T in the Park 2016: Friday, 8 July
It seems 2016 will be remembered as the year T in the Park finally made itself at home in Strathallan.
The teething problems of last year's event feel like a distant memory as the sun shines and gates open. The long queues to enter and general traffic carnage of 2015 are mercifully nowhere to be seen; punters arriving on Friday morning can walk off a shuttle bus, pass through security and stroll into the festival arena within 15 minutes.
With most stages not opening until around 2pm, early Friday afternoon at T feels like the calm before the musical storm. Those that venture in early can wander around the newly laid out park – another change from last year. The cavernous King Tut's tent has been moved away from the main stage and closer to Strathallan Castle, allowing the crowds to more easily move between the Slam tent and the outdoor Radio 1 stage, which gives the site more room to breathe.
It's not all good news, however, as the tragic deaths of two teenagers in the T campsite the previous evening slowly filters through the crowd. Public safety is the watchword of the day. Prominently displayed messages from the organisers and police implore festival-goers to take care of one another and to avoid taking drugs. But the general mood remains positive and upbeat – music is the glue that binds T revellers.
KC & The Sunshine Band are not on today's line-up, but a surprising amount of people can still be heard belting out 1983 disco smash Give it Up. On closer inspection, they are chanting the name of Gerry Cinnamon – the singer-songwriter from Castlemilk who today opens the King Tut's stage.
Despite having no record deal and remaining relatively unknown outside of Greater Glasgow, Mr Cinnamon is a cult concern and boasts an impressive number of die-hard fans. His popularity grew in the wake of 2014's Scottish independence referendum, thanks in part to populist anthems like Hope Over Fear. His songs strike a chord not just with younger voters who engaged with the Yes campaign, but with anyone who has grown up in central Scotland in the new millenium. He reminds the crowd he's no political partisan, explaining his best-known track is "anti-establishment, not nationalist."
Gerry Cinnamon, photo: Amy Muir
Armed with just an acoustic guitar and a few simple backing tracks, Gerry's music suggests Jake Bugg with lyrics by The Proclaimers. But it's not all earnest politicking in his world – his amusing cover of happy hardcore classic Discoland even segues in a few lines from Technohead's I Wanna Be A Hippy. Pro-independence performance is a broad church. [CM]
The throbbing, consistent grooves permeating the Slam Tent have Ricardo Villalobos himself dancing a comic, loose-limbed wiggle. The Chilean-born DJ/producer and genius behind the gamechanging 2003 album Alcachofa holds the dimly lit space swaying in a shimmering, minimal techno glow over the course of his b2b show with Romanian talent Raresh. An drop into the shattering Storm, from Juan Atkin's Digital Solutions record (released under his Model 500 guise), is a euphoric highlight, but with a huge chunk of T revellers won over by the summery promise of Annie Mac's nearby BBC Radio Stage set, it's a shame to see beats of Villalobos' calibre squandered on a small, if enthusiastic crowd. [CF]
With the notable exception of the aforementioned Slam tent, T in the Park made a name for itself as a haven for guitar bands of a certain variety, but in recent years dance has increasingly ruled the roost at the festival. Today, the Radio 1 stage is given over to the station's DJs. For those who prefer drum kits over drum machines, The Coral stand out among the Friday line-up as survivors from the indie-centric TITPs of the mid-2000s. The Merseysiders owe their longevity due to an enviable array of hit singles, nearly all of which still stand up well (Dreaming of You, Pass it On), but they can still surprise by delivering a spellbinding rendition of a song many may have forgotten. Jacqueline, a delightful 2007 single which failed to dent the top 40, sounds world-beating today thanks to the group's beefed-up live sound. [CM]
Frightened Rabbit, photo: Amy Muir
Frightened Rabbit must surely be one of Scotland's most beloved bands right now, if their rousing performance over at the infuriatingly out-of-the-way King Tut's stage is anything to go by. The group's candid indie folk-rock sounds as strong as ever, an evolution marked by recent release Painting of a Panic Attack. Scott Hutchison leads his men with the album's echo-laden, expansive Get Out, before Woke Up Hurting and I Wish I Was Sober provide similarly warming, sing-along fare. [CF]
Bear's Den are asked the same question every time they play north of the border. So let's clear it up one more time – the folk-rock group are from West London, but front man Andrew Davie does have family ties near to the leafy suburb north of Glasgow which shares the band's name. Scottish links always play well at T, and new single Auld Wives is no exception – a rousing song inspired by an ancient stone altar called the Auld Wives' Lift in Milngavie – just down the road from Bearsden itself. With such bona fide connections, its no wonder they win over the sizable crowd in no time. Folk-rock has suffered in recent years due to the bombast of groups like Arcade Fire and Mumford & Sons – but there's a charm and authenticity about Bear's Den which makes it difficult not to like them. [CM]
Jamie xx, photo: Amy Muir
Alone at the control, silhouetted by beams of radiant light, no image could better depict the career trajectory of Jamie xx. The Grammy nominee and founding member of The xx takes a loyal gathering of fans through a lengthy, moody, groove-inducing set of synth digressions and slow-growing beats. The isolated location of the King Tut’s tent hardly lends a party atmosphere though, and the nearby Slam Tent lures a steady trickle of party-goers away in search of more robust Friday fare. [CF]
Friday evening sees the inevitable clash of headline sets, and if competing with The Stone Roses’ set didn’t thin out the crowd for Bloodlines’ T Break slot, the long delay before the band take the stage does little to improve a paltry turnout. However, the hard-hitting Glasgow outfit take the circumstances in their stride. “Fuck the Stone Roses, good on you for making the right choice!” quips frontman Jamie Coltart, as the four piece crack on with a show of compelling, complex rock compositions that affirm their reputation as a burgeoning live act to be reckoned with. [CF]
The Stone Roses, and frontman Ian Brown in particular, have never hidden their love of Scotland. When the seminal Manchester four-piece first reunited in 2012, T in the Park was the only UK festival to secure their services. The organisers have pulled off the same coup four years later. But what should we expect from a Roses show in 2016? The novelty of Brown burying the hatchet with his old songwriting buddy John Squire has worn off. The group have released two new tracks – one average, one great – but there's still no word on whether we can expect a full album. Is it really enough to expect a competent performance of their classic material, the majority of which was released 27 years ago?
The Stone Roses, photo: Amy Muir
The Roses manage to side-step such questions by being an exceptional live band and retaining an air of mystery. They have given no interviews since playing their first reunion shows, and Ian Brown restricts himself on stage to a few gruff thank yous between songs. There are signs of genuine affection between the band – they embrace at the end and take a series of well-earned bows – but we have no sure way of knowing what Squire, Mani and Reni make of these massive headline shows.
The performance tonight is just as good as it was in 2012 – Bye Bye Badman in particular showcases the band's loose, shimmering style at its best, and the crowd dutifully sings back every word of perennial favourites Made of Stone and She Bangs the Drums. The Roses' one new track of the evening, All For One, sounds considerably better live than on record. All of this is more than enough to satisfy the vast majority of the crowd, particularly the many younger fans who are seeing their heroes for the first time. It still begs the question – where does the group go from here? A new album would sustain their following and most likely grow it. But another round of touring the same songs would make accusations of cash-in nostalgia unavoidable. [CM]
Is it too early to call best set of the weekend? Len Faki certainly doesn't believe so. The Berlin-based techno figurehead is in phenomenal form from start to finish of his two-hour set, putting foot to the floor from the get-go with terrifyingly ambitious pace. Amongst an incredible haze of colossal, commanding beats and furious tempo, Faki whips his sizeable audience into a dancefloor stomp, not least with a storming romp through Thomas P Heckman's Acid To The Future. Whether he's shrugging his shoulders to the beat with a nonchalant grin, mimicking the drop with a flick of his fingers, or miming the addition of snare into the mix like a maestro with a wand, Faki takes on techno like a boss and shows how Friday night should be done. [CF]
See our full picture gallery from Friday here.