A saddened man in wellies and a Pac-A-Mac discards his homemade sandwich at the behest of festival security, as outside food or drink is strictly prohibited on site: that’s right, it’s festival season once again. The enormous stage and food vans look incongruous in the shadow of Nelson’s Monument, the grey obelisk at Glasgow Green’s centre, but the setting lends the inaugural TRNSMT festival weekend a welcoming sense of historicity; Glasgow’s oldest park – the original “green” in “Dear Green Place” – opening its gates to an event that may well become a mainstay of the city’s cultural calendar – and Glasgow certainly needs more of those.
The weather’s held up, and all is well at the mainstage, as Belle and Sebastian’s (★★★★) cooing sunshine pop goes down smooth like the first cider of the evening. The mounting vault of Stars of Track and Field and the relentless cheeriness of I’m a Cuckoo are, as usual, emphatic evidence of the group’s superior stage chops. Even after the underwhelming Matalan gospel of Rag‘n’Bone Man (★★★), the anticipation rises before tonight’s much-anticipated headliners, with increasing amounts of Radiohead tops bought and worn over smart shirts and long-sleeves. First, however, Black Honey (★★★★) at the Jack Rocks stage dole out the 90s grunge vibes, with frontwoman Izzy Baxter’s commanding presence recalling the snarl of a sobered Courtney Love.
Radiohead (★★★★★) play a masterful left-field set of percussion-heavy slow-burners, showing they’ve always been more adventurous than your average rock band. Let Down and Lucky have everyone chanting, but OK Computer fans will have to wait until the encores to hear more anthemic choruses. The shadowy Krautrock of Ful Stop unfurls early in the set, as the paranoid micro-raves of 15 Step and Idioteque thump and sputter to glitching lights and visuals. But Radiohead are at their most moving tonight as they roll out the twin-headed melancholia of Daydreaming and No Surprises. “Dreamers, they never learn”, Thom Yorke sardonically mumbles on the former, lamenting leftist politics as a losing game. There’s more chanting when Yorke sings “Bring down the government / they don’t speak for us”, accompanied by the audience’s rapturous applause, no doubt with Theresa May’s “coalition of chaos” firmly in mind. But Yorke sounds deflated, even fearful. Is he wondering just how far politicians will go if we wilfully look the other way, like the numbed speaker of No Surprises? In Radiohead’s world, much like in ours, governments are many-tentacled beings capable of oppressing and erasing in ways both subtle and explicit. Apathy breeds feelings of safety, even as an unseen many are in danger; “No alarms and no surprises, please.” Radiohead are one of the most politically charged groups of the past 20 years; that said, their scheduled Tel Aviv performance in late July, a controversial refute of an industry-wide boycott, seems all the more puzzling. The thought lingers well beyond the closing of Glasgow Green’s gates, but in any case the stage has well and truly been set for days two and three.