UTNS – Tramlines 2016 what to watch
Away from the headline acts, musical super-sleuth Mark Perkins digs deep, and lets you know what not to miss on the smaller stages and the fringe events as we approach Tramlines 2016.
I don’t know about you, but for me, Tramlines is about those special moments when you discover something new that you weren’t expecting. Yes, Sister Sledge, bring it on Charlatans or Pixie Lott, but for me my best moments have been sitting with 20 people upstairs in the Shakespeare or underneath the City Hall with 50 manic metal fans, watching someone I hadn’t until then realised that I needed to see. Here’s my pick of the Tramlines 2016 acts you might not have heard of, who may well never become headliners in their own right, but who might just provide the best entertainment of the weekend, and maybe even give you something to talk about for years to come. In no order whatsoever, here they are.
2.3. Crystal stage, Friday 8pm
The name of the band, 2.3, is mentioned in reverential tones by those in the know, as they were Sheffield’s most renowned punk band back in 1977. Founder Paul Bowers is just as well known for his punk fanzine, Gunrubber, but 2.3 were the first Sheffield band from the punk/new wave era to be signed by a record label and release a single. I suspect a few famous names who came out of that era will be sneaking in for this one, to support their old mates in their first gig in almost 40 years.
The Japanese House. Bungalows and Bears, Sunday 8pm
My love for Amber Bain and her music, performed under the odd but instantly memorable name of The Japanese House, has continued to grow since I saw her earlier this year at the Leadmill. There will not be another show like this all weekend, and I’m certain I’ll be in need of some of her almost alien-sounding but delicate music by Sunday night. That she’s only 20 years old belies the sophistication of her music, and live, the songs inhabit a space you can’t help wanting to be in. Mesmerising and fascinating music which you should try to experience.
Dan Mangen. Cathedral, Saturday 7.30pm
Dan Mangen will be the perfect act for the Cathedral early on Saturday night. His new mini-album Unmake is a haunting mix of lugubrious and uplifting songs. I’ve know I’ve seen him before in Sheffield as a support act, I just can’t quite remember who he supported, but it’ll be good to see him perform his own full set. He’s coming all the way from Canada, so the least we can do is show him some respect and turn up to welcome him.
Field Music. Folk Forest, Saturday 6.45pm
I’m interested to see how Field Music go down in the Folk Forest, as their music might not seem the ideal fit at first, but their indie-pop credentials do come with the caveat that their songs are more than the run-of-the mill stuff you might expect from a group of lads from Sunderland. While they might kick up a bit of a storm amongst the Hunter’s Bar beard and sandal brigade, the more receptive of the audience will certainly love them.
K.O.G. & the Zongo Brigade, Main Stage Friday 6pm
We’ve written about this lot in Exposed, filmed for our In Session, played them on our radio show and even had them play at our Exposed Awards night, so you’ve no excuse for not knowing what to expect from K.O.G. & the Zongo Brigade. You will not be sitting down by the end of their set. Hell, you’ll be dancing 20 seconds into their first number, so catch them in Ponderosa Park and get down with your funky bad self.
Moon Duo. Cathedral, Sunday. 9.45pm
This should fill the cavernous Sheffield Cathedral with psychedelic drone rock as Tramlines draws to a close. Moon Duo are from San Francisco, and are something of a side-project from the band Wooden Shjips for guitarist Riley Johnson as he teams up with Sanae Yamada. Their sound is melodic and trippy, so I’m intending to let myself become lost in their waves of sound, if I’m still functioning at the end of the weekend.
Napoleon IIIrd. Folk Forest, Saturday 12noon
A distinctly un-folk like artist here, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he fares in the leafy setting of the Folk Forest. I’m pleased they’ve gone for acts that might be considered somewhat outside their remit this year, and Napoleon IIIrd seems to typify some of the left-field choices. The Guardian called him bedsit folktronica, which is such a stupid description, that I actually love it. This is my number one contender for Tramlines ‘unexpectedly good gig of the festival’ award (which I award every year, in an exclusive ceremony, attended by myself, my wife and a bottle of wine).
Public Service Broadcasting. Main Stage. Sunday. 6.30pm
When they last played Tramlines they played an early show in the Harley, so they’ve now been promoted to the main stage since their Race For Space album gave them a much higher profile. They’ve expanded their line-up from the two-piece they were then, so they should be able to fill the main stage a little more too. Their live set incorporates film footage from the events and documentaries from which they draw their inspiration, so their shows are great fun to watch. When they played the Foundry recently, frontman J Willgoose Esq was wearing a space suit, but I’d bet he had his corduroy trousers on underneath.
Thomas Truax. Folk Forest, Sunday 3pm
If you’re planning to see him this year, and you’ve not seen Thomas Truax before, I envy you. I won’t spoil things too much, but the fun you’ll have as he invites you into his Wowtown world is reflected by how many of his audience return for more. He is in equal parts musician, inventor of strange musical devices and story-teller, and his music really has to be experienced live. His engaging performance involves everyone, and he’ll no doubt be leaving the stage at some point for some interaction with the crowd. The first time I saw him, at The Grapes, he tried to lead the audience out onto the fire escape to finish off one of his songs.
Toucans. Cathedral, Saturday 5.30pm
I’ve heard several tracks from Toucans, who is really Adam John Humphrey, and know very little about him, but what little I can glean about him, puts me in mind of the much missed Simple Kid with his homespun, lo-fi approach to music, and self-released weirdly hypnotic recordings. I’ll be there to check him out, so join me if you’re in the mood for something which may well be a little edgy and strange.
All We Are. Cathedral, Friday 10pm
This is an exciting opportunity to see a group who found success at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, but despite being based there, hail from Ireland, Norway and Brazil. They have a rhythmic take on dreamy pop songs, and should go down well as they close off the night in Sheffield Cathedral. It will also suit anyone looking to keep a little bit warmer than they might be at the Ponderosa Park main stage. The cathedral is always a laid-back venue, and lends itself nicely to this type of music. Have a listen to their debut self-titled album from last year, then come along for some dance oriented infectious pop.
October Drift. Crystal Stage, Saturday 9.10 pm
You’d have to have been actively avoiding the music press not to have heard the buzz around this lot. Returning again to the Crystal for what almost seems to be home ground for them, you’ll need to get there early for this show. Said by many to be the best live band this gigging in the UK today, and this will be a free ‘fringe’ event too. They recently sold out The Leadmill, so the end of queue for this one will be outside the Town Hall. Barnsley Town Hall.
Black Peaks. City Hall, Saturday 6.50pm
This is the sort of band that they seem to revel in putting on downstairs in the City Hall Ballroom on Tramlines Saturday, and I’ll be down the front. Well, maybe not the very front, as this will be what your granny might call ‘a bit loud’ and this lot will be talking no prisoners. They throw a few genres into the mix as math-rock collides with metal, hard-core and prog. It’s all intelligently played and is a sonic assault on the senses, if you’re up for the challenge. We salute those about to rock.
C Duncan. Folk Forest, Sunday 5.15pm
Almost ethereal and even a bit classical at times, C Duncan’s music is as wistful and delicate as they come, and his gentle melodies and arrangements will no doubt fill the air with a special calming wave of love and appreciation. The sun is guaranteed to shine for this perfect summer music. I can’t imagine a more ideal setting for music under the trees of Ecclesall Park as the happy people of Hunter’s Bar sway gently, eating their hand-knitted yogurt, and enjoying one last psychedelic moment before they pack up and go back to protesting about someone chopping down the trees. (That’s enough hippy-bashing – Ed)
Kate Jackson. O2, Saturday 5.15pm
You might have missed the news that Kate Jackson is back. She has spent a good time out of the music industry, but the dual temptations of Sheffield and music in general have lured her back from Rome, where she’s lived and worked painting for the last few years. In case you were wondering, her last musical incarnation was the singer with The Long Blondes, so this will be a chance for some old fans, still mourning their 2008 demise to reacquaint themselves with her latest musical project, as she fronts her new band, The Wrong Moves.
Pareidolia. Queen’s Road Social, Saturday 10pm
Expect the unexpected. That’s what I always say. Last year it was Submotion Orchestra who blew me away with their dub/jazz rhythms. This year I’ve a feeling it might be this lot who steal that particular slot in my weekend o’ fun. They mix dub, soul, trip-hop and electronica, with vocals over the top, in what I’m thinking might be a heady mix of sounds and beats that finish of the first full day of Tramlines. They even list the aforementioned Submotion Orchestra as an influence, so maybe this year I won’t be taken so much by surprise.
Jim Ghedi & Toby Hay. Folk Forest, Saturday. 2pm
Acoustic guitar music by these two renowned players is just what we’ll need to ease us into Saturday afternoon in the Folk Forest. It won’t be a selection of easy listening instrumentals though, these two produce some quite genre-defying material, with classical influences, folk-style finger picking and more experimental rhythmic pieces, all performed with great style. This is what the Folk Forest was made for.
There you have it. Another red-hot list of tips for the marathon that awaits anyone with the stamina to go for it. So whether you spend your time flitting between venues, or decide to stay in one place and see what comes up next, I hope there’s a few bands here that you might now consider seeing that you would have missed out on without my input. Have a good one!