2015 marks the first year that the ancient Strathallan Castle has played host to Scotland’s finest festival, and by Saturday arguments could certainly be put forward for it staying there for years to come. Relatively compact in size, the ground allowed movement between venues, rides and the frankly astonishing amount of food stalls with ease; plenty of space meant there was no problem in enjoying the music of the main stage while avoiding your chips, fajita or even tofu burger without being jostled. From midday though, after the downpours of rain began and the mud started to rise, you might have hesitated at sitting to eat them.
While British weather can’t always be relied on, Circa Waves seemed determined to bring the summer sun to Strathallan. Conjuring images of Californian road trips despite their Liverpudlian roots, the band performed indie favourites as well as chart hit ‘T-Shirt Weather’ that got the energetic crowd moving. Scottish crowds are unlike any other; frontman Kieran Shudall couldn’t hold back laugher as they started chanting “Circa, Circa, Circa fuckin’ Waves!”.
For the lunchtime crowd, Seasick Steve put on a charming show with his energetic, stomping blues contrasted against personal stories. He spoke honestly about rough times in his youth and his joy at being able to do what he loves for a living, and he certainly won the heart of anyone with a Scottish accent. “You’ve really got something going there with the talking thing,” he said.
Marina & The Diamonds put on a real show, with Marina centre stage wearing a purple metallic catsuit and
shining headband emblazoned with the word ‘Froot’ against a setting of illuminated fruit sculptures and a galaxy background. She performed a diversity of songs including her most successful hits ‘Primadonna Girl’ and ‘Bubblegum Bitch’ and new songs from her recently released Froot. However, the song which clearly resonated most with the audience appeared to be ‘I Am Not A Robot’, from her debut 2010 album The Family Jewels. With an acoustic beginning, Marina’s deep and powerful vocals showed themselves off, rising until soon the whole tent was singing united.
It can be incredibly rewarding when an artist is clearly enjoying performing as much as you’re enjoying listening, which was certainly the case for Jessie J. Having had to cancel tour dates throughout the year due to illness it was wonderful to see her there, energetically running around the stage and blatantly ignoring the plush throne set up for her. She talked and laughed with the crowd, especially during lighthearted songs such as ‘Do It Like A Dude’ which saw her donning a backwards cap in addition to her T in the Park shirt, and simply just looked like she was having a great time.
The atmosphere she helped created carried through to George Ezra‘s subsequent set, which saw the main stage bedecked in homey decorations including round persian rugs and stacks of old trunks, on which the singer-songwriter balanced a mug of tea he sipped throughout the performance. Ezra shared stories of how he came to write the songs – Barcelona was written in the city itself, as he Interrailed around Europe – and invited the massive crowd that had accumulated to sing together, though not quite as smoothly as the soulful vocals for which he is renowned. ‘Budapest’ was a joy, not least because he played it on the BBC Introducing stage at T the year before; also particularly fun was his cover of Macy Gray’s ‘I Try’.
A little later, after the rain had started in earnest and while The Vaccines jammed on the BBC Radio 1 stage opening their energetic set with new hit ‘Handsome’, The Script played the main stage to a crowd of almost equal size. Danny O’Donoghue was a commanding stage presence, and as the set drew to a close was visibly moved by the atmosphere of the crowd. Imploring everyone to turn on their phone torches and hold them high – goodbye to the lighters of yesteryear – he asked everyone in the crowd to remember our own power and future possibilities, as well as the stories that had led us to be there that day. Closing the set with ‘Hall of Fame’ and an explosion of firewords and glitter cannons, The Script brought a huge amount of genuine sentiment to the stage in a uniting moment that won’t soon be forgotten.
In what was widely considered to be the best performance of the night, The Proclaimers packed out the King Tut
tent, quite literally; despite its cavernous depths, programable signs had to be wheeled outside explaining that the tent and surrounding area just could not take any more people. The most famous Scottish band in the world on their hometurf, they absolutely commanded the crowd. There was not a single person in that audience who didn’t know the lyrics to each and every song played, nor did anyone miss out on the chance to go absolutely mad as the set of course concluded with ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’. The Proclaimers are more than a one-trick pony though – to which a legacy of 10 studio albums will attest – and should never be judged as such, and an audience as deeply moved as the one which watched them at T in the Park is simply a reflection of the huge influence they hold, and the respect held for them in turn. There wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd during ‘Sunshine on Leith’.
T in the Park’s first year at Strathallan has not been entirely free of controversy, but not a person there could have doubted that the festival spirit was alive and well. With something for everyone, and almost every set providing the perfect blend of heartfelt emotion and unignorable fun, even a single day of the weekend delivered an excellent – if muddy – time.