As T in the Park 2013 - the festival's 20th birthday - drew near it grew clearer that last year's mud woes had put many people off. Many pre-purchased tickets sold on, more left unbought by regulars scared about spending 3 days wallowing in a mud pit again. Yet in the days leading up to the Balado festival, it was with blinking disbelief that festival-goers eagerly checked the forecast and were rewarded with reports of scorching temperatures of around 25 degrees for the most of the weekend. Cue a last minute flurry of ticket buying, and a smug sense of satisfaction from those who had braved the early ticket purchases. But what to wear in such unusual conditions? The wellies were out, that's for sure, replaced keenly by flip-flops, plimsoles and blankets to sit on.
On Friday, walking into the arena the TiTP world looked like a much happier place than seen in previous years. The T crowd are infamously rowdy, but the sunshine calmed some and it was an excited and happy crowd waiting at the Main Stage for The Proclaimers to kick off the proceedings. The east coast duo have been regulars at T throughout its 20 years and it was a warm welcome they received this year. Sitting in the blaring sun the crowds were overjoyed to hear hits On My Way and Sunshine On Leith but it was firm fan favourite 500 Miles which, unsurprisingly, got everyone on their feet and bellowing along.
If anything, Friday at T this year was almost too hot, and it could be said that some acts in tents struggled as a result. Walking into King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut Tent was like hitting a wall of heat, but without the cooling breeze of outside to give some relief. Yet Everything Everything successfully pulled in an audience to be proud of. The alternative pop band played their inimitably styled tunes to a sweaty yet smiling tent, playing recent single Kemosabe from 2013 released album Arc and catchy ditty Don’t Try. Having described T in the Park as “crazy” in an interview this year, Everything Everything surely gave us something to go crazy about.
Unfortunately it was the King Tut’s tent where most of the action was heading into Friday evening, with lyrical drum and bass quartet Rudimental hitting the stage. While many people sat just outside the tent, still able to hear yet stay cool, the tent was still filling steadily as they played some of their biggest hits including Waiting All Night which features Ella Eyre and Not Giving In featuring upcoming star John Newman and Alex Clare. Yet it was big hit Feel The Love, again with John Newman which proved the greatest pleaser of their set, the crowd shouting along and filling the tent with cheers.
Being crushed in a tent is one thing, being crushed by sweaty bodies is a whole other kettle of fish, and so it was time for a speedy exit to the main stage in time to catch Scottish soul diva Emeli Sande. Looking every inch at home on the Balado stage, she belted out all the hits the fans wanted to hear from her short 4 year career so far, including Heaven, Beneath Your Beautiful, Read All About It before closing with Next To Me, arguably her most popular song to date.
While the main stage got reset for the next act, wandering over to the King Tut's tent meant revellers could hear the closing leg of Of Monsters And Men – not wanting to subject ourselves to yet more stifling heat inside, sitting outside listening to the Icelandic 6-piece proved the perfect tonic to the lack of breeze. One of the better parts of a festival has to be sitting on the grass, drinking a nice pint and hearing some chilled music, and top ten hit Little Talks fitted that bill perfectly.
Friday night was an evening spent bouncing back and forth between King Tut's and the Main Stage, and so it was back to the main arena to catch drum and bass act Chase & Status – the UK duo of Saul Milton and Will Kennard, joined live by MC Rage gave a characteristically energetic performance filled with hits Flashing Lights and Let You Go, with its building tension and stalker-sounding lyrics. They also didn’t fail to disappoint with Lost & Not Found and End Credits, and as became typical of this year’s acts, ending with the one hit to make the crowd go crazy, End Credits. Although fully deserving of their penultimate position on the Friday main stage bill, they seemed an unusual act to come before folk act Mumford and Sons. And therein lies one of the issues with T in the Park 2013, an unusual bill of acts leaving the crowd with either too much choice at the same time, or a headlining bill which failed to excite.
While Mumford & Sons took to the main stage, Calvin Harris took to the Radio 1 Stage and godfathers of electronic music Kraftwerk played King Tut’s. Normally, there would hardly have been a choice between Calvin Harris and the latter, but the lure of a 3D visual show in King Tut’s proved too much and back in the tent it was. This turned out to be one of the few regrets of this year's T in the Park – Kraftwerk opened with hit The Robots, to an admittedly nice use of 3D video background but the tent was almost empty, filled only with predominately middle-aged men standing with their arms folded. Even heading right down to the front – something this reviewer certainly doesn't attempt often – the energy was lacking and it seemed futile to stay. Heading over to the Radio 1 stage via the main stage meant some of Mumford & Sons could be heard and, although a fan, it was time for something more upbeat to end the first night. And here came regret number two of the weekend: Calvin Harris by all accounts played the set of his life at T this year, yet the crowd play such a big part of a festival experience. Joining the audience late carries the risk of being stuck beside drunken louts and being too far away to enjoy the experience, and this was the case at the Radio 1 stage. Having no choice but to back away from the set for fear of being stuck beside a particularly rowdy group all evening, Calvin's set of the weekend was missed – and sorely regretted.
With none of the headliners a choice, it was time to check out the Sunset Strip – one thing which must be said about Geoff Ellis' festival this year is that they have learnt some very important lessons, and seemed to get almost everything correct this year. The Slam Tent was positioned closer to the camping area, along with a Cabaret Tent and the Arcadia Afterburner, previously a regular at Rock Ness yet missing this year. The positioning of this section meant that campers got all the entertainment they could want upon entering the site on the Thursday, and it seemed to speed up the exit of the crowd when the arena closed for the evening.
On one of the hottest days of the year so far, it was a tired yet elated crowd who headed homeward (or tent) bound for the evening, many of whom were a bit too reddened by the unexpected sunshine.
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