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News of Saturday night's stabbing at T In the Park (TITP) won’t surprise those who've denounced the 15-year-old festival as an uncultured Ned extravaganza. But, as anyone who spent more than a minute in the presence of 80,000 revellers yesterday will testify, this is a tragic one off. Aye, a gaggle of Scots after an ale or twelve can be an intimidating proposition but the vast majority are here to get off their tits amidst a backdrop of sweet (although sometimes very sour – step forth Mr Will Young) music. And the few who're not? Well, they're the sort of cunts you get everywhere, be it Balado, Glasto or outside your local off-license.
Now, I'm not here to stick up for Geoff Ellis, DF or the Scottish booze behemoth that is Tennent's - all three are more than capable of doing so themselves with much more professionalism than I ever could - but TITP, despite its many detractors, is a welcoming, all-embracing festival devoid of snobbery and fizzing with bubbles of lager-induced character. For one appalling incident to overshadow the entire event would be a sorry and entirely unworthy way to remember what's shaping up to be another cracking weekend and, perhaps sensing the story may no longer be how many litres of alcohol they've consumed in 72 hours, today's frolickers have begun the Sabbath exactly as they finished last night: Pished.
For some reason, I'm a little more delicate; yesterday's booze-drenched hilarity is wreaking havoc on my puny excuse of a nervous system, leaving me frustratingly dehydrated in the heat of a sweat-invoking afternoon sun. So, it's with not much more than a shuffling of foot that I enter The Pet Sounds Arena to find local jingle-spurters 1990s kicking off today’s proceedings. The trio's hi-NRG power-pop appears to be flavour of the month with a soiree of checked-shirt fashionistas whose achingly nimble limbs combust to the sound of clunking guitars chopping over a rash of pitifully composed couplets (seriously, you should hear the kindergarten mutterings of ‘The Box’). Sensing this is not exactly the tantalising Sunday brunch I’d envisaged, I make a speedy retreat to Camp Media for a hangover-quelling feast of sausages, wine gums and olives.
Belly filled and sweats adequately contained, Southampton quartet The Delays are next on my agenda. Not being so clued-up on the group's forceful symphonic pleadings, I toddle along with a fellow scribe who irritably informs me their set is top-loaded with cuts from new long-player Everything’s The Rush. In all honesty it makes no odds to me, every track sounds exactly as follows: pristinely polished indie-fizz accompanied by a terse falsetto that never quite manages to touch base. All in all, it's a bit meh yet bizarrely a vast crowd of scenesters buzz about the tent like bluebottles would a freshly laid jobby. It's a curious sight indeed, but once some oh-so-cunny funt blurts out ”That's not my name” every time a pal hollers - what I presume is - his birth-name, it doesn’t take long to establish the excrement they're awaiting is head-fucking chart reprobates The Ting Tings.
Quickly deciding this basal-needs pandering scuzz-pop definitely ain’t for me, I head back to the media bubble to find a group of hacks deliberating over whether some lusciously-locked fella chatting up TV presenters is a celebrity or not. This riveting conversation concludes with one journo shamelessly showing off an uncanny knowledge of all things Friends before we form a huddle and brave the scorching (well, warm) Scottish sunshine to catch Battles at the Pet Sounds Arena. An incessant wrath of disorientating chaos, the New Yorkers’ performance perfectly encapsulates the essence of the TITP audience: utterly fucked but somehow pulling it off with guile and panache. The jitterbug machine-gunnery of ‘Atlas’ is, of course, an enraptured crowd favourite but ‘Tonto’ and ‘Tij’ feel better suited to today’s surroundings, so blistered and fragmented are their prog-styled leanings.
Glands now completely free of yesterday’s boozing, I grab my first pint before failing to impinge upon a rammed King Tut’s Stage for Vampire Weekend. Slightly disheartened, I stop kicking my heals and scoot along to The Futures Stage where New York combo Yeasayer * are setting up their effervescent shop filled with tribal rhythmic treats. Having fingered my way through a distinctly mixed bag of recent live reviews I’m not expecting much but, frankly, their set is a revelation. Speckled with glorious rays of sun-soaked melodies, tracks like the dewy saunter of _‘Wait For The Summer’_ and _‘2080’_’s evocative séance are heart-moistening blushes of cascading drums and slinking effects that elate the spirits of the few who’ve come to greet the band’s harmonious endeavours. It’s a joyous, transcendental affair and it’s with a new found skip and a hop that I make a dash for The Relentless Tent with high hopes for DiS faves *Johnny Foreigner.
After hearing the Brum-based trio before even reaching said tent, my lugholes are quickly bludgeoned by a swathe of zealous guitar and furious percussion once inside. The levels are far, far too loud and although I’m sure “JoFo blew the roof of that Mofo” (or however you kids say 'were good' these days) I pick up my pipe, slippers and Wine Gums and swiftly depart to the Pet Sounds Arena, eagerly anticipating The National’s (pictured) imminent arrival. Admittedly torn between this and Frightened Rabbit’s ill-timed set at the T-Break Stage, the second Matt Berninger’s baritonal crow flickers out over the opening notes of ‘Start A War’ all inner turmoil is appeased. A staggering showing lit up by the group’s air-tight instrumentation, these Brooklyn-born miserablists flutter heart-strings with a gorgeous ‘Baby, We’ll Be Fine’ before enveloping listening ears in the thick, macabre mist of the cacophonous ‘Fake Empire’.
As the sun plunges below the horizon after triumphant closer ‘Mr November’, the only sensible way to shake off this deep-seated sensitivity is to find Holy Fuck at the Relentless Stage and let loose (although some seem to prefer cutting loose) on the dancefloor. The quartet’s filthy-funk grooves whirr from stage while incessant, scattershot effects hop-scotch their way into the burning rubber of fleet-footed soles, demanding all bow down to the quartet’s artillery of blitzkrieg beats. It’s a hyperactive ransack of a show that cuts rug quicker than Speedy Gonzales on a carpentry course and, at just thirty minutes, sadly lasts just as long. So, with TITP’s final curtain soon set to draw, it’s decision time. Who’s it going be? Primal Scream? R.E.M.? The Prodigy? Nah, somewhat foolishly I put my money on Brian Jonestown Massacre (BJM) at the Pet Sounds Arena.
With the headliner only this morning announced, a substantial congregation arrives somehow under the impression The View are to be appearing. Thankfully they’re not, but needless to say the baying masses are nae too impressed when BJM take to the stage and a blanket strike of plastic cups once again fizzles through the air, rattling the noggin of tambourine tapper Joel Gion. Never one to swallow his words, frontman Anton Newcombe turns nasty - lambasting us as “pussies” and “cunts” – and all of a sudden things seem like they're gonna get interesting. Only they don’t. Four-thousand attendees rapidly diminish into 500 and BJM produce one of the dullest end-of-festival finales TITP has ever seen. As one disheartened punter perfectly surmises, BJM are “as bland as Salt ‘n’ Shake - sans salt” and I, like many others here, make my way home from Balado for the final time.
And that’s it: the end. It’s been a rough and often frantic weekend but I’ve survived intact and somehow rejuvenated my faith in the great British music festival, no matter the inhumane actions of a small few. So, farewell T In The Park 2008, it’s been one hell of a blast.
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