They grow up so quick. It seems like only yesterday I attended the first ever Tramlines back in 2009. Now with three successful years under its belt, Sheffield’s fun filled free weekender is back, and as usual promises to bigger and better than ever before.
Somewhat inevitably my weekend begins with a queue. But I don’t mind, as the hour long wait to get into The Bowery is well worth the wait. But before we get onto the night’s main attraction, Mancunian duo Great Waves get the evening off to a great start. Whilst their post rock drone took a while to get fully going, a few songs in and there was no denying the abundant potential of the band.
Despite being stood in a now fully packed Bowery I still cannot quite believe what I am about to witness. In the last few months ∆ (that’s Alt J to you and me) have emerged from seemingly nowhere to become one of 2012’s most hotly tipped acts. My only worry? That they won’t be able to recreate their truly unique recorded sound. Thankfully my doubts are completely misfounded, the band delivering favourites from their debut An Awesome Wave note perfectly including‘Tessellate’, ‘Matilda’ and breakthrough ‘Breezeblocks’. Just like when The XX played The Harley in 2009, this will go down in Tramlines folklore.
Of course the beauty of Tramlines is sometimes what you stumble upon rather than what you had planned to see. After hearing the Frog and Parrott had a secret headliner lined up, my curiosity is rewarded with a furious outing from Johnny Foreigner. The midlands quartet race through a set of their high tempo noise, bringing my Friday to a glorious finale.
After the incredible night before, it feels only right to start Saturday more gradually and ease into proceedings. Dave Woodcock’s acoustic set in the Ballroom of Sheffield City Hall provides just that. Dave, who usually is accompanied by his band of Dead Comedians, instead offers a stripped back set of material from his most recent effort Poisoned Nights And Ballroom Lights, as well as a wonderfully appropriate cover of the Springsteen classic ‘Dancing In The Dark’.
A short walk through the carnival that is Division Street – with all its bars crammed even so early on in the afternoon, leads me to The Hop. To my delight, they’ve decided to go with a Blues theme, with an array of artist carefully selected to complement each other and flow seemingly. First up are the John Hanson Band making a welcome to return to Sheffield a mere 35 years since their last visit. They are followed by the equally impressive Mudcats Trio, who bring a more up-tempo variation of the Delta blues.
A quick break for food and then off to see rap legend Roots Manuva on the main stage. Or so I thought. Upon seeing the queue tail round at least two sides of Devonshire Green, I decide my time would much better spent exploring elsewhere.
So onto the Frog and Parrot for Rip Off Britain. Despite initially impressing with loud and fast beats, it soon becomes apparent they are very much a one trick pony. The kind of band you find playing in rock bars on a Saturday evening; perfectly competent, but somewhat lacking originality. And they didn’t even cover ‘Jump’.
Thankfully my deviation from the plan eventually pays off a little further down the street, ending my Saturday in Bungalows and Bears with a superb outing from Abe. Admittedly, their 9pm slot is a far too early for a band which would be better suited much later on in the evening / the early hours of the morning, but their unique combination of electronica, synths and rhythms still worked its charm.
The only problem with an urban festival is that by Sunday the motivation to travel back into the city for a third day is too easily trumped by the prospect of a lie in and lazy afternoon. But as the sun finally comes out early in the evening, I decide to make one final push to catch We Are Scientists’ main stage headline slot.
However I was yet again defeated by the Devonshire Green queues – I really should start queuing much sooner at future events. Instead I head to the New Music Stage outside City Hall, arriving just in time to catch Rolo Tomassi’s outing. There is a hint of irony that is the local math-core quintet’s third consecutive year curating this ‘New Music’ stage, but they are well received regardless. No doubt they’ll back again next year.
It’s always special to catch any 65daysofstatic headline show. And whilst the set delivers exactly what you’d expect to get from the Sheffield post rockers, it doesn’t make it any less fun. A well placed jibe a Nick Clegg and the age old trick of getting everyone to crouch down really low before getting everyone back up again for a euphoric chorus made for a fitting climax to another superb Tramlines.