T in the Park Festival 2013 round-up
In front of a sea of 80,000 or so lobsters pretending to be Scots, Morris Mumford declares “[Music is] about having fun,” a pretty accurate summary of T in the Park, a fun-filled three-day music extravaganza with variety for all tastes. It is impossible to even attempt to cover the entire festival, so what follows will be a brief day-to-day breakdown of the highs, lows, discoveries and disappointments.
The festival opened on Friday with, rather appropriately, The Proclaimers, who closed their set with what seems to be the unofficial Scottish Anthem: I’m Gonna Be (500 miles). It was an excellent beginning to the event which continued in such a style for the rest of the day. Kraftwerk were innovative as usual with an entrancing 3D-light show and Jake Bugg’s reputation of sounding like a young Bob Dylan remained intact. However, Neil Young came more to mind for this reviewer. A new discovery was a young boy band called Sons & Lovers who might be familiar from their iPhone filmed Set My Heart on Fire video that can be found on YouTube. Having started out as a metal band, they have used that background to make bold choices in their now much softer music. Golden is a good listen.
Finally, Phoenix and Mumford & Sons – who closed the evening on the main stage – taught master classes in music performance. Both bands were bursting with energy that they channelled through the impassioned crowd and Mumford & Sons’ encore number The Cave was the perfect end to a spectacular show.
Saturday was graced with a brilliant and artful performance by Paloma Faith whose Just Be is sure to become a classic. With influences from the songstresses of the 1940s (not only musically), her voice is raw and soulful and utilised with knife-like precision and accuracy, astutely walking the tightrope between passionate power and overdramatic indulgence. Alt-J, fresh from their Mercury Prize win, also shone with their intricate, well-thought-out tracks, performing at the top of the bill in the arena’s biggest tent stage.
Unfortunately, a couple of the big acts of that day disappointed greatly. Snoop Dogg put together a very good set list of hits, including some from other artists. He was very good at getting the crowd going but when actually analysing his performance, it was pretty flat. This was particularly evident during his “rendition” of Akon’s I Wanna Fuck You during which he sat in a chair while three very sexy female dancers did all the work; dancing and swivelling with aplomb while Snoop Dogg barely sang a word. This act catered so clearly to the male gaze that it unnerved this particular viewer.
Another drop of the evening was Rihanna’s headlining performance. Although most people would hardly call her an auteur, one would certainly expect a spectacle. However, the notoriously overworked singer was just that; she was clearly tired and her enthusiasm at performing at T in the Park for the first time was superseded by exhaustion and an uninspiring new album. Once she got to her old hits the show picked up but more in the way of a fun group karaoke party to nostalgic songs from the recent past, not as an eye-catching piece of theatre in its own merit. Contrasting drastically with this was The Lumineers’ bare bones performance that showcased their album, group cohesion and songwriting ability. Their performance also highlighted the vocal talents of the group’s cellist, Neyla Pekarek, whose earthy voice will surely feature more prominently in future work. Saturday highlighted musicality and passion over stardusting and production.
Earth, Wind and Fire opened Sunday’s line-up on the main stage. Their music invariably makes one want to dance and laugh and smile. The musicians may have aged over the last 40 years, but their performances continue to be filled with contagious passion and love. They were a personal favourite, finishing their set with the tremendously catchy and romantic Written in the Stone. Two Door Cinema Club also played on the main stage with their habitual gusto and Frank Ocean’s soulful music was hauntingly beautiful. A brilliant little discovery was Story Books, an up-and-coming little band from Kent who have just come to public attention by opening for The Rolling Stones at Glastonbury this summer. They are certainly a band to watch; with a very clear voice and direction, it will be interesting to see how they develop. Simple Kids is a particularly beautiful piece. Closing the festival on Sunday was The Killers on the main stage and David Guetta on BBC Radio 1 Stage, their contrasting acts mingling interestingly as spectators slowly dispersed to their tents or homes.
It was a weekend for artists rather than for superstars, with many smaller groups making a much more lasting impression than established heavy-weights. Indeed, during their performance, Wesley Schultz of The Lumineers thanked everyone who had listened to their whole album and not just their hit Ho Hey. This comment underlined an important difference in aims and attitude between different acts; drawing a line between those who were there for the music and those who were there for the glory.
For further information about T in the Park and to see photos and video highlights visit the festival’s website here.