Initially, the decision to bring all of Tramlines’ stages together as one at Hillsborough Park was a risk. However, with a decade of experience under its belt, 2018 more than ever felt like the Sheffield festival’s rise to the higher echelons of the UK’s festival circuit. With the likes of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and The Stereophonics topping the bill, this year’s edition of Tramlines had it all.
With a fringe event also occurring simultaneously in the city centre, the now Hillsborough based festival saw record crowds pass through its gates in a celebration of musical and social diversity. Occurring in the middle of a summer which has already seen footballing success and divine weather, it was time for Tramlines to take centre stage!
Friday kicked off with a mixture of talent old and new. The Big Moon opened proceedings on the main-stage, a band who’s debut album Love in the 4th Dimension was shortlisted for 2017s Mercury Prize. Hits such as ‘Pull The Other One’ and ‘Cupid’ helped an already growing main stage crowd to get into the festival spirit. The Big Moon are exciting and talented, we already can’t wait to see what their second album offering will have in-store.
It was the Leadmill stage which saw a number of breaking bands over the course of the weekend. It brought a taste of the fringe into the festival grounds themselves, the former being the one of THE best events for musical discovery in the country. Friday saw Oddity Road head to yet another festival main-stage. Taking inspiration from indie heavyweights, the Sheffield band cleverly manage to mix this with their own unique blend of guitar based sound. ‘Don’t Hold Me Down’ stands out for these guys, it won’t be long before they hit even bigger festival stages in Sheffield and beyond.
The Orielles too made the Leadmill stage their own. Their near perfect summer sound was terribly incongruous to the blistering downpour, though with crowds flocking to the tent, the Halifax formed band’s set became a festival highlight in itself. Tracks such as “Sunflower Seeds” and ‘Sugar Tastes Like Salt’ stood out.
The Magic Gang and Mystery Jets too took to the Leadmill stage to close off an impressive opening night of music. Milburn too brought their resurgent live sound to the Tramlines main-stage. However, Friday night belonged to the Stereophonics. With a set which spanned 20 years worth of hits, the Welsh rockers were clearly on fine form.
A whole summer of headline festival appearances led the band to Tramlines in spectacular fashion. A mixture of full band and acoustic tracks brought mass singalongs which the band are so accustomed to. Highlights included ‘Have A Nice Day’ and ‘Handbags And Gladrags.’ As the rain began to fall once more, it was ‘Dakota’ which left the near capacity crowd in a euphoric daze. Kelly Jones and co are still a headline worthy band, the depth in their setlist is almost never ending.
With a denser line up and more stages, Saturday at Tramlines showed a tonne of promise. Rightfully, it was one of our favourite festival days ever! Kicking off main-stage proceedings was Bang Bang Romeo, the Doncaster band who are embarked upon a summer of festival performances. Their sound is infectious and powerful, tracks such as ‘Natural Born Astronaut’ and ‘Invitation’ WOWED the ever-growing crowd. Vocally, lead singer Anastasia Walker is second to none! With more releases planned and a debut album in the pipeline, it is clear that Bang Bang Romeo are onto something special.
RedFaces too made their hometown festival main-stage debut. The indie band have been doing the round for a while however, 2018 appears to be somewhat of a breakthrough year for the Sheffield band. ‘Wise Up’ and ‘Kerosene’ were anthemic, already fan favourites. ‘Way Down’ drops in August and if its live outing is anything to go by, the single could be one of our favourite RedFaces tacks yet!
Every festival has a standout performance. In the case of Tramlines 2018, it was Reverend & The Makers who stole the show for all the right reasons! Their Saturday evening slot was rammed as John McClure and co returned to their hometown. The hits were rapid and career spanning, ‘Heavyweight Champion of the World’ and ‘Bassline’ were note-able, the crowd was bouncing. Flares galore brought a colourful echo to Hillsborough Park as ‘Silence Is Talking’ meant a euphoric end to what may well been their greatest hometown gig of all time. However, it was the band’s tribute to former festival director Sarah Nulty which was most moving, her legacy is second to none and will no doubt live on!
Blossoms may not have taken the non-stop train through the Peak District from Stockport to Sheffield to the Tramlines main-stage, though it was clear that Tom Ogden and co felt somewhat at home. Following the release of second album Cool Like You, the indie hearthrobs were in fine form. A mixture of tracks new and old created mass singalong and a spectacular summer atmosphere as evening dawned. ‘Charlemagne’ was a highlight, of course.
And so it was onto Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds to close out the night, a sign that the Sheffield festival can attract some of the biggest names in the game. The rock icon is still on blistering form following the release of third solo album Who Built The Moon? With a mixture of classics old and new, the Oasis man’s return to Sheffield was something quite special.
New tracks including ‘She Taught Me How To Fly’ and ‘Holy Mountain’ highlighted the relative experimental nature of Gallagher’s latest body of work. However, it was the outing of Oasis classics which brought mass singalong to a crowd gathered in front of the iconic stands of Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough Stadium. ‘Whatever’ and ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ still mean so much to so many people. Closing on The Beatles’ ‘All You Need Is Love,’ Gallagher was able to latch onto the positive vibes which natural overshadowed the entire weekend.
With a varied, more pop based day of music, it was the smaller stages which played home to the more alternative acts. No band epitomises Sheffield’s upcoming music scene more than The Seamonsters. Their early Sunday morning set was one of the most impressive of the whole weekend. With an infectious sound and stage presence, it is no wonder that The Seamonsters are set to embark on a UK wide tour this Autumn. At Tramlines, songs such as ‘Lost (And Found)’ and ‘Max and Archie’ proved to be fan favourites. They are set to make the festival setting their own over the next few years.
Sheafs too are a local band with a tonne of hype. Hot on the lips of any new music fan, their Tramlines set was raucous, no doubt reminiscent of some of the greater stadium bands of our time. ‘Mind Pollution’ and latest singe ‘Shock Machine’ prove their credentials, though it was ‘This Is Not A Protest’ which truly had the potential to set the world alight and soundtrack a future revolution.
Sophie and the Giants too have made Sheffield their home. Their Tramlines debut comes as part of a breakthrough year for the band. Lead single ‘Monsters’ sounded impressive, vocally they are second to none. Having worked alongside Reverend & The Makers’ John McClure, We cannot wait to see what these guys have planned next!
Pale Waves, who played the early evening Leadmill set, are on the verge of greatness. Signed to Dirty Hit Records, their growth over the last twelve months has been astounding. Already, the likes of ‘Television Romance’ and ‘There’s a Honey’ are festival anthems. Anticipation is high as their debut album draws closer. Black Honey too have an album in the works, due for release later this year. Their festival outings prove that attention is rife, the band are hotly talked about in industry circles and for good reason. ‘All My Pride’ is of course already a highlight. Black Honey look set to take the country by storm!
Tom Grennan’s Tramlines return was spectacular and in good timing, just weeks after the release of Lighting Matches. His voice is rough but impressive, no doubt in the realms of unique solo stars such as Amy Winehouse and Richard Ashcroft. It was the more upbeat corners of his chart raiding debut album which suited the festival tent best. ‘Barbed Wire,’ ‘Something in the Water’ and ‘Found What I’ve Been Looking For’ all provoked mass singalong.
Talking of singalongs, no solo artist is as credible and talented as the Nottingham born Jake Bugg is. He closed out the festival’s other stage in spectacular fashion. The likes of ‘Broken,’ ‘Seen It All’ and ‘Lightning Bolt’ have stood the test of time and still remain as meaningful and relevant as ever. If Tramlines 11 has anything like this in-store then, quite frankly, we’re in for a treat.
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Image credits: Giles Smith, Richard Johnson,
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