Tramlines 2014: Part 1

July means only one thing for Sheffield – Tramlines Festival. As thousands of festival-goers flock to the streets to experience the north’s finest inner city music festival, you begin to wonder whether you are in fact standing in a street or a herd of animals. Yes, you know the kind of animals I mean – the alcohol infused kind. With many music lovers full of merriment and excited for the weekend ahead, roads were closed and the madness that is Tramlines was ready to explode.

It has to be mentioned before I start, that to make your weekend scheduling a little easier, the kind people at Tramlines pieced together a ‘Clash Finder’, available to download online, to make sure you know exactly when to be where. This was definitely useful although the look on my face upon realising a number of bands on my ever-growing ‘ones to watch’ list clashed was definitely not a pretty one. Nevertheless, I made a plan and did my best to stick to it. But really, who is capable of sticking to a plan at a festival? I for one am not. So let me take you back to Friday, where my Tramlines experience began.

Friday 25th

After ditching my bags at a friend’s house upon failing to book a hotel (the one down side to a festival without onsite camping) we ventured down to Devonshire Green where the main stage had been set up. Unfortunately, only after entering the grounds and spending a few spare moments basking in the summer sun, it came to our attention that R&B sensation from the early 2000’s, Ms Dynamite, had pulled out of the festival at the last minute. Although this was disappointing, the organisers of Tramlines were not to leave their audience without music as they replaced the set with a DJ and the crowds sat anxiously waiting for the next big name to take to the stage, Toddla T.

After settling down and watching a few songs from the Toddla T Sound Show, I headed down to Sheffield Cathedral, one of my favourite music venues in the city. I had been excited all week for Blessa’s performance, as I just knew that this was the perfect venue for them to showcase their talent. Full of glittering guitars and shimmering vocals there was a sense of euphoria as the Cathedral was packed out from front to back with beaming faces. Although the performance was musically pleasing, it became apparent the Blessa are yet to come to terms with their quick rising popularity as their audience interaction was kept to a minimum.

Already tired and feeling the heat, I made my way to my final act of Tramlines’ Friday and that was the wonderful fiery-haired Katy B, who gave a hot performance to match. Expecting no less than brilliant after having caught her live supporting Plan B a few years back, my expectations were definitely met. DJ Shakira Kalité played alongside Katy and her four back-up dancers who never failed to keep moving and get the crowd going. ‘Katy on a Mission’ had the crowd singing and dancing so much that you were graced with a mouthful of dust from the dry ground as Katy unearthed the ferocious energy left in the audience.

Saturday 26th

After establishing that the majority of acts I wanted to see most were on the Sunday, I planned a quiet Saturday in order to save my energy for the final day of Tramlines. As part of Tramlines’ fringe line-up, The University Arms put on a display of more heavy bands, including three-piece band Unicorn Hunters. Unicorn Hunters were incredibly talented and, well, there is no other word more appropriate to describe it other than ‘loud’. But this loudness is what speaks most and made this band stand out from the bunch. Definitely worth a watch if they’re ever playing near you.

Fast forward a few hours and I found myself in another fringe venue, Bungalows and Bears, for a dreamy synth-laden set from the Birmingham indie pop band, JAWS. After a thorough soundcheck the band played a set of their most popular tracks, including new song ‘Be Slowly’ from their upcoming debut album. I can confirm that I have never seen so many people squeeze into Bungalows and Bears before and it was refreshing to see so many enthusiastic music lovers enjoying the set, dancing and singing along to the beachy surf-rock.

Sunday 27th

I could talk about all of the bands I saw on Sunday, however that would be far too much talking, so instead I’ve picked out my favourite three. First of the bunch were Sheffield band Best Friends who took the stage at Queens Social club early in the evening. The sheer amount of noise from this performance and hair shaking from various members completely made the set. Don’t get me wrong; the musical skills were amazing too, but the hair shaking? That was on point. In fact, as a girl, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so jealous of a guys’ hair shaking skills, it was that good. Hair shaking aside, melodic guitars and fuzzy rhythms exploded into the room and not a single person could resist.

Next on the bill were The Cribs which had me trekking back up to the main stage on Devonshire Green – that’s the only issue with a music festival that takes place over the entire city, the distance between each venue. Either way, I arrived with plenty of time, which was lucky as the Wakefield trio (who kindly stated Sheffield as their hometown) kicked off the set 15 minutes early. Anthems like ‘Come On, Be A No One’ and ‘Be Safe’ had the whole of the audience singing (shouting) along, not to mention crowd surfing their way to the barrier in an ironically unsafe and manner.

Saving the best until last, Screaming Maldini were the final artist to grace my Tramlines schedule with their second show of the weekend at the Cathedral and this was definitely a performance not to be missed. Backed by a full choir and accompanied by cellists, Screaming Maldini’s music was on a whole new level of incredible. ‘Abyssinia’ in particular benefitted from the arrangement and brought me close to tears as the heart-felt lyrics echoed around the room, along with the likes of ‘Islands’ and ‘Summer Somewhere’. The six-piece Sheffield band have a true stage presence that is incomparable to any other and this set them apart from all of the other acts on the bill the Tramlines festival – the perfect calming end to a chaotic few days.