Saturday looked to be a pretty jam-packed day for me, so at midday I made my way to the King Tut’s tent to see rising Birmingham stars Swim Deep. Their infectious, sun-drenched songs drew in a much larger crowd than I’d expected which must have been pleasing for the band. More pleasing for the crowd was their cover of Girls Just Want to Have Fun. Perhaps the best bit for me was neither the songs nor the band but in fact frontman Austin’s guitar, which looked like a multi-coloured avocado. (Where can I get one?)
After stopping to catch a decent set from The Fratellis on the Main Stage, I stumbled across my discovery of the weekend whilst passing through the T Break tent. Oxford quartet M M X brought their melancholy electro-indie vibes to what was essentially the T in the Park equivalent of BBC Introducing. I was mesmerized by their sound, almost like Hurts meeting the quieter electronic tracks from The 1975. A strong delivery from their frontman and the perfect fusion between synths and guitars meant that they certainly gained my approval.
I headed off next to the Transmissions Stage where Peace, another b-town band and Swim Deep buddies, were showcasing their psych-filled sexy swagger. Having dropped their debut album In Love earlier this year, they weren’t short of a crowd and the tent soon packed out. I was struck by their impeccable musicianship, and the fact that Harry Koisser’s vocals were about as pitch-perfect as they are on record. After huge tunes such as California Daze, Toxic and Follow Baby, they finished up with their latest single Lovesick and “in a fit of rock ‘n roll destruction”, Harry succeeded in breaking his guitar by hurling it at an amp. Dude.
As much as Peace were technically perfect, Palma Violets were spectacularly wild and shambolic. I always try to place the music above the performance, but their stage presence and pure energy won me over completely. Bassist Chilli was jumping all over the stage like a mad man, not so much singing as shouting. After storming through riotous hits such as Best Of Friends and Tom the Drum, they invited merch-guy/generally-deemed-unofficial-fifth-member-of-the-band Harry Violent to join them onstage for closing track “Brand New Song”. Chilli abandoned his bass, Harry disappeared into the crowd, and even the normally sedate Pete Mayhew left the comfort of his keyboard to dance wildly around the stage. I was left in a permanent state of grinning for at least half an hour afterwards.
Following lengthy sets from both Scottish darlings Travis and alt-rockers Twin Atlantic, it was finally time for Alt-J to take the stage, headlining the King Tut’s tent for the Saturday night. Pitted against Rihanna in the line-up, they were very much the alternative act yet the tent was full to bursting. I was intrigued to see how they would pull off their musical perfection when playing live, yet they were even better than expected. The combination of guitars, electronica and hip-hop drums is sheer brilliance, all backed up by the strong yet strangely vulnerable vocals of Joe Newman. They proceeded to play through the entirety of their Mercury Prize winning album, An Awesome Wave, slotting in new track Buffalo and a sneaky mash-up of Dr Dre’s Still D.R.E. and Kylie Minogue’s Slow. The whole performance was mind-bogglingly brilliant and Alt-J cemented themselves firmly as one of my favourite bands.