A fantastic weekend began in the best possible style, the sun was baking hot and the streets were full of people eager for the festivities to begin. The atmosphere was friendly and relaxed as people really got into the spirit of the occasion. Tramlines is not just about seeing the bands you already know, people are happy to just randomly turn up at venues and treat it as a musical education.
With this spirit in mind my first stop was The Bowery as the descriptions of the first two bands had really intrigued me. Their opening act of the festival was The Mega Squad and I had no idea what to expect from them. As they began playing it became apparent that they were a fusion of styles, influences and ages. Fronted by a very young looking rapper backed by a range of musicians, a little more senior in age, they began to captivate the crowd with their highly individual style. The vocalist had incredible energy, his flow and the tightness of his lyrics were impeccable. His knack for smooth interchanges between lightening fast raps full of angst and soulful sections in the vein of A Tribe Called Quest, combined with the sheer quality of the musicians behind him made for a thoroughly enjoyable half hour. The combination of funky bass rumbling alongside the violin and a very energetic sax and trumpet selection, with the vocals ranging from Rage Against The Machine to De La Soul in style, provided the perfect platform from which the rest of the festival would build.
The Mega Squad were followed by another band with bags of energy and a style ideal for summer and the developing party atmosphere, Johnny Kowalski and The Sexy Weirdos. The name alone provided plenty of intrigue, as did their set. This was another band which incorporated violin and a trumpet player to great effect. The frantic and erratic punk style vocals layered over some incredibly lively carnival style instrumentation provided a fitting backdrop for the beautiful summery day that it was. The band clearly enjoyed themselves on stage and the crowd seemed to be really appreciative of them.
I then made my way to The O2 Academy 2 for something very different, Sheffield based rockers Cut Your Wings. As expected they started in their usual rowdy fashion under red stage lighting. Their heavy, raw guitar riffs, shattering bass, piercing drums and the crispness and quality of the vocals induced a party atmosphere in a very different way to the bands I had just witness. Russ Frisby’s vocal display was deeply captivating, his range is impressive at both ends of his spectrum and they elevate each song, giving the impression of an extra instrument. At times they were haunting and then they would pin you back against the wall with a hint of Eddie Vedder to them. This fine group of musicians put on a gripping performance, their new drummer supplied frantic crashing beats with effortless panache. The thumping bass and big, catchy, guitar riffs built towards uplifting choruses from their slick and moody beginnings.
After being thoroughly entertained by Cut Your Wings I headed to The Leadmill for their last two sets of the night, first up was Swiss Lips. A large crowd had gathered to see these masters of the catchy chorus and they started in typical upbeat fashion. The early chorus vocals from the keyboard player had an emotional quality to them which added to the power and feeling of delight that each chorus of theirs brings. Within the songs there were hints of Theme Park and The 1975 combined with a layer that is truly their own. There was a great atmosphere running through the venue with the crowd jumping, waving their arms and clapping along.
This atmosphere reached its climax as King Charles took to the stage. His unique sound and appearance had the capacity crowd ecstatic from the first track. There was a huge roar from the audience as he arrived and began in his own incomparable style. The reggae and ska influenced instrumentation combined with the rhythmic chanting of his vocals had people in owe of him before the heavier guitar parts took them to higher levels.