As I’m an old man who’s life is almost over, Sheffield music festival Tramlines is pretty much all I look forward to most years as I slime my way between fast food outlets and the pub like a tired slug waiting to die. With that cheery sentiment in mind, it was only a matter of time before I succumbed to Tramlines sister festival Outlines.
Outlines formed last year as a precursor to Tramlines with the promise of blooding up and coming Sheffield bands alongside more established names. The organizers have outdone themselves in 2017, with three of my favourite Sheffield bands playing one after another in two of the city’s finest venues.
First up, my wife and I arrived at The Plug in time to catch the last few songs of Novella’s set. I had never heard of the Brighton 4 piece before seeing them live, but their psychedelic drone was a welcome start to the evening. Worryingly, as soon as Novella finished The Plug completely emptied and with 5 minutes to go before Alvarez Kings set there was less than twenty anxious looking people in the audience. I once saw Pigeon Detectives in a room with about ten other people and it was really awkward. I kept making eye contact with the bassist. That desperate situation was thankfully avoided however when lots more people filtered in just as Alvarez Kings were working there way through a typically atmospheric version of ‘Run to You’.
The band have come a long way from humble beginnings and their sound has become much sharper. This relies on a crisp live sound which is obviously difficult to maintain at a festival when time is at a premium. Despite this handicap, Alvarez Kings are tight enough to be able to adapt to any live situation and by the time they reached the massive chorus of ‘Tell Tale Heart’ they had the crowd enraptured. ‘Fear to Feel’ sounds like the massive hit it deserves to be and ‘Postcards From Berlin’ is the perfect set closer. The bands debut album Somewhere Between is due to be released on April 14th. Don’t miss it.
After a short walk in the glorious Sheffield rain, I arrived at The Leadmill full of anticipation for my 11th time seeing The Crookes. The last time I saw the Sheffield band it was a Christmas gig. My love for their music means that I am not as interested in seeing them perform other artists songs it turns out, so I was very excited to see them play a set of their own material this time round. I would not be disappointed. A frantic ‘Where Did Our Love Go’ kicked things off and the band barely slowed down during a rapturously received set. ‘Maybe in the Dark’ is a song that benefits from being played live as it contains some of guitarist Daniel Hopewell’s most emotive lyrics. Singer George Waite wrings every ounce of emotion from Hopewell’s beautiful words.
‘Sofie’ is a constant in The Crookes live set and it is easy to see why based on its joyous rendition tonight. I saw the first ever performance of ‘The World Is Waiting’ at Tramlines 2015 and it sounds just as fresh and powerful two years on. The crowd go suitably wild. ‘A Collier’s Wife’ was the bands first single and it comes across much better live then it does on record. ‘Roman Candle’ is one of the finer cuts from the bands latest album Lucky Ones and it is so enthusiastically celebrated here that it moves George to comment ‘I never thought I would see a mosh pit to that song’.
‘Backstreet Lovers’ is another Crookes staple but it remains a fan favourite and a raucous ‘Afterglow’ rounds off another stunning live performance. I’m already looking forward to number 12…
I am ashamed to say that I am a fairly recent convert to Slow Club so I am still working my way through their albums. I have seen the Sheffield band before but it was at one of the outdoor stages at Tramlines and I was tired and hungover so it wasn’t my best ever live experience. Luckily, they are so fucking good it wouldn’t have mattered if I had never heard a single note of their music before.
Slow Club have an infectious energy on record that translates masterfully live. Rebecca Taylor covers every inch of the stage, even taking over drumming duties at one point. Charles Watson is more composed but just as compelling. The bands self deprecating style is perfectly suited to South Yorkshire, with Watson commenting that he felt like someone’s boyfriend at a party when playing a solo acoustic composition.
‘Ancient Rolling Sea’ is a slow and sultry number that has heads nodding and toes tapping. ‘Tears of Joy’ is heartbreaking beautiful and when Taylor really lets rip on ‘Not Mine to Love’ it becomes clear we are in for a special night.
‘Our Most Brilliant Friends’ is so much fun that it’s impossible not to dance along with them and by the time ‘Two Cousins’ closes the set I have kind of fallen in love a little, not just with Rebecca Taylor (although I do keep mournfully sighing at a photograph of her), but also with Charles Watson and Slow Club and The Crookes and Alvarez Kings and just Sheffield generally. Sister festival? Nah. Outlines is ace in it’s own right.