TRNSMT 2019 @ Glasgow Green, Glasgow, 13 Jul
We report back from Saturday at TRNSMT festival in Glasgow, with stand-out sets from Fontaines DC, Zoe Graham and Sigrid
With T in the Park officially put out to pasture and even the iconic Tennent's absent from Glasgow Green, TRNSMT still seems to be finding its feet, yet to build the kind of identity that once made T an essential rite of passage for Scottish schoolkids.
It’s clear some serious thought has gone into overcoming T in the Park’s inadequacies though, with a city centre location, the notoriously grotty Slam tent replaced with outdoor dance music areas, and a pat-down policy that verges on intrusive all designed to avoid the kind of headlines that sank its predecessor. True to form, they’ve also corralled a line-up of musical talent that mixes some of the most exciting acts in the UK today with a selection of guitar bands who seem to offer a rough approximation of the answer to the question: 'What if Liam Gallagher’s clothing range acquired sentience?'
First up is hotly tipped Geordie Sam Fender (clothes by boohoo, cheekbones by Yves Saint Laurent) whose laddish demeanour belies some surprisingly sharp lyrics on tracks like Dead Boys. Ending with Hypersonic Missiles, the chirpiest song about nuclear Armageddon since 99 Red Balloons, he’s on the brink of being absolutely massive.
Meanwhile, over on the King Tut's stage, Arkells manage to convince almost the entire audience to join a conga line. In their native Canada, their blend of Motown and Maroon 5 sells out arenas. Here they could probably talk to everyone who knows the words individually but aided by the infectious energy of frontman Max Kerman, they win over an early afternoon crowd.
At this point The Skinny’s dilemma in choosing between Glasgow punks The Snuts or West Lothian indie rockers The Dunts (or is it the other way round?) is simply resolved by heading to the Queen Tut's stage. A late addition to the line-up, Queen Tut's is TRNSMT’s attempt to provide a "brilliant snapshot of Scotland’s flourishing and incredibly diverse music scene" and definitely not a hastily assembled afterthought concocted in the face of the fan backlash you inevitably get when you book 51 men and four women for your music festival. As it happens Swim School suit a sunny afternoon perfectly with a debut single that sounds like Wolf Alice hazily drifting down the Clyde. Give them a listen.
Back on the main stage Sundara Karma offer a potted history of flamboyant alt-rock, veering from the strut of Bowie to the yelp of The Cure. There’s little new here but it’s delivered with a certain swashbuckling charm from vocalist Oscar Pollock. Far more exciting though is Sigrid, the pint-sized Norwegian singer with the voice of a classic pop diva. From an opening blast through Sucker Punch and Sight of You to a field-slaying Don’t Kill My Vibe she’s note perfect and packed with energy. This won’t be the biggest festival slot she ever plays.
Back at the King Tut's stage Fontaines D.C. draw one of the most riotous crowds of the weekend, with singer Grian Chatten swaggering on stage, bumming a lighter from an audience member and shooting through a set of songs from the incendiary Irish punks’ debut record. Spitting out Liberty Belle and Chequeless Reckless, Chatten has perfected his poet/punk hybrid but the biggest cheers are saved for the arms-aloft Boys in the Better Land, which triggers whirling limbs in the midst of a serious circle pit.
Singer-songwriter Jade Bird seems to have a lot of fun with a cover of The Bangles’ Walk Like An Egyptian and her own rollicking country romp I Get No Joy but it’s soon time to return to the main stage for another swaggering star.
Most of the audience may not have been born when The Verve had their heyday but enough of Richard Ashcroft’s mysticism has seeped into the water supply of British indie rock to still fill a very big field indeed. From an opening version of Sonnet to a closing duo of Lucky Man and Bittersweet Symphony, Ashcroft knows what an audience is after, and even if his voice is notably rougher nowadays, there will always be a corner of a festival somewhere keen for a fifth chorus of The Drugs Don’t Work.
As the sun dips, the very impressive Zoe Graham delivers one of the sets of the day with the soulful and atmospheric The Anniesland Lights getting arms swaying. Given the undoubted songcraft on show it’s a shame she can’t swap places with one of tonight’s main acts.
Bastille’s Dan Smith seems almost pathological in his desire to please but his band’s bland big stage pop struggles to sustain an hour’s entertainment for a crowd whose Carlsberg and Prosecco consumption is by now best described as heroic. Just as people are flagging though, they end with their cover of Rhythm of the Night and the enormous chant along Pompeii to end on a high.
Finally it’s time for the evening’s headliners: Welsh indie rockers Catfish and the Bottlemen. Unlike Friday night’s headliner Stormzy and his dash to the stage and Lewis Capaldi cover, there are no surprises here, just meat-and-potatoes rock music. Loud guitars and pints in the air? Perhaps TRNSMT is the heir to T in the Park after all.