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TRNSMT 2021 day one review: Little Simz shines as Glasgow Green festival makes its long-awaited return

© Michael HunterLittle Simz took a trip into the crowd in her stunning TRNSMT set
Little Simz took a trip into the crowd in her stunning TRNSMT set

It’s been a long wait but, once the gates to Glasgow Green opened, music fans were back in their element and TRNSMT festival was go.

Of course, quite a lot has happened since revellers last descended on this corner of the city in 2019. Or actually, when it comes to live shows, not a lot has happened.

There’s a few differences from last time around. It’s a little later in the year, there’s the occasional light drizzle instead of glorious sunshine, and there’s the small matter of having to have poked a stick down your throat and up your nose before entering.

But a lot has remained the same. A weighty appetite for live music, some much maligned prices at the bar, and a crowd up for a party.

The TRNSMT crowd © Michael Hunter
The TRNSMT crowd (Pic: Michael Hunter)

Covid’s impact

TRNSMT was assigned as a gateway event by the Scottish Government, meaning that social distancing has been dispensed with, and mosh pits are very much back on.

Masks are limited to indoor areas and queues, and revellers will largely not see much difference to the before times other than mitigation measures such as increased cleaning and hand sanitiser all across the site.

However, Covid has had an impact on the line-up. West Lothian’s The Snuts said they were “beyond devastated” to have to cancel their appearance after a band member and one of their crew tested positive.

Also heading for isolation instead of his Sunday set was fellow Scots rising star Luke La Volpe, who said it was “absolutely gutting” to have to pull out because he’d dreamed of playing a gig like TRNSMT “since he was a little boy”.

Returning to the stage

For those that did make it to the stage it was a chance to reacquaint themselves with a crowd bursting with energy after a long hiatus.

In his boisterous afternoon set, rapper AJ Tracey praised the Glasgow crowd, saying he was loving the “way better energy” than London.

Over on the King Tut’s stage, Brit Awards 2021 Rising Star winner Griff effortlessly wowed the crowd with perfect slices of pop, telling them this was the first time she’d ever played outside London.

Closing the River Stage for the night, local favourites The Ninth Wave admitted they couldn’t remember which of their more recent songs they’d played in front of a crowd and which ones they hadn’t.

The instant feedback of the crowd is what artists have been craving all throughout lockdown, and Glasgow Green gave it to them in spades.

Holly Humberstone on stage
Holly Humberstone on stage (Pic: Diana Dumi)

Holly Humberstone, who played the King Tut’s stage on Friday afternoon, said: “It’s one of my first times in Glasgow and the atmosphere is amazing. The Scots have a reputation of being a great crowd.

“It’s been quite a long time and I remember the start of summer and my first two festivals it was such a shock to the system because I had been putting out all of this music during lockdown and had nobody to play it to. Just to see people actually come to my set to see me is just beyond me. It’s bizarre but really nice and affirming.

“I’m so excited. It’s been lovely to meet other artists that are equally as excited to be here and playing festivals.”

Joy Crookes dressed in tartan for the occasion © Ryan Buchanan
Joy Crookes dressed in tartan for the occasion (Pic: Ryan Buchanan)

Fellow King Tut’s stage performer Joy Crookes said: “Naturally being out of playing festivals for two years it’s a little bit nerve-wracking but I’m excited and ultimately people are here to have fun and I’m excited for that.

“Festivals are really important, as a punter of festivals myself you can discover new music really easily. I think that, because you come to a festival to have fun, you’re in a lot more open headspace to taking in new music.”

Festival favourites on the main stage

As punters filtered into the Green, Sports Team opened the main stage in style, before the House Gospel Choir made sure everyone’s vocal chords had a good warm-up before the rest of the day.

Yxng Bane and AJ Tracey brought a sprinkle of vibrant rap to the afternoon as the sun broke through the clouds, and Dublin band Inhaler stepped in to the void left by the absent Snuts.

Blossoms also got a great Glasgow welcome, playing a number of festival favourites.

Sam Fender on stage © Ryan Buchanan
Sam Fender on stage (Pic: Ryan Buchanan)

Sam Fender had to postpone shows at the nearby Barrowlands earlier this week over Covid fears, but got the all clear via a PCR test to give Glasgow a set to remember.

There’s more than a little bit of Springsteen to the Geordie star, and he paid a great tribute to The Boss with a cover of Dancing In The Dark – even if he did play it on what he called “the most out of tune guitar”.

Headliners Courteeners endeared themselves to the Scottish crowd by walking on stage to the sound of bagpipes playing Flower of Scotland.

Frontman Liam Fray also donned a red kilt in a set that had the crowd singing along the the group’s indie anthems, sending them home happy after day one of the festival.

Little Simz shines

Easily the highlight of day one was a stunning set on the King Tut’s stage from Mercury-nominated rapper Little Simz.

Making her entrance to the grand pomp of Introvert, she immediately had the crowd spellbound with her quickfire bars over the sound of a terrific backing band.

Little Simz on the King Tut's Stage © Michael Hunter
Little Simz on the King Tut’s Stage (Pic: Michael Hunter)

“I know we’re in Scotland, but can I take you back to where I’m from, North London?” she asked the audience as she launched into 100FM.

Shortly afterwards, she launched herself over the barrier and made her way into the adoring crowd. “I wanted to see what it was like,” she admitted once back on stage. No wonder, with the show she was putting on.

A set punctuated with great ovations between each song, including recent releases Woman and I Love You, I Hate You, Simz was visibly delighted with the response she was getting as the light faded and a bat or two came out to see what the fuss was all about.

There’s no doubt next time Simz plays this festival, she’ll be high on the billing on the main stage.

Saturday’s lineup

Main Stage

Liam Gallagher | Primal Scream | Keane | Twin Atlantic | KSI | Picture This | Sea Girls | Vistas | Nathan Evans

King Tut’s Stage

Becky Hill | Declan Welsh & the Decadent West | Dylan John Thomas | The Murder Capital | Miraa May | Retro Video Club | Voodoos | Mike McKenzie

River Stage

Lucia & the Best Boys | Baby Queen | Chubby & the Gang | Charlotte Jane | The Hara | Spyres | Theo Bleak