For 23 years, T In The Park was a Scottish youth’s rite of passage possessing one of the sturdiest and most versatile festival bills in the UK. But its move of location in 2015 was stained with logistical failures and by 2016, despite reducing capacity, the festival was overwhelmed with increasing crime reports and drug-related deaths leaving the promoters with no choice but to put it on hiatus.
Now, co-opting that same weekend, we have TRNSMT festival which is less of a replacement for T In The Park and more a newly focused way of re-launching a music event in the open air. It’s brought the heavyweight headliners, cleared out the camping and placed its focus solely on the music.
Gigwise's Harley Cassidy was down there catching the best new bands that mostly seemed to congregate at the Jack Rocks This Feeling stage alongside catching some of the biggest British bands of our generation. A fun mix of legends and future legends, here’s what she got up to:
Friday gets started with the newly-signed power pop band, Bang Bang Romeo. The Sheffield-based quartet are up to their usual business of charming audiences who have never heard them previously into gushing fans. This seductive trait is thanks, largely, to the formidable lung power from singer Anastasia Walker; the band are a raw and uncompromising talent with a charismatic flair which makes them nothing short of beguiling.
Next up for Gigwise is the pure magic of The Sundowners, who are famed for having Alfie Skelly and his sister Fiona Skelly in the band – both relatives of the phenomenal James Skelly. According to legend, they started the band on “teenage angst and acid” and swim the tide of hazy psychedelia almost too well. Despite nodding to the best 60s folk, psych and kraut, this is music with one foot in the past and one in the present: they bring a freshness and urgency in their fusion and the crowd’s enthralled reaction proves there’s a timelessness to their approach that will keep them in a job for years to come.
Another band who gained more than a few appreciative nods were The Wholls, who stand with that kind of cocksure bravado that belies only the best of rock ‘n’ roll bands and their tunes including ‘Roll Out’ are sexy, sporadic and filled with the meatiest of hooks.
The place is rammed for Black Honey – and rightfully so. The band are collectively growing into their cool and complex vision of the twisted, Americana dream with singer Izzy Phillips truly becoming at one with her persona. She applies red lipstick and glitter to her eyelids backstage before strutting onto the stage in a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “written and directed by Quentin Tarantino”, an obvious ode to the bands increasingly cinematic, Dick Dale-esque sound. Mingling fiction and reality into one hypnotic form, Spinning Wheel is their most dramatic tune whilst the woozy, ‘Corinne’ leaves the crowd spellbound.
And then, we have Radiohead, undoubtedly the most anticipated band of the weekend following on from a truly, triumphant headline slot at Glastonbury two weeks ago.
They’re one of the only bands who can get away with playing a two and a half hour set at a festival and make it feel short and unforgiving. The sheer fact that they can make a truly left-field song such as ‘15 Step’ work on a main stage is proof that they are masters of this stadium-sized game.
The cross-pollination of genres and soundscapes that Radiohead seamlessly glide through is perhaps the main reason that they prove so enduring live. Beautifully tender moments arrive in the shape of ‘Weird Fishes/Arpeggi’ and ‘Let Down’ whilst the strobe-heavy, propulsion of tracks such as ‘Idioteque’ and ‘Myxomatosis’ verge on trance. ‘Paranoid Android’ is a highlight, flitting back and forth from oppressive fantasy to prog-heavy massiveness with a fucking epic light show to match. I’ve never been so enthralled.
Never under-estimate Radiohead’s connection with their audience; they’re one of the biggest bands in the world but they still represent something culturally meaningful to fans and their lives. There’s a quiet respect there that after over 30 years they still remain true to themselves whilst alienating and uplifting any of their fanbase without a second thought. We’re all sharing the same emotive orbit as ‘Karma Police’ proves the true hero of the night with chants of “for a minute there I lost myself” ringing out onto the streets of Glasgow well after their set finishes.
Saturday is a sold-out affair and brings a day of glorious sunshine for festival goers. The Assist get the party started; four bright balls of energy who look like they’re sponsored by Adidas. They entertain the crowd with their self-deprecating, Midlands banter stating “here’s a new one of ours… not that you know any of the old one’s either”.
Over at the main stage, man of the moment, Stormzy, is whipping the crowd into a frenzy. There’s truly no atmosphere comparable to that of a grime gig, even in a dense festival crowd. It’s a genre that has completely booted the doors of the mainstream open with Stormzy as the gangling ringleader. The slow jam of ‘Cigarettes and Cush’ is stamped upon to unleash ‘Big For Your Bootz’ with thrilling verbal truculency as the sun radiates over Glasgow Green. Even Stormzy is bemused by the weather as he quips, “yo, I did not know Scotland could get this sunny.”
The Jack Rocks tent proves to be a constantly rammed staple of the weekend; a mash up between whiskey giants Jack Daniels and indie promoters This Feeling, it showcases up and coming bands from all over the UK and is the place to catch every single one of your future headliners with its siege over UK festivals proving to be ruthless. No band gets a reception quite like Vida, though.
Hailing from Alloa, the Scottish band are a clear sample of how civic pride can make you one of the most hyped bands in the scene. Deafening chants of “VIDA” and “‘ERE WE FUCKIN GO” rain down on the tent before they had even stepped on stage and then as they rolled through a setlist that was essentially all the best components of Britpop under one roof, every lyric is sang back to them. It’s pretty epic to watch; this is like a football-terrace crowd, the kind you would see at a Courteeners or Oasis gig, with moshpits, rowdy lads and flags held aloft as fountains of beer constantly arc the air. Whatever this band are doing, they’re doing it right.
Catfish & The Bottlemen’s army of fans similarly leave their idols speechless, too. Whatever your opinion is of the band, their masterplan is clearly working and they bring sheer joy to every teenager on that field with adrenalised anthems such as ‘Kathleen’ being screamed back to them alongside their song Glasgow, a personal love letter to the city. They could easily headline in a couple of years, but they should probably take a few leaves out of Kasabian’s book on how to move around first.
Kasabian are in many ways, the perfect festival headliner. They have that arsenal of killer anthems, possess a natural arrogance that knows no boundaries and perhaps, most importantly, have Serge Pizzorno as a member. ‘Ill Ray (The King)’, the bolshy offering from latest album For Crying Out Loud, opens their set, crowd bouncing along fervently, never stopping through a six-album, genre-bending discourse of some of the best British indie tunes of the 21st century, finally reaching the zenith of their back catalogue, ‘Fire’. The sheer variety on display is consistently set in place by ruthless pummelling adorned by the best of terrace-chant choruses whether it’s the Hacienda-pulse of ‘Eez-Eh’ or menacing drive of ‘Clubfoot’. Kasabian are simply a bunch of hedonists who steer the party train mighty well. In a career that has spanned 20 years, they’ve never faltered even when their critics have desperately tried to write them off as stodgy, lad-rock. Tonight is an absolute success on their part, as we all knew it would be.
Sunday is all grey skies and dampness as the remnants of yesterday's hangovers linger. Anteros, by all means, brighten up a dismal morning as Laura Hayden arrives on stage in star-print platforms swigging from a bottle of whiskey. Her confidence epitomises the band’s unwavering saunter to the top of the indie world – and on this form not much can stop them: they’re tight-as-glue and have a collection of perfect, pop morsels already under their belt. Swooning and pouting through their self-described “bitter dream pop”, Hayden flits between hyper-feminine delivery and a sassy snarl with aplomb.
Sometimes, all it takes is a ski-mask for you to know a band is special. Well, perhaps a bit more than that, but Strange Bones don’t disappoint. They create intense and deafening music mainly used as a canvas to parade their anti-Tory and pro-revolution values. Bobby Bentham is wearing a hand-made “Theresa Is a Terrorist” top which is now being sold as official band merchandise and he spends more time on the shoulders of the crowd than he does the stage. Collectively, they’re an incendiary live act, the menacing chug of Pussy Galore’s Flying Circus and splitting riffage of God Save The Teen leave the audience developing into a violently adoring throng as they beckon for Bentham to jump back in, holding him aloft like an offering.
Keeping to the antagonised theme, fellow brothers in arms The Blinders, whip the audience into a reverie. The Doncaster lads are gaining devout fans with every politically, public display of controlled chaos that is driven by their collective alter-ego, Johnny Dream. Latest track, Brave New World is startlingly good live, breathing new life into a sound that has been reproduced beyond recognition, with a snaking riff and tumultuous chorus. Maybe it’s the intense energy, the sardonic sense of humour or the passioned commitment to their music’s integrity but they are undoubtedly, (and forgive the hyperbole), one of Britain’s most exciting new bands.
Back on the mainstage, The 1975 are adorned by the most impressive stage production of the weekend but even that can’t overshadow the mystery that is Matt Healy. Topless, chain-smoking and enigmatic as ever, Healy’s in the mood for some preaching, even though he insists otherwise. “We are all human; we are just like you, man” he states. “Let’s have our own little pride here in Glasgow. Let’s change the world, ladies and gentlemen.” It’s heartfelt stuff and brings on the rallying, Jeremy Corbyn chant we have all grown so accustomed to. Audacious, inherently tongue-in-cheek and brimming with glossy, funky pop songs, The 1975 don’t just have to rely on Healy’s animal magnetism to please a crowd.
Superfood finish off the Jack Rocks This Feeling tent with a remarkably funky set, cleaning up and polishing their slacker past and giving us a taste of something entirely new. ‘Double Dutch’, a snippet of their new foray into synths and samples, is even better live when it’s given some grit and whilst the crowd drink up old favourites such as their eponymous debut track, Superfood, the reception to their new material is more than promising. We’re excited to hear album number two.
Ending the weekend in sentimental fashion are Scotland's own Biffy Clyro. Singer Simon Neil somehow detracts away from his bare-chested bravado by rocking up in a pair of sequinned jeans, a garment he jokingly thanks Scotland for “not kicking him out for.” Weaving through their strongest players including Many Of Horror and Bubbles, the loving affection for this band really does add to the affable atmosphere as they provide all the sky-scraping choruses one could need for a Sunday headliner. Confetti canons and pyrotechnics decorate their four-strong encore ending with the searing Stingin’ Belle and Neil informing the crowd that, “this might sound like I’m blowing smoke on your balls, but tonight has been our favourite ever show in Scotland.” Another stellar performance from the Biff epitomizing the success they're enduring in 2017.