Once a year, a small city with a population of 85,000 drunk Scots pops up on the map, the 5th biggest city in Scotland every-time it forms, known to some as a mud-bath, known to most as the fantastic music festival that is T in the Park. This year I went along for the full festival camping experience.
This year was the festivals 19th occurrence, taking place in a disused Air Field in Balado, Perthshire, across no less than eleven stages, this years festivities saw around 180 artists serenade the crowds.
On the opening day of the festival, Thursday, I travelled in a hired bus with my brother and a group of friends the short one hour journey from Glasgow, leaving early in the morning. Arriving at the festival entrance, the sun was shinning, people where already amassing and by the time we had dragged our tents and supplies through what was already becoming a muddy field, our arms where dead but spirits high and we had a good place towards the front of the queue.
The gates opened at 2pm and we where straight through the gates and security and made our way to the Purple camping site. There are several different ones to choose from, being the furthest away and on a high I thought it wise to head this way. That turned out to be a very wise call given the way the weekend unfolded.
We set our tents up, which I had already practiced at home to check all was working, and got straight to the business of sampling our fine beer supplies we had hauled along with us. The weather held out and after a wonderful sunset and festival mood setting in, our group headed off for the first nights entertainment.
The Thursday see’s the ‘Sunset Strip’ open exclusively for the campers, there is a large tent called the ‘Slam Tent’ (from where a picture of a girl with pink wellies has become pretty famous and well publicised on Facebook – I’ll let you do the surfing on this one), a second clubbing tent, bars, fun park rides and catering vans at not too bad prices.
The first night was a pretty late one, as where all the following evenings, the reality of camping in a tent that my head touched when sitting up and feet and head grazed when lying down hit in and it was particularly hard adjusting to the serious lack of space. That got easier as the days went on, and not having any hot running water, electricity, heating or warm beds started to feel less and less significant.
Friday kicked off the music, the good weather was still holding out and my sister came over to our campsite to join us for a few drinks before we all headed off to see the various bands playing in the main arena. Kaiser Chiefs, Florence & the Machine, Example and Snow Patrol set the soundtrack for my evening. Florence gave a great performance that I really enjoyed, but Snow Patrol stole the evening for me, moving me to tears with their hits “Run” and “Chasing Car’s” and not leaving a dry eye in the audience. Also featured during the set a surprise duet with Ed Sheeran, the young boy wonder who I first saw 4 years ago in a small Campden pub doing a jam night.
Saturday the rain really made its mark on the festival and made it the muddiest and rainiest in living memory for the festival goers. The line up on the main stage was actually pretty poor that day, so I did a lot of exploring walking around the arena discovering new artists I had never heard before in the BBC Introducing Tent and Transmissions Tent. Benjamin Francis Leftwich was the best new band I discovered on my adventures by far, he is playing Glasgow’s Oran Mor 13th October on his UK tour – go check him out on YouTube and make sure you see him, a very talented one to look out for.
One of my favourite bands, Two Door Cinema Club, where playing the NME stage before David Guetta so I made it my priority to go see them that day as well as J Cole whom my brother is a big fan of. TDCC really where great, played an awesome set that really made me happy – giving us two previously unheard songs off their forthcoming album being released this September.
I went over to the King Tut’s Wah Wah Tent for Calvin Harris but left after a few songs to go enjoy the cool sounds of The Stone Roses. A good choice, I like a good bit of Dj’s playing fist pumping dance music, but during a music festival I really don’t think there’s a place for people pressing buttons – something to be strongly reinforced to the people of Scotland the very next day BIG time.
Getting to sleep that night didn’t really happen, crashing out around 6am and getting awoken 9.30 by my lovely brother for a beer breakfast saw the end to any futile attempts to have a lie in.
The final day kicked off at 12 with the music and I headed off to the main stage making my way to the front of the crowd. I listened to the great sounds of Twin Atlantic – another new band I’ve really got into since hearing them live, James Morrison, Bombay Bicycle Club, the incredible Keane who played a soul pleasing set, and then Chase and Status which saw the end to my energy levels for the weekend with the amount of jumping around I did.
I then made the biggest mistake of the weekend by heading over to the NME stage to see an artist I was quite looking forward to seeing, Nicki Minaj.
You may of read about this in the papers or seen things on twitter, but this really was the shocker of the weekend. After a ONE HOUR wait after she was expected on stage, she finally made her appearance on stage to massive Boo’s from the crowd. She went straight into what can only be described as the most awful, soul-destroying TWENTY minute set any artist has ever given.
Hardly any singing, more of a karaoke, terrible choreography for a group of dancers reminiscent of the Destiny’s Child era, sound levels that have been done better down your gran’s weekly bingo club on a friday, a OTT set and still to this moment un-introduced rapper made for a totally awful waste of time while I could have been enjoying the great sounds of Elbow.
As you can probably imagine this didn’t leave me in too good of a mood, but the fact she got booed off stage slightly made up for that and cemented the fact that only artists that actually sing, can connect with an audience and play their music have a place at a music festival. There’s no place for diva american rappers and “artists” who just sing to backing CD’s at these kind of places, I hope the organisers of T learn from their big mistake in hiring her for the gig.
Oh and the reason for her being one hour late? She threw a hissy fit about the grass around her area being far too long for her to walk on. A source from backstage confirmed she was shouting demands for someone to get a grass-cutter and cut it, while a mud and rain-soaked fan base stood in a flooded field for her to come out with no apology, explanation or thanks for waiting. Totally disrespectful and I am sure she has lost a massive fan-base in Scotland.
Musician Frank Turner took to twitter to tweet: “You can (I suppose) be a d*ck to your own crew, you’re paying them. But everyone else? Not to mention the people out front. Ugh.”
He went on to say: “To clarify: Nicki Minaj has been being a total selfish s*ithead to all the hardworking crew backstage at T. Pathetic. F*** off,”
After this terrible ordeal, i needed something amazing to drag me out of the hole I had fallen into, that wonderful miracle came in the form of Kasabian.
The band lived up to their festival reputation playing an incredible two-hour set that got the entire audience going and put us all in a great mood to end the festival. Vocalist Tom Meighan gave an incredible set and I was so moved by his humbleness. He really connected with the audience telling us if he could thank us all he would “build each one of us a house” and thanking us for putting up with the rain and mud and making it through the madness.
A fully kitted out piper played us out with O’ Flower Of Scotland which got the whole crowd going, and a spectacular fireworks display lit up the sky to bring the festival to a close.
A final night of camping and before I knew it our group was getting picked up by our mini-van again and en-route back to Glasgow somewhat more muddy, tired, sleep deprived and I’m sure pretty smelly.
The wonderful home comforts of a dry snug bed, heating, electricity, technology that makes our lives go around these days, warm food and running water never ment to much coming back to it after an absence of four days from our lives. I’ve slept like a baby since, eat like a king and pampered myself with a spa day to make up for those days I managed to pull my body through somehow.
There was definitely a good, happy spirit about the festival, and the majority of people where there to have a good time – as always a small minority like to spoil everyone else’s fun and cause trouble. Figures released by Tayside police show that crime was up on last year, with 271 incidents being reported, 208 of them drug related, and 30 arrests in total. Over 2,000 people where treated by volunteers and staff from both the Red Cross and Scottish Ambulance service onsite, with 810 being treated at the onsite hospital and 33 having to be taken to hospitals offsite.
I’m glad I did the entire weekend, and lived to tell the story. But I think in future I’ll stick to holidaying abroad somewhere sunny – which anyone who went to the festival could have bought with the total amount spent over the weekend on tickets, camping gear, food & drink, transport etc.
A good experience over all and I can now tick of the festival camping experience from my ‘to do list’.