After months of growing anticipation, it’s finally here – TRNSMT, the first festival on Glasgow Green, with a line-up packed with some of the biggest names in the music industry as well as several of Glasgow’s finest new bands.
With everyone at the east entrance gaining entry about twenty-five minutes late, I only just made it to the main stage to catch the second half of JP Cooper‘s set. But even that was enough to see that he and his five-piece band delivered a set of impassioned soul-pop, with the live setting and stripped back band doing far more justice to his impressive vocals than the few recordings he has released so far. If his upcoming debut (released 22nd September) follows this style, then it may well be worth a look.
After having a bite to eat and recovering from seeing the astronomical prices for all food and drink within the festival (£6 for a single, really?), I headed to King Tut’s Stage, to see The Vegan Leather. After being hooked since their extraordinarily good performance at the tail end of last year’s Tenement Trail, I had high hopes, and wasn’t disappointed. Dressed in suitably snazzy attire and showing off several of their latest tracks, the band once again proved why they are one of the best up and coming bands in Scotland right now.
Back to the main stage, where Rag ‘N’ Bone Man was beginning his set. One of the highlights of the day, he performed a blistering set of blues soul, featuring considerable aggression and passion. All five members of his backing band were given several opportunities in the spotlight which gave the whole ensemble a sense of kinship. After complaining about the eclectic production of his otherwise great debut ‘Human’, I was delighted to hear each of these songs with cohesive arrangements, as it really showed off how good the songs actually are. The highlight was a version of ‘Grace’ featuring just vocals and piano accompaniment – the by now huge crowd was spellbound.
During the stage changes after Rag ‘N’ Bone Man was done, many of us returned to King Tut’s Stage to see Saint Motel. I was actually surprised how many of their songs I was familiar with without really knowing the band by name before now. Coming all the way from California, they put on a good show, but I was slightly disappointed to discover they were employing a backing track. Part of the thrill of seeing a band live for me is seeing how they recreate studio sounds on stage, and using a prerecorded track is slightly lazy, and really robs the performance of any of the spontaneity that you can normally expect at a live gig.
Returning to the main stage to catch the latter half of London Grammar, I was pleased to see that despite the band’s lack of singalong bangers, the crowd were suitably attentive and participative. Hannah Reid’s beautiful vocals filled Glasgow Green and helped prevent the stage dwarfing the three-piece band.
Next were Glasgow’s own veterans Belle and Sebastian, who came on stage as the sun started to come out, and delivered a rousing set in their own inimitable style. Featuring dozens of instrument swaps, it was a tour de force for the band which started in this very city, capped off with a wonderful rendition of ‘The Boy With The Arab Strap’ featuring dozens of festival-goers pulled up to the stage by bandleader Stuart Murdoch, before the band made a triumphant exit.
By now, everyone in the pit was desperately clinging onto their space as the palpable anticipation for headliners Radiohead came to a climax. And then, just as the sun was setting, they came on stage and the crowd erupted. Delivering a marathon two-and-a-half-hour set (featuring two encores), they once again cemented their place as some of the greatest performers in the industry right now.
Photo credit: Jack Dunsmuir
The entire show was a sensory attack, with pulsing drums, fragmented vocals and distorted images up on the big screens. Ever a band with wildly eclectic styles, they seemed able to turn their hand to any particular style, with guitarist Jonny Greenwood being particularly impressive as he winded about the stage, swapping from guitar to piano to xylophone to drums. An electrifying version of ‘Everything In Its Right Place’ brought the energy to a peak which was then sustained until the end of the first set before they brought the speed right down for the first encore which started with a subtle but equally intense performance of ‘Daydreaming’. With the stage awash with grey light, the crowd was hushed in awe as the band moved into a spine-tingling version of ‘No Surprises’, the high point of the set for me. This slower section of the set was wonderful, like the hangover after the frenetic attack of the earlier set. What followed was a run of several fan favourites, before ending on a high note with an excellent ‘Karma Police’.
And with that, the wonderful first day of TRNSMT was brought to a close, and we all made our way home by the light of the moon, whilst all singing ‘Karma Police’ together.