Tramlines 2011, now in its third year, saw the biggest crowds yet, Sheffield was packed with fun, sun, festivities for everyone as well as music, plenty of music. With the tagline ‘Free For All’ here’s a taste of some of what went on…
After a couple of false starts, my Tramlines began with Volcanoes at The Washington. A nice was to kick-off this long weekend of music.
Next up, a little known musician from Manchester called Man Made. Its great to have The Shakespeare back open, and I really like what they’ve done with it. Hopefully, this will be a boon for Sheffield music with the sad recent closures of The Grapes and The Boardwalk. Resplendent in a gold sparkly jacket, this very talented and shy musician put on a wonderful set our heartfelt songs. Described by a friend as “Like Paul Thomas Saunders but better”, and I can’t really disagree with that assessment. Next up, the Nokia Unannounced Stage and The Kate Jackson Group. An eager crowd gathered to see the first hometown gig from the former Long Blondes singer. Whilst the arena does not really suite her new music, it went down well with an appreciative crowd.
Back to a now packed Washington to see obLONG. Small but mighty, lead singer Tracy’s voice really packs a punch, and powers through a great set of up-tempo crowd pleasing songs. In stark contrast to what I’ve just seen, it does make you wonder if both acts would be better suited to swapping venues. After a 50/50 decision, I decided to head up to The Harley to pass the rest of the evening. First up was Trophy Wife. They played an enthusiastically bouncy set of indie-electro which really got the crowed going. The capacity crowd really buzzed off their music. With a healthy queue forming outside, Islet took the stage, romping through a raucous lesson in the art of noise production. Their sheer effort and commitment puts most bands to shame. A master class in organised chaos. As day 1 drew to an end, the festival was off to a flying start.
Nursing only a minor hangover, I head back to the watch Hey Sholay kicking off the New Music Stage. They are having a great year so far which continued with a very well received set. I think they may have gained a lot of fans today, and seemed at home on a bigger stage.
After a brief sojourn to The Peace Gardens to catch the lively Balkan Bandits playing the World Stage in a lovely chilled-out atmosphere, it was back to Barker’s Pool again to catch Nedry. I’m a big fan of this band, but it has to be said, it really wasn’t a complimentary setting for their down-tempo electro vibe. Nevertheless, despite not being helped by the acoustics, they put on a good show, and will have had many converts by the end. They will hopefully be back in a far more suitable setting later in the year.
Next up, The Shakespeare. London-based Icelandic singer-songwriter Eliza Newman, is thoroughly charming and clearly loves what she does. Playing the ukulele, and ably supported by just a semi-acoustic guitar, she produces an atypically kooky performance which fits in perfectly with the lazy, friendly summer vibe in the pub. She ends the set perfectly with Star Wars Bar, which if the humming in the toilet afterwards is anything to go by, is a firm favourite.
After some minor confusion at some break dancing outside West One Rox, I head to The Devonshire Cat to the most unique aspect of Tramlines Festival. The Buskers Bus is in its second year and now comprises 2 separate routes taking in Kelham Island and Broomhill/Hunters Bar/London Road. Curated by Bromheads, it’s a unique opportunity for music fans to see bands perform in a different setting. Running throughout the weekend, it hosts a wide range of local music, along with some secret national acts, and allows you to easily travel around the wide range of participating venues. My first visit was for Pete David and The Payroll Union, who performed an admiral showcase of their work.
After a brief pit stop, it was back down to the New Music Stage for Dananananaykroyd. They played a high voltage set to a sometimes over enthusiastic crowd, which had Sheffield bouncing as we entered Saturday night. Pink Sabbath was a particular highlight, as was their clear love of thesponsor’s white meat product.
Another visit to the Devonshire Cat for a swift pint, before piling onto the Buskers Bus for the Early Cartographers. With a menagerie of instruments, 6/7th of the band crammed onto the top deck of the bus. The new Sheffield “supergroup” played a selection of songs to an appreciative audience. Never have I heard “pass the cello” uttered on public transport before. They followed it up by setting-up shop across the road and proceeded to busk to passers-by, embodying the true spirit of the Bus. The highlight of my Saturday.
I sadly had to leave mid-stream to catch The Purgatory Players at The Library Theatre. Bedecked in traditional dress, they proceeded to play a great set in a venue which was perfect for them, although the cry for Rocking in a Free World was sadly ignored. They ended on a rousing sing along which had the audience on their feet.
I ended the night having a whale of a time at the Silent Disco in the Unannounced Tent followed by some Balkan dancing at Na Zdrove! in Penelope’s. The night ended to We’ll Meet Again and we certainly will.
With a body slightly regretting last night’s antics, it’s onwards and upwards into the final day.
A new feature this year is the delightful Folk Forest in Endcliffe Park. It was a lovely day, so I decided to pop down there first. I went to catch the lovely Captives on the Carousel and was pleased arrive to a busy laid back family atmosphere. They played a lovely set in beautiful surroundings. The slightly awkward banter between the duo, only served to enhance the performance.
I headed into town to see the second half of the Lupen Crook set at SOYO. He managed to superbly rise above the clamber of the excitable crowd to give a consummate performance. We entered The Ballroom to see Black Gold of the Sun to find the dark room subtly lit which created a wonderful cool relaxed haven, in stark contrast to the heat outdoors. For a band who has only in their early days, they played a very assured dark, brooding set, which went down well with the early evening crowd. Standing outside, I managed to catch a couple of songs from Errors, playing the New Music Stage, who sounded really good, and their drummer is pretty amazing.
A swift walk transported me to The Redhouse in time to see Tigercats. I knew very little about the London band, but had heard enough to make the journey and I was duly rewarded with a performance which blew me away. This was definitely my highlight of the weekend. The singer has a great voice and the spiky post-punk sound merged well with a pop sensibility. It’s a hard act to follow, but Nature Set did it superbly. A packed crowd was there to see them deliver a virtuoso performance of indie-pop. They cracked up the pace at the end with the stand-out I Am a Planet.
I returned to a packed SOYO for Screaming Maldini after missing their acoustic set last night. They blew the crowd away with their alternative brand of lively pop music and it’s the best performance I’ve seen from them. They seemed to revel in the crowded atmosphere.
I found the Ballroom had taken a more disco feel as I entered to find The Chanteuse and the Crippled Claw in full swing. An enthusiastic crowd lapped it up.
I ended the weekend relaxing with a quiet drink in Bungalows and Bears with friends, which nicely rounded off the festival. It has been my favourite Tramlines so far. I’ve made much more of an effort to travel around this year and it certainly paid off. The Buskers Bus is a definite highlight, whilst the Folk Forest has been a great introduction. The expanding number of venues has only served to improve Tramlines, with keen audiences in all venues. The diversity gives you the opportunity to pace your day in keeping with how you’re feeling.
Roll on Tramlines 2012.