Monday, July 22, 2013

T in the Park: the Best and the Worst

Scotland's most popular music festival, T in the Park, enjoys some big acts, BBC coverage and over 85,000 paying customers, so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to learn it’s also an empty, lifeless husk of an event. It’s a bit of a festival for people who aren’t so fussed about music, and judging by the amount of random fights, obnoxious chants and people hunched forward in their own sick (at 4pm, might I add) every idiot in Scotland got the memo and bought a ticket. Despite this and it’s already terrible national reputation there were some great acts playing (also it was sunny for the first time in probably forever), so let’s ignore the festival as a whole and have a little look at the highlights.

By far and away the best show of the weekend, Kraftwerk found themselves up against an almost motionless crowd. There were a couple of reasons for this: the first being the fact they were playing to the wrong people. Kraftwerk were placed below the likes of Rihanna, The Killers and Mumford & Sons in the festival’s line-up, which resulted in more than a few Kraftwerk virgins turning up. The second and most important reason was a completely mesmerising 3D lightshow (yes, everyone wore the stupid, space-age specs) managing to cover for the groups famous lack of on-stage charisma. With the addition of a countless amount of time tested classics, the end result was an unforgettably dreamlike hour where the only two words entering my mind were “holy shit.”

Frank Turner 

Despite being so ridiculously English as to mention it in a recent album title, Frank Turner went down surprisingly well in a country stereotypically harbouring a gentle resentment against his birthplace. He commanded the crowd with a startling display of energy: at one point managing to get the entirety of the few thousand strong group to sit down. If I was a poetic man I’d say this was a blatant display of English tyranny over the masses of Scotland, which would hold up perfectly if not for his catchy and disenfranchised singer-songwriter musings. He’s far too relatable to be a tyrant.

Of Monsters and Men
Of Monsters and Men did a very good job of explaining why they deserve their sleeper-like success by managing to bring the house (tent, technically) down with the first few seconds of their set. They stayed strong, moving on from “Little Talks” to the rest of My Head is an Animal until losing the crowd a little with newer material, which sadly doesn’t bode well for them. Thankfully they’d saved it by the end, and in any case they did a hell of a lot better than Mumford & Sons, who bored me to tears.

...and the worst

Of course, these artists don’t seem as impressive without a comparison to the worst shows of the festival, and since I’m in the mood for a little bit more moaning let’s have a small scoot through the most awful, boring and/or offensively lazy performances.

Snoop Dogg
Despite not headlining and playing at an absurdly early time, this old Dogg still managed to pull in the largest crowd of the weekend. It’s too bad he bottled in then: playing a small selection of his most mainstream songs mixed in with the first two minutes of a variety of other artists’ music including House of Pain’s “Jump Around.” The fact this particular track managed to be a highlight (the other highlight being Bob Marley) is telling, as Snoop’s set felt fragmented, lazy and pandering to a crowd unfamiliar with the material which made his name in the first place. A confusing finale saw the typically cool rapper get all soppy and having the crowd sing the chorus to “Young, Wild & Free,” a statement at odds with the fact the average festival goer is now 37.

Calvin Harris
It’s probably a bit unfair to put Mr. Harris here, since the weakness in his performance was more to do with his success than with the show itself. Every track from this man has been so wildly popular they’ve already been danced to exhaustion, making his set feel like a timewarp of cheesy-club classics inspiring more boredom than nostalgia. It’s hard to blame a man for being too popular, but I do remember him being much better live five years ago before he realised he’d never make another track as good as “Acceptable in the 80’s.”

Mumford & Sons

Mumford & Mumford Jrs made headlines for headlining by being the only group to headline a major UK festival who’ve only just recently succeeded in the charts. While you might expect the reason for this to be their talent, the show they put on suggests otherwise. An hour long run through hits everyone has vaguely heard of went uninterrupted by any form of charisma, live variation or indeed anything to differentiate the gig from hearing them on the radio. The performance was capable, sure, just ultimately disappointing from a ticket-selling act. Fellow headliner The Killers didn’t fare too much better, although at least they tried. Rihanna, well, I didn’t even bother going.

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