Tramlines is a music festival that has been hosted in Sheffield annually since 2009. The event takes place across multiple venues around the city, including The Leadmill, Corporation, the main stage at Devonshire Green and many others. A former UK Festival award winner, July 22nd and 23rd of this year’s 3-day festival saw my first visit to my hometown’s biggest music event.
Shy Nature (Sheffield Cathedral)
Day 1 of Tramlines kicked off in the early evening of the Friday and there was some early disappointment for those at the main stage as hip-hop/R&B artist ‘Ms Dynamite’ pulled out of her opening slot due to travel issues. However, this did not affect me as I had decided to begin my weekend in the beautiful setting of Sheffield’s cathedral, one of just five Grade I listed buildings in the steel city.
I had come to see ‘Shy Nature’, a four-piece alternative rock band from London who had caught my interest after listening to some of their material on YouTube in the weeks prior to the event. The group have received some high praise since their formation little more than a year ago. NME magazine and Record Collector both gave strong reviews of their debut self-titled EP and there is much anticipation as they prepare to release a second EP in a few weeks time.
‘Shy Nature’ were making their first ever appearance in Sheffield and joked how they didn’t realise the gig was actually taking place in a cathedral, instead thinking it was the name of a venue! But they certainly weren’t complaining as the centuries-old building offered a beautiful venue for the North Londoners to perform their raw yet wonderfully delicate sound to the audience. The half-hour set was highly enjoyable, frontman Willian Blackaby’s magical vocals specifically lighting up the cathedral. They opened with ‘Lie Back’ before also performing ‘Sinking Ship’ and their brand-new single ‘She Comes She Goes’ during the show.
Allusondrugs (Millenium Galleries)
After a great start to the weekend at the Cathedral, I now dashed across to the nearby Millenium Galleries to see ‘Allusondrugs’. Located by the Winter Gardens, I could immediately hear the grungy sound of this energetic Yorkshire 5-piece upon entry into the highly intimate venue. As a huge fan of the 90’s grunge band Nirvana, I instantly noticed the likeness between the band’s vocalist Jason and the legendary Kurt Cobain. With his long blonde hair, a performance bursting with energy and some painfully powerful screams, at times it actually felt like Kurt himself was in the room!
‘Allusondrugs’, who hail from Leeds and have earned great admiration from many music critics, released their self-titled debut EP this month. On it is the group’s hit song ‘Nervous’, which they performed in this half an hour set during which the small stage of the art gallery was often unable to contain the band’s energetic guitarists. Alongside the obvious comparison to Nirvana, the band felt like something of a throwback to the 90’s grunge era and I noticed a particular likeness to ‘Alice In Chains’ with much of the lyrics and sound feeling like it could have easily come from Layne Staley and co.
‘Am I Weird’ was the song that closed the set and I left the Millenium Galleries’ hugely impressed. Having entered the building knowing little about the band in honesty, I left knowing that I’d found a superb group and one that I would be hearing a lot more about in the future. ‘Allusongdrugs’ early success has not gone unnoticed either as the Leeds quintet will be appearing on the BBC Introducing Stage at Reading and Leeds Festival this August!
Katy B (Devonshire Green Main Stage)
For my final act of the opening day, I decided to go and check out ‘Katy B’ on the main stage at Devonshire Green. The 25 year old R&B singer was one of the four headliners at this year’s festival alongside ‘Public Enemy’, ‘Sister Sledge’ (of We Are Family fame) and ‘The Cribs’. While she is not normally my chosen music genre, I decided to go and see her performance as I knew it was likely that she would be the only main stage headline act I would see at Tramlines 2014.
I arrived at the main stage shortly after the conclusion of a performance by ‘Toddla T Sound’ and the venue was nicely filled and buzzing with anticipation as the countdown to Katy B’s entrance began. The singer, who has nearly three quarters of a million likes on Facebook and released her second full-length album ‘Little Red’ this year, finally arrived on to the stage to a rapturous reception from the Tramlines crowd.
Katy B’s performance was highly energetic with a dance troop on stage alongside her. I was pleasantly surprised by the show from the headliner as I was not expecting it to be my kind of thing, but it ended up being far more entertaining than expected and I was surprised by the number of songs I recognised! Songs performed included ‘5AM’ from her newest album and ‘Aaliyah’. She then performed her hit song ‘Crying For No Reason’, which got much of the crowd singing along while a single spotlight on the audience created magnificent sight when viewed from afar as the song hit the chorus.
The final song of the 40-minute set was the more upbeat ‘Lights On’, a song about not wanting to go home from a night out even when the lights come on, which appeared fitting for many of the audience who didn’t seem to want the night to end! It was a great performance from Katy B and a good way to conclude the first day of a festival where I had seen a diverse range of genres in a diverse range of venues. I headed home filled with excitement for day two of the festival!
Then Thickens (Sheffield City Hall)
Saturday saw the first full day of music at Tramlines Festival after kicking off the previous evening. I spent the morning completing my schedule for the day before heading into Sheffield City Centre at midday. My first port of call was the Sheffield City Hall, or more specifically the ballroom in the venue, to see ‘Then Thickens’.
The five-piece rock band from Chorley, who started out simply as a solo project of frontman Jon-Lee Martin, now have two full-length albums under their belt and a supporting role for Biffy Clyro on their CV. And they did not disappoint the City Hall crowd on their first ever visit to the steel city. Martin thanked the audience for turning out to see them and joked that he hadn’t been up so early in years, before the band performed a wonderful 30-minute set that got day two off to a great start.
Magpies (Sheffield Cathedral)
Next stop was the cathedral. I knew little about the Sheffield band ‘Magpies’ who were performing but I had been so impressed by the magic of the cathedral as a music venue the previous day when seeing ‘Shy Nature’ that I decided to return on day two of the festival.
Unfortunately though, while the cathedral once again offered a superb host for the music, the 5-piece band that included a trumpet and double bass did not particularly capture my interest during their half-hour set. After some technical difficulties meant the band started later than scheduled, Magpies finally got underway and while their sound overall was enjoyable enough I found the vocals of the frontman somewhat weak at times and overall it wasn’t really for me.
But we can’t all like the same things, and the band did successfully entertain most of those in attendance at this truly beautiful venue!
I now headed across to Corporation ready to see the venue’s headline act for day two the festival, Funeral For A Friend. Having arrived at Corp in plenty of time, I also got to see a couple of the support acts ahead of the main event. The first of these was the punk rock four-piece ‘Brawlers’.
Hailing from nearby Leeds, ‘Brawlers’ only formed just under a year ago and frontman Harry Johns described it as a “dream come true” to be supporting Funeral For A Friend, a band he said he had travelled to Sheffield’s Leadmill venue to see a number of years previous. Sporting a ‘Don’t mess with Yorkshire’ t-shirt, Johns was the real standout performer in one of the most entertaining and energetic sets I had witnessed at Tramlines so far.
The stage was not enough to contain the vocalist, who spent the latter half of the half-hour performance on the floor hugging and dancing with spectators. The jolly track “I am a worthless piece of shit”, from the EP of the same name, concluded Brawlers’ superb set and the band happily waited around afterwards to meet fans for photos.
The main support act of the afternoon at Corporation were ‘Climates’. The metal five-piece from Lincoln had previously performed at the venue supporting ‘Neck Deep’ and a number of those in the crowd appeared to remember the band from that show, screaming loudly when vocalist Wes Thompson asked the question!
The venue was filling up nicely by this stage and ‘Climates’, while performing a set that was not quite as energetic as the one by ‘Brawlers’ earlier, still did an excellent job of warming up the crowd as anticipation built for the main event. Their new single “Heaven (Is Only In My Head)” concluded an enjoyable 30-minute set from the alternative metal group.
Funeral For A Friend (Corporation)
It was now time for the main event. The venue was now packed to capacity and the Sheffield crowd went crazy as Funeral For A Friend burst on to the stage with opening songs ‘Bullet Theory’ and ‘Roses For The Dead’. Formed in 2001, the Welsh post-hardcore band currently led by vocalist Matthew Davies-Kreye have had some huge success and many other big bands, including the likes of Asking Alexandria and Fightstar, sight them as huge influences on their music. They rose to fame in 2003 following the release of their debut album ‘Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation’, which went gold. Since then they have released a further five albums, earning two gold and one silver certifications from the six records.
The Sheffield crowd was crazily enthusiastic and the whole room was bouncing as the Welsh band powered through an impressive set that included ‘She Drove Me To Daytime Television’ from their debut LP and ‘1%’, a new song from their upcoming 7th album. It was Funeral’s first visit to the steel city for a number of years and frontman Davies-Kreye pointed this out on a number of occasions, questioning why this was a case when the audience was clearly so passionate.
As the set reached it’s latter stages, I moved towards the back of the room and it was an incredible sight seeing the hundreds and hundreds of people in attendance enjoying a powerful performance from one of the most influential post-hardcore bands of the last decade. ‘Juneau’ and ‘Streetcar’ brought the hour-long performance towards it’s closing before another track from the 2003 debut album, ‘Escape Artists Never Die’ finally concluded an outstanding performance in one of the biggest events of Tramlines 2014.
After a short break following the show at Corporation, I headed over to the Leadmill – one of the most famous venues in the city, to see the headlining performance from Deap Vally. Upon arrival, I was slightly concerned by the lengthy queue outside the venue but it moved at a fast pace and I was inside in time to see the final support act of the evening, ‘PINS’.
The all-girl pop-rock quartet from Manchester began in 2010 and have quickly grown a solid fan base, releasing their debut album ‘Girls Like Us’ last year. Lead vocalist Faith Holgate, dressed in a tiger-print outfit, fronted the band with excellent vocals and a great presence on the stage, while the pink-haired Lois McDonald was a standout performer with some powerful guitar playing and skilled solos. PINS’s half-hour performance, which included a number of brand new songs including ‘House of Love’, got the already excited crowd buzzing as they now awaited the headliners – Deap Vally.
Deap Vally (Leadmill)
Since their formation in 2011, the American rock duo ‘Deap Vally’ have gone from strength to strength. Consisting of Lindsey Troy (guitar, vocals) and Julie Edwards (drums), the duo have performed shows all over the world including at Readings and Leeds, Glastonbury and Latitude Festivals as well supporting both The Vaccines and Muse. Their debut album ‘Sistionix’ was released last year to high acclaim and tonight’s headline slot at the Leadmill for Tramlines Festival concluded a tour of the UK for the duo who have been compared to The White Stripes.
‘Raw Material’ kicked off the performance followed by their debut single ‘Gonna Make My Own Money’. Singer Lindsey Troy bantered with the crowd throughout the performance, as well as thanking them for their support and telling stories of their time playing with Sheffield band ‘Drenge’ in the past. The duo then performed more tracks, including a brand new song and a number from their debut album including ‘Lies’ and ‘Your Love’.
Following energetic performances of ‘Walk of Shame’ and ‘End of the World’, one their most well known tracks, the girls took a bow and headed off the stage. However, they weren’t done with the Sheffield crowd yet and following chants from a wanting crowd, they returned to stage asking “Do you want a couple more?”. ‘Bad For My Body’ and ‘She’s a Wanderer’ followed, during which time Troy went crowd surfing and almost got taken away by the adoring audience inside the Leadmill! Finally the show closed with ‘Baby I Call Hell’ – probably the band’s most famous track to date and certainly one of the most enjoyable and impressive live.
Lindsey and Julie then took another bow before leaving the stage, bringing to an end my 2014 Tramlines Festival to an end with probably the best performance of the weekend that I had witnessed! I was sad to be missing the Sunday of the three-day event as I had thoroughly enjoyed the past couple of days. However, knowing that I was missing it in order to make my first ever visit to the city of Paris softened the blow somewhat! Sheffield’s biggest music festival is a truly brilliant event and I will most definitely be back next year for Tramlines 2015!
Hey fellow Sheffield guy blogger (you’re the first other I’ve found). Tramlines is without doubt one of my fave days of the year. Great review