T in the Park replacement TRNSMT strips down, plays it safe, and goes back to the music...

Last year it was announced that T in the Park, Scotland’s premier music festival, would not return for summer 2017. The festival had encountered difficulties since it was ejected from its Balado home in 2015, moving to the less-than-ideal Strathallan Castle, which struggled to endure a festival of T’s size. Issues concerning accessibility, overcrowding and environmental factors such as nesting Ospreys (which are protected by law) jeopardized the festival’s future.

But, frankly, punters were just becoming fed up of T, which had changed from what originally made it one of the UK’s standout music events. Massive crowds, rowdiness, and a growing number of deaths and crime each year darkened the mood around the festival, signalling that T had reached breaking point.

Despite the mournful outcry on social media, the announcement of T’s hiatus was not much of a surprise, then. What was unexpected was the appearance of TRNSMT festival, debuting in Glasgow Green in the city’s centre. With no camping and a smaller space, TRNSMT had big shoes to fill; yet the shift to an urban site was the right move in making an event distinct from its predecessor. The Green is no stranger to large scale events – from the Stone Roses to BBC’s Big Weekend – but a three day event with audience capacity of 150,000 people would be one of its largest to date.

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The kick-off day on Friday was surprisingly chilled for a Glaswegian festival. The Friday crowd was a more mature audience, some parents brought along their young children – the atmosphere more like a large-scale BBC 6Music festival (which Glasgow hosted earlier this year) than a smaller T. That’s not a bad thing; the mood reflected the lineup: music to sway to, rather than music go batshit crazy.

Hometowner’s Belle and Sebastian provided a sunny interval after London Grammar’s ambient trip-pop, the Glasgow band managing to establish an intimacy with their audience despite playing one of their biggest gigs to date.

Fresh from their Glastonbury headliner, Radiohead performed a steady and confident set; as ever, little chat, just one masterfully executed song after the other. Radiohead are a class live act and are absolutely capable of hypnotizing their huge audiences; this headline slot was no big deal for them. The only down side to this is that you could kind of sense that. When the chill set in after the sun went down, you felt the audience yearn for a larger sound to move to, a more erratic beat then the quieter tracks Radiohead have produced in recent years. This could be why the appearance of ‘2+2=5’ was met with such a raucous reaction, and classics such as ‘Paranoid Android’ remain standout parts of any Radiohead set.

Saturday came with a younger crowd, feeling more like the typical large-scale Scottish festival. Banter, flying cups in the air, mini-bottles of Glenns vodka on the ground, and the usual chants brought a more charged energy to the day, which was appropriate for acts like Stormzy, who urged the crowd to make a circle pit to his frantic grime. Both The Kooks and George Ezra’s hook-laden pop were ideal for the sundrenched day, which Edith Bowman later called the ‘bounce’ day, as the crowd never stopped bouncing.

That is, except when Kasabian took the stage; then the bouncing became more of a thrash. Songs such as ‘Bumblebee’ and ‘Eez-eh’ just seem to be made for the local chant “here we, here we, here we f@ckin go!” and classics such as ‘L.S.F’ and ‘Underdog’ were as-ever crowd-pleasers, as was the gratingly-catchy closer ‘Fire‘.

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Sunday’s line up was an indie-rock/pop heaven for punters. Blustering, full-bodied rock n roll was delivered courtesy of the Strypes, the hippie-pop act Blossoms were a welcomed melodic interlude from the riff-heavy acts. The somewhat tedious but fan-favorites The 1975 and Two Door Cinema Club ensured the mass singalongs of the day, while The View and Twin Atlantic were received with an enthused response with their homeland crowd.

Local heroes Biffy Clyro closed the festival with blue-and-white confetti and a set list which catalogued the best of the Biff, pleasing long-time fans and newer followers alike. But, let’s not forget the smaller stages. The King Tuts stage would be a quality festival in its own right (just as well then that the venue curates two mini-festivals a year).

Locals La Fontaines had a great turnout for their Saturday closer, with their live cover of ‘Pon Da Floor’ getting the crowd to shake. Despite the rain, Sunday’s openers Vukovi had a large crowd for their noise-pop tunes, defying the band’s own expectations of a turnout of five people. Both LaFontaines and Vukovi have been playing the Glasgow circuit for years, and have built a loyal local following, so it was a treat to catch them play standout gigs to larger crowds in this atmosphere.

Naturally, TRNSMT is in its early stages, and the organizers played it safe this year; solid local favorites and not much else in terms of newer acts or more experimental sounds. There was too much of an indie-boys club over on the main stage - London Grammar’s Hannah Reid was the only woman to front a band there – which is pretty poor for a festival of this size.

In terms of diversity, the smaller stages provided some much needed respite from the conventional current day indie-pop chart pleasers that the mainstage relied on. With such a selective lineup, each day felt more like a series of individual park gigs than a festival.

With 120,000 punters, TRNSMT didn’t sell out, but was enough of a success to return for 2018 - a move that seems to put the final nail in T in the Park’s coffin. Reflecting on TRNSMT’s debut edition, it’d be a gamble to buy a three day ticket for next year; punters are better off waiting for the lineup announcements. But, TRNSMT did provide the big names and atmosphere worthy of a new urban fest, taking fans back to the music – nothing more, nothing less.

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Words: Charis McGowan
Photo Credit: Carla Granifo (except when credited)

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