Scotland’s biggest music festival, T in the park, has been running since 1994. However this year there will be no pilgrimage of music fans to a muddy field in the Scottish countryside. Instead a non-camping event will run on Glasgow green, as T in the park is takes its first break in over 20 years. Uncertainty around T in the Park’s future is a sad reflection on the state of youth culture, but not for the reasons the moralisers and would have us believe.
One look at the line ups from T’s first few years is enough to make self-congratulating teens who think they have discerning taste bemoan their arbitrary year of birth, as they tut along with older fellow Radiohead fans who pine for the glory days of mainstream alternative rock. Donald MacLeod of the Scottish Music Awards said that Scotland risks becoming a “cultural backwater” should we lose T in the Park. However, he chooses to single out bams, neds, chavs, wee dicks, whatever you want to call them, as the reason for this. T in the Park, like every festival, definitely has its problems with delinquency. But to act like these people showed up to just noise up our cultural Pharisees stinks of the kind of ignorance that blames immigrants for the failings of irresponsible bankers. For perhaps the country’s biggest cultural event, one has to be extremely sceptical as to how a handful of neds could possibly have brought about its potential demise.
T in the Park’s first line-ups unapologetically chased the alternative rock crowd; the sorts who today think they’d be best friends with Rob Gordon from High Fidelity (assuming you’re cool enough to get that 90s pop-culture reference). It nonetheless had the perfect balance between the mass appeal of getting pissed in a field and its slightly niche, alternative demographic. As the years went on the festival’s mass appeal grew, however, as the acts diversified the festival’s identity as a music event became blurred, suiting the drug and alcohol fuelled fun’s growing prominence. Look no further than LCD Soundsystem’s pitiful crowd in 2016 as evidence of this. As a result, appeal dwindled, and ticket sales have steadily declined over the last few years.
So a music festival sold its soul and middle aged men and hipsters are disgruntled. The universe remains in perfect balance, no? But consider Scotland’s alternative music scene and it really does feel like we as a country are scoring another own goal. In recent years we’ve seen iconic venues like the Arches shut down whilst others like Sub Club need to keep an eye over their shoulder. On the other hand we have bands like Biffy Clyro and Frightened Rabbit keeping Scottish rock music on the map. There is a huge appetite for music events in this country but an ever-growing void in what we have to offer in the form of cultural events. Talk of a Gig on the Green styled event revival hardly seems like the innovative move needed to stop Scotland from flat lining. I’d hate to have seen the Jim Morrison-Wayne’s World style apparition that inspired that idea (OMG I wish I was a 90s kid). The last thing music needs is another bygone idea dusted off and repackaged as something new. Just listen to Green Day and Blink 182’s new albums.
Every summer young people travel from Scotland to Croatia for Dimensions festival, or to Barcelona for Primavera – festivals aimed at their own specific audiences with their own distinct vibe. Would Woodstock not have been better if Frank Sinatra took to the stage? He’s a big star, right? Why not? This cultural emigration can’t be blamed on young people who, shock horror, drink and take drugs at festivals like everywhere else. Instead our scrutiny should be aimed at the people who made little effort to accommodate peoples’ tastes by trying to cram the Slam Tent, King Tuts Wah Wah Tent, and the Main Stage’s chart acts into one congested event. Is it really any wonder delinquency and anti-social behaviour became more frequent as T in the Park’s most obvious, broad appeal became drinking and taking drugs?
I realise that I haven’t even mentioned T in the Park’s recent issues regarding poor security and staffing, and its relocation to Strathallan Park, however, the problems with T clearly run deeper than an oil pipe and concern more than just an osprey’s nest.
So no, Donald McLeod and everyone else who jumps to condemn young people looking for fun. This isn’t a victory for neds, it is simply Scotland’s loss. Had DF concerts stopped shooting themselves in foot to allow themselves to hear what people actually wanted then perhaps Scotland’s music scene would not be so scandalously impoverished.