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In Review: Tramlines Festival 2017

In Review: Tramlines Festival 2017

Callum Goodley | Reviews

Spread over the city of Sheffield, Tramlines is quite different to most UK festivals. With a variety of stages, venues and clubs showcasing local, national and international musical talent, walking around the festival it really feels like it brings the city together. Generation spanning acts from Lady Leshurr and Loyle Carner to Toots and the Maytals and Primal Scream brought together a crowd comprised of all ages, in spite of the rain. With both official and unofficial after parties dotted about the city following the day time festivities, there is music on offer almost twenty four hours of the day from Friday evening til early Monday morning. As seemed to be the common theme of Tramlines, the after parties offered a bit of something for everyone with a selection of grime, drum and bass, UK funky, dub, garage and the genre that originated in the Sheffield - bassline. Also on offer was a range of eclectic house, disco and techno selectors as well as a DJ set from 90s house legends Faithless.  

The first acts of the weekend started late on the Friday afternoon with Twin Atlantic hitting the stage at seven and keeping the crowd warm by thrashing through a number of their pop-chorus, rock-riff laden songs. Hits such as ‘Heart and Soul’ and ‘Make a Beast of Myself’ get a great crowd reaction before they leave the stage in way of Friday night headliners, The Libertines.

Image courtesy of Tramlines Photography Team 

Surprisingly, the notoriously-late Peter Doherty and his clan come out on stage pretty much on time, if a little sedated and wobbly. Their set starts with a lacklustre rendition of ‘Vertigo’ as Pete and Carl meander around the stage following it with some material from their 2015 album Anthems for Doomed Youth, convening for their classic shared microphone stance... but something just isn’t right. The music is cut out after just a few tracks and some in the crowd voiced displeasure; the band apologises to the crowd in polite fashion and return back to the stage a few minutes later. With the sound largely improved, the aging indie icons beginning to show why they were such icons in the first place; they tear through a number of hits from their small but dense back catalogue. The first real moment of crowd participation accompanies ‘Gunga Din’ the lead single from their 2015 album. As expected there is huge reception for the band defining singalong anthem ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’, even if Peter does half-bake the harmonica solo. Tracks such as ‘Don’t Look Back Into the Sun’ and ‘What Katie Did’ also provide a reminder of how many well-crafted indie ballads the band has in their arsenal. The end of the show offers the audience an interesting moment as a visibly, and audibly, drunk Carl Barat uses the crowd to coax an unwilling Doherty back on stage by chanting ‘one more song’. The band goes on to perform ‘Music When the Lights Go Out’ which seems very suitable, not just as the last song of the concert but as a representation of the relationship between Doherty and this band.   

On Saturday, the Main Stage at Ponderosa Park played host to two of the biggest names at the festival, Toots and the Maytals followed by Primal Scream. Jamaican legends Toots and the Maytals hit the stage at four and dish out a slice of Caribbean sunshine on a soggy and cold afternoon in Sheffield. Tearing through classics such as ‘Funky Kingston’, ‘Pressure Drop’ and ‘Monkey Man’ with an incredible amount of energy getting plenty of feet up and moving but there was one track that Sheffield wanted to hear. ’54-46 Was My Number’ the track used in ‘This Is England’ a film based and filmed around the Sheffield area has ties with the city, giving the performance some extra weight and a real feel of appreciation ringing throughout the crowd when the plucky bassline plays out. Unfortunately, this vibrant, energetic and identifiable performance was followed by one of the drabbest and most mundane performances of the festival if not the year. We Are Scientists took the stage greeted by a small crowd, which only became smaller as their performance dragged on; the less said about them the better but you know it is time to walk away when the lead singer shouts ‘Let’s go Shefton (Sheffield), come on!’ and proceeds to play what sounds like the same song they played two songs before. Nevertheless, it was the turn of the legendary Primal Scream to hit the stage next and they certainly made up for the limp performance that preceded them.

Image courtesy of Tramlines Photography Team 

Opening with Screamadelica classic ‘Moving On Up’ Bobby Gillespie and co. get the crowd ready for a euphoric-rock journey in the pouring rain. Ripping through sing-along classics like ‘Country Girl’ and ‘Rocks’ gets everyone in great spirits before the trumpets ring out for the eternal riff and gospel vocals and those dreamy piano keys slowly creep in as cult classic ‘Loaded’ is greeted by an audience whose hands are raised and are all doing their best Madchester style dances. The band finish up with harmonious ‘Come Together’ and the lead vocal sample from this track is sung over and over by crowds walking from Ponderosa Park back into the city, a great performance of some immortal tracks.

Sunday was the surprise package of the festival - arriving at Ponderosa Park mid-afternoon the bad weather, and perhaps the night before, appeared to be getting the better of people. There were a lot of groups sitting and chatting around the main stage and the atmosphere appeared to be dwindling, this was just five minutes before Lady Leshurr was due to step out and perform. Instead of Lady Leshurr her DJ came out on his own and played a small warm up set of hip hop classics, new and old, which completely transformed the atmosphere. Within fifteen minutes the crowd changed from the deadest it had been all weekend to the liveliest it had been, Lady Leshurr was ready to take the stage. With the crowd now full of energy she took full advantage and she had almost everyone participating in every song, singing back to her and performing her chosen dance moves. Not only did she kill the performance, she also won the hearts of the crowd with stories about buying her mother a new house and thanking her fans for making it happen. Her ‘queen’s speech’ tracks tore the place apart with shouts of ‘brush your teef’ and ‘crispy bacon’ ringing out before she performs ‘Where Are You Now’ mixed with a classic grime instrumental Rebound X. Lady Leshurr exceeded all expectations and brought the crowd back to life and as if her set wasn’t uplifting enough the House Gospel Choir were next up.

Image courtesy of Tramlines Photography Team 

The House Gospel Choir does pretty much what it says on the tin, gospel versions of house classics. The sheer power of the vocal performances was spine tingling at times and to see such a great sense of community and belief within the choir of over twenty members was something to be in awe of. They ploughed through house classics such as Alison Limerick’s ‘Where Love Lives’, Robin S’s ‘Show Me Love’ and Candi Staton’s ‘Hallelujah Anyway’ with a power that did full justice to the originals and had the crowd stomping and grooving throughout.

Sunday headliners Metronomy showed why they’re a worthy headliner, after a bit of blip with Love Letters last year’s Summer '08 marked a fine return to form and lead single ‘Old Skool’ goes down a treat with the crowd. Their performance is energetic and vibrant, with classics such as ‘Heartbreaker’, ‘A Thing For Me’ and ‘Radio Ladio’ a treat for the long term fans and the more popular ‘The Bay’ and ‘The Look’ proving to be keyboard riff singalongs. All in all a fine performance from a band who seem more than comfortable in the headliner role and the see the festival out in a groovy, wonky and energetic fashion.

In Review: Tramlines Festival 2017

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