T in the Park 2008 @ Balado, 11-13 Jul

Article by Finbarr Bermingham | 21 Jul 2008

After breaking the undercarriage of the Skinnymobile on its rocky exit from T in the Car Park last year, much to the peculiar amusement of an onlooking policeman, it's with caution that we roll up to Balado this year with a plan for all eventualities.

But, of course, when you're dealing with our country's great unpredictable weather system, 80,000 people fighting for a portaloo and a Skinny crew of six that scrambles around the site trying to catch and snap everybody on a bill of 160 odd bands that has more clashes between titans than a weekend on the lash with the Greek Gods - we've come to realise that it really is best just to fly by the seat of your pants when visiting the inebriated adventure land that is T in the Park.


If the appeal of Los Campesinos! isn't always palpable on record – it's abundantly clear as they kick off proceedings in Balado. A crowd mostly comprising neo-bespectacled teenagers are treated to a high octane, invigorating set – chaotically configured, culminating in a fantastic rendition of You! Me! Dancing! On this evidence, the kids are in safe hands, but leave the spoken word to Henry Rollins, eh Gareth? [fb]

Electronic Jazz has always been a rarity outside of smoky bars and crime drama soundtracks, so it’s a pleasant surprise to find Joe Acheson Quartet bustin’ their glitch-centric grooves in the T Break tent. Although a daytime slot somehow doesn’t entirely suit their dark ambient oeuvre, the mark they make is indelible; reminiscent of early DJ Shadow, mid-period Morricone and Norwegian collective Jaga Jazzist rolled into a bounty of satisfying percussive twists. [dk]

In all honesty, The Stereophonics on the main stage wasn't on my weekend's itinerary, but after an opening pre-Millennium trilogy, I’m pleasantly surprised. Wishful thinking would lead you to conclude that Kelly Jones has realised his 'noughties' material is predominantly pish, but as the evergreen Thousand Trees and More Life In A Tramp's Vest prematurely cede to some modern day sludge, we think again.[fb]

I’m sure The Music were never this popular before. Fans are literally bounding into the King Tuts Tent to get close to the new look Robert Harvey, and when they find a groove The Music know how to pump it: The People is especially riotous; everyone’s going apeshit. Carling don’t do comebacks, but Tennent’s obviously do. [ab]

From where I’m standing, the Chemical Brothers seem jaded. There’s crossed arms and frowns to the left of me, dancers to the right, but they’re dancing because they think they should, not because the beats are making them. We’ve seen these visuals before too. Star Guitar and Out of Control are well received, but there’s little connection elsewhere, so I leave to catch The Verve. [ab]

There’ll always be a nostalgic appeal to The Verve for fans of a certain age: but before Bittersweet Symphony, Richard Ashcroft does his best to inflate his own ego while simultaneously belittling the entire crowd. "Does anyone here know what it's like to write a classic?" he says. “You don’t have to rub it in”, we say. [ab]


"Good morning!" Chirps Parker Gispert - lead singer of Deep South trio The Whigs - who at times recalls Bobby Gillespie, before promptly careering towards his bassist and embarking on 30 minutes of adrenalin charged garage rock. Simultaneously noisy and melodic; The Whigs kindly help remove the last of Friday's cobwebs in Pet Sounds, with album title track Mission Control proving the highlight.[fb]

The sight of a 60-year-old man playing guitar with his crotch and posterior makes for uncomfortably embarrassing viewing. But Eddy Grant compensates for this rockstar faux-pas with a grin-inducing clutch of reggae hits. Electric Avenue may be the crowd-pleaser, but it's the off-beat reggae grooves like I Don't Wanna Dance that get the early afternoon crowd bobbing on the spot. [nm]

Taking a look at the line-up for the remainder of the weekend: Rage Against the Machine, Primal Scream, Gun, dEUS…it’s like a portal to 1994, all we’re missing is House of Pain and the Crash Test Dummies. The intervening years have been kind to Belgium’s finest export since, well, beer. “We are Belgium,” dEUS front man Tom Barman jokes before the quintet get knee deep in a set that mixes Barman’s beat poetry and Beefheartian rock aesthetic with the band’s newest currency in danceable riffs. But Suds & Soda will always be the highlight, and a fierce cacophony it is.[dk]

Damian Lazarus opens with a spacious minimal mix, so technical he doesn't need to use his headphones once, that develops into a full-throttle rolling groove. One thing minimal techno gets little credit for is just how good to dance to it is: no pounding rhythms or sonics to force your hand, just a range of imaginative glitches and beats that allow for a degree of personal expression. Minimal may be out of fashion, but when there are practitioners as skilled as Lazarus around, there will always be room for it when there's a weekend of dance music to curate. [rt]

Will Young doesn’t need to do much to convince his flock of adoring young fans of the worth of a soppy ballad. But even for a pop star, this populism is stunningly manipulative: a highland jig, a Groundskeeper Willie accent, and a 500 Miles singalong, all to much acclaim for Lovely Will. I leave before he brings out the kilt and bagpipes. [ab]

Haight Ashbury take the T Break Stage having graduated from one of the Liquid Room heats. The band's format itself is atypical: a drumkit is sorely missing; the dreamy vocals and (admittedly) impressive guitar work alone struggle without a spine. A near empty tent in broad daylight, a situation stronger bands might have made better of, doesn't provide the shelter this lot obviously need to thrive. [fb]

Venturing into King Tut's Wah Wah Tent, forgive me for thinking i'd stumbled into a Confederacy Convention. The booming voice of Alabama 3's Dr Wayne Love bellows evangelically around the tent, having long since dispensed with his Brixton twang. An impressive crowd is treated to Woke Up This Morning, of Sopranos fame, which, I guess, means just about everyone got what they came for.[fb]

This feels epochal. It’s not that Glasvegas play better than usual or anything like that: rather, the crowd response, in a Futures Tent packed full 20 minutes before kick-off, is unprecedented. This band only have one full single, yet every word of every song is belted out at full volume by a rapturous audience in thrall to James Allan. Not only does Glasvegas’ greatest ever gig confirm their big time arrival, it also demonstrates the awesome viral power of fan-shot YouTube videos. Now this is the gig to search for. [ab]

Having arrived last year without their gear (although the brief acoustic set was enjoyable in hindsight) The Hold Steady's set in Pet Sounds offers a chance for redemption, which they duly accept. Opening with Chips Ahoy! but playing a large selection from their excellent new record Stay Positive, their set is one of the weekend's highlights, with the pissed up and ever effusive Franz Nikolai goading the crowd throughout.[fb]

Skulking behind the decks in leather jacket and shades, Erol Alkan's look screams 'try-hard'. But if that suggests there might be a tinge of pretension to his tune selection, what we get is the positive flipside of the coin: a challenging, noisy set of electro that takes a number of unexpected twists and turns. Purists in the crowd are braying, but on this evidence Alkan has left his electroclash origins behind, and has as good an ear as any for next generation of great dance music. [rt]

With a full tent, the stage is set for a triumphant show by MGMT. Bandanas and sunglasses play into their exotic prog-rock allure, and Electric Feel injects some energy into a sluggish start, but just when they're about to assail us with readymade anthem Time To Pretend, the low-end of the soundsystem audibly explodes. The crowd stay on-side for the remainder, but this could have been so much better.[nm]

Whether it’s a consequence of the departure of guitarist Mat Brooke, Band of Horses have come to embrace their southern rock roots and embellish on their knack for a bourbon soaked hook with last year’s Cease to Begin. But, a half full Pet Sounds arena conveys the sense that the South Carolina sextet might need to bribe Edith Bowman for extra airplay if they aspire to conquer Scotland, although rapturously received deliveries of Ode to LRC, The Funeral and The First Song suggest they could be one album away from a slot much further up the bill next time. [dk]

With one and a half album's worth of recorded music in the can, The Twilight Sad are a strange choice for the T Break tent. But instead of acting all complacent and 'T broke', the band are in typically uncompromising form: a few new songs are tantalising, but Cold Days From the Birdhouse is one of those shut-eye, unforgettable festival moments. [nm]

The Pogues are due on stage in 20 minutes and King Tut’s Wah Wah tent is already hoaching with flags of all nations sweeping from front to back. The rampant crowd gets its satisfaction from the Anglo-Irish folk punks when drinking man’s idol Shane MacGowan ambles on, steady on his legs and slurring a cipher that his old friend Spider Stacy duly translates into between song banter while perennial highlights like Dirty Old Town and A Pair Of Brown Eyes are dusted down.[dk]

On the back of Consolers of the Lonely, the Raconteurs are a band gleefully indulging American-ness, with bluegrass fiddle on Old Enough, stadium rawk on Salute Your Solution and Detroit pop classicism on Many Shades of Black. It's unfair to lay all their success at the winkle pickers of Jack White, but his scintillating talents upgrade many an average song tonight. [nm]

Their inimitable brand of polemics might have been missing from the musical landscape since the turn of the millennium, but tonight’s like business as usual for Rage Against the Machine, and it’d be a gross mistake to think Zack de la Rocha might have mellowed any with age. Forget teenage angst, this is sheer belligerent fury as fists are thrown in the air while the quartet kick up fuck with songs that were custom built to break down our apathy. “Check out my DJ,” says de la Rocha as he bounds the stage like Marley on crack and doffs his afro in the direction of Tom Morello’s fret board during Bulls on Parade. When relevance is apparently measured by whether you wear day-glo, what a comfort to see Rage - the original T headliner - once again sticking it to The Man without compromise. [dk]


In King Tut's, the Delays make the most of a crowd that's swollen in anticipation of the Ting Tings. Starting as they mean to go on with the superb Lost In A Melody, their sunshine rock is tailor made for the festival circuit, even if they are stuck in the darkest corner of the site. The crowd respond well to their request for a Mexican Wave; a breath of fresh air. [fb]

Don't be fooled by the name: 1990s are all about the '60s. There is a pre-LSD innocence to their guitar-bass-drums pop simplicity - and even in the way Jackie McKeown shakes his head like a young Paul McCartney. The fans at the front love every fresh-faced second of it, but some neutrals are left checking their watches.[nm]

Slightly less heralded than the return of The Verve is the second coming of Shed Seven. Okay, so they never scaled the lofty heights of Urban Hymns, but nostalgia drags us to the Main Stage where, in the blazing sunshine, Chasing Rainbows sounds as fresh as it did on cassette two of Now 35 on Christmas morning in 1996. Ah, brings a tear to the eye. [fb]

Anyone barred entry to Vampire Weekend's stowed-out show could have done a lot worse than take a walk to the Futures Tent for fellow New Yorkers Yeasayer. Singer Chris Keating endears himself by saying that the few hundred fans present are worth a 10,000-strong Main Stage crowd, and despite a few disparaging whisperings about their live reputation, Yeasayer are phenomenal. 2080 and Sunrise are spine-tingling at such close quarters. [nm]

As a band devoted to hard touring – of course, playing the ‘Relentless Energy’ stage this afternoon - Brummie trio Johnny Foreigner have recently been celebrated as a live act that possesses similar shouty pop-punk dynamics to that of Idlewild in their early day. Think Captain. Boy/girl vocals spar between Alexei Berrow and Kelly Southern, resurrecting a well worn aesthetic. Although it remains to be seen whether JoFo will conjure up anything that surpasses momentary good fun on record, theirs is a punchy, engaging show that the few dozen spectators in attendance can’t help but unconditionally invest in. [dk]

Battles’ technical prowess is obvious, as exemplified by their frankly awesome drummer. But too often that’s used as free reign to fanny about, to randomly slap at the keyboard or squeal an off-key guitar chord in the name of the avant-garde. If only all of their forcefully rhythmic attacks crystallised into palpable songs as well as on the bonkers Atlas, they’d be the greatest band in the world. [ab]

Fresh from wooing a field full of Morrissey fans - never a mean feat - at the Wireless festival just a few days ago, The National appear to be on fire at the minute, the slow burning beauty of last year's Boxer still rewarding those who'll give it attention. Fake Empire and Slow Show are elegantly understated, like Leonard Cohen's indie rock nephews, but Squalor Victoria is the suddenly snarling centrepiece. They finish with Mr November. And the whole thing's fucking glorious. [dk]

The T-Break tent is half-full, but every soul here is crooning “I’ll get my hole!” like it’s divine truth – even the girls are singing it - and when the chorus kicks in it’s utterly triumphant. Everyone rouses from the spell, rubs their eyes in the sunlight, and wishes they were back under. Tonight Matthew, Frightened Rabbit are simply magic. [ab]

Logistical problems notwithstanding, Amy Winehouse would really suit a late slot in a big tent more than a daytime slot on the Main Stage. At times seeming bored, scared shitless by the crowd, or distracted, Amy’s untuneful warbles do her no justice today. But then, I’m nine miles from the stage, and those closer in are more interested in whether she’ll live to the end of her set than in her singing. She does. [ab]

The strobe lighting may reveal the grim reality of the darkened Slam Tent's bug-eyed revellers every few seconds, but Justice obliterate any such trauma with their towering, overblown electro-clash. Twin banks of fake Marshall amps and the illuminated cross are nice touches, but it's the glitchy sampling and scything beats of DVNO, D.A.N.C.E and We Are Your Friends that gets the hands in the air.[nm]

Following the Frenchmen, Richie Hawtin seems to be having a good time laying down his contemporary techno, and the Slam crowd are lapping it up. Unfortunately, this pre-headline set lacks the vitality of his most memorable performances. Feeling a little uninspired, I wander off halfway through to see what the fuss is about the naughtily-named Holy Fuck, on the nearby Relentless stage.The largely instrumental show from the Canadian outfit turns out to be one of the highlights of the whole weekend: driven electronic rhythms under crashing guitar and drums, with a full range of sexy, quirky effects and details penetrating the darkness. As the stunned crowd leave the tent, every now and then euphoric individuals randomly scream to the skies 'Hoooly Fuuuuuck!' Should've known…[rt]

Fierce competition on Sunday night doesn't prevent Hot Chip from packing out the Pet Sounds Arena. Obvious crowd pleasers Over & Over and Ready For The Floor have the desired effect, but the most fitting moment of the festival is when they drop No Fit State. Three days of relentless skulduggery leave the masses nodding in agreement. Can we go home yet? [fb]

A last-minute realisation that a Formula One boss and his misguided rock dream might not be the best headliner for the Pet Sounds Arena has resulted in a promotion from the early afternoon for the Brian Jonestown Massacre. And while their heady sonic brew is intoxicating, the small crowd shrinks further during the set. Not that BJM particularly care, especially tambourine man Joel Gion, who resorts to a hissy tirade after being drenched by a thrown pint.[nm]

When he’s not doing Firestarter or Breathe, which both go down fucking mentally, The Prodigy's Keith Flint just parades about, gurning like a lunatic. That’s it. It’s Maxim who’s the star of this show, a show which is flat for spells but rescued by the madness that accompanies the hits. Who wouldn’t freak out to Poison or Out of Space? Psychopathy has never been so appealing. [ab]

Many of my peers scoffed when I made it known that R.E.M. would be my final port of call at this year's T In The Park, but their headline slot on the Main Stage completely vindicated the decision. AM radio staples Man On The Moon, Great Beyond and Electrolite will have appeased the casual fan, but the inclusion of Fall On Me and (Don't Go Back To) Rockville from the IRS years, will have impressed even the most ardent of devotees. A set that had the potential to go tits up turned out to be the dog's bollocks. And then some. [fb]