Given Sheffield’s rich musical history, it seems bizarre that, up until last year, the city didn’t have its own music festival. Yet in 2009, following the example of Live In Leeds and The Camden Crawl, the Steel City announced its very own self-proclaimed ‘urban Glastonbury’ – except this event was completely free.
Tramlines is the brainchild of Reverend And The Makers‘ Jon McClure, Matt Helders of Arctic Monkeys and local grime DJ Toddla T. Last year’s event, featuring the likes of Little Boots, Slow Club, The xx and McClure’s own band attracted over 35,000 visitors and this year’s looks set to be even bigger.
Last year’s event, while successful, suffered from inevitable teething problems. People had to queue up for hours to gain a wristband for entry into the venues, the timetable was confusing and some acts cancelled at the very last minute. This year, the wristband scheme has been abandoned, and there seems a new degree of professionalism amongst Tramlines’ organisers.
Over 50 venues across Sheffield will be taking part in this year’s festival, ranging from tiny rooms above pubs to a huge outdoor stage on Devonshire Green. There’s also the same pleasing balance between unsigned local bands and household names, ranging from hipster-friendly indie to big brash pop music, and even a band of ukelue playing locals.
The festival kicks off on Friday evening with veteran locals Boy On A Dolphin at the Leadmill, which is also home later in the evening to a headline show from Dutch prog-rockers Focus – expect plenty of yodelling along to Hocus Pocus, recently featured in a World Cup advert.
Elsewhere, the city’s resident home to hard rock, The Corporation, plays host to fast rising Leeds rockers Pulled Apart By Horses and London’s ska-punks The King Blues, while the legendary Grapes (where Arctic Monkeys took their first musical steps) plays host to an evening of local talent, including Cats For Peru, The Crookes and the hotly tipped Dead Like Harry.
Perhaps the biggest draw though is at the Bowery, where kooky New Yorker Darwin Deez will be playing tracks from his debut album – you may even have enough time to run down to The Harley to catch a typically frantic show from Dalston’s Male Bonding.
Saturday is probably Tramlines’ busiest day, with the open-air stage on Devonshire Green expected to attract the biggest crowds. It’s a line-up that would rival that of T4’s Party On The Beach with names such as Gabriella Climi, Dane Bowers, Craig David and Daisy Dares You playing with Tinchy Stryder headlining. It may not be the edgiest line-up of the weeknd, but acts such as Professor Green and Lissie still should make it worth checking out.
Those of a more alternative bent will probably be taking shelter in the Leadmill for the woefully underlooked local band Standard Fare and Nat Johnson, she of the late and much lamented Monkey Swallows The Universe. The New Music Stage outside the City Hall also has an impressive line-up, including Chapel Club, Twilight Sad and the superb Blood Red Shoes.
There’s also a selection of DJs all day and night at the legendary Washington Pub, a Youth Music Festival at the Corporation, and both Toddla T and Annie Mac DJing at The Octagon until the small hours.
After the previous day’s pop takeover of Devonshire Green, it’s more of a rock-indie day on the outdoor stage. Names such as Joe Carnell & The Book Club and Shake Aletti feature in the afternoon, while the two big acts are the Mystery Jets and the veteran Scousers Echo And The Bunnymen – a fine way to finish the festival.
It’s likely to be a much younger crowd over at the New Music stage which is curated by local heroes Rolo Tomassi. They’ve organised an impressive line-up, including Grammatics, This Town Needs Guns and Gallows. Over at the University’s Foundry stage, there’s also a homecoming gig for local post-rockers 65daysofstatic who are supported by the hugely promising electro-rockers These Trapped Tigers.
And for something completely different, head over to The Fat Cat pub to catch The Everly Pregnant Brothers, a six-man ukulele band featuring local artist Pete McKee and comedian and DJ Toby Foster. They may even play their very own version of The Human League‘s Don’t You Want Me.