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T in the Park 2011 Reviewed

T In The Park is a humdrum mix of people from various walks of life

T In The Park is the original Scottish festival – a humdrum mix of people from various walks of life and parts of Scotland and the UK, all smashed together in a field near Kinross for three days of music, mud, and mayhem. Notoriously, someone got stabbed at last year’s T, so this year – despite not packing a stab-proof vest – I did approach with an air of trepidation yet an open mind. Thank god I did, as it turns out T In The Park is actually one of the friendliest and most enjoyable festivals I’ve been to – once you get past the Scottish weather that is.

On the Friday a mixed bunch of acts played the festival, from the manufactured girl-group pop of Parade to the gloom-rock of White Lies and intense, attitude-heavy indie of main stage headliners Arctic Monkeys. All put on fantastic shows, all brilliantly up to scratch – perhaps only with the exception of the much hyped Mona who played a less than enthralling set over on the Red Bull Transmissions stage in the late afternoon.

The site at T is comparably spread out compared to festivals such as Leeds or, to a lesser extent, Latitude. The distance between the NME/Radio 1 and Main Stage is about the same as Leeds or Reading, but differently to those the smaller stages at T such as Red Bull Transmissions or King Tut’s Wah Wah are flung to the outer perimeter of the arena, making way for swathes of traders and food stalls. Also of note is a huge food village called Healthy T – which, contrary to most of my festival food experiences, was actually rather nice.

As Saturday broke, with everyone building up to the headline set from Coldplay on the Main Stage, The Strokes put on an absolutely stellar set at the opposite end of the arena – ripping through a set of tracks from all four of their albums to date including, oddly, ‘NYC Cops’ – a track actually omitted from the American release of their debut. Earlier in the day, Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (or just OFWGKTA to you and me) played a controversial set on the same stage, chucking around tales of rape and drinking like a bunch of death row criminals.  At the completely other end of the spectrum, pop starlets The Saturdays smashed the King Tut’s Wah Wah tent apart with a hit-filled set that went down an absolute storm to, what felt like at least, a tent filled entirely with teenage girls. But nothing could prepare anyone fully for what was an utterly career defining set from Coldplay as they closed they main stage at the end of the night. Roaring through a hit-filled set, prompting sing-alongs with almost every track, they proved that despite the many accusations leveled at them and slurs commonly slung around, they really are one of the most enthralling UK live acts.

Of course, arguably the most important thing about any festival is the crowd, and T In The Park’s is certainly stuffed full of attitude. Swigging Buckfast (a fortified wine) by the bottle, and drinking crate after crate of the questionably tasting Tennants lager, these are people that when they party, they party hard. That doesn’t make them any less friendly though, compared to festivals like Field Day or Dot To Dot, T lacks a vibe of pretension that can sometimes detract from the experience.  Afterall, you’re at a festival to see some acts with friends and enjoy a drink or two, not worry about if your Slayer t-shirt is the right level of ironic.

Highlights of the Sunday, leaving aside the obvious headline acts, were undoubtedly newcomers Naked & Famous who played an beguiling set in the King Tut’s Wah Wah tent in the late afternoon. Rounding out a set taken from their recently released debut album with singles ‘Punching In A Dream’ and ‘Young Blood’, - this is an act that can scale from intimate to arena in one fell swoop. Similarly, the Sunderland-based Wichita signings Frankie & The Heartstrings played to a packed out T Break stage – although omitted arguably breakthrough single ‘Fragile’ from their set. But, predictably, the show was stolen by the two final Main Stage acts of the weekend, Pulp and Foo Fighters.

From the moment Jarvis Cocker burst into ‘Do You Remember The First Time?’ the crowd were ecstatic, only growing in enthusiasm as Pulp played a greatest hits set mainly comprised of material from Different Class and His & Hers. Sure, the 90’s are a long way away now, but none of these songs have lost their charm, relevancy, or poignancy in the time that Jarvis and co have been away. Rounding out the night, of course, were Foo Fighters – led by absolute bundle of energy, Dave Grohl. While not entirely my favorite act in the world, I was suitably impressed by their set, although surprised that it only included a couple of tracks from their latest LP. As the rain pelted down and muddy-legged festivalgoers either crawled back to tents or started the long journey home I reminisced on the weekend. For all its alleged faults T In The Park – much like Coldplay – has a charm only really appreciated when experienced first hand.

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Review Info

Liam Haynes
22nd July 2011
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T in the Park 2011 Reviewed
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