> TRNSMT 2023: Early starts, politics in music, next big things, and Pulp - SNACK: Music, film, arts and culture magazine for Scotland

TRNSMT 2023: Early starts, politics in music, next big things, and Pulp

So, that’s TRNSMT over with for another year, and depending on how quickly we publish this, some of you might already have tickets for TRNSMT 2024 [tickets on sale Friday 14th July]. Its an event, a happening, and for loads of attendees, it doesn’t matter who is on stage, it’s about the hours and times with your friends, old and new.

Which is fine. Its also still about the music though, so we’ll focus on that, with social media timelines no doubt plastered with chat and bantz of the true essence of the weekend!


Early starts for winning hearts and minds

Being the first act on a festival Main Stage is a two-sided sword, make no mistake. It’s a great opportunity and something to brag about for the rest of your days. Alternatively, you’re playing when many people aren’t in the site, so you could argue it’s better to play later on a smaller stage.

While some of the SNACK team were finalising our tickets and entry into the festival, family members of Dead Pony were in a similar position. Good-natured gig-goers allowed the couple to skip ahead, ensuring they got to see the vast majority of the set. As for the rest of us, well, we were only slightly delayed, meaning we had to dance awkwardly in to their cover of Nelly Furtado’s ‘Maneater’ while we walked.

Dead Pony look and sound a band ready for this sort of stage, with closer ’23, Never Me’ sounding bigger than before. The chance to play this sort of setting should come again but before that, they have a date with the nearby St Lukes in a headline slot, which will start much later in the day, and there’ll be an adoring crowd in attendance.

Brooke Combe – Photo credit: Ryan Johnstone

Saturday had the same song and dance for Swim School, but the logistics of the weekend saw them play to more people. Brooke Combe was afforded more of a lie-in, but it was still a lunchtime start. Not that you’d have noticed or worried, these acts come prepared, and like Dead Pony, they walked away with more fans and interested onlookers than they started their set with.

For all the great reasons we need TRNSMT or similar, the chance for Scottish bands to play on such a lofty platform is vital. It’s a reward for the acts that get there, and its aspirational for every other artist knocking about in bedrooms and practice spaces.

Don’t keep politics out of music

Many people say you should keep politics out of music, but the sad truth is, the majority of folk who say this don’t actually mean it. What they mean is keep politics they disapprove of out of music, and everything else is fair game.

Declan Welsh, in between knocking out bangers with a swing, stopped to deliver an impassioned speech enquiring if the audience was the Glasgow of Nelson Mandela Place or Glassford Street? For a Merchant City resident, that question was a bit on the nose, but of course, geographical position is very different from political viewpoint.

First-hand experiences of what is happening in Palestine drove Declan to his remarks, and as he said, its not about your football team, your political party or even your thoughts on independence, its about children being killed. 

Paul Heaton, performing with a backdrop saying Welcome To Heatongrad, possibly made just as tangible a political act, in dishing out free beer tokens to five local pubs. Now, having the chance to kickstart ‘Happy Hour’ early thanks to Paul goes down a lot easier than hearing some uncomfortable truths, but both actions were as valid. Anyone who applauds Paul for getting a massive round in, as a political act, as well as an act of kindness in tough times, cannot fairly dismiss Declan for using his platform.

Who’ll reach greater heights?

Alongside the nostalgia that goes along with Glasgow Green shows or returning Britpop heroes, social media rushes to look back, filling timelines with former festival lineups. It’s great, looking back, seeing band names you recognise in tiny letters, proving there’s a path from obscurity to celebrity for bands and artists.

Of course, there’s also the ‘who’s who?’ and ‘why them?’ of names that didn’t quite make it, which leaves you wondering which up-and-coming acts of TRNSMT 2023 will be big names or household acts in years to come.

Then again, when it comes to moving onto better things, Siights wasted no time. The duo apologised profusely for a set plagued with technical difficulties, but it didn’t hold them back. Not on the day, nor by the end of the weekend given that their Sunday was spent at Wembley on the same bill as Lana Del Rey, and not Ray from the Calton in Glasgow Green.

They are songwriters who’ve paid their dues and honed their chops, and you wouldn’t be shocked if they returned on a bigger platform than the River Stage.

Another act we’ve championed who offered a strong showing on the River Stage were Cloth. There was a slight concern that the outdoor setting, with clouds turning greyer and winds getting heavier could overpower them, but they dug deep, and the sound team ensured there wasn’t a missed moment. 

Rachael Swinton’s soft yet hypnotic vocals worked in the open, with the twins weaving their magic over the audience. Brother, Paul delivered the between song chat to keep spirits high between guitar tunings, and as he said, they endured far worse at the Connect Festival.

Not sure if that was about the weather or just Edinburgh in general, but with Cloth showing how capable they are in these surroundings, their indoor headline gigs in November should be fantastic.

And that’s what they did for an encore

TRNSMT delivered three big headliners, no matter what you make of their music or personality/lack of personality in some cases, you had major acts that shift units and get people talking. The thing is though, when it comes to putting on a show, experience counts for a hell of a lot.

Kasabian at TRNSMT 2023 – Photo credit: Ryan Buchanan

You’d need to have a heart of stone, or a passport indicating you are younger than 35, to suggest anybody other than Pulp were the prize act of the weekend. From the creeping build of ‘I Spy’ all the way through to the still ringing in your ears communal spirit of ‘Common People’, it was a set that grabbed you, held you, and thrust your chest and head further forward than they might have been for some time.

Kasabian had the crowd bouncing, Sam Fender delivered his big tunes in fine style, and The 1975 presumably did something, but for a set that barely let up, and one that meant more than just songs, Jarvis, the band and the massive collection of performers who emboldened Pulp were beautiful. 

Pulp at TRNSMT 2023

Whether you remember the first time or not, remember this time, which is what it’s all about. There’ll be sore heads, sore feet, empty bank accounts but hopefully, a sense of joy. That’s worth pursuing and keeping, and be that at TRNSMT again or somewhere else, Pulp’s blistering ‘Sunrise’ with light shows and dad dancing reminds you the live music experience is about way more than the songs you hear.

The dates for TRNSMT 2024 are 12th-14th July

TRNSMT 2024 early bird tickets are on sale from Friday 14th July 2023

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