AFTER a year off, TRNSMT Festival returned in almighty fashion at Glasgow Green over the weekend. Yes, things were a little different this year – the September weather wasn’t quite the glorious sunshine we’ve come to expect at the event and there was the small matter of a lateral flow test to take before entering – but there was that familiar feel of excitement and celebration in the air; perhaps even more so than usual.
This was the largest scale non-sporting event Glasgow has hosted since COVID restrictions eased and the crowd was up for a party. Leaving their pandemic worries at the door, the predominantly young crowd gleefully rubbed shoulders, danced and sang like no one was watching from start to end. It’s this connection – that feeling of instant feedback – between artist and fans that we’ve all been missing, and Glasgow Green delivered it in spades. It was a joyous, and at times surreal, thing to witness.
Unfortunately, the line-up was inevitably affected by Covid – a factor that all festivals have had to consider this year. The likes of The Snuts and Luke La Volpe were forced to pull out of respective slots – the former said they were “beyond devastated” to have to cancel their appearance after a band member and one of their crew tested positive.
However, in terms of those who made it to the stage, TRNSMT organisers managed to pull off a brilliantly eclectic line-up – ranging from fast-rising pop stars to indie heroes to genuinely exciting homegrown talent.
On the Friday, Holly Humberstone and Griff wowed the crowds, the former with her universally relatable sad-pop tunes and the latter with her upbeat, polished electro-pop tunes. Later on, Joy Crookes’ jazzy soul pop was tender but self-assured and full of heart.
The River Stage hosted a particularly impressive line-up on the Friday. Nestled down by the Clydeside, the small stage was a potent reminder of the breadth of talent our music scene is currently producing. Gallus, who have just announced a headline show at Saint Luke’s, incited mosh pit after mosh pit with their witty yet riotous brand of punk. Against serrated guitar lines and propulsive drums, Barry Dolan kept the crowd in the palm of his hand from start to finish.
Afterwards, VLURE delivered one of the most incendiary performances of the weekend. Their formidable live reputation more than lived up to the hype – even under the glaring sunshine. Raw passion emanated from each and every member of the band with frontman Hamish Hutcheson leading the charge in typically intense and transfixing fashion. Unafraid to get up close and personal with the crowd, it felt unnatural to stay seated as they hit out with euphoric tracks like ‘Shattered Faith’ and ‘Show Me How To Live Again’. A definite highlight of the weekend.
Walt Disco also put in an infectiously energetic display – their flamboyant, eighties-inspired glam rock was matched by an equally effervescent onstage performance which featured synchronised dancing and the ever-magnetic James Potter stomping and dancing with the adoring crowd. Meanwhile, The Ninth Wave were worthy headliners – their admission that they couldn’t remember which of their recent songs they had played in front of a crowd didn’t matter a jot. Brimming with passion, they sounded absolutely massive. They, like many others on this stage, are surely destined to return to TRNSMT to play the bigger stages.
For the classic indie rock fans that dominated the crowd, The Courteeners put in the kind of crowd-pleasing, anthem-filled set they’ve long excelled in. However, it was Sam Fender who perhaps came out trumps on the Main Stage. As daylight started to fade, his set felt like a headline performance in its own right. Treating fans to recent singles like ‘Get You Down’ and ‘Seventeen Going Under’ alongside favourites from his debut album, he wowed with his soulful voice, guitar heroics and triumphant saxophone embellishments. With more than echoes of Bruce Springsteen to the Geordie songwriter, he paid tribute to him with a wonderful cover of ‘Dancing in the Dark’.
At the other side of the Green, Little Simz delivered a truly stunning performance over on the King Tut’s stage. Arriving onstage to ‘Introvert’ from her recent album, she immediately won the crowd over with songs like ‘Woman’ and ‘I Love You, I Hate You’. Visibly delighted with the response she was receiving in-between songs, she won the night with her natural charisma, quickfire bars and mighty backing band. We have no doubt she’ll be higher up the bill next time around.
Day two of TRNSMT continued the good vibes with a majestic double-header from Primal Scream and Liam Gallagher. Primal Scream have everything you want from a Main Stage rock show and in about an hour they rattled through a hit-filled sit featuring celebratory opener ‘Movin’ On Up’, the propulsive electro of ‘Swastika Eyes’, ‘Rocks’, ‘Country Girl’ and the joyous ‘Come Together’ and ‘Loaded’. Bobby Gillespie’s words before the show that “you’re not rock & roll if you can’t make the kids dance” felt particularly prescient as you would be hard pushed to find a more enthusiastic crowd than the one on Saturday night.
Earlier in the day, fans were treated to a pyrotechnic set from hometown heroes Twin Atlantic who performed some of their slinky, dance-indebted new material while The Murder Capital delivered their blistering post-punk with incredible gusto. Led by the impressive James McGovern, every bit the rockstar in his leather jacket and shades, the Irish outfit will definitely have left with more fans than they arrived with.
On the same stage, Declan Welsh & The Decadent West triumphed in front of one of their biggest crowds to date. Rattling through punk-fuelled anthems from their 2019 debut album ‘Cheaply Bought Expensively Sold’ and the more introspective material from their recent EPs, the joy from the crowd was clearly reciprocated with beaming smiles from every member on stage. Introducing ‘Times’, Welsh’s message of friendship and companionship and “about being with other people and realising we all need each other” captured the mood of the weekend perfectly.
Meanwhile, the hotly tipped Lucia & The Best Boys headlined The River Stage with confidence. Lucia has always been a magnetic frontwoman but this was a worthy headline set from a band who have found their lane and blossoming in it. Channelling the bombastic pop of the 80s, they unleashed all their anthemic power with powerful set closer ‘Perfectly Untrue’.
Finally, Liam Gallagher ended the Saturday night in typically crowd-pleasing form. Taking to the stage with all the unfussy ceremony we’d expect with hands behind his back and head faced upwards in his iconic mic pose, he gave the people exactly what they wanted; beer-soaked anthems we all know and love. Offering a selection of his own solo material alongside Oasis classics (the band’s orginal guitarist ‘Bonehead’ now plays in his band), ‘Hello’ set the tone for the evening before we were given euphoric renditions of ‘Live Forever’, ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’ and ‘Wonderwall’. With thousands of arms aloft in the sky, it was the kind of cross-generational euphoria we’ve all needed after the last year.
A light and breezy atmosphere swept over the site on day three. On the River Stage, Edinburgh outfit swim school used their early afternoon set to blow the cobwebs away with their loud, catchy, grungy indie tunes – it’s no surprise they’ve been attracting a great deal of media attention of late. On the same stage, Aaron Smith held a hushed and respectful crowd to near silence with his stunning, deeply personal ballads. His stunning falsetto has the ability to stop you in your tracks and it was a beautiful thing to witness in person.
Continuing with the theme of local artists, Easterhouse’s own Joesef drew the crowds in at the King Tut’s stage with his smooth, soulful voice. Full of charisma and swagger, his low-slung soul-pop tunes evoked mass singalongs while his chat was every bit as entertaining (“It’s been a shite year but you’re still here, and still a bunch of absolute fucking stoaters”). . Performing his own rendition of Sister Sledge’s ‘Thinking of You’ next to popular hits like ‘The Sun Is Up Forever’ and ‘Loverboy’, it was a rapturous hometown set that evoked genuine euphoria, both on and off stage, confirming his reputation as one of the leading lights in the Scottish music scene.
It’s a running theme of the weekend – local bands were well represented and well attended. Yes, the return of big names brought a healthy dose of nostalgia but it was incredibly encouraging to see the upcoming Scottish acts thrive in front of their own. There was a genuine thirst for new music throughout the weekend and it can only be a good thing for the future of TRNSMT.
It was left to the legendary Chemical Brothers to bring the weekend to a climactic high – their spectacular music and light show invigorated all the senses with anthems like ‘Hey Boy Gey Girl’, ‘Galvanize’ and ‘Swoon’ heard as far away as Renfrew. It’s official. Live music is back.