Five stages welcome from far and wide an array of artists to Sheffield for the second day of Outlines Festival. Enjoying the sunny afternoon music lovers parade between Queens Social Club, The Harley, Plug and Leadmill.
Queens hosts a female dominated line-up; highlights being Indian Queens, Laurel, Hannah Peel and Leeds act Harkin. Indian Queens bring from Hackney a royal flare to the Phoenix Nights style stage with an epic dark sound of two sisters. Frontwoman Jennifer O’Neil owns the stage, momentarily echoing Fiona Apple and donning a sequinned waistcoat matching the metallic backdrop while she blasts out moody vocals and virtuoso guitar solos. Katherine adds heavy bass riffs and intriguing harmonies clearly influenced by Warpaint. The day is dominated by women with Laurel’s incredibly beautiful vocal tone and Hannah Peel’s unusual instrumentation choices including a wind up music box.
A wet evening draws in and bubbly Katie Harkin (of Leeds based Sky Larkin) embraces the stage. A solo performer with electric guitar and vocals she, like Daughter, portrays simplicity in her vocal technique and lyrics. Her set features a couple of well crafted covers including Apostle of Hustle cover ‘National Anthem of Nowhere’ and a Sheffield band’s song ‘Independence Day’ which Harkin reports she has been ‘thinking of it since Brexit’ and the crowd react eagerly.
Following on the Leeds theme at Queens, Cowtown are next up fronted by a male and female in matching shirts with a similar vibe to White Stripes. Hilary, hair in pigtails, with childlike vocals, head bops and synth loops. Nash sings alike to Jack White and has plenty of banter to which Hilary remarks ‘You never say anything Nash but bizarre’. They look intensely at each other throughout the set with Dave smashing the drums. They are energetic and playful with repetitive melodic phrases but play material far from traditionally catchy pop. The crowd laugh as Nash approaches them with a dramatic guitar solo apologising that it ‘was obnoxious but I had to do it.’
Further afield attendees flip from Plug Room 1 to Room 2 as contrasting acts commence. Faitala in Room 2 is without his band as a Kiwi announces that ‘this is my first ever solo gig and it may well be my last’, yet he attempts to play all the parts of their tracks. With a loop station of pedals, synths and a drum machine and playing electric guitar while singing it seems David Faitala has set his goal too high. Some songs seem disjointed but the content while strong needs a few more hands on deck.
Four sisters rock out and Graceland are definitely the ones to be watching. They nail their family balance without one clear frontwoman. Their opening track sees bass player centre stage moshing with riffs the audience can’t resist mimicking. They have travelled from Norwich to deliver a raw and unique sound with echoing vocals from guitarist and synth/guitarist either side of the stage. The right hand stage sibling has an enthralling vocal tone and when she breaks from playing guitar she uses her arms to perform aerial front crawl.
Ladies still lead in Sheffield as Girl Ray empower Room 2 with an Indie twist on Folk featuring harmonies and high registered vocals, drums, electric guitar and bass. Next, Trash are a group of Indie lads standing in a line casually delivering pleasant tunes. With their traditional backline they add guitar solos and tell everyone they’re Liverpool football fans as plenty of bums shake along to the music. Leeds band Bruising are enthralling delivering tight and collected entertaining tunes from a gender balanced quartet.
Just around the corner in Room 1 Sophie Longshaw followed by Ella On The Run plug in. Longshaw is soft and melodic accompanied by acoustic guitar and piano. Alike to Adele in appearance and sound her mellow sound soothes her audience. Later, Ella heightens the energy in the most fabulous outfit of the day introducing electronics and an excellent stage presence.
Australian psychedelic dance Jagwar Ma close Outlines Festival with a massive finale bursting out of Leadmill. Every person is dancing wildly while blue lights revolve and extended tracks are flawlessly projected. Winterfield launches himself across stage between playing synth, guitar and singing. Ma raised on a platform triggers the beats and keeps the tempo that the room is pulsating to. Thrilled Freeman thumps his bass and every song is mind-bending. Looping synth with deep bass ground you to the floor in ‘O B 1’ as EQ lifts and you’re jumping shouting ‘You warm me up / You wore me down / I get the feeling now’. Jagwar Ma combine numerous delights continuously in their performance with some qualities of Blur, Kinks and Tame Impala. Jagwar Ma’s perfected sound and hallucinatory energy spiral in and around Outlines and they fill Leadmill to the brim with an explosive conclusion to a fiercely talented festival of acts.
All pictures courtesy of Outlines Festival.