The Verse’s Alex Berdugo tells us what he thought of Tramlines festival, hosted in Sheffield on 21st – 23rd July 2017.
For the past nine years, Sheffield has hosted Tramlines. Revered as one of the best inner-city festivals in the country, Tramlines has grown considerably since its genesis. It sports a larger price tag year by year but is always improving the line-up and its venues. Having attended the previous two years, I was unsure which changes would have been made.
I was immediately impressed upon entering the main stage area on the opening Friday. Hordes of students and Sheffield locals were flooding through the no-fuss queuing system, with a distinct lack of congestion compared to 2016. Security personnel were fair but firm – much friendlier than in their tainted past.
As indie-rock pioneers Twin Atlantic took to the stage, I thought it was the right time for a drink. Queues were hideously long (it would take one about half an hour to reach its destination), but the bars were of an admirably high quality and the bar staff were chatty and charismatic. I inhaled an exceptional bourbon whiskey cocktail from the Bulliet Cocktail Bar, enjoying it so much that I didn’t even mind the £8.50 setback.
Twin Atlantic played a fantastic set, noticeably heavier live than in the studio. A highlight was their extended version of Heart and Soul. The outro captivated crowd and Tramlines crew alike. A small critique would be that their set was a tad too early in the night; by starting at 7pm, the band were subjected to an audience that mostly just wanted a drink and to after work. This impeded the crowd participation, with Twin Atlantic voicing their frustration at multiple points. It would be nice to see a rock band like them perform later on in the evening, to gain maximum attention.
The next act successfully turned the heads of all Ponderosa inhabitants. The Libertines, known for nostalgic hits such as Can’t Stand Me Now, possessed an energy that was infectious and spread throughout the audience. There was a classic indie gig atmosphere to their performance; flares were lit, shoulders were sat on and the music was upbeat. Unfortunately, The Libertines were not tight musically. They were occasionally out of time with each other, often playing their instruments sloppily. Despite this, they did not fail to please the expectant Friday night crowd.
The main stage area had enough food stalls to feed the whole of Sheffield – everything from Poutine to noodles, from burgers to a dedicated ‘German Sausage’ stall. My personal favourite was the hog roast van. I was blessed with a generous pork and stuffing baguette, my senses aroused as the BBQ sauce took me to another world. As far as festival food goes, Tramlines did not disappoint in the times of need.
Saturday saw the beginnings of England’s typical summertime monsoon weather. However, this did not prevent a large gathering for We Are Scientists, which was non-stop indie dance songs, with top tracks such as Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt remaining stuck in our heads for the rest of the weekend. While they were dry, the band were sympathetic of the crowd’s soggy situation. There was amusing commentary between songs and their interaction made our time enjoyable.
By the time Primal Scream were ready for their set, the average age of the main stage audience had increased by approximately twenty years. This was endearing to see, as they clearly have devout followers. Primal Scream were sensational, never missing a beat and their stage presence being off the charts. Loaded was their most memorable moment, playing a version that we all couldn’t help but sway to. Strangers were hugging and dancing in a musical celebration. A woman with her husband and son grabbed me and spun me around (not ideal after a few drinks) and the atmosphere was as electric as the guitars. It was definitely worth getting drenched to see the Ponderosa headline on the Saturday night of the festival.
There were also a couple of trendy stall for retro clothes at Tramlines. You can expect that the denim jackets were distressed and customised, the shades reminiscent of John Lennon and a whole shop screaming of Woodstock ’69. The prices of some items made my eyes water, but the fashion was undeniably alluring. It was handy knowing that there was a supply of vintage clothes at the festival in case I had forgotten to raid my parents’ wardrobe before arriving.
If you thought that not having Tramlines After Party tickets would mean missing out on all the fun, you couldn’t be more wrong. Picture the scene: its 2am, the floor of Revolution De Cuba is sticky and the people are drunk. All of a sudden, the 8 Hot Brass Band appears, playing their horny renditions of classics like Bieber’s What Do You Mean and Lean On Me by Bill Withers. It was a marvellous move by Tramlines, one that turned an already superb night into one that won’t be forgotten any time soon.
Unbelievably, I succeeded in leaving my bed on the Sunday afternoon. I explored the Devonshire Green stage in Sheffield centre, a venue that was ready to burst with people eager to catch The Coral.
The band came on to greet the sodden crowd, rock-star attitudes in full swing. I found myself noting how professional the band members were; the music was so tight it could have been a backing track, each member fulfilling their purpose expertly. The songs were on the moody side, with a similar formula to each outro – a heavy extended ending, with a screaming guitar solo in which lead guitarist Lee Southall would throw back his head in passion. The top track of The Coral’s set was their hit In The Morning. The intro was instantly recognisable, kick starting the endorphins within the audience and completely altering the atmosphere. When the band had to eventually depart, it felt as if there had been more to come and we were all crying out for more.
One of my favourite acts of the weekend were the musical group House Gospel Choir. The talent of the singers was off the scale, their harmonies and melodies making me weak at the knees. I don’t think I saw one person standing still; even the bar staff took a few moments to get their groove on. The House Gospel Choir took the UK’s most well-known club tunes and turned them a cappella. Each of their songs positively begged for audience participation and we obliged with plenty of clapping and hip swaying.
All in all, Tramlines 2017 was an enormous success. It was an occasion that seemed to unite the people of Sheffield, bringing everyone together in a musical ecstasy. I would thoroughly recommend putting the festival on your to-do list for 2018. A classy and relaxed event, Tramlines is fit for all music lovers.