So the weekend was spent at Balado. Pretty much over the lack of sleep and the snottery cold I brought back with me. Almost. Well, at my age what can you expect? Very glad I didn’t do the camping – it was only an hour or so’s drive away, and I had a new car to enjoy, so driving was definitely the better option – and very grateful to have the perks of the staff wristband (access to proper hot meals, hospitality, real toilets, licence to step out of the company of bams for a bit). Let’s face it, I’m not cut out for the full-on festival experience. And that’s not my age, it’s just who I am. I like a bed, a bath, a breakfast, and a little solitude from time to time.
I’m not making it sound like I enjoyed it much, am I? Seriously, nothing could be further from the truth. Hey, Markee de Saw and Bert Finkle got to perform to a full tent at Scotland’s biggest music festival! Our actual performance opportunities were limited by illness, but we got to do it and I’m proud of that. And in the company of a selection of very, very fine performers. Have to say I thought Rhymes With Purple did a supreme job of organizing and programming the Cabaret Tent, from the lunchtime children’s cabarets all the way up to the post-gig late night cabaret slot and I enjoyed virtually everything that went on that stage. Some highlights:
- Scunner at the Bumbletree ‘Children’s’ Cabaret getting a bunch of rather mature-looking (and possibly drunk) five-to-ten-year-olds joining in with songs about animals and pirates.
- The Creative Martyrs entrancing a dazed selection of punters during the afternoon slots; some of said punters coming back the next day and volunteering to be put on The List.
- Frank’s Wild Band stunning a crowd with the very spirit of Waits. Their renditions of Cemetery Polka and Ol’ 55 were amazing. If you went to see Pulp instead, you really missed yourself.
- Lucille’s rendition of Le Jazz Hot, complete with dance troupe, Hustle – both sultry and sparkling and a proper show stopper, which was a difficulty on account of it being the opening number of the night. Might well have been the best performance I’ve seen from her. Loved it.
- And, of course, the pop-comic majesty of Frisky And Mannish. They never disappoint, and the new material (new to me anyway) is absolutely spot on – my favourite was the Bee Gees singing something by (I think) Rhianna (hey, my contemporary pop knowledge is shit, I don’t deny it). They just nailed those vocals. And it was wonderful looking round the tent to see the genuine delight on the faces of F&M virgins.
- Biggest highlight, though, was the company of our peers. The Scottish cabaret scene feels like it’s becoming a unified force, or maybe a family, and it’s nice to feel a part of that.
But hey, I was also at a music festival, and you know me and my live music. In truth I didn’t get out to see as many bands as I really should have. On the first couple of days especially I missed a few that I was looking forward to seeing (Kassidy, Phantom Band, Wooden Box With A Fistful Of Fivers) in favour of watching what was on at the Cabaret Tent, but these are the choices you make at festivals. Did make a point of catching some of the bigger names that I normally wouldn’t get to see – Sir Tom Jones, was every bit as you’d expect, and Beyonce was entertaining in a hugely slick and professional way. It wasn’t rock ‘n’ roll, but I kinda liked it. On the Sunday though I decided to make the most of the day and, with a nice hot cup of tea and a bag of doughnuts, I did a bit of (by that point, very muddy) stage-hopping. Favourite acts of the day:
- Rachel Sermanni – caught a little of her at Stag & Dagger, and really liked her voice and her approach to melodies. Not sure if I liked her better with a full band or just on her own with acoustic guitar, but she’s well worth checking out.
- Metronomy – Wow! This was one of those wander-into-a-tent-when-a-band-is-just-about-to-take-the-stage-moments. Had no idea who they were while they were playing (although I eventually worked it out by a process of elimination), but loved their spiky, nerdy, funky music. Came across like a 2010’s approach to eighties electro-pop, with some classic synth sounds and some well-sharp bass guitar (almost Mark King-esque, except picked not slapped). And I liked their light bulbs.
- The Eels – And this was one of those classic not-heard-that-much-of-their-stuff-recently-but-I-know-what-to-expect experiences. I was expecting introspective indie, possibly with a side of weirdness. I got that (several minutes of red washed stage, motionless musicians and sustained and piercing feedback works well in that regard) – but I also got a proper rocking band that brought their A-show to a crowd that had chosen them over the Foo Fighters. Coming across like the cast of a TV show about a partnership of LA hillbilly lawyers (suits, sunglass, serious beards), with two waiters (from the retro restaurant where much the dialogue takes place) on horns (in waiter outfits, but with sunglasses and serious beards), the band both confounded my expectations and kept me absolutely hooked throughout their show. I even loved the funked up, almost Blues Brothers, party band ending. Am now, engaged in a voyage of Eel-filled discovery.
So, yeah. T in the Park. It worked out to be a grand experience. Thanks, RWP, for inviting me.
**Picture credit: Gustav Jakob Martyr