T in the Park, 13th-14th July 2002, Balado by Kinross

Considering the fact that the rain for once isn't peeing down on Balado, the T-Break tent is remarkably crowded for once. And the punters aren't there for the bar. Nope, the have come for Cholo. Clearly a few are part of the band's 'entourage' - look, unsigned bands don't get a reception like that from passers-by - but there's a fair crowd of interested bystanders giving these most local of heroes a rowdy reception. The band, described by someone as 'going for it', certainly aren't toning down their act, the usual mix of samples rather obliterated by a barage of noise and even the trade,ark theremin rather under-used. Like the Happy Mondays doing 'Pretty Vacant', but with (slightly) less swearing they're full on and quite probably mad for it as well.
Also in the wee tent, Major Major, and for all the improvements in the Tbreak tent, it seems that the sound system is maybe still lacking a bit. Certainly for bands who plan a mix of distortion and tunes the tunes seem to rather get lost. And tunes is what Major Major do best - as has been mentioned before there's a healthy dollop of Sonic Youth gone into the primordial soup from whence they came, but equally some of the pop nous of Idlewild (their singer even appears to have subconsciously picked up Roddy Woomble's singing stance). Eventually, hearing acclimatised, their catchy pop emerges from the din.

Meanwhile, the much-maligned NME is in attendance again, but now they've come into the open. Emerging from their customary tent, it seems they're rather leaving themselves open to snipers. And the first target is Rival Schools. Presenting a target like an elephant in the 13th Note Cafe, the band greet their 'Edin-burrow' audience before launching into some decidedly uninspired 3rd division college rock. So name-checked in the emo uprising, the band should sound like a Jawbreaker/Mission of Burma cross. Instead they make a lumpen hash of phased guitars, 3rd-hand metal riffs, and moments of punk inspiration so rare that it's a wonder they have gained such a reputation.
A, frankly, are not much better. we all know them from their formulaic-but-catchy single 'Starbucks', but that's the highlight of the set by a long chalk. A singer who sounds like Roger Daltry might have been a cause for celebration in 1974, but today , well, you decide. Even their earlier material live is poor, seemingly having been reworked to fill a perceived void in the Limp Bizkit market, but without picking up on the good points. (!)
Our demeanour isn't helped by catching some of Starsailor on the big main stage screens. Depressing faceless and quite dull, we run for the sanctuary of the hospitality area where we discuss with anyone that'll listen the fact that there are no personalities in pop today and if a member of Starsailor came by we'd probably not even recognise them.


We eventually crowd into a heaving Slam Tent which as usual the place is hot, sweaty, and in danger of floating away on a cloud of dope smoke. The tiny people at the far end - could be Groove Armada, could be a Chinese midget wrestling team - are making a decent noise for sure - two percussionists, brass, and some nice vibes' (as I believe they are known).
Also with some rhythm is Joe Strummer who has dragged his crowd of young upstarts to the King Tuts tent, which is also very large (i.e. Jones and Headon could easily be in the band, from where I'm standing). The Mescaleros are a quite funky bunch - their new stuff like 'Johnny Appleseed' isn't half bad, while the clash covers chosen - 'Hammersmith Palais' for example, are ok, but a little bit hamfisted. It's the covers of covers - 'Pressure Drop', 'Message to You Rudi' - that work best, with a rootsy feel which would work nicely in a big field wit the sun shining down.

Sadly, Morcheeba get that privilege. Mysteriously 2nd on the bill, at the punk-friendly NME Stage, they are, quite simply, dull. And that's the view of not only myself but a nearby Morcheeba fan too. They're a band you want to like, even given the singer's misapprehension that they're in 'Glass-cow', and the constant "I can't hear you"s addressed to the crowd. Sadly, the pleas wash away on the breeze and the band vanish from the collective consciousness.
Idlewild are a band who, previously on the NME stage, fit the bill rather better. A massive crowd for the local poets, sorry, heroes, and there's no disappointments on other side, audience giving back as much in terms of energy as the band generate. The 'needs a second listen' album somehow falls into place in the live setting - production stripped away, the songs are exposed, and what we see we like - the tunes perhaps better even than those on '100 Broken Windows'. It's largely a greatest hits set, which fulfills its crowd-pleasing aims, but from the Buckie'n'Red Bull buzz of 'Modern Way of Letting Go' to the flagwaving-lighter-lighting of 'American English' this is a band who have peaked at just the right time - in front of their ain folk.

So who's for promotion to the second division slot vacated by Roddy and the Boys? Maybe Degrassi? They've moved from their previously Albini-esque vein and had a go at songwriting and there is (perhaps inevitably for non-Emo bandwaggoneers) a hint of Carnoustie where Chicago once stood. The tunes on the new 'Terminal Ocean' ep maybe aren't - yet - chart material, but maybe that's not the idea. Certainly it's their closing 'Air Force', an oldie instrumental, which brings out the most energetic display from band and audience.
Nerve are, like Degrassi, one of the bands who've received a bye to the Treak stage , presumably on account of their having records and a ready-made audience. It comes as strange, as there are loads of bands in Scotland doing the same retro-punk thing - Stiff Little Fingers with a touch of emo and the Buzzcocks - but to less acclaim, for example T-break non-qualifiers Barefoot. As is often the case the audience love 'em, but your reviewer doesn't. Not that Nerve they're bad, just nothing different for me, their blend of punk rock and garagey thrash being a bit, well, ordinary. And not as shouty as I'd been led to believe.
One Inch Volcano similarly aspire to noisy pop with a bit of an 'angular' (that's loud/quiet/start/stop for our older readers) slant. Driven by some fine guitar riffs their mix of noise and tunes is about right, though potential high-point 'Ants' was rather spoiled by the decision to hand the mike to the audience.
And that was that. ok, Oasis and Basement Jaxx played, but the last thing we saw was a giant Bobby Gillespie, looking like a body double for Hopkirk (Desceased), doing 'Get Your Rocks Off to a throng on the hill. However, a more promising day lay ahead and we retired to our salubrious travel lodge to prepare.


...on to day 2 >