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T in the Park 2014 review: Arctic Monkeys, Biffy Clyro, Calvin Harris & Will Smith

'Ere we, 'ere we, 'ere we f*cking went to the last throw of the Balado Dice before its move next year

T in the Park 2014 had an air of poignancy about it this year; just prior to the festival getting underway the organisers revealed that this would be the last to be held at Balado Airfield, the reason given is something to do with the accursed bloody Health and Safety (isn't it always?) Apparently there's a pipeline running under the land that nobody knew about or cared about for 20 years so it's soon to be all change for Scotland as their top festival waves a final goodbye to Balado. Next year will see it set up in a new home at Strathallan Castle, it may only be 20 miles down the road but T in the Park is as synonymous with Balado as neeps are to tatties.

So, for the T in the Park faithful (and there are some 85,000 of them) 2014 marked the end of a very successful era for this Scottish festival, the added edge of knowing it would be the last at Balado meant that everyone involved was determined that it would not go out with a whimper. This is, after all, T in the Park, and if it has to change it wasn't going to surrender quietly, it was going to leave Balado etched with lasting memories of an event that won't be tamed and a crowd who certainly don't go quietly into the night.

T in the Park
T in the Park

Look, let's get this out in the open as soon as possible; T in the Park is not for the faint hearted. If your idea of festival bliss is to catch your favourite author in the Literature Tent, or to luxuriate in a hot tub overlooking a performance from Belle and Sebastian or if your ideal footwear for the weekend is a pair of crocs or you're a exponent of taking a fully stocked picnic basket into the arena then you should avoid T in the Park. Feel a little uneasy around people who are a little worse for wear or can't abide swearing? Avoid T.

T in the Park is basically this: masses of brilliant bands from pop, dance and rap to rock and indie, tens of thousands of Scots, vast quantities of alcohol and one of the loudest, most "up for it" crowds you'll ever see. It's a winning formula. Not for everyone, granted, but we've been going since 2008 and we've never met anyone who hasn't proclaimed the weekend their "best weekend ever". The crowd love it, the bands love it and the energy that this brings is explosive. Everything else pales into insignificance. If you don't think the lineup is up to much then you're obviously not a T in the Parker. Can't abide loud groups of people with no inhibitions or if the national chant of "'Ere we, 'ere we, 'ere we fucking go" gets under your skin when recited by thousands of people then you're also not a T in the Parker.

T in the Park crowd
T in the Park crowd

It's far too easy to stand back and be judgemental about T, we've done it and plenty of column inches have been dedicated to it, but to do this is to miss the point. Just like any festival, T is only as good as the enjoyment of the paying crowd, and by this yardstick T in the Park has more than earned its title of Scotland's biggest and best festival. This is why we drive a 1000 mile round trip each year, exhaust ourselves trying to cover as many of the acts as we can in the enormous site, swear we won't be able to do it again, then return time and time again.

One of our biggest gripes of every T in the Park has always been having to make decisions about which bands you are forced to miss due to the amount of acts on offer. 2014 was a classic year for this with Friday's acts on the main three stages all starting at the same time as each other (give or take). Given the choice, I'd rather this than any other problem that crops up at festivals, that's for sure.

This is one mighty festival where the artists seem to be as delighted to be performing as the fans are to support them, and a strikingly hot and humid Friday proved that, when it comes to letting your hair down, the Scots know just how to do it. As with most years, the female artist contingent was strong and powerful at T this year, with Charli XCX opening the main stage and Neon Jungle whipping up a storm on the Radio 1 stage, all sassy no-nonsense ladies.

Ellie Goulding leapt onto the main stage looking amazing wearing a crop top and some rather cool black leather shorts. She swung straight into a raunchy routine that showed a woman assured, confident, talented and more than capable of keeping the crowd engrossed and captivated throughout a great set. Drum solo prior to "Starry Eyed"? Don’t mind if we do Ellie!

Ellie Goulding
Ellie Goulding

Foxes, aka Louisa Rose Allen, showed just why she's become one of those names on everyone's lips this year as she brought a high energy set full of fun pop including "Talking to Ghosts" and "Night Owls Early Birds", "Right Here" and a version of Pharrell Williams' hit "Happy" keeping the crowd engrossed and on course throughout. Finishing with "Let Go for Tonight" this young act is clearly going to be around for a long time.

Raleigh Ritchie got everyone running off to the Transmissions Stage. I mean - how often do you get the chance to see Game of Thrones star Grey Worm up close and personal? Obviously acting is not his only talent and it took a few T in the Parkers by surprise as the penny dropped!

Raleigh Ritchie
Raleigh Ritchie

Royal Blood were an amazing act to catch live. How two people can make as much music as a full band is something of a mystery and one that stuns everyone who catches them in action. Hugely talented with big sounds, they came, they saw, they conquered King Tut’s Wah Wah Tent, won over a whole new set of fans and cemented their position as one of our most promising up and coming bands. They really got noticed and they are set for much bigger things, check them out.

Loads and loads of energy was brought in the form of Maximo Park, even the stifling heat couldn't stop crowd and musicians leaping all over the shop. Enthusiastic? You bet. Music that lifts and separates and quite honestly could have done front man Paul Smith some damage if he wasn't as well practised at his split kicks. The Newcastle band were clearly on top form giving fans a show that included  "Our Velocity", "Acrobat", "Books From Boxes" as well as some new stuff from "Quicken The Heart".

Maximo Park
Maximo Park

DJ action came from Danny Howard, Alesso, DJ Fresh and Steve Angello on the Radio 1 Stage, the later preferring pyrotechnics to any chance of having his photo taken, unless, that is, you're a fan of a nose and top of a head above a massive DJ booth. 

You Me At Six were clearly in their element and at home on the main stage, as was Ed Sheeran who's performances seem to be going from strength to strength. Imagine Dragons returned after last year's opening slot in King Tut's to take on the main stage and are just such fun to watch and a band that really draws you in. With a rendition of The Proclaimers "500 Miles" during their set they didn't put a foot wrong, they played a blinder, but they will be remembered for their huge anthem: "Radioactive".

You Me At Six
You Me At Six

What can you say about a seminal band such as Pixies? The opportunity to catch a band of this magnitude in King Tut's for their last UK gig for a long time provided one of those festival moments that can never be underestimated. Among an awesome set list we got "Bone Machine",  "Wave of Mutilation",  "Gouge Away", "Caribou", "Here Comes Your Man", "Monkey Gone to Heaven", "Debaser" and "Where Is My Mind?". This is a seriously understated band who simply walk onto the stage and deliver some of the most stunning music around, music that has more than stood the test of time and catapulted the band, ably led by Black Francis to legendary status. The chance to see them at King Tut's was priceless. Calmly taking a bow at the end of an extraordinary set this humble, self-effacing band are truly deserving of their legendary status.

Biffy Clyro closed the main stage with their 10th appearance at T in the Park, but their first full headline slot. "We have been waiting a long time for this moment so thanks for coming and sharing it with us" said Simon Neil and with tracks like "Different People", "That Golden Rule", "Questions and Answers", "The Captain", "Folding Stars", "Many Of Horror", "Mountains" and a firework display to boot the Scottish lads owned Balado for the duration. Biffy Clyro are crowd pleasers who were as delighted to be headlining T in the Park as the crowd were to support them, it was a stunning performance in true Biffy Clyro style - Mon the Biff indeed.

Biffy Clyro
Biffy Clyro

It had to happen, and as bright, hot and sunny as Friday had been Saturday brought the rain and the mud to Balado. It may have made it hard to work on the site but it didn't dampen the spirits of the T in the Park crowd who gamely carried on with their festival as if nothing untoward were happening at all.

Once again there were some stunning female performances on offer, first up from Sophie Ellis-Bextor who commanded a great crowd on the Radio 1 stage. A more mature Sophie brought a mixture of old hits and new material and showed an artist who is more than capable of transferring her skills and trying new sounds, her new album "Wanderlust" is deservedly drawing critical acclaim.

Sophie Ellis-Bextor
Sophie Ellis-Bextor

The amazing Ella Eyre also brought a huge touch of female power to the Radio 1 stage. As stunningly beautiful as she is talented, Ella wore a black sequined jumpsuit which, truth to tell, not many women could get away with that but she carried it off in style and with huge aplomb. This girl can sing and this girl can entertain. Known for her collaborations with Rudimental, Tinie Tempah, Bastille and more she is now enjoying some well deserved success in her own right and we think we'll all be hearing a hell of a lot more from this little superstar in the making, she can command a crowd with ease and is actually very darned cool.

Ella Eyre
Ella Eyre

Continuing the female rules theme on the main stage Katy B, complete with dancers, proceeded to work her way through a plethora of hits including "Perfect Stranger" and "Katy on a Mission". A woman not to be trifled with, Katy B knows her stuff and struts her stuff to the delight of the fans who flocked to her set.

Another relative newcomer who's exploded onto the scene of late, hotly tipped newcomer Kiesza danced her way through a well-choreographed set. Singer songwriter Nina Nesbitt packed out King Tut's and was celebrating her 18th birthday - all that talent and still only just 18? Another strong and vibrant female performer.

Kiesza
Kiesza

The Stranglers did what they always do and provided a storming set packed with all the classics you'd expect from a band with their back catalogue. "Golden Brown", "Something Better Change", "(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)", they covered The Kinks' "All Day and All of the Night", "5 Minutes" and finished with "No More Heroes", job very well done.

Twenty One Pilots, hailing from Ohio, opened the Radio 1 stage. This duo are capable of putting on quite the show, with just a set of drums and a piano these guys are slick, polished and highly entertaining, catch them if you can.

Twenty One Pilots
Twenty One Pilots

Copper Lungs are another new band set to be noticed, they may still under the radar as yet but we can say not any more after a sterling performance to a packed out tent. John Newman was clearly delighted to be on stage at T in the Park and the enthusiasm and energy he puts into his performance makes him an irresistible watch. 

Other top performances came from Bombay Bicycle Club who simply never fail to impress, Clean Bandit who get slicker with each performance, Rudimental who are really riding high at the moment and Soul II Soul who brought a touch of disco funk and nostalgia to the proceedings. Fatherson brought a wealth of folk pop, they drew a very large crowd to King Tut's and did it their way, the Glasgow based lads provided a triumphant set. George Ezra is a name on everyone's lips at the moment, an assured set from this 21 year old played out to a packed BBC Introducing tent that erupted when "Budapest" was performed. The Charlatans, fronted by Tim Burgess sporting a glorious blonde mop brought the sound of indie to the Radio 1 stage while Twin Atlantic brought their guitars to the main stage, solid performances from both and a whole heap of chutzpah.

Watched by Susan Boyle, James leapt onto the stage and Tim Booth was straight out there and in the crowd much to everyone’s delight. These veterans know how to do it in style and that's exactly what they did, a typically energetic, frenetic set laced with the hits and of course "Sit Down" they have a huge back catalogue and out it came, a brilliant band and perfect for T in the Park.

Pharrell Williams chose T in the Park for a very rare UK festival appearance and took to the main stage like a duck to water. A polished and astonishing array of hits followed for one of the most crowd-pleasing sets of the festival that was awash (literally!) with crowd-pleasing sets. Performing "Lose Yourself To Dance", "Come And Get It Bae", "Frontin", "Hot In Herre", Justin Timberlake's "Like I Love You" and Jay-Z's "I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)" this was a stunning set, we even got N.E.R.D tracks including "Rockstar", "Lapdance" and "She Wants To Move". Not content with all that there was "Hollaback Girl", "Blurred Lines" and "Get Lucky" plus "Happy". He brought a friend of his onto the stage, she was two years in remission from cancer and the song was dedicated to her - emotional? you bet. Pharrell Williams was a major coup for T in the park, every inch the commensurate professional with the common touch, an ability to reach out and connect with the crowd he made it very clear to all who were there just why Pharrell Williams is such a force of nature in the music business, there was no doubt we were in the presence of genius.

Pharrell Williams
Pharrell Williams

King Tut’s hosted The Human League. Phil Oakey strode onto stage and proceeded to bring the synthpop to the masses with "Mirror Man", "Love Action", "Fascination!", "Love Action (I Believe in Love)", "The Lebanon" and so much more providing a mass singalong. Oakey and the crew showed just how it's done and in the setting of King Tut's it was really quite a special moment. You'll be amazed at just how many of their songs you know off by heart and word for word; magic.

Phillip Oakey, The Human League
Phillip Oakey, The Human League

Everybody, it seems, loves Paolo Nutini. Drawing a huge crowd he and his band The Vipers blended a fusion of pop, rock and soul to the delight of the crowd. "Scream (Funk My Life Up)",  "Alloway Grove", "Coming Up Easy", "Jenny Don't Be Hasty" an acoustic rendition of "Last Request" proved to be quite the Paolo Nutini experience, " 'Pencil Full Of Lead' and "Caustic Love" were all delivered in style and with a great deal of panache from a performer who's back on track and destined for even bigger things.

Paolo Nutini
Paolo Nutini

Elbow played a headline set on the Radio One stage: "New York Morning”, "Grounds For Divorce" and of course the defining "One Day Like This" with Guy Garvey fronting the show in his usual "get the crowd involved" style. Great energy and even greater sing alongs, beautiful stuff once again from Elbow.

There was a whole heap of amazing bands and acts performing their heart out for the whole of Saturday, apologies to the acts we missed and we know we missed some good ones. We didn't see a duff performance, but what we did see was a stunning array of top quality, top class entertainment with so much choice and so many dilemmas over what to see and do next. After a day packed full of jaw dropping acts who would have thought that it would be down to Calvin Harris to steal the show, no - not just the show, in fact the whole festival?

Will Smith
Will Smith

Now we love Calvin Harris, but as photographers he is not the first choice on our list to snap. As with so many DJs the lighting is always poor and he hides away behind loads of equipment so whilst you can enjoy a class act you simply can't get a full on flavour to share pictorially. This year we decided to give it another go, and what a top decision that turned out to be! Waltzing into the pit for an attempt to capture said Calvin Harris we suddenly found ourselves almost face to face with the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, yup - none other than Hollywood legend Will Smith actually landed in Balado, in Scotland and alongside Calvin Harris. The pair simply stole the show, it's the stuff of festival legend - the year that a bone-fide Hollywood A-List legend rocked T in the Park to its very core. Jaws dropped, knees wobbled, silence and incomprehension gave way to cheers, screams and shouts as the word got out, this wasn't a mass hallucination, this was really happening right here, right now in Scotland. The world’s biggest film star told the crowd  “I asked Calvin. I said, Man, I got a couple of weeks off and I am looking for an experience", we think he probably got that, as did the Balado massive! The set that followed included all the Calvin Harris hits, masses of energy and pyrotechnics thrown in for good measure, T in the Park was not leaving Balado without making one huge and impressive statement...

Calvin Harris and Will Smith
Calvin Harris and Will Smith

Sunday saw the sun come back out to play so the closing finale for T in the Park seemed set to be a good one, however, there was something of an air of anti-climax around following the previous night's excitement. Compounded by the fact that Earl Sweatshirt and Chance the Rapper didn't turn up and London Grammar had to pull out due to ill health. Disappointing, but with a few quick tweaks T in the Park was soon back on track.

The pace began to pick up as the Inspiral Carpets took to the Radio 1 stage with a nostalgic set harking back to their 90s halcyon days. The guys showed in no uncertain terms why they were one of the bands to be reckoned with, now back with a bang and with original singer Stephen Holt,"This is How It Feels" never sounded so good.

The amazing London Grammar pulled out due to lead singer Hayley Watson losing her voice, however, this proved to be quite the opportunity for Chvrches as it gave them the chance to perform no less than three times at T in the Park, once on Friday in King Tut's Wah Wah Tent, and twice on Sunday in a secret gig on the BBC Introducing Stage and then again on the Radio 1 Stage. Chvrches are really getting themselves out there, and a Scottish band is always warmly welcomed on any of the stages at T in the Park.

chvrches
chvrches

Chance the rapper and Earl Sweatshirt's cancellations left a lot of us a tad bereft as these were highly anticipated sets, we never did discover why they didn't appear but as T n the Park had, by now, secured itself a place in festival history it seems that their failure was more of a loss for them than for the festival, and to be honest did we really miss getting soaked in water from Chance?

Reverend and the Makers set was a little later due to the non arrivals and hasty rescheduling. It seems a shame that organisers don't use the available technology just to let the fans know what is going on, a quick announcement from the stage would have been useful as there was a large and somewhat confused crowd doing what crowds do best and waiting. Surprisingly they are a patient lot at T in the Park - the constant chanting of "'ere we fuckin go" is something that sees to keep them going before, during and after each and every performance...

Reverend and the Makers
Reverend and the Makers

The Kaiser Chiefs did what they do best on the main stage, they brought a massive sense of fun and energy and provided a huge singalong with hits including "Ruby", "I Predict a Riot", "Oh My God" and more with frenetic frontman Ricky Wilson running around like his life depended on it. “It is an honour to play the last T In The Park at Balado. I mean it, Scotland, you’re the best.” and without doubt at that moment in time the crowd thought they were the best act on the planet.

Breakthrough band Tijuana Bibles are busy building quite the reputation, a tad anarchic and a perfect choice for King Tut's in place of Earl Sweatshirt. Tight, heavy and an act to catch as soon as you can, definitely right up there on 'the ones to watch' list.

Newton Faulkner is always a guaranteed crowd pleaser, hugely talented and more than capable of holding a large crowd enthralled, his cover of Massive Attacks "Teardrop" and Justin Timberlake’s "Like I Love You" were perfect choices for the Sunday slot on the main stage, occupied beautifully and delivered perfectly, what else can you say about Newton Faulkner? Go see him when you can, he's actually quite amazing.

Newton Faulkner
Newton Faulkner

Sam Smith is another worthy act, drawing a huge crowd of adoring fans he simply blew them away with a great set that included "Stay With Me" and taking the time to look around at the crowd as he was in full flow it was crystal clear that his music has the ability to move the crowd to tears (in a good way!), captivating stuff indeed.

Franz Ferdinand really and truly set King Tut's alight with a blinding set that gave out all the hits the crowd could possibly have wanted. Energetic, enthralling and inclusive, frontman Alex Kapranos has absolutely no problems when it comes to getting a crowd going, particularly a Scottish one. The tent was crammed with even more trying to get in despite attempts to curtail newcomers, "Matinee", "Do You Want To" and "Take Me Out" were delivered in what was a truly high octane set.  "It's good to be home" Alex Kapranos told the cheering crowd - well to be honest it was good to have the guys back, they nailed it.

Franz Ferdinand
Franz Ferdinand

Dublin rockers Kodaline are a solid band with a solid reputation. "After The Fall", "One Day", "Love Like This" and "High Hopes” satisfied an eager crowd. Jake Bugg seems to be going from strength to strength and his performance at T in the Park was no exception. "There's A Beast And We All Feed It", "Me and You", "Storm Passes Away", "Two Fingers" were all performed with a degree of panache that belies the fact that this seasoned performer is just 20 years old. Bugg finished his set with "Lightning Bolt" and having commanded the main stage like an old pro he was off.

Bastille hit the main stage with a huge degree of enthusiasm and determination, a very young band - they've only been around for a few years, but in that time have they worked their socks off, and boy it shows. Frontman Dan Smith holds the massive crowd in the palm of his hands as he launches into an exuberant performance with tracks like "Things We Lost In The Fire", "Laura Palmer", "Rhythm Is A Dancer". "Pompeii" and more.

Bastille
Bastille

Paul Weller delivered a stylish set but left many wishing he'd played a few more Jam and Style Council numbers (like we always do - come on Paul, would it kill you do sling us a few more bones?). A veteran at the festival with five previous appearances the 'Modfather' is for sure a musician's musician but "You Do Something To Me" and "Start!' gave a great taste of what makes this particular musician so enduringly popular. 

Paul Weller
Paul Weller

Singer-songwriter Passenger, AKA Mike Rosenberg, was an act we hadn't seen before, and so glad to have caught this hugely talented artist. Instantly engaging, the set was delightful, a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s "Sound of Silence" was a memorable highlight, he's a stunning performer in action who made you feel like you were just down the local pub having a bevvy or two with him.

Passenger
Passenger

Even more talent around the site came in the form of DJ and dance action from the hugely hyped producer Wilkinson, Above and Beyond were the duo enjoying every minute of their set and finally the massively talented Disclosure who headlined the Radio 1 stage giving the Arctic Monkeys a run for their money. Dance was alive and well at T in the Park and the good times just rolled on and on.

Disclosure
Disclosure

From the moment he stepped onto the stage Tinie Tempah had it in the bag. A totally engaging, energetic performer, he never, ever fails to deliver the goods. Tinie’s rendition of Tsunami was just that, if there had been a roof it would have been blown off - another unmissable set full of energy, a proper wake up call and a timely reminder of just how many top tracks this guy has brought us.

Tinie Tempah
Tinie Tempah

T in the Park was brought to a close by the Arctic Monkeys. The brillcreamed Alex Turner can't seem to make up his mind whether he's Elvis or James Dean and is clearly having the time of his life while he's sorting it all out and considering their standard of work he can come out wearing a mask for all we care. They are one of Britain's brightest rock bands and they were a fitting headliner to bring down the curtain on this historic lap of T in the Park. When Alex Turner cleaved his way on to the stage and said: “This is the last time we are going to do this at this location, so let’s do it” you knew you were in for a right royal, rocking rollercoaster of a ride.  A catalogue of classics followed with "Snap Out Of It", "Arabella", "R U Mine", "Why Do You Only Call Me When You're High" and "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor" the later getting one hell of a reception from an adoring crowd. 21 brilliant tracks in all were performed and it seemed a perfectly fitting finale to what had been a stunning event.

Arctic Monkeys
Arctic Monkeys

T in the Park is one huge, raucous, robust and rambling event, it's Scotland's most major party with so much top music on offer it can at times baffle and bemuse. There is something for every ticket holder in the arena, in fact there is so much of something for everyone that the biggest headache you'll find is deciding what to see when and where because no matter how you try and plan your day there is o way to see everything you'll have on that list.

There's plenty of food on offer around the site but I do wonder about the "Healthy T" tag. Since when have macaroni cheese and burgers and chips been classified as healthy food? Personally I'd reclassify it because it may not be a dietician's definition of healthy food but in a festival it's all relative, I suppose! On offer is a wealth of tasty, delicious quality food, plenty of organic and tasty stuff to munch including the most fabulous fish finger sandwich stall we've every found at a festival - but healthy? erm - Nah. Tasty T? That's probably a more accurate description, and it's still head and shoulders above most of the festivals we have the misfortune to eat from.

You'll also find a large fairground at T in the Park. Personally I think that a funfair has no place at a festival but clearly, looking at he numbers of people taking full advantage of it all weekend I am completely outnumbered on this one...what do I know?

The final hurrah for Balado was as poignant and emotional as it was fun and full of spectacle. It's the quality of the music and the sheer outpouring of love from the fans and acts themselves that set it apart from many other events, and through the years it's earned its tag as Scotland's premier festival. It delivers on so many different levels and it never fails to somehow burrow its way into the psyche, this is an important event for Scotland and it's all grown up now having reached the grand old age of 21.

You can't argue with this!
You can't argue with this!

Providing great music, good times and a certain 'feel good' factor, T in the Park bowed out of Balado with one almighty bang. 2014 will go down in the annals as the one that shocked the hell out of the crowd with that surprise guest appearance from Will Smith. It really isn't easy for a festival to provide a real shocker but T in the Park did it, and we don't expect to be that surprised again any time soon.

The future is unknown but T in the Park has earned its stripes and cemented itself firmly onto the festival calendar. So was it worth that 9 hour journey to cover it? It was awesome and we can't wait to see what it morphs into next year at Strathallen Castle, but we're pretty sure our ears will be ringing to the sounds of "'ere we, 'ere we, 'ere we fucking go" because once T in the Park gets you in its grip it doesn't ever let go...

Early bird tickets for T in the Park 2015 are on sale now.

T in the Park Pedometer Stats for the Weekend:
Debs 25.06 miles, Derren 31.15 miles in three days (7.56, 9.55, 7.95 and 10.81, 10.9, 9.44 respectively)

 
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Review Info

Author:
Deborah Rees
Added:
11th July 2014
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T in the Park 2014 review: Arctic Monkeys, Biffy Clyro, Calvin Harris & Will Smith

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