T in the Park
Strathallan Castle, Perthshire
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THE FINAL day of T in the Park 2016: less wet, thankfully; but just as muddy.
Still, I was hardly expecting my final image of the day to be that of a young lady defecating by the fence, to the sound of a re-formed LCD Soundsystem doing Daft Punk is Playing At My House.
On the main stage, James Bay – think a middle-of-the-road, baby Jack White without the presumptive swagger – hit that perfectly mellow, late afternoon sweet spot. Even the rain re-starting couldn’t dampen a mass clap-along during When We Were on Fire, that rare example of a pop song where the ooh-ooh-ooh harmonies perfectly match the organ part, or Hold Back the River’s epic gospel chorus.
Bay might barely be in his mid-20s but his rich, bluesy voice lends a certain gravitas to songs – like If You Ever Want to be In Love – which, in less capable hands, would be pretty drippy. It’s on the blues-rock numbers that both he and his band really shine though – Collide, Best Fake Smile and a festival-friendly cover of Proud Mary.
While the heavens smiled – or at least smirked – on the crowds, Sunday’s main stage performers were watched over by angels of a different sort. Festival logos painted in Prince purple and Ziggy Stardust-inspired colours sat on the stage all day, left over from that morning’s Rogue Orchestra tribute to the much-missed legends.
Speaking of legends: John Grant, currently enjoying a second career as a solo artist, brought his his brand of offbeat electro avant-jazz to the King Tut’s stage on Sunday evening. An artist who has long intrigued me, Grant is one of those names I’d jump at on a festival line-up but would probably never get around to seeing otherwise. Despite playing to a criminally small crowd, his wry observations, voice like rich, hot coffee and attempt to pronounce “dreich” lifted my spirits. But as fun as Voodoo Doll – effectively the world’s first dance track to reference chicken soup – was, it was all a little too intense for a Sunday evening.
There were no such worries over on the Radio 1 stage, where Jake Bugg was performing. Bugg is half my age, and yet I’m still 10 years too young to appreciate his charmless take on psychedelia – so Bitter Salt’s repetitive drone was enough for one day.
Frank Turner, on the other hand, has future festival headliner nailed – unsurprising, perhaps, for somebody on his 1,925th show. With his band he Sleeping Souls, Turner led the crowd through an hour of high energy pop-rock songs perfectly pitched for “Sunday nights in a field in Scotland standing next to your drunk mates” – and not a little audience participation. Get Better, Four Simple Words and the rest of Turner’s Positive Songs for Negative People, as his last album was named, brought some much-needed cheer to the evening’s muck, while a circle pit and “wall of hugs” for the brave added to the fun.