Sweat trickling down my back like a melting ice lolly we waited in the customary T queue for three hours before we set up camp, tactically, on a slight hill anticipating rain. “Where’s that sun-cream again?”
Burnt and hungover Friday promised to be another scorcher and the weather wasn’t bad either. Our camp, 10 person strong, was a solid unit of drunkenness for the most part of the morning as we nursed our wounds from the previous day. Biffy Clyro were headlining the main stage making their 10th appearance at the festival in its final year at Balado and it seemed like everyone you spoke to was hyped to see Killie’s finest. Before that there was a long day of drinking and music ahead of us.
The first act of T’14 for us festival veterans was someone we’d never seen before: The Rifles. They provided a solid opening to the weekend playing a range of songs from their four albums to a decent sized crowd in the King Tut’s Tent. I managed to warm my vocal chords up for the weekend to the tune of 2006 hits ‘She’s Got Standards’ and ‘Peace & Quiet’ from ‘No Love Lost’. A fan in the early days, The Rifles set left me wanting more from them. Their last two albums are firmly cemented on my wish list. To the Main Stage!
Girl band Little Mix…I mean HAIM were the first act of the weekend we took in at the Main Stage. I have to admit beforehand I was sceptical when I heard they were a girl band, but they play rock music, decent rock music, actually really f***ing good rock music. Their bass driven tracks were instantly recognisable ‘heard that before’ type tunes full of melodic riffs and poppy harmonies. Bassface was out in full force and everyone was having a good time dancing to the Calfornian sisters’ soft rock hits. Add it to the list! Imagine Dragons followed straight after playing Radioactive and 9 other songs no one had ever heard of. To be fair to them they won over the locals by playing an absolute T anthem ‘I’m Gonna Be’. That’s 500 Miles by The Proclaimers by the way. All told, it was a decent set that kept the crowd ticking over as we headed into the evening.
The excitement and atmosphere in the arena was beginning to build as night began to fall and Glasgow synth-pop trio Chvrches took to the stage with flashes of neon in The King Tut’s Tent. Fronted by the flawless Lauren Mayberry they played all the tracks from their début success ‘The Bones of What You Believe’ tied in with interludes filled with anecdotes and gratefulness. Mayberry stated after missing out on playing the T-Break Stage 5 times she was overwhelmed to be actually playing at the festival they went to growing up. The success of their début which has rocketed them into the mainstream was reflected in the reception that singles ‘The Mother We Share’, ‘Recover’ and ‘Lies’ got. An absolutely rip-roaring set and the best of the day so far…
“BIFFY! BIFFY! BIFFY FUCKING CLYRO!” Aye, Biffy blew the magnificent Chvrches out of the water. The experienced headliners brought their stunning show to Balado for the 10th time and didn’t disappoint. All lights and fireworks, Biffy understood the crowd they were playing to and stuck to the hits from their back catalogue of six albums. More recent singles like ‘Black Chandelier; and ‘Biblical’ were big sing-a-longs, slightly older serenades like ‘Machines’ and ‘Folding Stars’ had the crowd swaying and early Biffy songs like ’57’ and ‘Glitter and Trauma’ saw thrashing and moshing break out in the inner circle. As always Biffy were note perfect and brought an abundance of energy and enthusiasm for their craft to the stage – the absolute highlight of a superb weekend, MON THE BIFF!
Saturday brought with it some slightly more Scottish, T weather, cloudy with some showers and nothing torrential yet. YET. Energised by the performance of Simon Neil et al. we awoke feeling less sluggish and ready for a long second day at T.
We kicked the day off with some delicious fuel from Healthy T then headed to the King Tut’s Tent again this time taking in a surprisingly well received set from Scottish up-and-comers Fatherson. A big crowd greeted the Glasgow four-piece who have only just released their début album ‘I Am An Island’. A band I’d heard of before and I’m sure I’ve definitely listened to a few of their tracks too after this weekend though they are definitely one for the future – another great Scottish rock band in the making.
Up next were Fatherson’s predecessors in the upcoming Scottish band category – Twin Atlantic. Now a fully fledged Main Stage act with three albums under their belts, Sam McTrusty and co brought heaps of energy and defiance to a rain soaked Balado. It was my 5th time seeing Twin and definitely the tightest and cleanest I’ve ever heard them. They thrilled a strong following with the likes of ‘Free’, ‘Crashland’, ‘Ghost of Eddie’ and of course the top 20 hit ‘Heart and Soul’. They are a band blossoming into the mainstream and with the new album ‘The Great Divide’ out in August are they future festival headliners?
We took an extended break from the elements returning to the camp site for light refreshments and returned later on ready for a pretty terrific trio of Main Stage acts.
First up was former N.E.R.D frontman and global superstar Pharrell Williams. The darling of the charts played all the hits he’s ever been a part of: Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’, his two collaborations with Daft Punk ‘Get Lucky’ and ‘Lose Yourself To Dance’ and even ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’ in which he featured on with Snoop Dogg. Mixing in some older N.E.R.D stuff and some of his early solo tracks he ended with a heartwarming rendition of his smash hit ‘Happy’ in which he brought onto stage a fan who had survived cancer to the adulation of the crowd. A surprisingly brilliant set all told as we moved into the night.
Saturday night at T had a home-grown flavour that started with Paisley’s own soul man Paolo Nutini sub-headlining the Main Stage. Back with new material, mature and looking more confident in himself on stage Paolo blew away the hardy revellers baring the elements to see Nutini strut his stuff. Sticking mainly to the crooning, soul hits of his latest no.1 album ‘Caustic Love’ he got the crowd moving straight off with ‘Scream (Funk My Life Up)’. Nutini went on to play further hits from the new album including ‘Let Me Down Easy’, ‘One Day’ and the stunning ‘Better Man’. He incorporated some older tunes with a new more grown-up soulful flair about them. Alternative versions of ‘Alloway Grove’, ‘Jenny Don’t Be Hasty’ and ‘Pencil Full Of Lead’ were well received by the T faithful as was his cover of Chrvches’ ‘Recover’. Paolo capped off the show with the powerful, political ‘Iron Sky’ and his 2009 hit ‘Candy’ and really let loose as he cried out and moved about the stage like a man possessed. Ending the set, seemingly overwhelmed, Nutini fell to his knees in gratitude to the awesome T crowd he has so yearned to play in front of after his five-year hiatus. He absolutely owned it and was as good if not better than Biffy the previous evening, to think I was nearly away to see Bombay Bicycle Club.
Completing our Scottish duo for the night was Dumfries superstar DJ Calvin Harris and his mate. Will Smith. Yes, you read that right Calvin Harris brought his mate Mr. Will Smith fae the movies to introduce his set and to see a real Scottish crowd. The T crowd certainly didn’t disappoint as Harris ran through a repertoire of his biggest hits from the past couple of years including ‘Awooga’, ‘I Need Your Love’ and ‘Sweet Nothing’ as well as mixing some other massive dance tunes like Martin Garrix’s ‘Animals’. Calvin brought Will Smith back out on stage with him to party to his last tune and watch T lose their minds as Harris played his smash-hit anthem ‘Summer’. The rain didn’t ruin anyone’s fun as we bounced to the beat with an epic light show and fireworks going off around us, a perfect end to a very wet Saturday. Sunday had a lot to live up to.
The final day of music at T and everyone woke up looking like drowned rats but absolutely scarlet from sunburn – a strange and frightening combo. With a lot of booze left to consume Sunday is always a good day, up nice and early and straight into the cans we were feeling ready for the first act of the day. Newton Faulkner and, surprisingly, his real life backing band consisting of 3 people eased us into the day ahead with mellow, poppy, acoustic sing-alongs from his four album back-catalogue. Highlights included ‘Write It On Your Skin’, ‘Teardrop’ and the one everyone knows ‘Dream Catch Me’ – a solid start to the day.
We returned to the campsite to finish our booze for a couple of hours and played a drinking game where legends were born. Tanked up and ready for a riot we returned to see the Kaiser Chiefs who are always a winner at festivals. I love the Kaiser Chiefs and I’ll tell you why! They know what the crowd are there for and they know their own limitations. The play the hits, Ricky runs around stage like a man on a mission and the crowd fucking love it! Hand-clapping, dancing, mosh-pits, crowd-surfing, and its all even better when you’re totally gone! I think they played ‘Ruby’, they definitely played ‘Oh My God’, ‘Everyday I Love You Less And Less’ and ‘I Predict A Riot’ and other than that who really cares? Outstanding.
After a gap in proceedings we returned to see the weekend out with Arctic Monkeys but first the Modfather himself – Paul Weller. Leading up to the weekend Weller was by far and away the person I was looking forward to seeing most and to be honest he was a massive let down. I’d heard so many stories from those who’d seen him about how good the former Jam frontman was live and I left the Main Stage on Sunday feeling bitterly disappointed. Weller came out and played some of his lesser known and newer songs, which is ok for a fan like me and he’s perfectly entitled to do so but for your average festival go-er there for a good time and to jump about to the hits, it’s useless. The whole set was completely devoid of any kind of atmosphere, Weller raced through his set which only included one Jam song – ‘Start’ – barely uttering a word to the crowd and simply exited the stage upon finishing without as much as a thank you. The lowlight of the weekend.
After a superb weekend of music, drink and general merriment the last act up on the bill was quite frankly the best band in the world – Arctic Monkeys. The Sheffield boys were back headlining T again after their exploits on the back of fourth album ‘Suck It And See’ in 2011. Now after an unbelievable FIFTH no.1 album ‘AM’ they were bigger and better than ever and served up a treat to close the weekend. They cajoled the T crowd with ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’, ‘R U Mine?’ and ‘Fireside’ from their latest album amongst others. They were also treated to a few throwbacks in the form of ‘Dancing Shoes’, ‘Crying Lightning’, ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’ and the modern classic ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’. Turner and co strutted about stage like the rockstars they are: displaying all their cool and panache alongside mind-bending riffs and catchy beats. A sure-fire winner with the T crowd they provided the perfect ending to a great festival.
I wonder what T 2015 at Strathallan Castle will bring?…