T in the Park 2015: Friday, 10 July
Strathallan Castle sits aloof above its new tenants, the Tennent's swilling masses camped in colorful tents swathed in mist and smoke from portable grills. It's noon on Friday; campers are still pitching, and soundcheck rumblings aside, the music has yet to begin. In their bright wellies and slickers and unnecessary shades, in their sweats and straw hats, sledding booze through the sludge, the bedazzled and bedenimed children of Scotland stomp in the mud, celebrating nothing but their own blessed and blemishless juvenescence.
Wakefield's indie darlings The Cribs (drinking un-Kosher San Miguels this afternoon) take the stage under grey skies and scattered showers... of Tennent's, tossed in joy. Though three quarters of the band could be a Tulsa, Oklahoma garage outfit happy to be playing the high school homecoming while brother Ryan Jarman, in black leather jacket and pink-and-green stockings, resembles nothing so much as a Prince Valiant with daddy issues, they're all on the same page musically and deliver a string of fan favourties. Despite Ryan's inability to carry even the melody of a call-and-response 'Ay-Oh,' we appreciate their high-gain hooks and all pretend to be realists and romantics along with them. He initiates what some might call a mosh pit; on the outskirts of the crowd two Snow Whites and 10 dwarves, who know about 40% of the lyrics to every song, embrace and hug for pseudo-celebrity selfies. Having declared the band's love for Scotland, Ryan closes the set by tossing his guitar into a stack of Orange amps. It survives unscathed, not even a string broken, and we disperse, happy but ready, perhaps, to be surprised at another stage.
Jessie Ware's live show is like a sports car, and she's an expert driver: it may seem like she's spent five songs in third gear, but really she's been switching, subtly, the whole time. Some of the early songs do, in fact, seem too well suited to back car commercials, but crushing bas faultls,ess (if safe) drumming, and Ware's MJ-inflected stage presence keeps things feeling very alive. The soulstress delivers a stream of clubby R&B tunes to a very happy crowd, safely shaded from a surprsing afternoon sunburst. Her voice occasionally gets lost in the audio hall of mirrors that her songs – especially in King Tut's multi-peaked tent – often become, but she isn't faking anything. Girls are hoisted aloft for the Say You Love Me closer, in a chorus that resounds off King Tut's shadowy nightblue peaks, and festival first-timer Ware leaves us hoping she'll be back.
He can rock, he can roll, and the Irishman has soul. With more of the Nawlins bayou than the Bray, Co. Wicklow, Hozier howls and scratches his way through a set bluesy, ballsy, and backed by hundreds of fans doing their best to "Oh" along, under the finest skies T'ers have seen yet. He's also backed by a tight band, and there aren't any duds in his set, which includes his hits as well as "something fun," a cover of Ariana Grande's Problem. At that moment it feels good to be in a sweaty, beery crowd under the Scottish sun – especially when he takes us all to church at the end of his set and wishes us well through the rest of the festival. [AR]
And here we have Hot Chip, the collective noun for an abundance of keyboards and synths. The purveyors of the thinking man's electro pop have filled the King Tut's tent to bursting, and they put their impressive assemblage of instruments to immediate and urgent use. Alexis Taylor's pastel vocals dance across the darker drive of the group's insistent, intricate arrangements; crystalline and fragile during Ready For The Floor, then cool and impervious for crowd favourite Over And Over. That the latter track is nudging ten years of age is immaterial – the song, like Hot Chip's set, is distinctive and danceable. And as a parting gift, they even throw in a Springsteen cover for good measure. [CF]
Model Aeroplanes open with a sound that could have made a walking, roaring Gamera of the already testudine King Tut's tent, at least - but this is the magic of the intimate BBC Introducing Stage. Festival-goers lounge on the grass, as if they have nowhere better to be – but when Aeroplanes take the stage they transform into the faithful and rush to the front, ready to chant to a surprising number of the up-and-comers' songs. Still, this stage is about discovery. "What's their name?" someone asks. "They're quite good. Quite 1975." Exact dates aside, Model Aeroplanes give us simple melodies strung over beats high powered and often intricate, with a touch of the samba to them, making many songs danceable – and they even throw in a brand new number. In what's surely not their last T appearance, Aeroplanes prove you don't need to be revolutionary when you have attitude, honesty, and energy... though liberal hair-flips don't hurt. [AR]
Picking a standout track from last year's Lost In The Dream is an almost futile endeavor, given the sheer quality of the album, and to single out a highlight from The War On Drugs' stunning Friday evening performance is an equally impossible task. In a set heavily slanted towards this latest release, the group play against the misting rain and grey skies with a unassuming sense of purpose. Granduciel is a quiet yet wry frontman – in one of his few direct addresses to the crowd he urges us to take care of one another, reminiscing that "I only did psychedelics one time, and I ended up under a car," before breaking off with a dry grin. Yet the atmosphere they create is remarkable, a tight interplay of moody bass, striking drumming and mournful guitar notes. Luminescent keys light up Under The Pressure, but it's perhaps An Ocean In Between The Waves, a brilliant, atmospheric sonic moment in time, that best encapsulates the awe-inspiring, emotive power of The War On Drugs. [CF]
Where there's smoke, there's a thousand-odd T'ers singing along to Kasabian's 2009 hit Fire. And brandishing road flares. (Mobile phones or lighters just wouldn't match the band's energy). The red flares give an eerily Mad Max feel to parts of the headliners' set, which does suicide sprints on a tigtrope strung between neon and LED, arena rock and electronica, their own Thick as Thieves and The Doors' People Are Strange. The crowd is so happy that by the middle of the act a thunderstorm wouldn't have been entirely unwelcome – it could only have added to the atmosphere.
The newer, more techno-inflected suff filling the middle of their almost two-hour set leaves some fans lukewarm – and persistently low band levels dial their famously high-energy performance ethic down from 11 to about eight – but after Tom Meighan presses his hand to his heart, and Sergio Pizzorno starts directing the drum kicks with his leaps and landings, they're reluctant to leave the stage, and we're reluctant to let them go: we do our best to keep the hooks of Praise You, L.S.F., and other songs alive well into the campsite's hoarse, happy A.M. hours. [AR]
Taking pole position in the Slam tent tonight is German techno heavyweight Ben Klock. Despite the air of anticipation Klock is unhurried, taking his time to gather momentum as he begins his narrative with a generous, reliable beat overlaid with sparse, delicate notes. Adding in the more percussive elements, Klock begins to layer his sound, the odd well-placed space undercut by that thudding, persistent rhythm.Though comments from a few crowd members suggest that Klock is erring on the tame side, perhaps in consideration of the diverse festival crowd, it's nonetheless a rich and satisfying set, and the eclectic collage of visuals (cuts from A Clockwork Orange, shots of an earlobe, and footage of Hendrix summoning his burning guitar, stategically placed so that Klock appears to be sitting in his lap) do little to dispel the axiom of the DJ as god. [CF]
See our full picture gallery from Friday at this year's T in the Park here.