As Tramlines 2014 began Sheffield was baked in sunshine, the streets were packed with festival goers and residents of the city both enjoying the heat. My first point of call was Sheffield City Hall’s Ballroom to see Post War Glamour Girls. As the opening act for this stage on the first day of a festival they were technically a warm up act but the standard they set was so high that the remaining acts of the weekend were going to struggle to keep up.
The Ballroom is a beautiful basement venue and a decent sized crowd gathered for a band rapidly gaining all the right kind of notoriety. Post War Glamour Girls opened with ‘Little Land’, from their recent album Pink Fur. It was instantly evident that the excellent acoustics of the venue made it the perfect setting for such a multi facetted act. They played loud but instead of being overpowering the sound filled the room and bounced off the walls, adding to their harmonies and intricate play. As James Smith’s angst ridden, rasping and fluctuating vocals combined with the bass, rumbling between the buildings support columns, the band expertly positioned themselves just on the brink of boiling over. During the second track ‘Felonious Punk’, a new track yet to be released, the crispness of the crashing symbols and rolling drums were piercing and impressively stood out over the funk style verses, before the explosive choruses. This was a night for them to showcase the new material as they played four new tracks, including their next single ‘Gustave’, during their six song set. Existing fans will have noticed that the new tracks were an expansion and progression of their already fine work. Maybe Post War Glamour Girls had raised the bar too high as the following act, The Xcerts, took a long time to make any sort of impression on me.
Friday was nicely rounded off with Leeds legends The Wedding Present at Sheffield’s iconic The Leadmill. The Wedding Present have a very loyal fan base spreading across generations so it was no surprise to see the venue packed with a very eager crowd. During their set the hints of many current bands were noticeable, showing the influence they have had alongside other bands of that era. David Gedge’s vocals had the crowd mesmerised as they switched from relaxed and nonchalant to impassioned and uplifting. This was the eighteenth appearance of their career at The Leadmill and they seemed to be excited by the occasion as the bass rumbled through the room and the rhythm guitar got gradually more and more frantic.
The temperature outside was even higher than the previous day as Saturday got underway. My day started in the most peaceful and beautiful surroundings then progressed through stages towards a rowdy ending. I started at Sheffield Cathedral, a stunning building with acoustics to match, to see the unique talents of See Emily Play backed by Abbeydale Singers vocal choir. Emily looked striking dressed in her quirky, gothic style but the real eye catching element was her stunning vocals. Her delightful voice combined with the spine tingling talents of the choir were taken to new heights by the excellent acoustics of the Cathedral. A large audience sat on the floor in front of the stage appreciating the warming aural experience.
My next stop was an altogether different experience and a quick shift of gears. Having only heard hype about them, but yet to hear any of their music, I went along to see Esben & The Witch at the City Hall not quite knowing what to expect. Occasionally these decisions backfire but this time I was left with an electric feeling of witnessing something that was completely new to me, and instantly falling in love with it. Esben & The Witch drew a large crowd which reveled in their atmospheric set which built towards a crescendo. It was a half hour filled with high points, the uppermost being ‘Dig Your Fingers In’ from their forthcoming album A New Nature. It began with some delicate and soothing vocal melodies from Rachel Davies before a final flurry which saw her vocals intensify into almost a screech backed by thunderous bass and crashing drums.
Next on my agenda was The Leadmill for one of the stand-out acts from last year’s festival PINS, as they equaled and then surpassed their previous performance. From the moment the girls arrived on stage they were energetic and jumping around despite the intense heat inside and outside the venue, especially during ‘Lost Lost Lost’. PINS repaid the crowd that had queued to get in with favourites like ‘Get With Me’ and ‘Girls Like Us’ alongside two new tracks, and a cover of The Misfits track ‘Hybrid Moments’.
The day ended in fine style with the incomparable Future Of The Left at the City Hall. They opened with ‘Arming Eritrea’, and this high-octane beginning was just the starting block from which the rest of their set accelerated from. The bass was vibrating through the floor, and as the moshing intensified the ground beneath me seemed to be moving a dangerous amount. I was filled with envy and admiration at just how tight their performance was, even at the lightning quick pace they play at. As the set built towards a thrilling end highlights included ‘How To Spot A Record Company’ before the band let loose and climaxed with their traditional drawn out version of ‘Lapsed Catholics’.
Sunday was much cooler weather wise and also in terms of the line-up. The schedule was chock full of indie bands that are rapidly gaining reputations and followers, unfortunately this also provided multiple clashes making for some tough decisions as to who to watch. The majority of these bands were appearing at Queens Social Club so I began there to see Battle Lines, one of the many bright sparks coming out of Leeds. They treated us to some new material as well as tracks from their two well received EP’s. Singer Carly’s vocals were of the highest quality as she swayed along with the rumbling bass and prominent, high-pitched, drums. Their mix of synthesizers and blustering guitars gathered pace and vigor until they overflowed.
As the acoustics in the Cathedral had enhanced my experience of See Emily Play the previous day I was excited to go there again to witness Woman’s Hour. The stage was decorated with the white pyramids from their album cover and in contrast to previous gigs at the venue the majority of the audience were stood and dancing. Fiona Burgess’ cheerless but ardent vocals were flawless and filled the room perfectly. The tribal drum beats were forceful as they ricocheted around the Cathedral. It was then back to Queens Social Club were a large crowd was gathering to see Sky Larkin, even though they clashed with headliners The Cribs on the Main Stage. They opened with ‘Still Windmills’ and seemed to be enjoying the occasion right from the very beginning. Drummer Nestor Matthews, dressed in his trademark shorts and sweatband, was putting in an energetic performance even though he had already played a set with his other band Menace Beach only an hour or so previous. Singer and guitarist Katie Harkin’s vocals were upbeat and punchy during the majority but the high point of the set was one of their grittier numbers ‘Frozen Summer’.
My final stop of the festival was those shoe gazing upstarts TOY at The Leadmill. Another well attended gig where the crowd loved their almost schizophrenic flips between meek and raucous. Each track starts off fairly humble but gradually builds into and almost riotous conclusion with each member of the band seemingly pushing each other to go further, louder and faster.