TRNSMT 2021 was a party celebrating re-birth and it emerged triumphant

TRNSMT 2021 review

published: Fri 18th Mar 2022

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buy tickets now > Friday 8th to Sunday 10th July 2022
Glasgow Green, Glasgow, G1 5DB, Scotland MAP
find nearby
accommodation
day ticket: £62.50; any 2 days: £119.50; all 3 days: £165
daily capacity: 50000
last updated: Thu 28th Apr 2022

It’s been two years and three months since the last TRNSMT but as I board a commuter train for the short ride toward Glasgow City centre I can’t help feeling a strange sense of déjà vu. This was a journey and atmosphere I’d experienced before. The carriage steadily fills with teenagers; mostly 15 or 16 year old girls. They’re clearly headed for the festival. Scantily dressed in spite of the forecast of rain, they’re sharing contraband alcohol and mask-less in breach of Scottish covid regulations for public transport. They’re in boisterous good natured party mood and it occurs to me that considering their age and the events of the past of the past 18 months, this will probably be their first experience of a major festival. Is refreshing to see such youthful exuberance but as they head off singing into the Glasgow streets I can’t help wondering how soon before alcoholic euphoria gives way to sore heads.

TRNSMT was a Scottish Government “Gateway” event with lateral flow covid checks for those attending each day. I can’t comment on procedures for the general public but those for press and VIP entrants were the most rigorous of all the events I’ve covered this summer, included questioning to prove that results displayed on phones were actually yours rather than a proxy test done to presumably hide infection. It was refreshing to see checks being properly managed rather than merely being shown lip service.

Musically the afternoon began slowly. From a distance Sports Team could be seen making energetic efforts on the main stage as people are still filtering in. Deciding to give House Gospel Choir a miss in favour of nourishment my first real taste of main stage sound was Yxng Bane and I wish I hadn’t bothered. Pacing back and forth across the stage uttering almost unidentifiable banalities while his DJ provided backing sounds on his laptop, the teenagers at the front lapped it all up. Those I’d shared the train journey with were undoubtedly among them. Unfortunately festival programming dictated that we’re given a dose of this each afternoon. On Sunday we have Jay1, who’s similarly bereft of talent; generic banal hip hop generating lots of audience response but minimal music. Sandwiched between them on Saturday is KSI. At first glance he appears to have a little more to offer, mixing occasional singing with crowd rousing antics but watch closely; he isn’t actually singing most of the vocal sounds emanating from the stage and when he is, the voice is often “treated” for effect.

To see and hear hip hop done well you had visit King Tuts Stage. Berwyn, playing mid Friday afternoon was new to me. He slowed things down to give us a much more laid back take on the genre with his band providing sympathetic backing that complemented his vocal style. That evening the excellent Little Simz headlined the same stage. Playing a set evenly balanced between her “Grey Area” and “Sometimes I may be Introvert” albums, she’s an artist with something to say; who says it with style. She was undoubtedly one of my highlights of the day playing to an appreciative audience that was noticeably devoid of young teenagers. Perhaps my 15 year old self may have enjoyed the daily afternoon hip hop offerings but I somehow doubt it.

Playing earlier on the same stage was Griff; recently touted in the music press, she clearly has talent. In a performance imbued with nervous energy she was clearly enjoying herself while confiding that this was her first ever gig outside London. On a stage where female performers were much in evidence, Joy Crookes playing prior to Little Simz really impressed. I’d last seen her as a nervous but talented seventeen year old playing with her family in her audience. I guess you’d describe her as a soul singer but her voice, stage presence and charisma seem destined to bring success well beyond that genre.

Back on the main stage, Inhaler had been moved up the bill in the absence of Scottish favourites, The Snuts. They acquit themselves well playing a short set drawn from the “It won’t always be like this” album. It seems a contradiction considering that most of their material is quite upbeat and cheerful but the performance in bright sunlight at TRNSMT didn’t seem to be as effective as the one they’d delivered a week earlier under dark gloomy lighting of Neighbourhood Weekender’s big top.

Sam Fender followed, performing a set that began slowly before bursting into life about 5 songs in. Towards the end he pays homage to his hero and greatest influence Bruce Springsteen with a decent rendering of “Dancing in the Dark” before finishing with the inevitable, “Hypersonic Missiles”. It’s a measured performance building to a crescendo that undoubtedly takes the audience with him. A future headliner in waiting I think.

Headliners The Courteeners are a band I’ve consistently underestimated. I don’t dislike them and enjoy their material but have never quite understood the febrile crowd response that their performances often generate; especially in the northern half of the UK. Their audience on Friday night was more restrained than some I’ve experienced but none the less enthusiastic. In a set comprising material from across their career but dominated by tracks from their first album St Jude it was the audience that really elevated the show. It was quite humbling, and more than a little disconcerting to be a silent voice among tens of thousands of Glaswegians who seemingly knew the words to almost everything that was played. They proved themselves without doubt to be worthy headliners.

Saturday brought brighter weather, perfectly suited to the generally upbeat sounds of Sea Girls who were first to make an impression on the main stage and were undoubtedly assisted by whoever was responsible for their colourful stage projections. It’s hard to make an impression at 1.30 on a sunny afternoon but their vibrant visuals definitely enhanced their songs.

The festival suffered from a number of late performer cancellations, some missed more than others. Having seen Georgia earlier in the summer I’d been looking forward to watching her at King Tuts and Saturday afternoon on the stage felt a little flat in her absence until the arrival of The Murder Capital. I watched them alongside one of the festival’s PR staff. She’d neither seen, or heard of them but came away stunned; afterwards describing what she saw in the festival’s own PR as, “A blistering performance full of dark energy and menace.” I can’t really improve on that. They were stunning; one of the performances of the weekend.

A return to the main stage brought a return to the middle of the road in the form of Keane. Very lightweight in comparison to The Murder Capital but a pleasant change while munching some food and having a beer. They’ve got some good songs in their back catalogue and the Glasgow crowd like to sing. Both Keane and my food went down well. Regarding food generally, there wasn’t a huge choice but there was a definite Scottish slant to the menus on offer. TRNSMT pride themselves on the quality of their culinary offerings and I based on what I sampled, I can’t complain.

Primal Scream came on stage as darkness fell and treated us to an hour of visceral rock n’ roll laced with 1990’s dance culture and psychedelia.  They delivered a greatest hits set build around the core of Screamadelica with the home Glaswegian audience and band feeding off each other’s energy. I’ve never seem Bobby Gillespie smile so much! From the opening bars of “Movin’ on up” to closer, “Loaded” the intensity levels never dropped. For me this wasn’t just the performance of the weekend, it was the best I’d witnessed all summer.

Of course not everyone shares my tastes and apart from KSI there had been little to appeal to young teenagers on Saturday’s bill. It seemed that they’d all been waiting for Becky Hill to headline King Tuts stage. There were so many that entrances to the area had to be closed due to overcrowding; the first time this has happened since TRNSMT began in 2017. I managed to get in briefly through a backstage route to take a couple of photos and she was certainly generating plenty of excitement. I struggled to see many faces looking older than 20 and haven’t heard as much high pitched female screaming at a gig since covering  a McBusted performance in Hyde Park a few years ago.

Liam Gallagher headlined the main stage and would need to be good to even compete with what had preceded him; fortunately he was. Opening with a blast of Oasis; Hello, Rock n’ Roll Star, and Morning Glory, he paused only to pay tribute to Primal Scream. Then it was on to some of more recent solo material; well received and clearly familiar to many in the crowd. When audience response levels began to drop slightly it was back to another trio of Oasis tracks, most notably, “Cigarettes and Alcohol” before returning to more of his own material.

Looking out upon the sea of smiling, singing audience faces it was interesting to note the demographic. There were older heads, presumably Oasis fans from the 1990’s but most were in their early 20’s; and all know the words, not just to the biggest hits but also the more obscure offerings. Was this proof of Oasis’ timeless appeal or children growing up listening to their parent’s music and liking it?

To close, we’re treated to an extended encore of Oasis classics: "Supersonic", "Acquiesce", "Roll with it", "Live forever" and finally "Wonderwall". They couldn’t really fail and I’m left feeling impressed; especially by the quality of the band who’ve become a really powerful rock unit.

My first music of Sunday is at King Tuts with Scottish singer songwriter Tamzene. She’s got a pleasing voice and it’s an enjoyably mellow start to the day. From here it’s a quick trip to the main stage for Ella Eyre. She’s as energetic and lively as ever and although the crowd don’t know her material, she’s well received. All that changes when she plays early Rudimental collaboration, “Waiting all Night”. Suddenly things really come to life and the performance moves to another level.

Taking a walk around during Declan McKenna’s set I get the impression that the site seems noticeably quieter than previous days. Sunday on the initial 2020 lineup was headlined by Lewis Capaldi and sold out. Although much of that lineup remained intact, Capaldi no longer featured. Replacing him with The Chemical Brothers seemed like an improvement to me but probably not if you’re a Scottish Lewis Capaldi fan. Just don’t tell anyone in Scotland I said that! I suspect significant numbers of tickets may have been returned.

It took a late afternoon performance from Amy Macdonald to bring the main stage to life. She’s something of a national treasure in Scotland but sadly neglected south of the border and as I stood listening it was surprising just how many of her songs I recognised. She also brought colour and spectacle, punctuating her performance with streamers, confetti, waterfall effects and some impressive back projections that complemented her songs. It’s a shame that the same can’t be said for Dermot Kennedy who followed her. He’s got a great voice and I’d been looking forward to him but choosing to dress himself and band mostly in black with a black backdrop and minimal lighting, while offering little on stage charisma, one song quickly merged into another. After about 20 minutes I’d had enough.

TRNSMT’s tiny River Stage, its third performance area, has a laid back appeal on a slope with benches spaced out for relaxed viewing. On Friday I briefly caught several afternoon sets of which One Nine and Gallus particularly stood out; although the latter were far from relaxing! It was a pity that clashes with the larger stages meant I didn’t get to see much there on Saturday or Sunday.

Snow Patrol are a band that seem to get taken for granted by many but a little like Amy Macdonald, I was surprised by just how good they were on Sunday evening. Over the years they’re amassed an impressive cannon of material and although Gary Lightbody hails from Northern Ireland, the band made their name in Scotland. The band were clearly enjoying themselves and by the time they broke Into, “Chasing Cars” toward the end of the set it was clear that this had become a triumphant homecoming gig.

The Chemical Brothers clearly didn’t fit with the rest of the day’s line up in terms of genre and I’ve no idea whether there was an exodus after Snow Patrol but for the tens of thousands that remained they put on a great headlining performance. From the opening salvo of, “Hey Boy, Hey Girl” through to the climactic “Galvanise” and “Block Rockin’ Beats” they took us on a journey through 25 years of impressive output. Recent album, “No Geography” featured quite heavily. I’m not really familiar with it but it didn’t matter as it segued into more recognisable material with ease. And of course there were the visuals; spectacular as always and constantly developing as technology presents new innovations and opportunities. Yet it’s important that the visuals enhance rather than overwhelm musical content and on Sunday night they emphatically complemented each other.

The Chemicals had brought the weekend to a close in spectacular style. Over the three days I’d experienced some impressive highs alongside sounds that appealed far less but that’s just down my taste. When you put on a festival that aims to please a multi-generational audience you’re not going to please everyone all of the time. I’m sure a teenagers’ “highlights” would be very different to mine yet I defy anyone who attended not to have come away with some great memories. In an era when many festivals tend to be one dimensional, focusing on singular genres for financial safety, it was refreshing to experience some variety. In truth though, personal taste was secondary to the occasion. TRNSMT was as always, extremely well organised but the event was above all, Scotland’s music community coming together to celebrate its emergence from hibernation. TRNSMT 2021was a party celebrating re-birth and it emerged triumphant.


review by: Trevor Eales

buy tickets now > Friday 8th to Sunday 10th July 2022
Glasgow Green, Glasgow, G1 5DB, Scotland MAP
find nearby
accommodation
day ticket: £62.50; any 2 days: £119.50; all 3 days: £165
daily capacity: 50000
last updated: Thu 28th Apr 2022


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