Tramlines 2018 in Review

So, Sheffield’s ever-popular Tramlines festival has grown up massively in the past couple of years. This growth has taken it from the tiny Devonshire Green, to the big slope locally known as Ponderosa park, to its new home in Hillsborough. And with this big growth comes a two-edge sword – the attraction of big acts like Stereophonics and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, but this meant the sacrifice of an official Fringe line-up.


Tramlines Fringe Acts

Bad Bug

Even without the official Tramlines Fringe stamp, many venues across the city put on their own day-long festivals, filling beer gardens, back rooms and basements everywhere. One such good place is the Cafe Totem, its basement still hanging on to the sweat from its former heavy metal days (The Nelson, RIP). This little bar on Furnival Gate had probably 12 hours of music on a day all hosted by This Feeling. From what I saw there Bad Bug from Leeds were a highlight. Bad Bug filled Sunday afternoon with 70s meets 90s fuzz, and a whole lot of positive attitude. It’s refreshing to see band members who aren’t a singer/back-up singing along to their own songs. They just like their own music that much. I’d say their sound reminds me a lot of Hinds (the happiest band in the world), which is perfect relief during this insufferable heat wave we’ve been having.

I have no idea if this was a festival exclusive or one of their regular choices, but I was happily surprised to hear Bad Bug play “Big Bottom” by Spinal Tap. A quick clip of this is on Grave Reviews’ Instagram here.

Femur

Staying on the subject of Tramlines Fringe, we can go from Cafe Totem to the Harley on the corner of Glossop Road. This again was Sunday afternoon – main Tramlines usually lacks much good stuff on a Sunday, and it’s the perfect excuse to move around the city centre to spy-out some good underground bands. The Harley was no exception, the music they offered on Sunday was a lot more heavy than you’d ever get at Tramlines, so if that’s your sort of thing I can recommend this place.

I managed to catch FEMUR, a Sheffield-based band I’ve covered before. I know previously I said that FEMUR focus more on the psychedelic/indie side of grunge, but the band is cemented in the heavy subsection of grunge tonight. Their new songs, including single “Chunk”, thrash and roar about, seeking out every bit of the Harley for themselves. If you like your music on the catchy-but-dark side, get yourself over to a Femur gig some time as they are proving themselves to be one of the best new(ish) bands in Sheffield.


Main Tramlines acts

So now we move on to the main Tramlines affair. As Sheffield is where I live, I always find myself treating this festival quite casually – it’s not too far away, and I know a few places to go around it, so I’m always coming in and out whenever something good or promising is on. Because of this there’s a lot of bands I didn’t manage to see, but I’ll make a casual shout out to Reverend and the Makers, Blossoms and Everything Everything for being a good watch/listen. Now on to some headliners…

Stereophonics

Stereophonics is one of those bands you hear on playlists everywhere – from your local pub to the soundtrack of The Office [edit: my knowledge is a bit rusty…]. I came to know of their existence through Kerrang! tv around the time that Dakota was released. Yes, for all gatekeepers, I didn’t fully know the band “before they were cool”, but this just matches the casual feel Tramlines Ten had. But anyway, that experience I had as a teenager of getting up at 6 every morning to check out new music has always felt led by bands such as Stereophonics. Their songs are those ear-worms you just can’t shake. Their Tramlines set was full of instances of “I haven’t heard this in ages, but I still love it” moments. Even “Have a Nice Day”, which I’m sure everyone has heard to death by now, felt fresh and cool.

The band’s set had a mid-section of acoustic-y songs, where the band members all took to the “cat walk” down the middle of the audience. This was a simple and effective way of making this massive festival feel that little bit more familiar, more intimate. “I Wouldn’t Believe your Radio” stood out, as the song sounded just as it does on the recording, but maybe that’s just me.

One thing that does leave me questioning is this though. What does it say about a band when they leave all the “showman” sort of stuff to the drummer? Flashy drum solo. Drum kit at the front of the cat walk, with the rest of the band behind him. Another drum solo. You either think it’s cool because it’s a bit different, or a bit lame because it’s not the done thing.

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

Another band I’m pretty casual about was Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, but I was pretty amazed to be stood with ~40,000 other people in a park shouting along to Oasis’ “Wonderwall”. Or, to mention an actual High Flying Birds song, “AKA…What a life!”. What an experience that was. Everywhere you looked people were singing along to every word, feeling the music.

We also got to witness Gallagher’s usual attempts at grabbing headlines on music websites across the country: an insult to the town he’s playing. As is usual in Sheffield, the crowd began chanting “Yorkshire! Yorkshire!” as a sort of celebration to the good stuff we’ve got going on around us. Or maybe it was a taunt to the Mancunian onstage. Who knows really. Gallagher’s response was to say that the only good thing to come out of Yorkshire is the tea. A perfect provocation for a Yorkshire audience.