If there’s now any event that becomes annually lodged into the calendars of South Yorkshire, it’s Tramlines. In offering a typically sprawling roster of artists for the eight year running, the biggest edition of the Steel City event proved why it is currently the best British inner-city festival going.
Kicking off with alt-rock veterans The Dandy Warhols, the Friday evening became the highlight of the weekend, thanks to a highly impressive and eclectic selection of artists. The aforementioned band played sing-along hits such as ‘Bohemian Like You’ and ‘We Used To Be Friends between psychedelic transitions – a real blast from the past.
Then came the crunch clash of Dizzie Rascal and Ekkah – luckily faith was rewarded in the latter. Aided with a tight performing band, sparkling outfits, unconfined dance shapes and a generally euphoric attitude, the duo knew exactly how to blow the roof off The Harley. The host of punters, mutinous to arguably the festivals highest profile headliner, arrived with their dancing shoes well and truly primed, and ended up lodged in the palms of the two girl’s hands. New and highly promising slabs of electro-funk were unleashed alongside fan favourites ‘Small Talk’ and ‘Last Chance to Dance’.
Then it was on to perhaps the most underrated venue at the festival, where All We Are were a match made in heaven with the Sheffield Cathedral as the evening’s sun set. Crisp and bold production values on record were swapped for reverberated acoustics during a set that energised their brand of chilled indie-pop. The poppy hooks and silky-smooth falsetto on ‘Feel Safe’ weaved and snaked effortlessly like, as they have previously described, The Bee Gees on diazepam. There again the relentless ‘Keep Me Alive’ demonstrated an epic crescendo that was more ecstasy-induced than anything else. There’s something magical about this Liverpool-incepted trio – catch them at small, intimate venues whilst you still can.
The rest of the night was a Grime takeover – ex-Arctic Monkey fronted Sticky Blood hosted a multitude of featuring MC’s, before local lad Coco hammered out rising tracks Big Bou Ya and Target Practice. Finally, Novelist demonstrated exactly why he is helping spearhead the emerging genre to unprecedented heights with his dextrous display.
Whilst Saturday’s roster didn’t hit the dizzyingly high standards of the opening night, a day of exploration was just as entertaining. Soon after enjoying Dawn Penn’s Jamaican reggae, a trip to Endcliffe Park’s Folk Forest was on the cards. The park’s stage had a family-friendly feel, whilst being intimate and enclosed in an oval array of trees. After enjoying some of the local craft ale on offering with a few slices of delightful stone-baked pizza, intricate and funky art-rockers Field Music performed a wonky set that included impressive new single ‘Disappointed’ – that left the head-nodding audience anything but.
Then it was back to the mainstage for Kelis, whose milkshake brought both boys and girls to her set in great numbers. It was of course her greatest hit that brought a very predictable yet no less satisfying highlight a set that was mixed with club-ready beats and her more soulful hits.
After checking out a few fringe venues and excellent, artful spaces such as the Yellow Arch Studios and The Millennium Gallery, the nights finale was My Nu Leng whose stomping acid-house set a brimming audience at the 02 Academy alight.
Finally, with hangovers in full swing and a looming sense of dread the weekend’s curtains were beginning to draw a close, the Sunday offered a stellar line up akin to the Friday. C Duncan’s Scottish dream-pop suited the Folk Forest impeccably, and proved why last year’s album ‘For’ warranted a Mercury nomination.
Then it was onto Quantic, who upped the anti with a set loitered with featuring singers and worldy ballads, before leaving slightly early to reach the first ever gig of LOGS – a half-Wet Nuns and half-Drenge brainchild. However the buzz was too great, as the upstairs of a pokey Great Gatsby fringe venue was not half suffice space for the sheer local attention received.
The weekend’s final performance of Cowtown was typically incredible, and worthy of a 10pm slot at The Harley. However it was blighted by the realisation that the gig was only available to ‘after-party’ ticket holders – hence a minimal crowd for a band worthy of much more. This didn’t seem to distract the trio though, whose unique brand of (as they self-proclaim) ‘space age primitive econojam’ was as noisy as it was anarchic.
Now part of Steel City folk law aside Jarvis Cocker and Henderson’s Sauce, Tramlines is becoming more than just a music festival, and succeeds in attracting punters of diverse age and demographics for extremely good value. Bring on next year!
This Tramlines article was written by Jordan Foster, a GIGsoup contributor