Words: Billy Hamilton
Another year, another T Break, another maelstrom of online grumbling. If there was anything predictable about the 16 unsigned Scottish acts selected to play this year’s T in the Park, it’s that the final list was never going to please everyone.
And, perhaps even more predictably, some of those bands (and their fans) left disappointed at missing the cut were always going to decry foul play instead of accepting defeat with grace.
In a way it makes sense. Losing out can be a particularly bitter pill to swallow. Some see T Break as their opportunity to push on to the next level, while others are slumped on a stool in the last chance saloon, like a beer-bellied cowboy desperate for one final gun-totting showdown at Balado. So when these aspirations are shattered, few choose to suck it up, walk away and put it down to experience. Instead they deflect the blame elsewhere. It doesn’t really matter where, just as long as it doesn't fall on them.
So far, the main gripes have gravitated around the 13 judges’ perceived bias towards Central Belt-based acts and, also, their partiality when it comes to the bands they already know. As part of this year’s judging panel, I dismiss both counts. Neither played a part in the final selection.
It’s easy to reject the former - where a band is based (unless they weren’t Scottish) never came up in conversation. Nobody considered location a serious criteria for selection. Why should they? It surely doesn’t matter where a band is from. As ghastly as it sounds, this really was (mostly) about the music.
Now, the second charge is more difficult to clarify without firstly laying out the background. In April the 1,000 submissions were divided out amongst the 13 judges. We were asked to listen to all the entrants on our lists and select our favourite ten. From there, we spent two nights locked in a room together whittling (or arguing) down 130 acts to around 25. We then, individually, selected our preferred 16 in order and each list was scored by the T Break coordinators. The final selection was based on the cumulative scores of those 13 lists. All in all, it was a fair process that worked for everyone.
Admittedly, the panel’s respective positions and their own musical leanings meant there were always going to be agendas or, at least, subjective stances. But, during the two-day sessions, any bias was unravelled and, when faced with 12 other counter-arguments (usually beginning “this is terrible”), the more clandestine motives were dropped early on.
What ensued was a series of open discussions about why bands should or shouldn’t be chosen. Surprisingly, there was no set criteria. It came down to a question of whether the band was good enough to play – which is exactly how it should have been.
Despite the sour accusations from an embittered few, this is an encouraging T Break line-up that reflects the strength of Scotland’s current crop of music makers. Sure, some of my favoured acts were unfortunate to miss out, but I'd expect that's what each of the other 12 judges will say. The final 16 is the result of a compromise between different facets of the Scottish music industry. It runs the full gamut of sounds being made across the country in 2011 and, personally, it has turned me on to the likes of Discopolis and The Church Of When The Shit Hits The Fan – acts I'd probably not have discovered on my own.
It’s sad, yet wholly expected, that some of the overlooked bands and their disappointed fans have chosen to pour scorn on the final line-up with a ream of flimsily composed inferences.
Instead of satisfying personal vendettas through the anonymity of message boards and comments sections, their efforts would be better channelled on making their mark as musicians while supporting those that were lucky enough to have made the T Break grade.
Not that those 16 acts will care, mind. I’m pretty sure they’ve got much more important things to concern themselves with.
Posted by Billy Hamilton