As the 21st T in the park drew to a close in July and said a final farewell to Balado, I was watching Calvin Harris from the comfort of my sofa and thinking about previous years.
At the Sunday Mail I was part of a team that covered T in the Park from 2001 to 2011. It’s Scotland’s biggest music festival and it was treated with respect. Our Editor wanted every band on every stage covered, no mean feat, especially as over the years T in the Park has grown exponentially.
The team was headed up by Sunday Mail Showbiz Editor Billy Sloan and one year the T in the Park coverage got off to a sticky start. I believe it was 2007. There had been huge traffic problems and when Billy and Sunday Mail Showbiz Writer Steve Hendry eventually arrived at Balado, some hours late, the ground was muddy, their car got stuck and they were going nowhere. Then in true Laurel & Hardy fashion, they got out to push, the wheels started spinning and they were covered from head to toe in dirt … And that was just the start of the weekend …
The press tent was often a bit of a tight squeeze as people sat close together and photographers always brought lots of gear. Then there was the time an unknown drunk person wandered into the tent and randomly swung a punch at someone, who was easily able to dodge the drunken fist before the staggering man ambled off elsewhere.
Armed with pieces of paper letting you know the running order of every stage, it was then time to get out on site and it was often the last time you saw your colleagues until the end of the day.
T in the Park has brought a huge amount of bands and musicians to Balado and I’ve seen some truly memorable performances over the years.
There’s been glamor, Gwen Stefani of No Doubt showed off an amazing washboard stomach in 2002, there’s been Fergie of Black Eyed Peas, while Lady Gaga and Kerry Perry fought to be the Queen of T 2009, and festival favourite Alison Goldfrapp always captivates. Lively and vibrant on stage were the Scissor Sisters in 2004 and 2007, with both Ana Matronic and Jake Shears equally bedazzling.
When the sun descends on a festival stretching out its long hazy afterglow, it becomes a magical moment. People at this point are usually merry and carefree. They haven’t quite tipped the scales into overindulgence, with its messy aftereffects. It’s also when most of the headline acts start appearing giving them a chance to shine.
And there’s been some amazing headliners at T in the Park. 2003 belonged to REM and The Flaming Lips. Dave Grohl’s Foo Fighters were on top form in 2005, while you knew The Killers, with their slot some way down the bill on the main stage, would be back to headline. (They headlined in 2007). They’ve got the tunes, as crowd-pleaser All Those Things That I Have Done, is perfect singalong festival fodder and they’ve got Las Vegas style glamor, all padded shoulders and feathers, sported by front man Brandon Flowers.
Arcade Fire were third from the top on the main stage in 2007, and they rocked the crowd, although they seemed a bit bemused by the Scottish audience, and perhaps that’s why they never came back?
Apart from the headliners, there’s been lots of other stand outs. Maxi Jazz of Faithless getting the whole crowd jumping finger in the air to their massive anthem We Come One. Elbow and Doves always delight and unite with their blokeish but sensitive rock. There’s been Tim Booth’s James and the good-natured vibe of hit Sit Down, The Proclaimers will always make sure everyone is up for a party and Paolo Nutini’s mix of laid back style and feel good romp is always popular.
The feisty crowds that appear for Primal Scream, Kasabian and Oasis are always a challenge when you’re standing with a notebook and pen. You’re bumped around, dodging pints and fielding statements like “who are you writing for?” and “gonna write about me”.
Snow Patrol headlining the King Tut’s tent 2004 just before single Run was about to propel them into super stardom and change their lives, was a special moment. The reception they got just about brought the tent down.
Then fast forward to 2009, and on the main stage Snow Patrol were just behind headliners Blur – who were playing a “will they / won’t they appear?” game – as guitarist Graham Coxon was hospitalized with suspected food poisoning. They made it eventually.
Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro have played at T in the Park more times than any other band. In 2014 they made their 10th appearance. They were signed as young band in 1999 after their first outing at T which was on the T Break Stage.
T in the Park is also a great place to discover new bands to love. A band that captured me at T was Sons & Daughters with a brilliant set that I raved about for ages afterwards.
And it’s good to see how bands progress through the years, like Snow Patrol, mentioned already, and also Calvin Harris. He was second to open the main stage in 2009 with an understated set – and look at his headline act this year. It had an announcement from Hollywood actor Will Smith and more lights than Sports Direct supremo Mike Ashley’s house at Christmas.
In the earlier days of reporting T in the Park you phoned your copy into the Glasgow office to a team of dedicated copy-takers. Later on the copy-takers in Glasgow were no more and you phoned your copy to a central team in England. There were quite a few challenges around this process. You had to find a quiet spot away from the stage, music, and throng of people, and a decent phone signal. If you found a quiet spot, you suddenly became like Houdini, i.e. invisible, as drunk people were often also looking for a quiet spot … to pee. Then when you eventually got through to a copy-taker, read your carefully thought out words, you left the phone call wondering if your words would appear as you had said them. It made for a nervous pick up of the newspaper the following morning as you wondered if any musicians had suddenly joined other bands without them knowing it.
And there were deadlines, which meant a rush during the headliners to get all copy over as the editors and sub-editors were sitting waiting patiently / impatiently for words and photos to arrive.
At the end of the night everyone would get together again in the press tent, with sore feet and legs from standing or running about all day. We might have exchanged a few terse words during the day, it’s expected, but we still had a celebratory hug at the end.
T in the Park Balado is no-more … it will be interesting to see what next year’s T looks like in its new home.
For more information about T in the Park 2015: T in the Park website
Tickets on sale now for 10th – 12th July 2015