, for the most part, we are treated by fucking anthems. Shoot the Runner gets everyone up on their feet and has everyone screaming "I'm the king and you're my queen BITCH!", Club Foot creates a massive moshpit that sends everyone into a complete frenzy, while the performance of L.S.F. gets everyone falling in love with them all over again, which is also created by Tom Meighan's demands for people to create love hearts with hands, which is simply adorable. As they go offstage, it's the chanting of the song's "Na na na" section that really proves how loved they are. And when they come back and finally end proceedings with a storming performance of Fire. It's simply ecstatic and the most amazing way to go out.

 So, hashed out and one of the last things I can write for the next week since I'm heading off back to another camp, these are some of my mini reviews of the rock bands at T in the Park. I had a hell of an experience watching these bands that I've loved for years and never heard and to hear them play amongst crowds that are so in love with the bands is such an incredible experience that I wouldn't turn my back on for anything in the world. I had lots of great times in and out of the festival, meeting new people and discovering how I can deal with being drunk out of my fucking mind, setting me up for adult life. All my fellow T comrades; Callum, Russell, Xander, Mark, Grant, Vivek, Duncan, if you read this, you're all fucking heroes. And well, same time next year?

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