T in the Park 2016: Sunday, 10 July
Huge amounts of mud can do strange things to people, but with John Grant and LCD Soundsystem still to come, there's plenty to keep spirits up at T in the Park's third day
By the third day, things are always going to be a little worse for wear. Non-stop overnight rainfall continues well into Sunday morning, with the resultant quagmire wreaking havoc on festival attire (and weary calf muscles). The downpour makes access between campsites tricky, and we awake to find some walkways to and from the main site temporarily blocked due to flooding, but the main arena thankfully appears relatively intact on day three (minus the odd cash machine, that is).
As can be expected, a combination of the weather, festival atmosphere and rising levels of fatigue provoke a spectrum of behaviors from T revelers, both good and bad, and often amusing (one fully clothed man can be seen doing ‘the worm’ mid-morning through a sea of muck, proving that this amount of mud clearly does strange things to people).
There’s no use in complaining, though – we’ve made it this far, and in keeping with days one and two, the final day offers up an eclectic mix of guitar bands, electronic acts, plus one or two head-scratchers (Craig David’s TS5, anyone?). The increasingly electro-slanted line-up has been one of the biggest talking points of the weekend, not least with the surprise return of noughties electro-punks LCD Soundsystem as a Sunday headiner. But more on that later – there's plenty to share with you first.
Blossoms, photo: Amy Muir
If you can’t beat the rain, join it – with some Purple Rain, that is. Leather-clad Stockport quintet Blossoms have the Prince hits cranked high before they take the Radio One stage, buoying the spirits of the sodden following who have dutifully surfaced at this lunchtime hour. The group have leapt up the bill since performing on the T Break stage last year, and for a fledgling outfit (their debut album is released next month) they fly the flag high for guitar bands. The bold, unashamedly pop Getaway is a wannabe radio hit, while later in the set, the band’s fuzzy debut single Blow reminds us that the five-piece can rock out, too.
Over on the Main Stage, the mood is less serene as Slaves rile up an obliging throng of moshing fans. For a duo, they make one hell of a racket, and bring a much-needed dose of anarchy to what has so far felt like a rather compliant festival. Less than ten minutes in, stand-up drummer and vocalist Isaac Holman has shed his shirt to thrashing through the brilliant Suicide: 'Throw yourself from the 28th floor / Take acid in a hardware store,' he sneers, as the crowd goes feral. It’s a collective fuck you to Brexit, politics, the man, the weather – who knew disillusionment could be so unifying?
John Grant, photo: Amy Muir
Next up, it’s a long, bemired trek to the lonely King Tut’s tent, which may have something to do with the shamefully small crowd that greets John Grant. A tall, bear-like figure, the American-born, now Iceland-based singer-songwriter seems unfazed by the turnout. “Hello you beautiful things! How you doin'?" he cries, after kicking off with a cheeky hip wiggle to the scuzzy electro-pop of You and Him. Grant’s willingness to explore the deeply personal – last year’s breakthrough record Grey Tickles, Black Pressure addresses issues of depression, addiction and sexuality – sounds like heavy fare, but his performance is commanding, sprightly and frequently humorous. Just blame the weather, or the location, for the lack of atmosphere.
It’s 5pm and the Slam Tent now resembles a giant mud-wrestling pit, but a bit of mud-to-wellie suction doesn't deter a sizeable crowd from stomping along to the trance-inflected synth waves of Pan-Pot. The invigorating Berlin-based DJ/production duo of Tassilo Ippenberger and Thomas Benedix take us through a brisk, business like set of sawing, clanging, crunchy techno, with the Green Velvet/Harvey McKay blinder Magnetize a particular crowd pleaser that well and truly lives up to its name.
The Lapelles, photo: Amy Muir
Evening is falling and so are energy levels, so thank your lucky stars for The Lapelles. Not another indie guitar group, you may grumble – until you witness the young East Kilbride quintet's preternatural knack for surf-pop melodies and doo-wop harmonies, and the unexpectedly frenetic pace that characterizes their live show. New track Different Creature gets an airing, before frontman Gary Watson exclaims, “This is my first T in The Park and it couldn’t have been any better,” as he thanks the exuberant audience. We couldn’t have asked for better from the lads themselves.
Before we reach the headline acts, there’s still time for a boogie to the last hour of Seth Troxler’s evening set. The genre-blending American DJ/producer layers together a good-time assortment of spacey, psychedelic beats, with tripped out visuals of cult-film snippets and scantily-clad dancing women adding to the voodoo magic vibe. Raising energy levels in the final half hour, Troxler closes out with Damar Ludvig’s funky house number Things, turning up the heat whilst outside the temperature drops and the rain drizzles on.
LCD Soundsystem, photo: Amy Muir
A fittingly large buzz followed the initial announcement of LCD Soundsystem’s headline slot on the Radio One stage, and with good reason – not only is this the group’s first Scottish appearance since 2010, but it marks the joyful return of the influential Brooklyn-based band since their much-mourned and somewhat surprise exit from the scene in 2011.
Owing in most part to a clash with the Red Hot Chilli Peppers' mainstream pulling power, the incredibly tiny turnout that greets our electro-dance heroes is a slap in the face, though perhaps more so for fans of the group than the band itself. James Murphy and co look completely at ease and completely at home, and rather than lament their miniscule audience, we gather closer and celebrate the fact of being a lucky few indeed to witness a performance of this class.
Few gigs could be described as truly perfect, but fuck it – this remains a weekend highlight. Whether you’re a longtime fan or a relative newcomer to LCD Soundsystem’s cerebral indie electronica, the group play with such time-earned finesse and palpable joy that the effect is an all-encompassing, ecstatic celebration. And how, oh how, to pick a highlight? Is it the iconic funk of Daft Punk Is Playing At My House? Pat Mahoney’s sublime percussive beats and Nancy Whang’s sassy spoken word delivery on Get Innocuous? The timeless Losing My Edge, or the beautiful slow-burner New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down?
“You guys are pretty resolute and pretty strong for staying here,” comments the endearingly candid Murphy after a soul-aching rendition of I Can Change. “It’s a little bit gross,” he says of the endless mud. But it's really the band who stand resolute, strong, and more relevant than ever – if there’s anything that LCD Soundsystem’s start-to-finish blinder of a set can teach us, it’s that absence unequivocally makes the heart grow fonder.
See our full picture gallery from Sunday here.