2013 marked the fifth year of the UK’s largest inner-city music festival and the first time where there was a charging element involved. No one really knew how successful it would be, but it seemed to go off pretty swimmingly in the end (despite the odd hitch). Coinciding with a national heat wave, Tramlines’ great diversity of locations and venues really came to the fore.
Friday started with a stutter including delays and a broken guitar/guitar amp (?) bringing Ditch’s set in Dada to a very premature end, before PEAKS finally open my Tramlines. They are a new band with clearly a lot of ideas, and whilst they are not the finished article yet, they certainly have potential; at their zenith when one of the duo steps takes up drums or guitar. Go Native followed, and whist the Manchester band have a couple of good songs, it all seemed a bit too try-hard at times. I’ve been looking forward to seeing Rad Stewart and the Welsh lads live up to reports. They really do sound unerringly like Pavement at times, and whilst this could be a negative, the songs are good enough to back it up. The Small Ideas line-up again proves to be one of the best places to be on Tramlines Friday.
One of the bands I’ve been looking forward to seeing the most over the weekend are Lanterns on the Lake, and the City Hall Ballroom proves to be a perfect setting. They are accomplished musicians and a real treat to watch live. The new material stands up well, and their forthcoming second album promises to be something a bit special. After a snap decision in the taxi, I decide to see out day one down at Audacious Artspace. Despite the worryingly large crowd enjoying the warmth of the early hours outside, I manage to get in to see off the night with Che Ga Zebra. They were stripped off and ready for action, ending the night in true party style. You’ll struggle to find a band who enjoy playing live.
Saturday’s sore head was cured with a spot of fizzy before heading to Stage 2 at the Academy to see PINS. They are great live and pull in a large appreciative crowd. Favourites such as ‘LuvU4Lyf’ are mixed in with new songs from their upcoming debut, and they make a big impression. They are followed by Thumpers which is the new project from members of Pull Tiger Tail. They do what they do well, but I’m not convinced by their radio friendly indie sound. A scoot upstairs to see Death Rattle proves worthwhile, as the London trio demonstrate how their music has expanded from the early days of ‘The Dig’ – having a passing similarity with The Knife. An early departure/swift walk gets me to the Gatsby just in time to squeeze in and hear (if not really see) L’Amour Des Reves. They are one of Sheffield’s most exciting new bands and they certainly entertained the enthusiastic throng. Joining them on stage for the last song is 60s legend Dave Berry, who adds a touch of local history and an impressive rendition of ‘This Strange Effect’. Sky Larkin always put on a great live show, and they certainly do not disappoint back at the sticky Academy. Their energy and enthusiasm is matched by their songs with ‘Fossil, I’ and ‘Still Windmills’ going down a treat. Now a four-piece, they sound even more epic than ever before. Whilst having the second stage in the Academy this year loses a lot of the festival atmosphere, it means improved sound, and it’s nice to see the bands milling around outside clearly enjoying the nice weather. In this difficult financial climate, needs must.
I decide to take a pit stop for some food and a cold shower (and an inadvertent nap) which means by the time I get back into town I decide to just head out to Audacious again. There are two ways to really enjoy Tramlines. You can rush around between venues trying to catch everyone, or you can enjoy it with friends. This year I chose the latter and had a much better time for it. By far an away the strangest performance this year Is from Imboredofbastards, who include Luke from Trans/Human. Odd would be an understatement. They are followed by Elopes, a new two-piece who just get better as the set goes on and throw-in a cover of ‘Dancing on my Own’ for good measure. Screen Wives ramp up the noise levels, putting in a great performance of high-octane intensity.
As is my want, hangover Sunday starts in The Folk Forest. I turn up to see Bridie Jackson and the Arbour to find it absolutely heaving with friends and families picnicking in the nice weather. It’s such a lovely atmosphere and one of the nicest places to be at Tramlines; busier than ever this year. The band themselves are a perfect fit for the location with ‘Scarecrow’ and new single ‘Prolong’ standing out along with as a lovely cover of ‘Cry me a River’. I hop on a bus back into town, and due to a scheduling debacle on Stage 2 I accidentally see The Wyches for the second year running. They’ve had a rapid accent since playing Dada last year, but look at home on a bigger stage. The Harley is next up for Public School Battalion who prove to be a good live as their early demos promised. ‘Bring Me The Head Of Yuri Gregarin’ showcases what the Sheffield “super-group” has to offer.
They are followed by the inimitable Thomas Truax who draws a large crowd who are treated to a special performance. Ably supported by Mother Superior, he unleashes his menagerie of musical creations on a largely unsuspecting audience -even roaming behind the bar and into the toilets. He throws in a cover of ‘Wicked Game’ before ending with ‘Beehive Heart’. It’s by far an away the best reaction from a crowd over the weekend and it’s great to hear the happy noises of people experiencing a look into his warped mind or the first time.
I end Tramlines where I began, back at Dada, for the smoke-filled haze of Vuvuvultures whose performance wins over a lot of admirers. Grass House bring my festival to a close, proving that the best is often left to last. Roll on next year.