for the skinny
Saturday lunchtime’s persistent drizzle sends most casual fans under canvas, so bands like the T Break tent-bound Astral Planes can benefit from a larger audience. But beyond the friends in the front row, the casual outliers never really take to them. Doris Day’s (the song, obvs) weighty riffs momentarily stop the crowd chatting and even inspire a little air guitar; but the Glasgow band’s similarities to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Blondie suggest a personality received, not conceived.
“The new Frightened Rabbit?” a friend jokes as we head to the BBC Introducing stage for Admiral Fallow, formerly Brother Louis Collective. A reductive, throwaway comment; sadly impossible to shrug off. In a 20 minute set, three songs feel like shadows of specific FRabbit tunes. Their best moment comes when they step out of that shadow: an emotional clarinet burst at the end of final song Subbuteo provides a welcome Roxy Music-style release.
Unfortunately for the newly Guardian-profiled Kid Adrift, the rain has stopped before he takes the stage, and fans seem determined to enjoy the skies while they’re dry. So only a wee group is present to gawp at his bombastic synth-rock, and despite the volume and scope, somehow even they don’t seem to be paying attention. He’s not helped by poor sound, specifically an underpowered mic that leaves his vocals clouded out by the bass and drums, but predictable quiet/loud shifts in his music don’t help either.
Vampire Weekend are astonishingly popular. For a group with only two Top 40 hits to attract a miles-deep crowd at the Main Stage is remarkable, and for miles around we can see fans dancing, not just to those minor hits, but to album tracks too. “Cousins” is the highlight, the off-kilter scratch guitar intro immediately drawing waves of cheers from the crowd, before Ezra Koenig draws laughs by asking for “anger and ecstasy” from the crowd during “One (Blake’s Got A New Face)”. Perhaps he touched on the real secret to all this dancing?
After We Are Scientists pack the King Tuts tent out, The Coral’s crowd is sparse. It’s a minor mystery why they have such a good slot at all, and they don’t offer any clues from the stage. They start with breakthrough single Goodbye, before a dreary In The Rain and a new song with a stultifying chorus of “oh oh, waiting for a thousand years, oh oh, sailing on a thousand tears”. We don’t wait a thousand milliseconds more.
In the Futures tent, we’d earlier seen the quiet, folky Middle East suffer because watchers were too drunk to listen. But now the same tent is packed and wholly attentive for 20 year old Laura Marling, the new star of English folk thanks to her beautiful second album I Speak Because I Can. There’s a dramatic pause in Rambling Man that’s perfectly held by the rapt crowd, emphasising the effect of the return; before a sizable core of fans sing along to every word of Ghosts. Wonderful.
The BBC’s Vic Galloway introduces Young Fathers as “the best three-piece electro hip-hop group Edinburgh’s ever produced!”, which might sound a soft compliment but it’s pretty accurate: while their lyrics are hard to make out in the melee, there’s no hating their style. Before the crowd knows it, we're jumping around and flapping our arms like birds, all because of their infectious onstage energy and charm.
Seven years since he last played in Scotland, it’s an honour and a thrill to see Eminem performing again, even if we do have to wait an additional forty minutes past showtime for him to arrive. In some ways it’s like he’s never been away: his performance is full of energy, he doesn’t miss a beat and he’s clearly enjoying himself. Unfortunately his wireless mic isn’t quite so wide awake, meaning whole verses are occasionally inaudible as he patrols the stage, and his set includes a few recent stinkers: Beautiful and Not Afraid are particularly galling. Luckily, a late run including My Name Is, Without Me and Lose Yourself is clearly audible and full of fire. Anytime, Mister Mathers.
No way in hell was I missing the next day's World Cup Final, even for Jay-Z.