Tramlines Festival Review: Sunday

Edwards and Moscow.jpg

Steve Edwards & Joe Moskow by http://www.charliebarkerphotography.com

Ok, I’ll admit it. I got it wrong.

Not the usual start to the first piece of journalism I’ve done for this magazine. I’ve commented on various topics, passed judgement on people, products and works but this time the critism is all on me. Here’s why…

I was going to write a fairly standard few paragraphs on the bands I saw over the weekend of Tramlines 2013, with the odd whinge about the new charging system (more on that in a bit). This would’ve been short sighted and silly.

Tramlines isn’t about the bands, or what clothes people wore. It’s really about how for one weekend, 72 hours, a whole city full of people move in the same direction. I know that sound a bit sentimental but it’s true.

For one long weekend each year Sheffield has an event to focus on where you can hear, see, eat, drink and learn more about yourself and what other people hold as valuable to them. I can prove it because it happened to me.

I’m a firm believer that art is a way of educating people about the world around them and how they can influence the world through the correct aplication of art. Art is different things to different people and that whatever you do wont please everybody but art in whatever form can really hit the right nerve.

In relation to Tramlines for me was the artful manipulation in the mood of the city. Sheffield is a pretty liberal and easy going city. I can count on one hand the number of times that I’ve seen any trouble on the many years I’ve been going there, even with the massive bredth of the groups of people that come in and out of the city everyday.

This is a something to be appaulded and should be envied by other towns and cities across the land. For a lad from an old coal mining village where any deviation from the percived norm is to make yourself an easy target, this was a breath of new air when I made my first few visits to the city over a decade ago. To have such a place is a benefit to us all.

My weekend at the festival was to be about how many bands I could see and how much wit I could squeeze into a short article, but the one thing that made me think diferently was a gig that wasnt on any time tables.

It was a moment of brilliance and if you weren’t there then you’re a poorer person for missing it.

The impromptue set by Steve Edwards and Joe Moskow outside the Alternative Store on Devonshire Street was a set of improvised beats and soulful singing that made people stop and want to be part of it. The two men made a moment for all that stood, listened, danced and joined in that will give memories for years to come.

Now, this is the best reason I can give you for the continuation of the festival. They are having to charge for the bigger venues: the artists and bands have bills to pay, they need to be paid for their time. Arts funding and sponsors money can only stretch so far. There’s still a massive proportion of free entry gigs you can see.

Here’s to a successful and enlightening experience. Tramlines 2013 brought people together to share their creativity, skills and hopefully inspire others to do the same.

– Matt Churchard

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Live Review: The Broken Saints Album Launch

The Broken Saints by Danny Stockdale

The Broken Saints by Danny Stockdale

Venue: The Hop, Sheffield
Bands: The Broken Saints supported by Jamie Heawood and Lauren Faith
Date: 7th August 2013

For those early birds eager to secure a decent place I had the pleasure of seeing the atmosphere build with anticipation and excitement at the The Hop, for what promised to be an excellent evening’s entertainment in the presence of three of Sheffield’s most amiable and genuinely likeable fellows; The Broken Saints.

The three gentlemen in question, Ryan Wilson (guitar and lead vocals), Steven Kay (keyboards) and John Slater (guitar and backing vocals), were a buzzing around the venue trying to find a balance between over-excitement and nervousness, taking the time to welcome every single person to their event. It’s these personal touches that make them so engaging. This was their evening and they were going to thoroughly enjoy it.

Jamie Heawood by Danny Stockdale

Jamie Heawood by Danny Stockdale

The Hop, the venue selected for its intimacy was the perfect setting for the launch of what is surely the first of several releases. The impromptu gig and front room feel even led our compere for the night, CK Goldiing to spontaneously begin a collection for opening act Jamie Heawood, so that he could buy a second guitar.

Jamie had been selected by our hosts and it was a justified decision as his modest and relaxed stage presence allowed his talent to shine and capture the audience with an acoustic set infused with mellow American folk, akin to Joshua Radin or Death Cab for Cutie. His original compositions more than held their own amongst his own versions of songs by Amy Winehouse You Know I’m No Good and Paulo Nutini New Shoes. Jamie is definitely one to keep an eye out for around South Yorkshire.

CK Goldiing, the Sheffield-based writer and radio DJ led us through proceedings in his typically engaging style as we moved from one emerging talent to the next in the form of London-based, Lauren Faith and her band.

Lauren brought a laid-back soul vibe to the evening with compositions clearly influenced by the legendary Erykah Badu. The

Lauren Faith by Danny Stockdale

Lauren Faith by Danny Stockdale

musicianship and tightness of her band was clearly evident and in the moments when Lauren was able to rise above them her voice showed a quality and maturity which dripped smooth sensuality, perfectly suiting her original compositions and cover versions alike. 

With CK’s gushing comments about the talents of our support acts we arrive at the reason that everyone is here tonight, The Broken Saints.

To little fanfare they took the stage and quickly burst into Nobody Else; a confident opener, which featured the trio as a full band with the inclusion of the talents of drummer David Fong and fiddle player Christina Lloyd who added a greater dimension to the music. The opener helped to settle the pre-performance nerves and the warm reception it received allowed the band to relax into the second track Shouting in Silence, which with the mandolin, melodica and egg-shaker, lent an REM Out of Time era feel to the song.

The choice of tracks from the album they were launching was a varied and showed the range. The beautiful Dreams Never Die was a gentle reminder of their quality as trio, the synchronized guitars with Steven’s delightful piano melody flowing at its heart. The breezy and vibrant Searching for the Shore, driven on by John’s adept guitar playing and probably the track where Ryan’s vocals bear more than a passing resemblance to James Dean Bradfield and the heartfelt and regretful tale of a relationship on the verge of ending which is Open Your Eyes (Take The Time). Ryan was joined for this by the powerful vocals of Katy McLaughlin who held her side with enough defiance to leave Ryan realizing he can’t have it all his own way in the relationship. Katy stayed to take the lead on one of the several accomplished covers sprinkled through the set, The Ballad of Peter Pumpkin Head, the popular Songs of Love and the impassioned, funeral organ driven The Needle and the Damage Done. With Katy leading, the quintet was let off the leash and able to run with the music and clearly enjoyed the chance. The joy and playfulness which accompanied the flight through this song took the set up a level as we joined the band onwards to the finale, and what a finale the assembled crowd was treated to.

Having established the quality and security of how The Broken Saints handle cover versions the announcement of Street Spirit (Fade Out) as the next song there was a rush of excited anticipation there was no doubt the audience were in for a treat. From the moment John’s opening notes floated amongst the silent audience it was completely safe in their hands.

Having previously heard the version which the band had performed at the Tramlines a few weeks prior, it surpassed that by a long way thanks largely to Christina and David’s contribution on fiddle and drums. Ryan’s impassioned vocal delivery and the fiddle added a new dimension to the song, which elevated it to majestic and spine-tingling climax.

They clearly invested a huge amount of dedication and time into ensuring this was a memorable event for all as the carefully crafted set list had the maximum impact as no sooner had they finished this gem than they unleashed a new song on us to close the evening.  A song so new that the lyrics were strategically placed around the stage but one which was incredibly well-received, much to the surprise of Ryan. He later confessed, with excitement “we have four more like that”.

This fitting finale to the evening was called Shallow Grave and signals an exciting creative shift into new musical territory for the band. The driving mandolin and fiddle gave it an Americana feel, which sent many a drink wobbling off the table as a result of foot-stomping. With the audience exhausted and exhilarated, The Broken Saints and friends returned for their well-deserved encore, My Hair is Trying To Kill Me, a slice of rockabilly in which the crowd and band were able to happy to wallow in sheer enjoyment.

This album launch establishes The Broken Saints’ reputation (grown through appearances at various venues and festivals like Tramlines, the Y Not Festival and in the prestigious Yorkshire Unplugged 2013 as one of THE bands to see South Yorkshire and Derbyshire and rightly so, because when Ryan, Steven and John take the stage you know they are going to enjoy themselves and in turn so does the audience.

– Danny Stockdale

Links:
The Broken Saints – http://soundcloud.com/thebrokensaints
Lauren Faith  – http://soundcloud.com/laurenkfaith
Jamie Heawood – http://soundcloud.com/jamie-heawood

Tramlines Festival Review: Saturday

Tramlines is a huge, three day music festival in Sheffield.  Five hundred plus acts on four outdoor stages, over sixty venues across the city.

All you can do is try to get a flavour of the festival and there are a lot of different flavours to be had. It’s great just to wander around and see what you find.

The Peace Gardens were packed with people drinking and picnicking in the sunshine. Many were singing and grooving along to the funky Romance Washington and Soulfunkful. They were going down great on the International Stage.

Special mention should be made at this juncture for a sausage sandwich from the Whirlow Hall Farm stall, which also went down great!  Other sausage sandwiches are available….  in fact, there were many food and drink stalls dotted around many of the venues and some craft and charity stalls too.

Leopold Square was even fuller and funkier than the Peace Gardens, but the band, whoever they were soon on a break, so it was on a bus up to Weston Park.

There are no longer buskers on Supertram like there used to be for Tramlines in the early years, but there was a buskers’ bus with live music winding around the city connecting many of the venues, though it was somewhat elusive.

Another way in which Tramlines has left it’s origins behind is that it has previously been a completely free festival, but in it’s fifth year, festival-goers were asked to buy a wristband (for £6.00 per day or £15 for the weekend), to gain admittance to half a dozen of the main venues including Devonshire Green, the City Hall and o2 Academy.  This was due to the previous sponsor Nokia deciding not to continue supporting the event and also Council funding cuts.  As this was a very modest charge for admission and overwhelmingly the festival was still free, there did not seem to be any detectable effect on atmosphere. Sheffield seemed a very happy, friendly place in the sunshine.

The event was extremely well organised, the sound systems at all the outdoor venues were excellent and there were many stewards around to help people, even at road junctions to ensure people cross safely.

Weston Park was lovely in the sunshine, the bands played on the old Victorian bandstand, the crowds lounged on the grass, there were many stalls around the periphery and there was a children’s funfair at the back. It was very family-orientated. The organisers had said they hoped for the feel of a village fete and it had achieved that.

The Screaming Maldinis wailed, if not actually screamed their indie-ness to the laid back crowd. They went down well as did The High Hazels, another local indie band who were melodic, with an Arctic Monkeys influence.

Silent Devices, an alternative ambient rock band from Leicester followed. Some doom-laden riffs seemed to bring in the dark clouds; I really enjoyed this band, but as the temperature cooled so they seemed to get a more lukewarm reception.

Back in town, there was predominantly acoustic music at the Cathedral on Church Street all day. In the evening there was Nat Johnson, formerly of Monkey Swallows The Universe. She had been a highlight at the Cathedral last year.

This year, with the main body of the church closed for renovations, the musical acts were in St. George’s Chapel and a meeting room where people sat on wooden seating or cross-legged on the floor. The Chapel is a beautiful space and Nat Johnson made some beautiful sounds. She handed out song sheets and ended with a mass singalong to her Sheffield Shanty with the lyrics “The seven hills became seven seas and I’ll sail my house from Crookes to Don Valley”.

Sam Airey and his band from North Wales, featured a cellist and was next on the stage in the Cathedral chapel. He was engaging and musically showed similarities to Snow Patrol at times and was well received. As you might expect, there was a nice, gentle atmosphere in the Cathedral; but there seemed to be a good atmosphere everywhere in the city.

The Police later reported that even with seventy thousand visitors to the city for the festival there had been only six arrests and they had seen less trouble than on a normal weekend.

Finally, to end the day, soul singer Lianne La Havas headlined the main stage at Devonshire Green. She said she had never been on so late at a festival and clearly she enjoyed her first headlining experience. People sang, danced and cheered.  Running through most of her material, she promised to return to Sheffield when she has a new album.

It was a great day. There was some excellent music to be found, the sun shone, the crowds were appreciative and the atmosphere was joyful.  It felt like Sheffield came out to play.

– Simon Benton