Multiple venues, Sheffield
Words by Stephen Daniels
A few years ago I went to a night at Hope Works as part of Tramlines 2013. The night had Maribou State, Pedestrian, Horse Meat Disco and Koreless among the line-up. Impressed by the wide variety of the night, I had a fantastic time. However, I had no idea of the scale and magnitude of the festival as a whole. No idea that I was only scratching the surface of what it had to offer. When I got the opportunity to discover what the festival was really like I was excited to see an incredible range of artists I’ve been dreaming of seeing for years and eager to find new ones to get into.
We headed down to Ponderosa Park to see Dizzee Rascal, one of the first headliners of the night. The Park was packed; swarms of people were dancing in the sunset. We arrived to flashing lights and pumping beats. His set was full of spectacle, with confetti and fireballs erupting front of stage to Big Dirty Stinking Bass. Dizzee Rascal put on a big show, which the crowd loved, but those of us who wanted to see an old school grime set were disappointed. This was a Dizzee Rascal for a new generation.
However, there was redemption those who ventured onto the O2 Academy to see Novelist. The scale of the Academy is certainly nowhere near that of Ponderosa and with Novelist only officially releasing a handful of tunes, compared to Dizzee. Nevertheless, he brought some hefty old and new grime instrumentals and seriously clever bars, many of which were extended acapella freestyles which highlighted his undeniable skill. Novelist brought so much energy to the room and the crowd were with him all the way (a personal highlight was Novelist asking the crowd to shout “F**K David Cameron”, presumably a follow up to his public support of Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party). It was a treat to see two artists who represent grime at completely different points of their career, all in the same evening.
(Novelist - Photo: Ethan Weatherby)
From the Academy we went to a small nightclub called Plug to see Swamp81 veteran Paleman. The venue immersed the crowd into the middle of a type of Neo-Tokyo from the anime Akira. With neon lights illuminating Japanese symbols like shop signs; you could just about imagine you were no longer in Sheffield. Paleman stuck to that Swamp81 sound with a good mix of bass and techno never going all out. Perhaps this was just to warm the crowd up for Zed Bias who followed.
Before we had the chance to see him however, we made our way from the murky atmosphere of Plug to Hope Works to see the legendary Robert Hood present Floorplan. When I saw him at Bloc fest a couple years ago it was just him, this time round he brought his daughter Lyric to spin some tunes. Upon arrival, you could sense some high anticipation for what was to come. I was excited, the music was already pumping.
After pushing my way through the crowd as close to the front as I could, Floorplan arrived. With matching boiler suits on they were ready for action. Without any atmospheric build up Hood went in from the start. The crowd got settled in pretty quickly and soon enough Lyric came on. Straight away she dropped the tune of the summer, Tell You No Lie. The crowd went nuts. Even her Dad looked surprised and how effortless she was making it look. She didn’t let up and pulled out some house classics such as The Bomb and Hallelujah Anyway. It was nice to watch the pair keep true to the religious undertones of the Floorplan project. They pair finished off their set with a crowd pleaser that got everyone bouncing, Blue Monday. Soon as that riff came in couldn’t think of another perfect way to end a great night.
(Young Fathers - Photo: Tariq Clark)
The next day we headed back to Ponderosa to see George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic. Absolutely blown away by his performance in Leeds a couple of months ago I was eager to see him perform again. This time around it was amazing to see such a large number of mums and dads who had brought their children along. Not only did the location allow for thousands of young people to enjoy the music it was a space for even younger people to have fun. In fact I spend the day babysitting. It was a delight seeing kids getting down to S**t Goddam Get off your Ass and Jam. Tramlines really did stick to their mantra of a festival for all.
Following on from the legends it was time for some new talent with Young Fathers following Clinton with a solid, energetic and powerful set. Young Fathers showcased some of their music from their several EPs and Mercury Price winning album, Dead. With Get Up and Queen is Dead getting everyone jumping. Even the old-timers there for George were getting involved. The schedule for the stage was clearly well thought out and executed, never selling out for a straight out mainstream line-up. Ultimately allowing for people to explore and listen to old and new classics.
When it got past bedtime for some young listeners, it was time for Kelis. Unlike Dizzee, who seemed to focus his set on entirely new music, Kelis performed tracks from her entire discography. With a DJ, drummer, bass-guitarist and trumpeter, she started off with a version of her classic, Millionaire. The track felt completely different and had a sound similar to that of Fatima’s last album on Eglo. After teasing the crowd with a medley of tracks from her first few album sand a rendition of “Milkshake” that got the whole on Ponderosa singing at the top of their lungs, she revisited some of the more dance-orientated tracks from her 2010 album Flesh Tone. There were no need for flames or fireballs; the vibes from the crowd was enough to keep the party going into the night.
(Kelis - Photo: Jenn McCambridge)
After venturing back into the city centre, my friend wanted to go to the basement of City Hall to see the alternative rock / emo band Basement, from her home town of Ipswich. Not sure what to expect, Basement, back lit and surrounded by absolutely stunning architecture reawakened the emo I always wanted to be. Having not heard much about them I had no expectations of them to try and meet. I found seeing them an amazing experience. Tramlines allowed for one of the purest forms of discovering music, sharing it with others for the first time. It not only caters for people to see who they already know but gives them an opportunity, a challenge, to try something entirely new.
Not only do you try new artists but get to experience ones you know in interesting and unusual environments. I got to experience Night Kitchen for the first time. It was an absolute maze to get in to. Eventually I found myself in a pitch black concrete room where Pinch & Mumdance pumped out some seriously difficult and murky bass music. Their absolute screamer Big Slugs made maximum impact, continuingly hitting me in the face until my brain started rattling. Then we finished Saturday night off with a trip to the Yellow Arch to see Sir Spyro. Spyro smashed it with a top-up of grime from Friday night and Footsie helped him out, keeping the crowd moving and keeping them reloads coming.
On Sunday we went to the University Arms to see Truly Apparent, a reggae band and one of the 250+ acts who was playing one of the Fringe stages in and around Sheffield city centre. With every bar, pub and street corner opening their arms to everyone who descended into the city. It was here you caught the local talent. Support for them was on par with support brought to the more established artists. Everywhere was busy, nothing felt out of place.
One last trip back to Ponderosa allowed us to see legendary hip-hop outfit Jurassic 5. Who had the strangest collection of instruments I had ever seen. With a guitar-record player, guitar-CDj and kazoo, they took us through some of their impeccable discography. A particular highlight was Concrete Schoolyard which involved some jamming on a kazoo and the group taking turns on scratching the biggest turntable ever made. To see an American underground hip-hop in the middle of Yorkshire is something that doesn’t happen very often and really one of the most attractive aspects of Tramlines on the whole.
(Jurassic 5 - Photo: Jenn McCambridge)
To finish the day off we went to The Red Deer to grab some food and caught one final act. Having ticked the genre boxes of house, rock, emo, techno, bass, reggae, funk, dub and hip-hop I ended my time at Tramlines listening to some light blues courtesy of a band called The Peter Fairclough Trio. Tramlines claim in their program it is “an event for all people”. I felt they’ve stayed true to this mantra, providing spaces and events for people of every musical background and creating opportunities to discover new and exciting things. If you want to feel part of a collective of likeminded people coming together to enjoy music then I highly recommend Tramlines. I look forward very much to what next year has in store.
Words by Stephen Daniels
Main Photo courtesy of Simon Butler