I’m not going to be present this weekend at T In The Park. This will be only the second time in 23 years that I have not made it along for at least one day of the crazy weekend of music and hedonism. I’ll miss it.
In the beginning – almost.
My relationship with T started in 1995. It was the second year that the lager sponsored music festival was held and the second year it was located at Strathclyde Country park. The decision to go was made the weekend before and a weekend camping ticket was purchased. I spent the rest of that week planning my trip, 23 miles along the M8. My tent, previously bought for overnight hill walking expeditions, was sitting in the hall from the Monday night, along with my sleeping bag. What else did I need? Cooking facilities? (Added on Tuesday) A change of clothes? (Added on Wednesday) Toilet roll? (Added on Thursday) And finally a single case of the sponsor’s lager. Every time I passed the steadily growing pile of outdoor adventure equipment and other essentials, I got a quiet rush of anticipation. I had no idea what I was going to but I knew it would be an experience. I had been to plenty of gigs prior to this, but other than seeing Simple Minds at Ibrox in 1986, I had not been to an outdoor gig.
That week, as I was talking about my plans with a friend at work who lived in Edinburgh, I discovered that he was meeting up with his mate Doug, a photographer from London who he had met via some Aussie friends he knew from Ministry of Sound nights In Edinburgh and they were going to T In The Park. I offered them a lift through in my car. Sounded fair enough to me. Only thing was that I had also offered a lift to Russy and Nik, two friends from Armadale. So it came about that I got up early on Saturday morning and loaded my red, 1.6 deisel Fiesta up with my weekend’s necessities as listed above plus a half dozen rolls on cold meat. Russ and Nik arrived carrying another tent and a quilt as well as a case of lager. Anyone who knows Nik, knows she doesn’t travel light, but on this occassion she must have as I don’t remember any excessive baggage. We set off for Bathgate to pick up Iain and Doug off the 8:15 train from Edinburgh. I remember the look of concern on Iain’s face as he stepped from the train and saw me standing next to our already full looking transport. Taking his tent and sleeping bags from him, I opened the hatchback and packed them into the car before opening the passenger door and letting Russ out before sliding the passenger seat forward and watching as our new friends for the weekend poured themselves into the back seat beside Nik.
Introductions were done on the move as we were keen to be on our way. “Nik, Russ meet Iain and Doug” Job Done.
The weather was great as we set off and the road was quiet, about 45mins later we had arrived at Strathclyde Country Park, paid our £6 to park all weekend and had joined the short, single file queue to get into the campsite.
The camping was on a thin strip of grass situated between the loch and the River Clyde. It held no more than 2500 campers and was simply somewhere to pitch a tent. We did as was required and sat down in the sun to enjoy a beer or 2. It felt good. It felt like we were free to do what we wanted to do. It felt like a party…..ooops. Might have just got caught up in the moment there. But for me, this is the point, from that moment when we had made our own way to the festival, pitched our tent and had cracked open our first beer, we had entered another world. This was Scotland’s own festival. This was our right of passage. This was our festival.
Music for everyone and everyone for the music.
When the time came for the music to start, we made our way over The Clyde across the bridge, under the motorway via the underpass walkway and onto the red blaze before entering the arena. The rest is a blur. We danced to music in the King Tut’s Tent, basked in the sun at the Main Stage and wandered around the site watching strange stilt walking creatures that looked like Escher creations. The line up was incidental to us, but included, Skunk Anansie, Dodgy, Black Grape, The Prodigy, Cast, Ash, Supergrass and Paul Weller amongst others. At the end of the night, we paraded back under the motorway and over the river before heading back to our tents. My first day at a festival had come to an end.
We sat up all night talking, drinking and generally enjoying the freedom to do as we saw fit. There were some drink fueled words said and the atmosphere had an edge to it for a short while, but we dealt with it. As the sun began to rise, I made my way to my tent for a couple of hours of sleep and when I awoke the party started all over again, helped by the leftover carryout that the boys from Ireland had handed over as they packed up their tent. The night’s revelry had been too much for them and they had decided to go home early.
On the Sunday, we were joined by Lorna, my fiance at the time and my wife now, along with a crowd made up of my sister Lorraine, my young brother Rab and some of his friends who had come through in a mini bus. They had made their way into the campsite at the far end of the park and found me with my dark blue t-shirt wrapped around my head to shelter me from the sun. Lorna takes great pleasure in reminding me that she was laughing at the strange guy sitting, staring at the ripples on the water before she realised it was me. Like some cut scene from Apocalypse Now, I had gone native.
Sunday passed much the same as Saturday in the arena, but I still remember it was a another day of lager fueled music and dance. One specific memory is that my brother lost his trainer in the moshpit atmosphere of Kylie Minogue. I also remember seeing Dreadzone, Underworld and some of The Verve in King Tut’s Tent, whilst Shed 7, The Charlatans, Tricky and The Beautiful South provided the soundtrack outside before finishing my first big T weekend blissfully singing along to M People.
The Beat Goes On
Over the next 22 years, T weekends have more or less played out the same way. At times life has gotten in the way but I have always enjoyed my TITP weekends. Hopefully I’ll be back, but for those going this weekend remember to kick back and enjoy the company, the atmosphere and when the sun gets too much for you, a t-shirt makes a great sun hat.
PS A few years ago I wrote a couple of poems about my time at T. Here’s one of them
It’s been a long time
20 years to be exact
Since they set up the stages
On the blaze at Strathy Park
With the camping located
Right next to the Loch
A few thousand sun-crazed campers
Across a bridge did walk
And into the arena
With a whoop and a holler
Where Oasis and Blur
They did eagerly discover
So here we are at the 21st T In The Park
Early Friday morning we’ll be up with the larks
And after queuing as long as it takes to get in
We will pass through gate where they’ll check all our things
For glass, drugs and weapons
All illegal of course
We all feel put upon
But it’s the job of the force
And dragging the necessities
For a truly wild weekend
And the odd drunken friend
We’ll pitch our accommodation
In a circle of tents
Spark open a can
We are here ladies and gents
There will be singing and dancing
Laughter and fun
We’ll sit back in our camping chairs
And bask in the sun
Then down to the arena
To see who? That’s your choice
The line up’s all here
Make the most of it girls and boys
And at the end of the weekend
With a tear in your eye
When your spent, dry and sun burned
Think of the years we’ve seen fly
Think of all of the bands
The friends that we’ve made
The shivering wet nights
The sun drenched days seeking shade
Think of all of the laughter
And tears born from joy
Of the experiences, so many
Shaping us from young girls and boys
And when we leave the arena
On Monday for most
Realise TITP is more than a memory
Much more than a ghost
It gets into your bloodstream
Soaks into your being
Becomes part of your makeup
It’s those changes you’re feeling
Remember that T
Is not just about bands
It’s about mucking in, kicking back
And as one, raising hands
High into the air
A sky full of sounds
Helping someone up
When they’ve gone down
And also remember that
At the end of the day
It’s not just TITP
That’s shaped US in this way
Each of us in turn
Have made this festival great
We’ve built it’s reputation
As we’ve walked through the gate
The reputation that T
Means something to all
For being a full scale party
And a fancy dress ball
This may be the last time
We grace this airfield
So enjoy the emotions
Capture everything you feel
For the 21st time
Let’s show everyone watching
We don’t need Metallica
To get the place fucking rocking.
And here’s the other one.
20 questions! 1 answer!
Did you awake on Friday morning, the excitement taking hold,
sneaking quietly through the house, not to wake your five year old?
Did you then travel Northwards, with more than friends in tow,
a fragmented cavalcade, on your way to Balado?
Did you pitch your tent in Blue 2, or somewhere you well know,
at last you were back home again, in that field where we all go?
Did you get that familiar feeling, one that makes you want to burst,
like although you’re here for the 18th time, it still feels like the first?
Did you imbibe the golden liquid, of the favourite apple taste,
forgetting the troubles of the world, with nothing but time to waste?
Did that time just fly on by, as the searing sun shone down,
and before you knew it, find yourself amongst a singing, dancing crowd?
Did you then visit every stage, with just a bit too much haste,
before awakening in Healthy T, a cool and fulfilling place?
Did you finish the night watching Pixies, then wander back through Sunset Strip,
talk to special mates right through the night, until the sky was brightly lit?
Did you climb into your private tent, and sleep for a few hours,
before getting up and starting again, with a couple of Jelly Sourz?
Did you spend too much time in the campsite, missing your 2nd promised band,
before heading down in the pouring rain, to meet your sister, her son and her man?
Did you dance to Maximo and The Charlatans, and finishwith a rave so great,
as Calvin made everyone’s heart swell, before bowing out with Will Smith, his mate?
Did you wander back, in the pouring rain, past security asking for smiles,
and enter your waterproof cave again, still sporting T-in-the-Park style?
Did you awake on Sunday morning, full to the brim with the FEAR,
frightened you’re getting too old for this, bringing forth a fear filled tear?
Did you recover and saunter down, to the arena for one last time,
with friends and family by your side, anticipating a day so fine?
Did you and your brother have a date with a girl and her mate beside the plastic skull
to be taken to the side of stage, to watch the Kaiser Chiefs thrill?
Did you take time to savour the sight, of tens of thousands of hands,
swaying back and forward to the sound of one of T’s favourite bands?
Did you spend the next couple of hours, Soaking up the atmosphere,
Realising you’ll miss this place, But thankfull for all 18 years.
Did you sing along with Jake and Paul, Party with the Mon-keys,
Finish the night in high spirits, With the best crowd you’ll ever see?
Did you watch as the piper played one more time, a nod to the future with pride,
then listen to Geoff Ellis thank everyone, struggling with his emotions to hide?
Did you smile, cry, hug and finally stand, with the weekend echoing in your ears,
wishing you could make this final moment, last another 20 years?