RADSOUND // TRAMLINES FESTIVAL REVIEW

Originally posted on Radsound

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With this year’s line up being arguably the strongest on record and Sheffield’s city centre brimming with music from Thursday night, Tramlines 2015 was always set to be an unmissable weekend in the festival season, and upon our arrival, it proved to be just that.

Kicking off proceedings on the Friday night with the crowds filtering out of work and into the site of this year’s new main stage, Ponderosa Park, came Ghostpoet, full of energy and electro hip hop stylings that made an early highlight as, complete with a multitude of instrumentalists, Obaro Ejimiwe tore through his 5 year back catalogue and a handful of his latest album release, ‘Shedding Skin’.

Things then took a fiery spin with grinningly reputable Tunbridge Wells duo Slaves hitting the park, bringing a healthy balance of their debut ‘Sugar Coated Bitter Truth’ and recent album ‘Are You Satisfied?’ within a set driven by pure punk energy from both the fuzzed out guitars of Laurie Vincent and the desperate screams vs. clattering drums of frontman Isaac Holman – yet another standout set from the festival and one likely to only further propel Slaves into the spotlight they deserve.

Closing Friday night however were the undoubtable highlight headliner, The Charlatans, a band that need little introduction and swiftly took to setting Tramlines alive with nostalgia, armed only with their iconic melodic rock and Tim Burgess’ even more iconic yellow mop. By the time the outfit’s greatest hits emerged towards the end of the set, the crowd needed no further convincing and left day one of Tramlines in suitably high spirits.

After a restrained early night on Friday, Saturday instantly became more adventurous, with a double hit of Trash and Best Friends re-energising and firing everyone back into life, under the sun on Devonshire Green. Despite being stricken down with illness and consequently struggling vocally, Trash took it upon themselves to play a one off purely instrumental set of tracks – a brave move by any band, and one that instantly paid off. As well as having a catalogue of intensely catchy sing-a-longs, the outfit have more than enough musicality to back it up and one that the crowd welcomed with open, dancing arms.

Meanwhile, Best Friends won their home city instantly, gathering a vast crowd and tearing through cuts from their debut LP ‘Hot. Reckless. Totally Insane.’ like their lives depended on it. Showcasing furious garage surf-rock overlayed by the gravelly tones of frontman Lewis Sharman, standout tracks from the LP came thick and fast, though older releases ‘Wasting Time’, ‘If You Think Too Much Your Brain Will Fall Out’ and  ‘Shred Til You’re Dead’ proved to be the ultimate crowd pleasers.

Later on the Green, things took a more reserved tone with Blessa‘s synth sparkled soul enchanting the entire crowd in an instant. With infectious rhythms combined with chorus drenched guitars and sharp melodies, the set drifted between sheer 80s indie and blissed out electro that worked perfectly with the weather to prove a more relaxing standout of the weekend. Sheffield folk favourites Slow Club followed in the same suit, providing a 60s tinged pop styling via the twee vocal harmonies of Charles Watson and Rebecca Taylor, with hints of promising new material as the sun closed in.

Whilst, in the cavernous Beg, Borrow & Steal bar as part of the Tramlines fringe, Hot Vestry took to the stage in their usual endearingly dark fashion. Playing a largely instrumental set with mild injections of their ‘A Scene In Between’ EP, fuelled by pulsing basslines, stark striking guitar melodies and shudders of Harry Ward’s distinctive vocal, all washed together with intense layers of synths and some masterfully frantic drumming, the quartet’s set was instantly hypnotic. From the off, their inability and defiance to be boxed into any genre other than the elusive self conjured ‘Bleichpop’ – now an addition to their Kratwerk-esque matching stage longjackets – is glaringly apparent and it’s a fact that only makes them seem even better, within their sonic capabilities Hot Vestry are almost impossible to describe both musically and live, but undoubtedly talented at both, and another key highlight of the weekend.

Whilst on darker terms, the next act to hit the stage in the depths of City Hall were Alcest, the brainchild of French multi instrumentalist Neige complete with a five piece band, conjuring up music that bridged the gap between melodic metal and heavy shoegaze. Putting on an ultimately euphoric show in the quickly packed out basement, the outfit crashed through tracks of endless distortions and reverb from their 10 years of output and swiftly impressed every face in the crowd with huge sounds.

Heading into Saturday night, Hooton Tennis Club flew through a set of their encapsulating sweet indie rock sounds covering the majority of their soon to be released debut album, ‘The Highest Point In Cliff Town’. From chiming distorted riffs, pounding funk tinged basslines and the unavoidably catchy observations from dual frontmen Ryan Murphy and James Madden, the bands set ranged from pure pop sing-a-longs to scuzzy Pavement-esque garage tunes, all with equally witty storybook names. They also played their incredible new single ‘P.O.W.E.R.F.U.L.P.I.E.R.R.E.’, that ensured the crowd needed no winning over and left everyone in vast anticipation of their album – if the live show is anything to go by, it’s going be a contender for album of the year.

Following on the scuzz, Glasgow duo Tuff Love were up next bringing more than a hint of fuzzed out rock to the stage. With lush vocals of Julie Eisentein and Suse Bear filling the gap between layers of lo-fi grunge guitars and crushing drums, the outfit hit full force within The Leadmill and sent the crowd into a mass of racous energy with cuts from their latest brilliant ‘Dross’ EP, before tearing offstage.

The final act of the night facing a crowd vastly geared up for a good time were The Fat White Family. With a reputation for their somewhat unusual onstage antics, an album and a half’s worth of oddball yet brilliant psychedelic tinged rock, and an hour in which to live up to the hype, the outfit faced a strange air of anticipation and expectation from the crowd – yet from the second they stepped onstage the mood was dissolved into pure musical reckless abandon and they put on arguably the best set of the weekend.

Kickstarting with ‘Is It Raining In Your Mouth?’, a single of questionable subject matter summed up in an unavoidably catchy garage rock style only the five piece could get away with, the crowd instantly flew into endless circle pits and unadulterated dancing whilst the band did much the same as they cascaded through the majority of 2013’s ‘Champagne Holocaust’ LP. With a stage prescense like no other – see: one guitarist in a cowboy hat smoking with the most impressive sideburns you’ll ever see, another in shades and a barbour hat boasting a manic grin at all times, a frontman parading about the stage with a ferocious passion left mostly unseen since Nick Cave, a crazed keyboard player, a slightly more unassuming bassist yet playing some of the most integrally brilliant sounds to the bands output, and a drummer vaguely resembling the ‘Animal from The Muppets’ approach quite a lot of the time – it’s safe to say the outfit are a spectacle live, but when taking their ability to make every single song they played an experience in it’s own right into account, Fat White Family were almost unstoppable. While obvious outings of ‘Touch The Leather’ and the brilliant Fall homage, ‘I Am Mark E Smith’ were lapped up by the sweaty remnants of The Leadmill’s insides, final highlights came from less suspecting album cuts with ‘Auto Neutron’ proving the closest to a religious experience the outfit may ever get, and the controversially ace ‘Bomb Disneyland’ being the final snap of frantic life in both the crowd and outfit before the set drew to a close, with all who managed to cram their way into the set left vastly in awe.

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With the Fringe line up in full swing, Sunday began with a jumpstart. Early sets from Nai Harvest offcut Fruit Bomb and duo Long Limbs in the attic of The Great Gatsby, both explosive invasions of garage rock guitar from the Sheffield natives, before Desperate Journalist took to the Crystal Bar with their powerful post-punk.

Back on Devonshire Green, Sheffield heroes The Crookes returned to make their annual appearance, in the midsts of currently recording their fourth album. With a back catalogue filled to the brim of their own unique take on northern soul and chiming indie pop, the band proved obvious crowd pleasers with just about anything they played, more so encouraged by their enigmatic stage presence . From older favourites to hints of new material, the band show no signs of withering much to the delight of everyone in the crowd, and likely everyone else that’s ever listened to them. 11402853_842489492499164_2832905521356678164_o

Drawing into the evening, the soothing sounds of Aquilo took to the stage, with their minimalistic electro approach combining with Tom Higham’s soaring vocals to create stark, yet lush soundscapes that filled the heights of Sheffield Cathedral with utter musical bliss. Following the duo were infectious soul pop trio Jagaara, who stole the headline slot. The sisters conjuring up a state of endearing melancholy drawn through wistful melody and intense vocal harmonies. From the ambience of Jane Edmondson’s lavish vocals to the twisting intertwined layers of synth and guitar, the trio treated the Cathedral to a musical experience likely left unseen at any other Sunday service and sent us drifting into the night.

A juxtaposing final burst of Tramlines’ best took place awhile later at The Great Gatsby. Brighton’s Abattoir Blues came with their self confessed “Thug-core”, an arsenal snarling vocals and tearing bites of guitar, creating a wave of post punk infusion throughout the packed out pub backroom.  The band played a set with unrestrained ferocity putting them on par with the musical aggression of recent counterparts Eagulls and ensured Tramlines was once again an unforgettable weekend.

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