Tramlines Festival returned to Sheffield between the 24th and 26th July 2015 for its biggest and best year yet. Hundreds of acts performed at venues across the city as the event, which sold out for the first time in its seven year history, proved yet again to be one of the most exciting weekends of the year.
Day 1 – Friday 24th July
The first evening of Sheffield’s music festival saw the opening of the brand new main stage at Ponderosa Park, which had replaced Devonshire Green after six years as home of the biggest acts. The new location, just a short walk from the city centre, is much bigger and more accommodating of the larger crowds that have started flocking to the event each year.
Indie legends ‘The Charlatans’ were the first headliners of the weekend, alongside ‘Slaves’ and ‘Ghostpoet’ on the main stage. Elsewhere across the city’s venues, acts performing included the likes of ‘Zoax’ and ‘We Are The Ocean’.
Ghostpoet (Main Stage, Ponderosa Park)
It was Ghostpoet who received the honour of becoming the first ever act on the new main stage at Ponderosa Park, as well as one of the first performers of the whole festival by kicking off his set at 18:15.
The 32 year old British vocalist, whose real name is Obaro Ejimiwe, provided a good start to the evening as the large crowds steadily made their way to the impressive new venue in anticipation for Slaves and headliners The Charlatans later in the evening.
The artist, who has previously performed at Festival’s including Glastonbury, Latitude and Bestival, entertained the crowd thoroughly with his unique musical style in a 45-minute set that included tracks from his latest release ‘Shedding Skin’.
Slaves (Main Stage, Ponderosa Park)
Garage rock duo ‘Slaves’ provided the main support of the evening and received a huge reception from the Sheffield crowd upon their arrival , the band no doubt being one of the highlights of the weekend for many in attendance.
Just three years previously the duo, consisting of Laurie Vincent and Isaac Holman, performed at fringe venue the Great Gatsby pub. Guitarist Vincent acknowledged this, telling the crowd “a lot can happen in three years” as his band kept them bouncing for the duration of the 45 minute set.
Starting with their album title track ‘Are You Satisfied?’, the band greeted the crowd jokingly as ‘tan lines’ and took part in a light-saber battle before continuing a memorable performance that included their most well-known tracks ‘The Hunter’ and ‘Cheer Up London’.
The set came to conclusion with ‘Hey’. For this the two band members went crowd surfing among the boisterous crowd and frontman Holman had his hat taken during the commotion. Appearing to be genuinely irritated by the incident, he refused to end the set until it was returned – which eventually happened after multiple hats were thrown over the barrier and the crowd chanted ‘where’s his hat!?’.
It was a bizarre ending, but it remained one of the best performances of the weekend from this exciting young band.
The Charlatans (Main Stage, Ponderosa Park)
The first headline act of the 2015 Tramlines Festival were indie legends The Charlatans. A large crowd greeted the band, who have been performing for over a quarter of a century, as they arrived on stage at 20:45.
Fronted by recognisable long-haired singer Tim Burgess, the former Reading & Leeds Festival headliners thrilled the crowd with hits old and new.
The quartet, who currently consist of Burgess, Martin Blunt, Mark Collins and Tony Rogers, got things underway with ‘Weirdo’ and ‘North Country Boy’.
‘Let The Good Times Be Never Ending’ from their newest album ‘Modern Nature’ was an enjoyable highlight of the evening, before the stage burst into life with the classic ‘One To Another’.
The crowd and band alike appeared to be loving every minute as the hour-long set headed towards a conclusion with ‘How High’, arguably their biggest ever hit ‘Only One I Know’ and then new track ‘Come Home Baby’.
But the best was left until last from this popular band, whose entire studio album discography has charted inside the UK top 40 – including three number ones.
‘Sproston Green’, a track from their very first album ‘Some Friendly’, that provided an epic extended conclusion to the evening. The Charlatans proved to be very worthy headliners to this terrific event.
Day 2 – Saturday 25th July
Saturday saw the festival get into full swing as hundreds acts performed all through the day. The sun shone over the city for the first (and only) day of weekend which attracted large crowds at every single venue, both official and fringe alike.
The day’s Main Stage headliners were electronic dance duo Basement Jaxx, whilst the other big names of the day included Martha Reeves, The Sugar Hill Gang, Fat White Family and many more.
Tramlines is also a great place to see and discover lesser known, up and coming artists. And this is how I spent much of the day, enjoying performances from the likes of Black Honey, Rolo Tomassi and Best Friends at a vast array of venues across the inner-city festival.
Into The Red (The Doctor’s Orders)
I started day two of the festival at fringe venue The Doctor’s Orders, a pub near the Hallamshire Hospital, to see local new band ‘Into The Red.’
Formed less than a year ago, the alternative rock band – made up of Logan MacDonald, Josh Douglass, Luke Wilson and Ash Martindale, sight influences from the likes of Queens of the Stone Age and Royal Blood.
Their 45 minute set, which got underway at around 2 o’clock, saw the band entertain the small crowd with entirely original material – including the track ‘Soar’.
Hannah Lou Clark (Cathedral)
Sheffield Cathedral was my next port of call for Hannah Lou Clark’s performance. This venue is one of my favourites of the festival, providing a beautiful and unique backdrop to some excellent artists over the weekend.
Having performed at Herefordshire’s Nozstock Festival the previous day, solo artist Clark joked that this beautiful venue was “a little different from yesterday’s muddy field” before filling the venue with tracks which included ‘Kids In Heat’ and new song ‘It’s Your Love’.
The singer, who recently supported Lonely The Brave on tour, brought the enjoyable half-hour performance to an end with ‘Silent Type’.
The SSS (Crystal Stage)
Of all the fringe venues, which anyone can attend for free without purchasing a wristband, it was the Crystal Bar on Carver Street that offered the most impressive line up.
With this in mind and some time to spare, I decided to head to the venue to check out the performance by Sheffield indie band The SSS, who returned to this stage for the second year in a row.
The five piece, wearing matching outfits, opened with their new single ‘Eighteen’ and included their song ‘Calm Before The Storm’ and a brie cover of The Beatles’ ‘Twist and Shout’ during a 30 minute performance in front of a packed crowd.
It was an entertaining showing from this hotly tipped band, who showed why they had won Exposed Magazine’s Best Unsigned Band award this year.
Best Friends (Exposed In Session Stage, Devonshire Green)
The main stage’s move from Devonshire Green after six years did not mean that the location was empty of music this year. The area was now home of the ‘Exposed In Session Stage’, which saw some of Sheffield’s most exciting acts perform.
With the sun shining, it made a beautiful sight at hundreds of people headed to the green for a combination of music and sunbathing!
Garage pop quartet ‘Best Friends’ were one of the most exciting acts on the bill at the second stage over the weekend.
On the back of the release of their debut album ‘Hot. Reckless. Totally Insane’ this month, which received positive reviews from the likes of NME magazine, the band rocked the stage with a powerful performance.
The set began with ‘Fake Spit’ and included tracks such as ‘If You Think Too Much Your Brain Will Fall Out’. As they reached a conclusion, the band jokingly told the crowd to “enjoy Wu Tang”, referencing the group that pulled out of their Sunday headline slot at the last minute to the disappointment of many ticket holders.
“Orange Juice” then saw the stage explode into life one final time before ‘Best Friends’ left the stage, leaving behind an impressed crowd.
Blessa (Exposed In Session Stage, Devonshire Green)
It was tough task to follow such an explosive performance by Best Friends, but fellow Sheffield band Blessa did just that.
Formed in 2012, the pop/rock five piece are fronted by female singer Olivia Neller, who lit up Devonshire Green with some wonderful vocals – which were accompanied by the enjoyable pop sound of the rest of the band.
Their half an hour set included the track ‘Between Times’ and left the sun-soaked crowd pleasantly entertained.
Rolo Tomassi (City Hall)
Tramlines regulars Rolo Tomassi were one of the most anticipated acts to grace the City Hall’s ballroom stage over the weekend, which hosted some of the most unique and progressive sounds of the festival.
Celebrating the 10th anniversary of their formation and the release of their new album ‘Grievances’ this year, the band attracted a large crowd for the performance which got underway at 7pm.
The mathcore band gave a typically chaotic performance in their hometown as they kicked off ‘Chandalier Shiver’ and performed for just short of an hour, finishing with ‘Illuminare’.
An explosive sound is fronted by vocalist Eva Spence, who combines screaming and clean vocals to help create Rolo Tomassi’s truly unique sound which thrilled the Sheffield crowd.
Black Honey (Crystal Stage)
The Crystal Stage’s impressive line up saw Black Honey headline on the Saturday evening.
The Brighton rockers are one of the fastest emerging bands of this year and headed to Tramlines on the back of their first ever European dates in Rotterdam and Croatia this month.
Starting as something of a mystery, the four piece let their music do the talking – not even releasing a photo of themselves for a long time as they released their first tracks. (Even now I can’t find the band members names!)
Crystal was packed out as the band took to the stage, fronted by their pink haired female lead singer. A superb, energetic half hour performance followed as Black Honey quickly became one of the highlights of the weekend with tracks including ‘Madonna’, ‘Spinning Wheel’ and ‘Sleep Forever’.
The only disappointment was that the set wasn’t longer as the band proved they have the potential to go on to much bigger things.
Their remaining summer dates include a main stage slot at Y Not Festival in Derbyshire and a performance on the Festival Republic stage at Reading and Leeds among others, and are certainly performances that are not to be missed!
Day 3 – Sunday 26th July
The weather took an awful turn on the final day of the weekend, as the rain poured down over the city – proper festival weather some might say!
However, this didn’t put off many as the crowds continued to turn out all over the city. The main stage’s final headliners saw a last minute change earlier in the week as De La Soul replaced the highly anticipated Wu Tang Clan, whilst Buzzcocks, Mopp Deep and Kate Tempest were among the other acts at Ponderosa Park.
The second stage at Devonshire Green, sponsored by Exposed Magazine and showcasing some of Sheffield’s best artists, had it’s strongest line-up of the weekend with acts including The Ratells, The Sherlocks, The Crookes and former Milburn member Joe Carnall Jnr hitting the stage.
The Ratells (Exposed In Session Stage, Devonshire Green)
The stage at Devonshire Green boasted an impressive line up for the final day of the festival. Unfortunately, the weather conditions were poor but this did not stop many fans turning out to see some of Sheffield’s top artists.
First up was The Ratells, who were performing under the name for the final ever time before “going away and coming back as something new” as frontman Ashley Holland informed the dedicated crowd.
Despite the dreary weather, the indie quartet provided another highlight of the weekend with their half hour set that made me and many others wish this wasn’t their final show!
Starting with ‘Legacy’, they went on to perform their hit ‘Faces’ and ‘Behind The Fire’, which featured a snippet of Coldplay’s ‘Paradise.
‘Hayley’, released in 2014, followed as Holland told the crowd they would be playing a sad song due to it being such an emotional day for the band.
The Ratells, who have supported the likes of Kaiser Chiefs and Boomtown Rats during their career, then went out in a blaze of glory with ‘Something New’ – visibly not wanting to leave the stage as they performed the final section of the song and took a bow.
It was an excellent performance that brightened up the rainy day and fans will be very excited to see what the group come back with in the future.
The Sherlocks (Exposed In Session Stage, Devonshire Green)
There was a buzz of anticipation around the area now as the The Sherlocks prepared to hit the stage.
Easily one of the most exciting unsigned bands around at the moment, the indie quartet consists of two sets of brothers – Kiaran and Brandon Crook, and Josh and Andy Davidson.
Having recently sold out the Leadmill in Sheffield, the band returned to their hometown for another impressive performance. Hit singles ‘Live For The Moment’ and ‘Escapade’ provided highlights of the half hour performance, while the crowd were treated to a new song called ‘Blue’ which the band said they’d played “like, twice”.
The Sherlocks are a fast growing band that really lived up to the hype on this rainy afternoon. It felt like watching a young Arctic Monkeys and they certainly have the potential to get somewhere close to emulating the success of Sheffield’s biggest band.
The Crookes (Exposed In Session Stage, Devonshire Green)
Devonshire Green’s penultimate act of the weekend was The Crookes, who attracted one of the biggest audience of the day as their fans braved the continued poor weather.
Arriving on stage to the tune of ‘We Could Have Been…’ by Bugsy Malone, the band described it as “an absolute pleasure” to be back at Tramlines, as well as an honour to be performing before headliner Joe Carnall Jnr, an artist they said they had been a fan of since they were 19 years old.
The quartet entertained the crowd with an enjoyable 45 minute set that included the track ‘Chorus of Fuss’, as well as some new material following their hiatus to prove that they “hadn’t just been sat watching cash in the attic!”
Joe Carnall Jnr (Exposed In Session Stage, Devonshire Green)
The closing act of the weekend at Devonshire Green was Joe Carnall Jnr, who is known as both a member of former Sheffield indie band ‘Milburn’ and as the current bassist in Reverend and The Makers.
Accompanied on stage by his band, which included Ed Cosens from Reverend on keyboard and his brother and fellow former Milburn member Louis on guitar, Carnall Jnr performed one of the most entertaining shows of the weekend with a mixture of solo material, covers and even a couple of Milburn tracks to please the adoring crowd.
Arriving on stage appropriately to “singing in the rain”, Carnall Jnr started off with solo material including ‘Only A Fool’, the “semi-biographical” ‘The Boy Who Was Struck By Lightning’ and ‘The Cautious Cavalier’, a song the the singer said he wrote four years ago about a night out at Tramlines.
Between songs the musician created an excellent rapport with the crowd, telling stories and gags, as well as sharing on-going jokes with a group in the crowd from Barnsley, asking them “what’s it like being in a big city?” – a comment that received cheers and laughter from the rest of the audience.
It was clear that the boisterous crowd wanted to hear some tracks from Carnall Jnr’s old band Milburn, who were one of the most popular Sheffield group’s in their time. And he did not disappoint, rewarding the continued chants of the bands name with performances of ‘Summertime’ and ‘Well, Well, Well’ – performances that received easily the biggest crowd reaction of the day.
The singer responded with “maybe someday” to questions of a band reunion, before promising new music of his own to be released soon, joking “download it illegally like you have done for the last 10 years, that’s why I’m a schoolteacher you b*stards!”
The Barmines (Crystal Stage)
With the second stage having reached it’s conclusion, I decided to return to nearby Crystal to see the final two bands of the weekend gracing it’s stage – The Barmines and Hands Off Gretel.
Indie rock quartet The Barmines, fronted by Rob Burton, were making their first ever appearance at Tramlines Festival and impressed the crowd with their explosive stage performance.
Hailing from fellow Yorkshire city Leeds, the band’s half hour set included their debut single ‘These Days & Nights’ and there is no doubt they made some new fans in the crowd at Crystal this evening.
Hands Off Gretel (Crystal Stage)
My 16th and final act of Tramlines proved to also be by far the most photogenic! With blue haired lead vocalist Lauren Tate dressed, appropriately, as Gretel from the fairytale and lead guitarist Sean McAvinue donning a kilt, the band were already made an impression before playing a single note.
And their sound did not disappoint. Songs included ‘Other Town’, ‘My Size’ and the catchy ‘Be Mine’ as Tate’s strong grungy vocals were accompanied perfectly by the 90’s-inspired sound of Hands Off Gretel. It was also a special show for the band as it was the last show for bassist Danny Pollard, who is leaving the group.
A strong performance from this up and coming band provided a perfect ending to the festival, as their raw, powerful half hour set filled the venue with energy to close the Crystal Stage and bring my Tramlines 2015 to an end.
And so the 7th annual Tramlines Festival came to an end. It was without doubt the biggest and best year in the event’s history, with big artists and bigger crowds! The event is always one of the highlights in the Sheffield calendar and long may it continue!