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The return of festivals: TRNSMT 2021 review

Neil Renton attended Glasgow's TRNSMT on Saturday 11 September with the hope of being won over by a festival he'd fallen out with.


I had fallen out with TRNSMT. I can’t remember why but it had something to do with the last time I went. It just wasn’t T In The Park. Instead, it seemed to resemble an end of term prom full of excitable teens running about to music I hadn’t heard before.

I had become a boring old fart. We all deserve a second chance. And after the pandemic I was dying to go to a gig I decided to give it another go. It didn’t take long for it to hit me.

It’s the muffled sound of music somewhere in the distance that draws you in. There are others as well walking silently towards the source of the noise. Then you’re faced with a seemingly endless route made of crash barriers and stewards and then you’re inside.

Suddenly all was forgiven. I could see real-life bands. On proper stages. Watched by actual humans. And whoever was in charge of the playlist in between sets was an optimist by playing ‘No Rain’ by Blind Melon.

There was a bit of a good atmosphere and a decent number of families in attendance. Some were getting a wee bit carried away but we’ve all been there. There were also artists.

Life’s been put on hold due to the pandemic. Being back at concerts and festivals is a strange experience for punters, but it must be weird for bands. They’ve built careers where a fair element of that is based on live performances they can’t do. And for many just starting it must be challenging to make up for lost time with material that they’ve never had a chance to show off.

I’m a really big fan of Sea Girls and their debut album Open Up Your Head. I listened to it constantly on its release. As I was coming off anti-depressants at the time my mindset was different as it is now. I connected with them and their songs that reminded me a lot of The Killers.

With the likes of ‘Ready For More’ and ‘Violet’, they’re primed for festival slots. Here’s hoping they’ll feature higher up the bill next time.

Over at the King Tuts stage, Retro Video Club turned up announcing they were a last-minute addition and immediate causes fans to run to see them as they belted out ‘Youth.’

I’d never heard of Picture This but in all fairness, I very much doubt they’d heard of me. I ventured down the front and was impressed with their energy and the main singer's tattooed torso.

In 1967, Jimi Hendrix set fire to his guitar while he performed. In 2021 KSI got someone on stage to do push-ups.

I’m not sure who KSI is other than he’s a boxing YouTuber whose debut album made it to number one. Watching him was one of those moments where you feel massively out of touch with what the youth of today are into. Fair play to him for thriving off the enthusiastic crowd who lapped it up.

I feel a bit sorry for Twin Atlantic. They could easily be a really big band. They’ve got the anthems to propel them to that level. Think of ‘Brothers & Sisters’ and ‘Heart and Soul’ but it’s just not happened as much as it should have. Performances like the one they gave at TRNSMT will help their chances.

Keane seemed a bit stifled. They’ve not got those anthems to get a festival crowd going and if they do then they kept them hidden. I did overhear someone ask why they were doing a cover of the Lily Allen tune 'Somewhere Only We Go'. Ouch.

It won’t be a live music event in Scotland without Primal Scream turning up and to be honest, we should all be thankful for that. They taught indie boys how to dance when they released Screamadelica and yay when we got the hang of what to do they went back to rock n roll. They can’t miss this opportunity to get the crowd pumped for the main event.

I intended to bail before Liam Gallagher’s headline slot. I was into Oasis from day one and I’d seen enough footage of his solo stuff to know what to expect.

As soon as he swaggered on stage wearing a parka with more pockets than Batman’s utility belt I was transfixed. And I wasn’t the only one.

While his material sounds good, it’s the Oasis classics that make you realise how good the band were. ‘Supersonic’, ‘Live Forever’ and ‘Aquience’ help deliver one of those moments you were glad to be at.

There are things TRNSMT could work on. They could work with authorises to have stronger transport links to and from the festival and it’s a bit of a nightmare trying to find your way back after it. The drinks are expensive, the toilets leave a nasty taste in the back of your mouth and there’s still an abundance of Bams and Radges.

But I’m the words of a certain Manc hero, it’s good to be back. It’s good to be back.

See you next year.


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