Based in Sheffield city centre and now in its sixth year, Tramlines has become huge, attracting festival goers from across the country as well as plenty of locals. Friday afternoon saw floods of people trawling through the city with suitcases, with crowded pubs and beer gardens filled with discussions about check-in times and excitement for the weekend ahead.
I began my afternoon at The Forum as I saw a list of local acts were playing and it seemed like a good spot to relax for a bit while still being close to the Main Stage on Devonshire Green, so I could pop over once the main acts started. A band sound-checked while I had a drink and read the Friday issue of Tramlines’ own newspaper filled with information about all of the day’s acts. The paper announced a few line up changes, including the cancellation of one of the main acts, Catfish and the Bottlemen, on Sunday. As 7pm drew nearer, I was just about to head off to the Main Stage to have a blast from the past from Ms Dynamite, only to find out via Twitter that she had also cancelled about twenty minutes before she was supposed to go on stage. The crowd gathered unaware they were about to be greeted by Benji B instead, and although there was an atmosphere of disappointment, the group at the front of the stage stayed to dance.
I didn’t stay long and instead decided to make my way down to the Millennium Galleries to see Allusondrugs. I’d seen the band before at last years Crooked Ways Festival in Pontefract and knew there would be an unmissable loud and lively performance. As anticipated, the band were incredibly energetic, jumping, clapping, thrashing and sweating all over the stage to their heavy grunge. There were a few fans in the crowd, and a lot of the newcomers appeared converted after the performance.
Heading back to the Main Stage afterwards, Toddla T Sound were in full swing (literally swinging towels around on stage and getting the audience to do the same with their bags and shirts) hyping up the crowd and getting everyone into the festival spirit before the headliner Katy B’s performance. I’d only previously heard one of her slower songs before and admittedly wasn’t blown away, however the show was much more lively than I expected with quite a 90’s feel, including dancers in dungarees and Baby Spice-esque white platform shoes, and even a short but sweet cover of Baby D’s Let Me Be Your Fantasy.
Following on from the 90’s revival on the Main Stage, I ran over to The Ballroom at City Hall to catch some classic grunge rock from Kerbdog. There were plenty of fans in the audience singing along to their hits and it was a nice fun end to my night as I had to go catch the last tram replacement bus.
I arrived about midday on Saturday and was impressed by first act of the day at City Hall, Her Name Is Calla. Their songs had great build-ups and melodic vocals with a folk influence. The Main Stage hosted funky girl band JUCE, and upcoming RnB stars M.O. who did a nice acoustic cover of Clean Bandit’s Rather Be.
The city was incredibly busy, but I managed to push my way through the crowds towards the much more chilled out venue, Dada, to see Barnsley band And What Army. The venue was quiet with most of the crowd hanging out at the bar, so a couple of band members decided to step out in front of the barrier to fill the space and thrash around a bit, climbing onto tables and ending the set in true rock star fashion by slamming a guitar on the ground and breaking it. It was a really great performance; I just think perhaps the wrong crowd, or not enough of one.
It was understandable that given the time of day, most Tramliners would have been heading towards the Main Stage around then to grab themselves a spot to see hip-hop legends, Public Enemy. My queue-jump came in handy, as Devonshire Green reached maximum capacity and people were being turned away and told to go to other venues.
The anticipation was incredible front and back stage as I hung out with the other photographers watching as each band member turned up. There were a couple of people taking photos with them before their set, and eventually Flavor Flav began rapping behind the scenes until triumphantly marching up to join the rest of the crew on stage. I really enjoyed all the energy from the band and the crowd; it was clear that Public Enemy were definitely the pinnacle of Tramlines for many people there.
I eventually shuffled my way out of Devonshire Green and headed towards Corporation to see some Welsh hardcore from Funeral For A Friend. The downstairs room was completely full and my eyes were literally stinging from all the sweat! The band apologised for not visiting Sheffield more often as they seemed surprised and very grateful to see the room so packed out.
I left just before they finished to make sure I had enough time to grab something to eat before seeing anyone else. I love Street Food Chef’s burritos and eat them quite often when I visit Sheffield, so I happily grabbed one from their stall set up on Devonshire Green before making my way back down to the stage to try get some shots of Sister Sledge after Sheffield rappers Clubs and Spades. It was good to hear rapping with a Yorkshire accent that wasn’t for comedic effect for a change. No one quite knew what to expect from Sister Sledge considering they haven’t been around for quite a while, but their performance was as lively as ever.
A little before my time, so I didn’t end up staying long as we were only allowed one song each to take photos, and I went to see if I could catch Barnsley/Sheffield based heavy rock band Drop Dead Angus, who were just starting at West Street Live. They’ve definitely improved their sound since adding a second guitarist to the line up and pleased the crowd no end. Another local band, Stop Drop Robot, followed after with a great sounding mix of rock and electronic effects.
I managed to stay out late enough to catch resident Radio 1 DJ Annie Mac at the O2 Academy before attempting to grab a taxi back, though all of the cash machines in town had been completely drained by then and of course every taxi service was busy so I didn’t get home until 2:30am. A note to anyone planning on staying out late at next years Tramlines – bring plenty of cash with you and book a taxi in advance!
Needles to say I slept in on Sunday, and made it back into the city for the afternoon to see The Beat who had been moved to an earlier slot. Many people were disappointed with the decision to have them play an hour earlier as the news had not gotten out, so lots of fans (some of who had attended Tramlines specifically to see them) ended up completely missing the set. It was a shame that the crowd looked so misplaced as they ended up taking the slot originally set for Catfish and the Bottlemen.
I felt bad for missing so many local bands throughout the weekend due to all the big headliners, but I made it to Corporation to see Rolo Tomassi, who though known as a Sheffield act, have their roots in Barnsley. Lead vocalist Eva Spence is always fun to photograph with her mesmerising dancing, and the band seemed pleased to be back in Sheffield to play some new tracks.
Overall, the weekend had a really great atmosphere and a nice varied range of music and events. The city centre was so full of life with live music in almost every single park and venue, even for those that didn’t purchase official wristbands there was something to see. The only downsides I felt a lack of organisation, with the official programme having a few too many ‘TBC’ gaps, several artists cancelling, and poor decisions on time management for The Beat, but hopefully next year will have a few less hiccups.
Words and photographs by Roseanna Hanson. Please do not used these photographs without her permission and credit.
Roseanna Hanson is an artist, illustrator, photographer and musician based in Barnsley. She is also a regular contributor to Alternative Barnsley. Hook up via the links below: