Saturday, July 10, 2004

A NICE SIT DOWN AND A CUP OF T: A while back, the fate of the Festivals beyond Glastonbuury was pretty grim in terms of a starring role on TV: the best they could hope for was a slot six months down the line, tucked away in the gap between Nightscreen and the late-night rerun of Trisha in ITV Goes To The Festivals. This year, however, T in The Park has hit the big time, commandeering virtually all of BBC Three for the weekend, and scoring the new Queen of our hearts, Gill Mills, to anchor the festivalfest. And, without the sheer band cram of Glastonbury, the coverage seems to be a lot less rushed and desperate to please than the TV pumped out of Somerset a couple of weeks ago. That could also be because this is probably the festival that's most attuned to music fans, rather than braying public school kids desperate to see how far out into the countryside they can go and still get reception for their 3 network videophone, so there's less distractions in the form of jugglers, Kate Moss and people rolling about in the mud to confuse the production team.

So, who have we had so far? Starsailor kicked it off for the telly crowd. The coming of radio to variety theatres killed many acts stone dead, you know; they simply didn't realise that their jokes would sound dated the moment they used them on air. Material which once would have stood a commedian in good stead for an entire eighteen month tour of the nation was burned through in the course of a single five minute slot on the Home Service; to their surprise, jokes which they expected to last them for years were rendered denatured simply because they'd done them once on air. Something for Starsailor to ponder before they try pulling the U2 bit in Silence Is Easy again. (We're not entirely convinced, either, its in any young, slightly pompy band's interests to point out they're in danger of turning into Bono in a few years time, anyway).

Charlotte from Ash is wearing a spangly, sparkly top - it's a step away from saying "If the solo stuff takes off, I'm off to do a headline tour of places not full of mud and beer fumes, boys"; Tim Wheeler's hips are more snakey than ever; Ash have rushed straight from the airport to the stage, and they sound so wonderful you know Mark Thompson will probably forgive them for swearing on BBC Three (and BBC Two Scotland) at tea-time. They do Kung-Fu, as well, which is a treat. It's interesting to compare Ash with Supergrass, both kicking off their careers at roughly the same time, both being marked out for playing truant from school to make their debuts; both never quite cracking it onto the Radiohead/Oasis scale of success; both weathering well. And yet, while Supergrass are still pushing the bright young thing angle, looking more and more like the cast of Please, Sir crammed behind school desks and into blazers long after they should be hitting mid-life crises and buying Honda Civics, Ash have managed to effortlessly grow old without actually growing-up: they don't have the desperation to look young of a CBBC presenter in their fourth season, but they haven't turned into a dull Coldplay musowank. Britney Spears might want to ask them how they managed that.

Much as we're delighted by barefooted women playing the saxophones, we always feel like The Zutons are something that Charlie Gillet has grown in his backyard for either a joke, a bet or revenge, so we flip over to watch Natasha Kaplinsky dancing to the Grandstand theme on Sport Relief, returning to BBC Three in time to see Karen McDonald playing the main stage. (The back announcement claims it was Pink, but we know what we saw.)

At Glasto, Gill was forced to fill for ages and ages when nothing was happening on the new stage, and we loved it. Disappointingly, haituses at T are used as an excuse to dump recordings of Rodrigo Y Gabriella onto the air instead - lots of bad tempered gesturing during tuning-up prior to some pleasant but indistinguished winebar guitar work.

Tom Chaplin from Keane really has trouble standing still - he's cnstantly moving; not dancing, more a kind of jiggle like a nervous child hoping the queue for the toilet will go down quickly. Which is distracting enough to begin with; but the bouncing just draws ever more attention to the contents of his loose jeans - slappity, slappity, it goes. He's packing more snake than a tin of bouncy adders. And once you've noticed, you can't help but stare. No Rock still receives a healthy level of traffic thanks to a mention we made of Ronan Keating's penis a while back - if anyone turning up through that link happens across this section... there's a new king in town, boys.

They then cut to Gill Mills waggling her eyebrows. This show is just total filth, you know.

We yield to nobody in our admiration of the Charlatans, but it's fair to say this isn't a golden night for them. Tim Burgess - the sexiest man ever to dance on a stage - is wearing a rubbish scarf and an even more rubbish hat, which makes him look like Ranger Smith from Yogi Bear auditioning for the role of Grandad in Only Fools and Horses. The sound is awful; Just When You're Thinking Things Over sounds as if it's being knocked out in the middle of Paris by a blind tinker with a tin mug and a dancing monkey on a lead. And Tim keeps forgetting this isn't his solo side project and keeps wandering off into his fake American accent. Their first telly song is Watch You In Disbelief. Indeed.

Quick, BBC, tick those public service boxes, and rush on one of the bands who did the unsigned band competition. A Certain Death. Nice louds, rubbish shouting metal. It's all cut mercifully short to make room for Ash, who've popped up for a chat and, according to Gill, to make moon eyes at hapless co-presenter Duggie someoneorother. There's a third co-presenter, too, who seems to be a gay Alan McGee with no knowledge of modern music at all [actually, that could be Alan McGee, come to think of it].

Faithless are dull to a degree where we wonder if there should be some sort of museum raised to make sure we never forget. They sound like we imagine Goldfrapp's older brothers would do. And stood next to Michael Franti and Spearhead, rapping, hippinh, hopping and riffing off Seven Nation Army, they sound even more stale.

More public service: Eric and the Bunny Boilers. They sound a bit like Sleeper if Louise Wener had been a girl instead of a determined fox-stamper, but they do manage to say all the wrong things:
[UPDATE: Or rather they don't, as we though something Gill had said had come from one of the band.

Watching them live, it's suddenly clear that Dogs Die In Hot Cars have been created to fill the space left vacant when Space went off to count the money the Merseyside Music Development Agency had hilariously given them to develop studio facilities.

There's a flashback to Starsailor doing Four to the Floor, James Walsh getting pulled up short trying to get the audience clapping, looking embarrassed and abandoning it.

The Wu Tang Clan don't really seem to have their hearts in this; it's a bit of a comeback thing and, frankly, they don't really seem to have realised they're back. They do Gravel Pit, but it sounds more sandpit. Or possibly paddling pool.

Like a curse, Ocean Colour Scene are back to play T a-bloody-gain. Perhaps they figure that a nation which kept Andy Stewart going for years wopn't have realised how badly out of date their music would sound even if it was done well.

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