TRNSMT festival review – Lewis Capaldi is the man of the moment

Glasgow Green, Glasgow
TRNSMT may be haunted by the ghost of T in the Park, but a new all-female stage and crowd-pleasing performances by Stormzy and George Ezra make for a successful replacement

When TRNSMT replaced the cancelled T in the Park in the Scottish festival calendar in 2017, even the cheekiest supermarket delivery service would not have called it a like-for-like substitution. Instead of the opportunity to see dozens of acts while cultivating three days’ worth of camping crud, TRNSMT offered a much more streamlined experience, essentially centred on one big stage at an easily navigable urban park.

New for TRNSMT 2019 is the compact Queen Tut’s stage, a conscious attempt to book up-and-coming women-led acts – although it also functioned as a chillout zone to escape the glittery crowds thronging a nearby dance bar. Early on Friday, local rapper Chlobocop pierces the woozy picnic vibe by shouting: “I’m going to do Narcotics!” The slinky single prompted a response so enthusiastic she ends up playing it twice.

On King Tut’s stage, DIY pop star Jimothy Lacoste proves charismatic enough to get a partisan crowd singing along to the “English! English!” refrain of his dreamy track Getting Burberry Socks. Equally dapper on the main stage is Olly Alexander from Years & Years, highly attuned to festival fashion in three snazzy shades of leopardskin. His band’s spry combination of hedonistic synth bangers and confetti cannons act as the starting gun for Friday.

Hedonistic synth bangers ... Olly Alexander of Years & Years at TRNSMT.
Hedonistic synth bangers ... Olly Alexander of Years & Years at TRNSMT. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Word-of-mouth local superstar Gerry Cinnamon has played all three TRNSMT festivals to date, but while the crowds have grown exponentially, his approach has remained impermeable: rousing, defiant anthems delivered via acoustic guitar and a lot of foot-stomping. Following a beloved home town hero like Cinnamon could have been a challenge, but headliner Stormzy brings bravado and brash beats, as well as a smartly deployed cover of Lewis Capaldi’s Someone You Loved.

Saturday’s undisputed buzz band is Fontaines DC, the Irish gutter-punks with swagger to spare, who pack out King Tut’s stage as Gerry Cinnamon did in 2017. On the main stage, the Britpop-inspired guitar racket of DMA’s proves to be the perfect bridge into Richard Ashcroft, who takes a crowd-pleasing swerve into his Verve back catalogue. But after the disco dips and electro swoops of Bastille, Catfish and the Bottlemen are a diligent but slightly one-note headline act, their roustabout tales coalescing into a monochrome dirge.

‘Bravado and brash beats’ ... Stormzy performing at TRNSMT.
‘Bravado and brash beats’ ... Stormzy performing at TRNSMT. Photograph: Lesley Martin/PA

On Sunday, a curious mid-afternoon crowd gathers at King Tut’s stage to catch a glimpse of Californian punk-poppers SWMRS and are rewarded with an only slightly off-key rendition of Loch Lomond. The day’s biggest draw, however, is man-of-the-moment Capaldi, the self-described “chubby loser” currently feuding with Noel Gallagher. With his band wearing Merky T-shirts in honour of Stormzy, Capaldi intersperses his heartsick ballads with daft patter and a winking cover of Oasis’s Don’t Look Back in Anger.

Perhaps realising that he’s unlikely to one-up Capaldi in the banter wars, headliner George Ezra sticks to his game plan: a preternaturally self-assured parade of songs delivered with poise and unexpected quietude. Even his climactic Shotgun sounds slightly understated, although the crowd provide raucous support. TRNSMT may always be haunted by the ghost of its sprawling predecessor – one of the biggest stories of the weekend was official confirmation that T in the Park was never coming back – but three days of scorching sunshine showed it in a flattering and highly Instagrammable light.


Graeme Virtue

The GuardianTramp

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