Sat in the media area on Saturday afternoon I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on a radio interview being conducted directly behind me. Geoff Ellis, the man behind the inaugural TRNSMT was in ebullient mood and it wasn’t just the glorious festival weather that was making him so upbeat. Saturday had sold out and with over 120,000 tickets sold over the weekend TRNSMT was a financial success. Seen by some as a non-camping urban replacement for the much troubled T in the Park, the event was proving to be a resounding success which had already witnessed one stunning headline performance and was generating a great atmosphere.
From a perspective of audience enjoyment, Saturday was the most consistently upbeat festival day I’ve experienced for a long time. Put bluntly it could have been christened beer swilling party day! From the arrival of Circa Waves (only the second band on) the dancing, singing, jumping, bodies on shoulders and succession of mosh pits didn’t cease. The sustained, undoubtedly alcohol fuelled energy was unbelievable. Boisterous would be an understatement but this was thoroughly good natured euphoria without a sign of aggression or violence. Looking across the arena toward Glasgow city centre I was reminded of a comment from an earlier review. Emblazoned in huge letters on numerous buildings across the city is the logo, “People make Glasgow.” Once again Glaswegians were proving formidable musical ambassadors.
So what of Saturday’s music? Openers Cabbage were underwhelming ; seemingly lost in the midday sunshine as crowds drifted in but things really came to life with Circa Waves, a band who seem to have taken a real step forward in popularity over the past 12 months.
Stormzy brought a burgeoning live reputation and huge anticipation and didn’t disappoint. A mesmerising presence as he stalked back and forth across the stage, he delivered a blisteringly powerful set which build on the audience’s undoubted willingness to party. As the frenzied atmosphere grew he even had the presence to slow things by throwing in a version of Ed Sheeran’s, “Shape of You,” before re-igniting the crowd with a storming, “Shut up” as finale.
The pace slowed with mass singalongs for an audience who seemed well versed in The Kooks and George Ezra’s material before Catfish and the Bottlemen took things to another level. Lacking originality but with tremendous power as a live band, the vast crowd erupted as they took to the stage. There was no doubt that this was who many of those present had come to see and they didn’t disappoint; future headliners without a doubt.
So to Kasabian, kicking off with new material they delivered a career spanning set that drew a great response from the already hyped crowd. The audience loved it but to this reviewer there was a feeling that amid the undoubted professionalism there was an element of going through the motions with clichéd posturing that has come to be expected from their live shows.
How do you create a meaningful supporting line up for Radiohead? I guess that you probably struggle.
Friday opened with something of a whimper. Delays in gates opening meant that JP Cooper began playing to dozens rather than thousands. However, the young singer songwriter with a foot in the dance world played a pleasing set as the crowds drifted in.
Everything Everything who followed, were thoroughly enjoyable playing material drawn mostly from “Get to Heaven” and their forthcoming album. Up next, Rag n’ Bone Man has an impressive voice and imposing stage presence yet some of his songs seem to lack individuality, fitting well within the genre but too similar in pace. That cannot be said for “Skin” and “Human” two standout tracks that demand to be noticed and packed real emotional impact.
London Grammar proved dreadful as a live proposition. With no attempt to engage or even look at their audience, your reviewer quickly gave up and retreated to the comfort of a seat in the backstage bar. Sat listening over a beer it quickly became apparent that musically, London Grammar were very good; one for listening to rather than going out to watch.
Radiohead were phenomenal, delivering a towering two and a half hour performance that almost no one else over the weekend came near to matching. Heavily featuring material from OK Computer, In Rainbows and A Moon Shaped Pool the band took us on an emotional rollercoaster of layered soundscapes that never ceased to amaze and enthrall. There were tears in the eyes of some at the front as they opened with “Let Down” and by the time the final encore burst into a rare outing for “The Bends” the sense of communal euphoria was overwhelming. The thousands that sang “I lost myself” as they closed with “Karma Police” did so not for “a moment;” they had been lost for over two hours.
Sunday arrived wet and drew smaller crowds, probably around 30,000. Any potential last minute punters undoubtedly put off by the weather. To quote a football cliché, music on the main stage provided a day “of two halves.” Afternoon brought filler in the form of The Strypes, The View and Blossoms. Yes I know that Blossoms have their followers and they were fairly well received but to your reviewer they came across as purveyors of bland conservative music with a complete lack of stage presence.
Proceedings were finally brought to life by a storming cocksure performance from Twin Atlantic. This really was a true homecoming show with the band using streamers and confetti to open and close the set while relishing the fact that they could see their homes and recording studio from the stage.
Did Matt Healy stagger onto the TRNSMT stage chemically aided via another planet or is he simply a consummate actor? It’s hard to tell but the Glasgow audience can’t take their eyes off him as he wanders, staggers and dances around demanding attention in equal measure from crowd and TV cameras. There is no doubting The 1975’s headlining potential, they’ve already reached that point and without doubt on Sunday night they delivered.
And so to Biffy . . . Last summer they brought a stunning stripped down performance to Glasgow Summer Sessions. TRNSMT were treated to the full stage set that graced Reading and Leeds festivals in 2016 complete with streamers, pyrotechnics and fireworks. Could Biffy Clyro headlining in Glasgow fail? Well of course it couldn’t but they delivered on epic proportions. Opening with the powerhouse “Wolves of Winter,” by fourth song “Biblical” there was mass audience bouncing and singing and so it continued with both performers and crowd in celebratory mood. They were the only band to come anywhere near to Radiohead’s opening night performance.
Stage timings often meant making a choice between the main stage and King Tuts. A pleasant relatively intimate outdoor venue for emerging bands, it saw some pleasing performances on Sunday, most notably from The Amazons and Tom Grennan. The Jack Rocks stage was small and intimate, generating a great atmosphere but probably a little too small. The casual visitor was limited to trying to watch and listen from outside as committed fans staked their claims inside well before bands started.
Promoters DF are no strangers to hosting large events so it came as no surprise that TRNSMT was well organised and ran largely smoothly. Toilets were plentiful, well maintained and mostly devoid of significant queues. A good range of eateries provided a variety of food although judging by comments overheard, quality was variable. There were the usual complaints about prices but compared to those at some events further south, they were not excessive.
The site was compact and easy to navigate but did throw up some concerns. Saturday’s sold out 50,000 capacity felt uncomfortably overcrowded at times and without such a friendly and positive atmosphere, could have been cause for concern. The numbers also brought some excessive waiting at bars not evident on Friday or Sunday. Moreover, the geography of the site, gradually rising from the main stage but then falling over the dome of a hillside meant that those not stood amid the front 35,000 or so were reliant on viewing large screens rather than the stage. With around 40,000 present for Radiohead there was plenty of space but maybe a more realistic capacity would somewhere a little below 50,000.
So, a few criticisms and areas for improvement but overall TRNSMT was a resounding success with two great headline performances and a superb atmosphere.
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most of the acts from the 2020 line-up re-booked for 2021