Dust never sleeps

Fiona Shepherd reflects on the agonies and the ecstasies, but mainly the latter, of the second T In The Park.

Only two years old and T In The Park has already come of age as a festival. How do we know this? The smells. T In The Park now boasts genuine festival smells. Notjust the whiff of beer and burgers. but the tell-tale lethal combination of sweat and earth. a pungent alliance to offend the nostrils. Dust too was in abundance, with the baking heat and the tread of feet tramping down the short grass on the football pitches to create a Saharan landscape in provincial Strathclyde. But more ofthat later.

The new improved site is noticeably busier than last year. chock-full of T-shirted punters being young, smoking fags, putting them out and generally feeling all right. Unless. of course. you were among the sorry gaggle of fans who couldn't get into King Tut‘s Wah Wah Tent to see Supergrass. the main oversubscribed act ofthe weekend. Sorrier still were the people who did make it into the tent. many of whom were fleeing from the stifling. airless heat after only a few numbers.

From a vantage point just outside one of the back entrances. the ‘Grass sounded as bouncy. swaggering and infectious as ever. They looked like film extras glimpsed intermittently in the background on a screen hanging a mile away. First rule of festival-

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going: don‘t hang around the fringes. It takes a mighty band to reach that far. However competent they may be. your favourite combo are likely only to project as far as the mixing desk. It stands to reason; the nearer the stage. the stronger the vibe.

Is this why Corduroy seem so downright funky on the NME stage. or Skunk Anansie so bone- crunchingly visceral as the opening act on the main stage? Is this why it‘s so disheartening that Shrlek‘s tearaway set on the Caledonia stage is sparsely attended? And is this why. viewed from a considerable distance. the Paul Weller experience just wafts whirnsically through the still early-evening air? Could be.

The only thing wafting when the eagerly-awaited Black Grape take the stage is a billowing cloud of dust. Performance-wise. it‘s hard to tell through the dust screen if Black Grape get down. but they certainly sound like the right dubby funky concoction for a blazing hot afternoon. ‘Kelly‘s Heroes'. rumoured to be the next single. is a bolshie highlight.

But the highest of highlights (apart from euphoric fairground ride the Terminator and the news that Robbie Williams is in the area) is the explosive presence of The Prodigy. The anticipated techno apocalypse is delivered ‘Poison‘ grinds. ‘Their Law' rocks harder than anything in Therapy?’s set. ‘Voodoo People‘ and ‘Out OfSpace’ induce total tribal frenzy. and even ‘Charly‘ is loud and proud.

Nothing on Sunday equals their performance. although Underworld come close and singer Karl Hyde knows it. flipping out. flailing around. climbing the scaffolding and cajoling the crowd. Underworld are skilful engineers of atmosphere. warming up gradually. teasing the crowd with undulating electro

Paul Weller: whimsical wetter?

waves pregnant with dance potential. building up to a TNT eruption of bass and noise. ‘Spoonman' and ‘Cowgirl' are lifted off the album and distended to become voodoo mantras. Hyde is every bit as lost in the music as the audience are in the dust storm (yet another one) that develops when 2000 pairs of dancing feet hit the parched. earthy floor.

Underworld songs seem to last forever. And that's a compliment. Verve songs seem to last forever. That's not.

A far better bet on the out-there ticket are dEUS who are merely great. Merely. because they are normally cataclysmic. ‘Suds And Soda‘ makes for a hectic climax, but prior to that they don’t really hit their stride. Salad. on the other hand, do the best they possibly can with their quirky. churning Britpop.

The Charlatans garnbol about happily and are greeted with fervent appreciation. Tricky is greeted with the same easy going languor that he dishes out in his snail-paced set.

Then it’s time to satiate the Kylle frenzy that has dogged the petite Antipodean backstage and during her signing session. However. she fails to meet expectations. whether that‘s the expectation that she will be a divine songbird in the body of Aphrodite or the expectation that she will be a load of rank tripe. Instead. she's enjoyable in an untaxing way. although her mumbled duet with lllck Dave is nowhere near the charisma-fusion it could have been.

The 800 lladleys draw things to a reasonably celebratory close in the King Tut's tent. but The Shamen push their Groove Tent crowd to maximum overdrive before spewing them out to the car and bus parks for thejourney home. I finally take some tea in the park and hit the dusty trail to Glasgow.

UThe List 11-17 Aug 1995