T in the Park gets bigger every year. In the three years I’ve been fortunate enough to attend the capacity has grown by twenty thousand, and even as you read this half the tickets for 2007 have already been sold. As Scotland’s premier festival makes a strong case to be the UK’s top event also, an eclectic line-up on the first day of Mersey pop, Ceilidh and Detroit techno made it hard to argue a case against.
Part of T’s enduring charm is its punters, as the Scots sure know how to party, and do so with a good sense of humour. Maximo Park tapped into this on the main stage in the early afternoon, with singer Paul Smith sporting a Scotland bobble hat and a ‘Death Metal Armageddon’ T-shirt. It seems the Park had ended up at the wrong event in Slovakia – hence the souvenir – and while there was no sign of thrash guitar, their pop songs stand up well a year on from a fine debut album. The need for new material, however, is becoming apparent.
Equally uplifting in the dance tent were Nightmares On Wax, mixing dub, soul and funk through a sound system reassuringly heavy in the bass department. Following them was the minimal house spun by DJ James Holden, in readiness for an unexpected appearance by The Orb. Their one hour set began shakily and seemed not to be loud enough, but once they had found their feet the audience found theirs, the set backed by trademark psychedelic visuals. As ever Little Fluffy Clouds was a delight, the crowd pleaser to close.
Things were warming up, even as the clouds rolled in, and The Zutons were ready to capitalise on the back of their new found commercial success. Pride of place of course went to the singalong Valerie, which was hollered a good half mile from the NME stage, though the feeling persisted that the band may not be far from casting off the unpredictability that was such an endearing feature of their first album.
The brooding clouds then decided to open, but this was a huge advantage for those who decided to check out the Ceilidh tent, where a pipe led version of The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond was hugely life-affirming to all.
Having warmed the soul it was time to warm the feet with a machine-based high, courtesy of techno godfather Derrick May. His Slam tent set was an hour and a half of twisted disco beats, powerful bass lines and ice cool breakdowns, his concentration evident as he barely looked up from the decks.
More tent action ensured we skilfully evaded the weather, and this brought the reward of The Charlatans, headlining King Tut’s tent in ebullient mood as classics One To Another and Then rubbed shoulders with less effective material from their recent dabble with reggae. The exultant crowd forgave them these indulgences as they were inevitably rewarded with Tellin’ Stories or Jesus Hairdo, reminders of the band’s impressive durability and repertoire of anthemic pop.
Back outside at last, where the sheeting rain had obviously done little to harm the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who were storming through By The Way, the main stage crowd losing themselves in the funky interludes, before a sombre Under The Bridge and high kicking Give It Away put the seal on a strong day musically. Some fires the rain just couldn’t extinguish.