T In The Park

Balado, Kinross-shire, Friday July 12 - Sunday, July 14

So, T In The Park celebrates its 20th year, and like many 20-year-olds it’s marking the occasion by getting merry and dancing to Rihanna. The line-up is, undeniably, skewed heavily towards the pop this year. But T remains one of the biggest and best musical jamborees of the summer. Here’s how it all goes down…

The lower tiers of a T In The Park bill can sometimes resemble a Valhalla of formerly popular Scottish bands, and a lager-fuelled raging against the dying of the light. In 2013 this is especially true: behold The Proclaimers and Texas rocking the place like we’re in a perpetual 1997. But Friday really belongs to the bands playing the festival for the first time. Like Haim.

The LA sisters’ charm offensive on the UK continues apace on the Radio 1 Stage, where the only complaint anyone can reasonably make is that their set isn’t bloody long enough. Other than that, they’re on stupendous form, sassing through the likes of ‘Better Off’ and ‘Falling’ like it ain’t no thing. “Put it in me, Scotland!” cries Este as they leave the stage.
Jake Bugg, meanwhile, gets off to an incongruous start following a slight geographical mix-up: the poor lad thinks he’s in Glasgow. Things improve from there, although the 19-year-old from Nottingham remains a singularly uncharismatic presence, relying on crowd-pleasers like ‘Two Fingers’ and ‘Lightning Bolt’ to see him through. French quartet Phoenix, on the other hand, have charisma in spades: not only does guitarist Christian Mazzalai possess the best lip-curl since Elvis, but frontman Thomas Mars is so louche he can make a mid-set lie-down look cool. If only more people had bothered to watch them plough through ‘1901’, ‘Lisztomania’ and ‘Entertainment’.

Mumford & Sons’ main stage headline set is much as you’d expect: solid, unspectacular, and an absolutely roaring success. It seems strange that anyone ever doubted this band’s ability to headline festivals, and judging by the reaction of the crowd, this won’t be the last time they’re here. “Can you hear those dickheads over there?” Marcus asks the crowd before ‘I Will Wait’, motioning towards Calvin Harris on the Radio 1 stage. “Shall we drown them out?” Of course they shall.

Which leaves Kraftwerk at the King Tut’s Wah Wah Tent, the pick of today’s T debutants and the perfect palate-cleanser after the Mumfords’ woolly communal singalongs. The visuals are presented in 3D, which is impressive and everything, but less of a head-trip than you’d think. The real spectacle is the four balding, statuesque Germans dressed in Tron-style unitards, playing some of the finest electronic music ever written. Fantastiche.

Highlight of the day: Kraftwerk playing ‘Autobahn’. Machine-like precision. Not even a smidge of emotion.

Ever since their debut records failed to dominate the charts, much of the discussion surrounding Peace and Palma Violets has been about the masses not taking to them. There’s no evidence of that this afternoon. Peace are tucked away on the Transmissions Stage, playing to a small army of converts who know every word of ‘California Daze’. “You’re amazing,” Harry Koisser tells the crowd. And Palma Violets’ set is absolute chaos from beginning to end. When they finally sputter over the finish line with ‘Brand New Song’, Pete and Chilli are galloping around the stage without instruments. For Miles Kane, the King Tut’s tent is close to capacity with everyone “waye-aye-aye-aye”-ing through a riotous ‘Kingcrawler’.
It’s got nothing on Snoop Dogg, though, who’s receiving a lap dance to the strains of ‘I Wanna Fuck You’ – just one of many reasons why his return to T is the highlight of the festival. Others include ‘Gin & Juice’ and an entourage member dressed like a cartoon dog with a giant spliff. Dizzee Rascal, for all his Number One singles, pyrotechnics and cuts from upcoming album ‘The Fifth’, just can’t compete.

It’s Rihanna who is tonight’s big draw. Yet while RiRi has plenty of hits, she’s only got about five proper tunes, and that’s not nearly enough to headline a festival like this. ‘We Found Love’ and ‘Only Girl (In The World)’ ensure the Barbadian finishes strongly, but the first 20 minutes of her set flirt with disaster; the crowd’s boredom and lack of engagement is matched only by Rihanna herself, who leaves most of the heavy lifting to her backing singers. During ‘S&M’, when she declares, “Y’all need to help me sing this shit,” you’ve got to wonder how much more help she can require.

Not as much as Liam Gallagher, sadly. Beady Eye draw a half-interested crowd to the Radio 1 stage, but that enthusiasm soon wanes as Liam systematically murders every song. ‘BE’ is a good album, but Liam’s heart just doesn’t seem in it; after ‘Morning Glory’ finally jolts the crowd into some sort of life, he sneers that “You can all go back to sleep again now.” On this sort of form, who can blame them?

Highlight of the day: Snoop Dogg’s shout-out to everyone who helped in the 2010 ruling that allowed him back into Britain.

That last-day crowds tend to be smaller and less enthusiastic is a fact of festival life. Thankfully, Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O doesn’t use that as an excuse to phone it in: she breaks hearts with ‘Maps’ and pinwheels around the stage like a rogue firework during ‘Date With The Night’.Hurts have similar issues, and Theo Hutchcraft looks peeved about it. But Frank Turner fares better on the Radio 1 stage, if only because he goads the audience into life. “I’m not one to stir up national rivalries, but they’re pretty good at this in England,” he says before ‘Recovery’, shamelessly stirring up national rivalries.

Over on the Transmissions Stage, Australian duo Jagwar Ma have found their Bez: for the duration of their set, a half-naked punter is onstage throwing shapes that Euclid, Greek father of geometry, never dreamt of. He’s so engrossing it takes a while for people to notice the danceable ’60s pop of ‘Come Save Me’ morphing into The Proclaimers’ ‘(I’m Gonna Be) 500 Miles’.

They’re followed by local(ish) heroes Chvrches – who, frontwoman Lauren Mayberry warns, “Won’t be one of those bands who come on and say, ‘Hi, Glasgow!’ because we geographically know where we are.” They seem pretty confident about where they’re going, too: their arsenal of electro-pop bangers is now formidable enough that they can open with classic debut single ‘Lies’ and actually improve from there. Foals, however, have a harder time of it, and the nuances of their loopy math-pop are lost on a crowd who only came to hear ‘My Number’.

As for tonight’s headliners, The Killers? Their 2007 appearance at T was one of the defining gigs of their career, and you worry that (like so much else this weekend), this show won’t live up to expectations. It does, and then some. The Las Vegas quartet have a supply of anthems few bands can compete with, and following the mixed fortunes of this weekend’s headliners, they’re not just a steady hand, but a necessary offering to T’s core indie-rock audience. To say they’re gladly accepted is an understatement.

Highlight of the day: The Killers covering Travis’ ‘Side’. Didn’t see that one coming.

Barry Nicolson