In 2001, I won a battle of the bands. The prize was to appear on the T-Break stage at T in the Park.
The following year, I was invited back to DJ between bands at the same stage. The year after that, I was asked to be DJ for the Radio 1 / NME stage – the second biggest stage at the Festival. I remained as DJ on that stage for the next ten years.
The brief was simple. I had a DJ booth at the side of the stage, just behind the massive black curtain. I played during the 15-20 minute changeover between bands. During the day, it was just a matter of playing some cool tunes. As the day went on, the acts and the crowds got bigger. My job was to get the crowd bouncing and singing along, building them up for the band’s entrance. The headliner’s crowds stretched to the horizon, tens of thousands of people wanting to sing along to something. A great gig for a DJ.
It also gave me an amazing view to watch the bands play. I was within feet of them. Jack White’s piano stretched to the edge of my DJ area when he played with The Raconteurs. Ke$ha’s dancers and video editor shared my space. Behind my space was a small area where the band’s guests were allowed to watch the show, so loads of stories there too.
Here are some of my photos from my years at T in the Park, and some of the stories behind them
The Eagles of Death Metal have been on my stage (and I’m going to refer to it as my stage) twice. The first time they played, I didn’t know a thing about them. By the end of the set, I was completely won over. They were stunning. Somewhere between Spinal Tap and a David Lynch movie, they had more charisma than any other act I’ve seen at T.
Immediately after they played, I had to run to the toilet before I started my set. The whole band were standing in front of the toilet so I had to go by them. I mentioned to them that they were just brilliant, and the whole band grabbed me and gave me the biggest bear hug. Sweet, genuinely talented showmen and rock gods. Fan for life.
The other memorable time that I heard a set from a band that I never knew about and was won over was the first time We Are Scientists played. I was hooked. Intelligent, fun, and, like the Eagles of Death Metal, great patter and rapport with the crowd. I went out the following Monday and bought their albums.
2009 was the best T in the Park that I played at. On my stage (and this was just the Friday & Saturday) were The Mars Volta, Idlewild, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Katy Perry, Jane’s Addiction and Nine Inch Nails. What a line-up!
I invited my DJ friend Jon to join me as a fellow DJ for the weekend. On the Friday night, we were sat side of stage when Nick Cave went on. The stage set was quite bare. A heavy, velvet curtain and a huge chandelier set a sleazy bar tone and the set was legendary. It was an amazing night.
On the Saturday, Katy Perry was playing. The crowd was huge. In the guest area behind us, Calvin Harris was craning his neck to get a view. We invited him down to our area as we had a better view. Man, that guy is tall. Very polite too. Later on, when Jane’s Addiction came on, Katy Perry and her then boyfriend were also struggling to see. Not only did they accept our invitation to join us, but we got them a couple of flight cases to stand on so they could get a better view. Lovely folks.
This is Jon and I with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs props. Jon was far more bold than I when it came to talking to people. He got a photo and had a chat with Johnny Marr. I still kick myself that I didn’t pipe up at the time.
The biggest crowds, apart from Katy Perry, that I saw were for two very different acts. The first was Feeder. I knew some of their songs but didn’t expect the crowd to be as huge as it was. They were incredibly popular and the crowd loved them. The second was The Streets. From my vantage point, I could see Mike Skinner getting ready for going on to the stage. He looked intensely and focused. The moment he walked on the place went crazy. He’d recently had a number 1 with Dry Your Eyes and he was on top of his game. It sent chills down my spine.
I remember Bloc Party’s first gig on my stage. The crowd loved them. Singer Kele Okereke turned around to the drummer, wide eyed, and mouthed the words “OH MY GOD”. It was charming and refreshing to see them so wowed by the response. They deserved it too. One of the finest bands I’ve ever seen.
New Jersey band The Gaslight Anthem were another powerful band who won the crowd over. After the gig, the drummer Benny came over and chatted about the set, the crowd, Scotland and playing with Bruce Springsteen a couple of weeks earlier. The Kings of Leon were equally down to earth the first time they played, just chatting about how much they loved the response they got from the T in the Park crowd.
On two occasions, I’ve actually ended up on the stage while the band were playing. The first time was N*E*R*D. It was one time when I didn’t have that good a view and was stretching to see the band. The band’s guests must have seen me trying, and failing, to see the band and they invited me to join them. We all walked around and I was led through the curtain and then we were suddenly on the stage behind the drummer watching Pharrell Williams on the stage he was playing on. Mind-blowing, but a big naughty. Something similar happened with Har Mar Superstar on a stage that I wasn’t even working on.
After the N*E*R*D set, Pharrell and Shay spoke to everyone. Few bands were as approachable or friendly as N*E*R*D.
Dizzee Rascal was another artist who had the entire crowd in the palm of his hand. The amount of energy his performance had was phenomenal. As you can see, I sneaked down to the photo pit to take this picture.
Newer bands & artists playing the festival circuit for the first time, like Bastille, Ke$ha, Jake Bugg and Haim, always say that the T in the Park crowd is special. There’s definitely a lot of enthusiasm and if they like you, they let you know it.
This gig was another special one. The Kraftwerk crowd were all given 3D glasses for the show. The band dressed in Tron style outfits and played an amazing set. Incredible.
Officially, we were accredited as being artists. This gave us access to the Artist Village where the bands have their portacabin dressing rooms. We were pampered. Delicious meals, free bars, free haircuts, coffee, pastries and loads of cool folk hanging about. Acoustic sets were broadcast live on TV in the village.
Sam (in the photo above) is Jon’s nephew, and assisted Jon one year. He got to meet quite a few folk and tweeted cool pics like this one. His school mates couldn’t believe how lucky he was!
The legend who looked after me and Jon at T in the Park for all those years is George Ibbetson (yellow sleeping bag). Geo is a backstage genie who gets everything done for everyone. He’s also one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. One of those people in life you can rely on 100%. True legend.
McSleazy (my old moniker) has long since retired but there’s still the odd souvenir to remember things by.