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