Sheffield’s new testament

TRAMLINES is so much more than a music festival. It’s a huge testament to Sheffield’s tolerance, friendliness and the city’s accommodating nature.

TRAMLINES is so much more than a music festival. It’s a huge testament to Sheffield’s tolerance, friendliness and the city’s accommodating nature.

Thousands upon thousands flocked to the city centre to experience cutting edge - free - live music in more than 70 venues yet there was little trouble and the atmosphere was vibrant and friendly.

Division Street, West Street and Fitzwilliam Street were transformed into huge corridors belonging to one gigantic venue - the city. For the music lover, it was heaven. And for all kinds of musical tastes, too, as the contrasting crowds for the two days of the main stage on Devonshire Green showed.

On Saturday afternoon it was packed with a predominantly young teenage crowd attracted by Hallam FM’s roster of mainstream pop acts like Pixie Lott (an underpowered performance) and Olly Murs, in his titfer at a jaunty angle, who didn’t disappoint cheerfully conveying his enjoyment at being back in Sheffield culminating in a finale joined by energetic rap duo Rizzle Kicks.

The Guillemots rounded off the main stage’s bill with their U2-like layered indie, to which a dedicated following at the front sang along, chanting every lyric.

On Sunday basking in the sunshine was a more mature gathering perhaps epitomised by the sight of one early arrival reading a Sunday supplement while tucking into takeaway sushi.

Local favourites the Everly Pregnant Brothers opened proceedings with frontman Shaun Doane declaring their pride in being elevated to the top table of an event which was so quintessentially Sheffield. They also momentarily diverted from their comedy routines with a straight version of Valerie in tribute to Amy Winehouse, news of whose death had rippled through the festival on Saturday afternoon.

Synthpop legends Heaven 17 kicked off the opening night of what is now being called the UK’s largest free music festival, with a surprise on-stage collaboration on Nokia’s ‘Unannounced Stage’.

Former Human League member Martyn Ware and his Heaven 17 bandmate Glenn Gregory teamed up with Kate Jackson, former front-woman of The Long Blondes, to give the audience their take on David Bowie’s Boys Keep Swinging and Terence Trent D’Arby’s Sign Your Name.

There were an estimated 3,500 packed into Barker’s Pool on the night. The rest of the weekend it evolved into the Nandos New Music Stage with Dananananaykroyd, Hey Sholay and Rolo Tomassi among the acts. Over in the Peace Gardens the Lifeskills World Stage ska band Jungle Lion and Michael Prophet put smiles on faces, even if Johnny Clarke wasn’t able to make it.

There was plenty to be heard at some of the city’s more low-key venues.

Pubs holding music sessions were inundated. The Greystones had three extremely busy nights, with Lucky Strikes, from Southend, and Neil McSweeney, from virtually across the road, receiving rapturous receptions on the Friday night.

The ‘blues and ale’ trail in Kelham Island also proved highly successful.

On Saturday teatime, the queue for the bar at the Fat Cat in Alma Street stretched from the pub to the car park.

So many people came to see the Everly Pregnant Brothers that the ukelele band played once in the beer garden and then in the car park. “At one point, they serenaded a girl who was on a balcony of the flats,” said manager Duncan Shaw.

“It was a really good day on Saturday. The pub was rammed from 2pm until closing.” The introduction of the busker’s bus to ferry music fans around the city worked “an absolute treat”, added Duncan.

Over at the Bath Hotel there was furious fiddle playing as folk acts filled the room with traditional jigs while the Great Gatsby proved a haven for ukelele lovers of a rival disposition.

The Bowery was booming on Saturday night with an outstanding set from Mother’s Ruin and epic indie from Tall Ships. But it was Wet Nuns’ raucous, ballsy, groovy dirt blues that topped the evening’s bill, electrifying the crowd with grit. Men - and later the band itself - were crowd surfing over a wave of foot stompers. And if that weren’t enough, Richard Hawley rounded things off with a DJ set of rockabilly.

Down the road, at DQ The Violet May and Ed Cosen’s Band shared Saturday night’s bill while the Washington was brimming with music lovers with an appetite for something more edgy. The range of sounds available within a few hundred yards this year was staggering.

But there was plenty of popular music too. The atmosphere was both electric and convivial as families, teenagers and older music lovers alike rubbed shoulders at umpteen venues across the city.

But events weren’t just restricted to the urban setting of the city centre. For the first time Endcliffe Park itself became a venue, complete with two stages and a glorious wooded setting. Known as the Folk Forest, Endcliffe Park offered a visual and natural retreat from the chaos of the town centre.

Dreadlocked men and women, toddlers and pensioners danced along to the Monster Ceilidh (more slap-bass funk folk than traditional fiddle playing) on Sunday afternoon - a world apart from the hardcore bass lines oozing out of some of the more dance-orientated venues.

By Sunday demand for some of the bigger DJs had grown to such an extent that queues were stretching around the block at places like the Bowery. Dancehall ragga DJ David Rodigan drew such a crowd at the popular bar that the entire audience had to be relocated to DQ after exceeding the venue’s capacity. Swathes of ragga-lovers poured out of the venue after Bowery organisers had to halt the night because the crowd was too big.

Festival Director Dave Healy said: “Musically this has been our biggest and most diverse bill. Tramlines is about putting on an amazing show. But it’s also about putting an entire city in a ridiculously good mood.”

The range of music and its followers pointed to Sheffield’s richly varied music scene and the city’s capacity to embrace it. Well done Sheffield.