Tramlines Festival 2016

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Tramlines Festival returned to Sheffield for an eighth year with it’s biggest line-up ever, featuring the likes of Catfish and The Bottlemen, Dizzee Rascal, The Dandy Warhols, Public Service Broadcasting and DJ Steve Davis among the hundreds of artists performing over the three-day event between 22nd and 24th July.

Attending for a third year, and for the first time ever with a press entry, I watched a total of 17 acts perform during the event across multiple locations – from the Ponderosa’s main stage to O2 Academy, and even the much smaller fringe venues that make the occasion so unique.

Friday 22nd July

For a second straight year, the inner-city festival housed its main stage at the Ponderosa, just a short distance from the city centre, the former site at Devonshire Green hosting no music this year for the first time in the events history. It was here that I spent the opening Friday evening watching two of the weekend’s biggest names performing back to back.

Having been opened earlier in the day by nine-piece reggae band KOG and the Zongo Brigade, The Dandy Warhols hit the main stage at around 7:15pm to kick off my third Tramlines Festival.

A few early technical difficulties did not hold back the four-piece American rock veterans, who quickly grew into what had already been announced as their penultimate UK show of the year to thrill the crowd with an hour long set that included the fan-favourites ‘Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth’, ‘We Used To Be Friends’ and, of course, ‘Bohemian Like You’.

A large crowd had already congregated at the Ponderosa site by now, and as 8:45pm approached, the rows of fans stretched back as far as the eye could see in anticipation for the performance of British rapper and headliner Dizzee Rascal.

And 31-year-old Dylan Kwabena Mills, better known by nearly everyone as his stage name Dizzee, did not disappoint with a memorable and energetic performance that proved a perfect way to kick off a superb weekend ahead – tracks such as ‘Bassline Junkie’ ‘Jus A Rascal’ and ‘Holiday’ whipping the crowd into an excitable frenzy before ‘Bonkers’ closed the set in style.

Below you can view a gallery for each artist, click on the images to view larger versions.

The Dandy Warhols – Ponderosa Main Stage

Dizzee Rascal – Ponderosa Main Stage

Saturday 23rd July

Once an entirely free festival in it’s earlier years, Tramlines has still retained a huge fringe element to the occasion with those unable to purchase a wristband still able to watch hundreds of artists in all sorts of venues over the weekend for free.

Arguably the best of these free stages is at Crystal Bar, known as the ‘Crystal Stage’, which has put on some of the best up-and-coming artists for a number of years now – Black Honey and Allusondrugs among the more recognisable names performing there this year.

It was at Crystal that day two of Tramlines began for me, watching the energetic ‘Uptown Funk’-covering quartet Four  Authors, performing as part of their local album release tour, followed by indie rockers The Jade Assembly – whose tracks included new single ‘Nothing Changes’.

From here, I made the short journey to one of the festival’s most unique and beautiful venues, the Cathedral. Each year I come to see a band at the venue, simply because of the magnificent setting, and this year it was Derby quartet The Herron Brothers.

Fronted by Paul and Steven Herron, the band officially opened the wristband sections for day two and entertained a modest crowd with their pop sound that included the songs ‘Clear Skies’ and ‘Tall Doors’. Unsurprisingly it was their first ever performance in a cathedral, joking that they had moved up from churches and would be “playing minsters next year!”

A short visit to the main stage followed for Little Comets. The Tyne-and-Wear indie group, formerly signed to Columbia Records, were watched on by Sunday headliners Catfish and The Bottlemen from the side of the stage as they performed the likes of ‘Dancing Song’ to a Ponderosa audience enjoying both the excellent music and glorious sunshine!

Returning to the fringe festival, I headed to the Doctor’s Orders to watch Sheffield quartet Into The Red. Fronted by Logan Macdonald and describing their sound as “alternative progressive rock”, they showed that they were much improved from last year’s Tramlines performance at the same venue with a solid half-hour performance as they prepare for an EP release show at Corporation in September.

My final act of Saturday, and quite possibly the most bizarre yet highly anticipated, was DJ Steve Davis as he headlined the stage at the Millenium Gallery.

As a snooker fan from Sheffield, I’d been lucky enough to see the six-time World Champion play at the Crucible Theatre a number of times before he hung up his cue officially in April. However, watching the legendary champion as a DJ was not something I ever expected to witness – at least not until he was announced as part of the Tramlines line-up, when he instantly becoming one of the must-see performers of the weekend!

Large queues of eager fans waited outside the venue to get a glimpse of DJ Davis, who has previously performed at Bloc Weekend and Glastonbury Festival, and those who were lucky enough to get inside were entertained by an hour long performance of the 58-year-old ‘Nugget’s favourite avant-garde underground electronic tunes.

Below you can view a gallery for each artist, click on the images to view larger versions.

Four Authors – Crystal Stage

The Jade Assembly – Crystal Stage

The Herron Brothers – Cathedral

Little Comets – Ponderosa Main Stage

Into The Red – The Doctor’s Orders

DJ Steve Davis – Millenium Gallery

Sunday 24th July

The third and final day of my Tramlines Festival once again started early, watching bands in the free ‘fringe’ venues.

Stoke-on-Trent quartet Rinse kicked things off at 12 o’clock with a sound they describe as ‘summer grunge’, performing ‘Not Too Late’ among their tracks. This was followed by a performance from Sheffield new-wave veterans Repomen, who attracted a sizeable crowd, given the time of day, of all ages as they continued to celebrate their 25th anniversary.

Visiting the Maida Vale fringe stage on something of a whim, having never previously visited the venue, I came across solo acoustic singer/songwriter Eden. Clearly a talented up-and-coming artist, her material included the catchy song ‘Lemonade’ and ‘Hold On’, which concluded a fourth of seven sets she performed over the weekend!

The O2 Academy, probably the second biggest venue after the main stage this weekend, was my next port of call for Eliza & The Bear, who returned to the festival three years on from a main stage slot. 

Before them, however, it was Aztec Doll who opened the stage – the female-fronted Barnsley alternative rockers entertaining the crowd with a powerful showing that included songs from their new EP ‘Old Veneer’.

Attracting a large crowd to the venue in anticipation for their performance, Eliza & The Bear didn’t wait long to get the crowd buzzing with their energetic on-stage personas that saw “keyboard man” become an instant hit with the crowd, and by the time the set was concluded with their best-known track ‘Friends’, the room was filled with excitement.

A final return to the the Crystal Stage followed, watching a ridiculously energetic performance from popular Rotherham group Starkins followed by a typically explosive showing from Allusondrugs, who never fail to impress as they included the likes of ‘Sunset Yellow’, ‘Am I Weird?’ and ‘Nervous’ in a set that concluded with the bassist collapsing onto an adoring audience.

Now it was time to head to the main stage one final time to bring my weekend of music to a close.

The penultimate act of the weekend was Public Service Broadcasting – a duo who, accompanied by their ‘brassy gents’ brass band, performed one of the most unusual sets I have ever witnessed. Taking old public information broadcasts and films and combining it with their instrumental sound, they created something very unique in a performance that divided crowd opinion well and truly down the middle!

A performance that didn’t divide much opinion, however, was the next one from headliners Catfish & The Bottlemen. Quite possibly the most highly anticipated group ever to top the bill at Tramlines (and only three years after playing at the Frog &  Parrott pub!) Van McCann and co. thrilled the adoring steel city crowd with an explosive performance that opened with debut album songs ‘Homesick’ and ‘Kathleen’ and included new tracks such as ‘Soundcheck’ and ‘7’.

Halfway through the show, the heavens opened for the first time following glorious sunshine all weekend, but this didn’t dampen the spirits of the crowd or the band as the battled on through big tracks such as ‘Pacifier’, ‘Fallout’ and ‘Cocoon’ before finally bring an unforgettable weekend to an end with ‘Tyrants’.

Below you can view a gallery for each artist, click on the images to view larger versions.

Rinse – Crystal Stage

Repomen – Crystal Stage

Eden – Maida Vale

Aztec Doll – O2 Academy

Eliza & The Bear – O2 Academy

Starkins – Crystal Stage

Allusondrugs – Crystal Stage

Public Service Broadcasting – Ponderosa Main Stage

Catfish & The Bottlemen – Ponderosa Main Stage

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