I experienced my first music festival at the age of eighteen in a certain Kinross field. It was a weekend lived through beer goggles, and one I look back on through rose-tinted ones. The ticket was the first ‘real’ thing I’d paid for with my own money; my mum had loaned me the initial cost, and I paid her back on a monthly basis out of my meagre part-time wages. I had never held any interest in going on a post-high school beach holiday, but a festival? Count me in.
The first time I went was also the last time it was held at its long-term home, Balado Airfield. I remember how big the site felt – especially when walking through the mud, drunk, in the dark, back to the tent we called home. I grew up in Liverpool – a motorway’s distance away from where most gigs were held – and while I loved live music, I’d not been to as many gigs until T as I would have like to have done. The idea of going somewhere with three days of simultaneous mini-concerts was right up my street. While I haven’t seen the people I was there with for years, the memories – related to the music and otherwise – remain tucked away for nostalgic safekeeping.
I made it to the first year at Strathallan Castle too, albeit only for one day. Of course, any transition needs a teething period, so I don’t want to heavily judge the issues we had there (given the hiatus, though, it’s possible they couldn’t be fixed). We spent about as long as the journey from Glasgow backed up on tiny country roads; I took the time to drink all the alcohol in the car, and fell asleep at the main stage by eight o’clock. Strathallan was different, yes, but it had a lot to live up to for me, its only comparison being my first ever festival and taste of teenage freedom.
Fast-forward two years, and I’m at Glasgow Green. T in the Park isn’t dead – not yet – and I’m here at a newly billed festival: TRNSMT. The line-up is suspiciously familiar to my years at T in the Park, with two of the three headliners having topped T’s bill within the last three years. Some aspects of the latter also remain – the King Tut’s Tent has become a stage, yet continues to champion up and coming music – but the stages overall are fewer. Where’s the Slam Tent? That’s gone too, for better or for worse.
It’s not all bad, though. Day-only festivals are becoming increasingly popular across the UK – Parklife and Wireless are arguably the most well known, and Glasgow Green is a proven venue, having hosted Big Weekend a few years back – and for good reason. Perhaps the biggest pull for non-traditional festival audiences will be the fact you can go back to your own bed at the end of it. Twin Atlantic remarked during their set that they record and rehearse but 300 metres from Glasgow Green, and names like Biffy Clyro need no introduction to any Glaswegian audience. Save for the dance music, the line-up could have been any year at T in the Park, but with less risk for the organizing team. T in the Park’s website still says the intention is to take ‘a year out’, however, with TRNSMT booked in for the same weekend in 2018, we’ll have to wait and see how long a year really is.
TRNSMT attracted the full breadth of festival audiences, from people covered in glitter there to have fun, to the die-hard fans of the headliner who’ve seen them forty six times before. There’s still the friendly atmosphere you’d get at T in the Park: I made friends at both festivals who I only know by first name and shared interest in whatever band was playing. With less arrests made than previous camping years and at least one less stolen ATM, it’s a good way back into the collective good books too.
What does it mean for the Scottish music scene? T will remain in the history books whether it returns or not. It was the first festival to be held in Scotland, and, at its peak, was the fifth biggest in the world. In memory, at least, it’s not going anywhere. Hopefully, its absence could pave way for smaller festivals already part of the festival calendar, such as Electric Fields, to occupy a greater space on the scene. Geoff Ellis, who has organised T in the Park since its conception, has stated that TRNSMT is merely ‘an addition to the calendar’ and that ‘one doesn’t need to replace the other’, in which case it’ll be interesting to see how line-ups compare should TRNSMT and T in the Park run in the same year.
So, with fond memories of T in the Park: Camping Edition, I’ll give TRNSMT a thumbs up. There’s something sentimental writing about T in the Park with it being a festival so many of us will associate with our youth, but, if we take off our rose-tinted glasses, we’ll see a new festival for a ‘grown up’ crowd that has every reason to be a positive instalment to the music scene.