Tramlines has got bigger and bigger since it started in 2009 so this year the main stage has moved from Devonshire Green to the much bigger Ponderosa Park and the headliners reflect the upward trajectory of what is now considered one of the best smaller festivals in the country.
2015 saw The Charlatans and Basement Jaxx rubbing shoulders with Mobb Deep and De La Soul (the latter two replacing Wu Tang Clan who cancelled) as headliners, along with new indie bands such as Slaves, Ultimate Painting and Honeyblood. Also on the bill were Sheffield heroes The Crookes, Slow Club and Joe Carnell Jr (formally of Milburn), as well as genuine music legends such as the Sugarhill Gang and Martha Reeves.
After securing a Tramlines ticket from a random man I met on facebook with only 24 hours to go before the bands kicked off, I arrived in Sheffield in high spirits for the 2015 Tramlines festival and just in time to walk down to the new main stage at Ponderosa Park. ‘It’s about ten minutes away from Devonshire Green’ my friend Luke had cheerily informed me. A thirty minute rain soaked trudge later after using Google Maps and asking numerous amused looking locals I finally reached the Main Stage just as Slaves were starting.
The Kent band shrugged off recent criticism from fellow shouty ‘voice of the working class’ heroes Sleaford Mods to deliver a spirited and ferocious set that had Sheffield jumping and culminated in a crowd surfing Isaac Holman having his hat stolen by someone in the crowd. Being a conscientious lot in South Yorkshire the hat was eventually returned to the Slaves front man following a chant of ‘where’s my hat?’. Reports that #hatbantz was trending all over Twitter are yet to be confirmed.
Following Slaves and headlining Friday night, were Britpop legends The Charlatans. Still going strong after 12 albums and numerous line up changes, Tim Burgess led the Northwich rockers through a strong set that was lapped up by the adoring Sheffield crowd. New songs such as ‘Let The Good Times Be Never Ending’ and ‘Come Home Baby’ slotted in nicely next to old favourites such as ‘How High’ and ‘North Country Boy’ and by the time it came to play regular set closer ‘Sproston Green’ it was clear that the Charlatans had done their job – everyone left with a smile as wide as Tim Burgess’ had been all evening. Shit haircut. Top frontman.
Saturday brought the promise of seeing quite a few bands I didn’t know much about starting with Seven Tors at Sheffield cathedral in the early afternoon. Whilst there is no denying that they are a talented bunch, their Mumford & Daughters style folk shtick wasn’t really for me but it was a nice introduction to what is an awe inspiring venue. Next up on the Devonshire Green was Doncaster’s own Bang Bang Romeo. I have been a relative late comer to BBR but after impressing me during their support slot for Sleaford Mods at the Priory Doncaster earlier this year they full on blew me away at Tramlines. Imposing and ridiculously talented front woman Anastasia Walker prowls round the stage daring anyone in the crowd not to clap along and the future looks bright for Doncaster’s most promising band. She does kind of scare the shit out of me though.
Following this I caught Sheffield band Best Friends raucous set also on the Devonshire Green stage but the sound quality lacked the punch of their studio recordings leaving the impression they may have been more suited to a smaller venue.
After this it was off to the Leadmill to watch Radio Sheffield DJ (and Doncaster resident) Christian Carlisle’s hot tips Dead English Gentlemen. I must admit that other than brilliant instrumental track ‘Alan Arthur’ they didn’t do much for me but it is still very early days for the Sheffield trio.
Back at the Devonshire Green stage Slow Club delighted the crowd with a career spanning set with easily enough quality and disparate material to justify their hour long running time. Then to the highlight of Saturday for me – Ultimate Painting at Sheffield Cathedral. The beautiful and awe inspiring cathedral was the perfect setting for Ultimate Painting’s atmospheric indie pop with ‘Riverside’ and ‘Central Park Blues’ sounding particularly strong and a big crowd nodded their approval. Even some men that can only be described as ‘pricks’ pushing in front of me and then just standing still thus obscuring my view for the second half of the show failed to dampen my enjoyment.
So onto Sunday and the Buzzcocks on the main stage who despite constant and pouring rain had the crowd dancing to hits such as ‘What Do I Get?’ and of course ‘Ever Fallen In Love’. Buzzcocks put a lot of the younger acts I saw at Tramlines to shame and despite looking like a band made up entirely of people’s uncles these days, they can still strike a rock pose as good as any young pretenders. So hungover, hungry and tired I started the long walk back to the Devonshire Green stage to catch the Crookes who, needless to say, did not disappoint. I consider The Crookes to be the most underrated band in the country at the moment and they played a blinding performance in front of a decent crowd with new song The World is Waiting more than holding its own alongside older set staples such as Backstreet Loves. The World is Waiting was a set highlight in actuality and I sincerely hope this is the song that breaks the Crookes and enables them to get the respect they so deserve.
Immediately following The Crookes was another Sheffield act Joe Carnall Jr who was surprisingly amazing, the highlight being his new material which sounds at least a match for anything his former band Milburn produced. Carnall Jr threw in a couple of Milburn songs for the crowd however, with Well, Well, Well receiving a particularly rousing reception from his hometown fans.
So after numerous bands, too many pints of cider and seemingly constant rain I arrived back in Doncaster wet, drunk and happy. Roll on Tramlines 2016!