The low-down on Tramlines Festival 2013
As usual Tramlines was a big hit for the population of Sheffield this July with such amazing atmosphere wherever you went and leaving high expectations in the wake for next year. Exposed music blogger Mark Perkins gives us the low down on his 2013 Tramlines experience.
I decided to leave a little gap between the end of Tramlines and writing up my blog to give me some time to collect my thoughts. I didn’t want to do a ‘I saw this, and then I saw this’ diary thing, so instead I thought I'd look back from a distance to get a better perspective on how it all went.
Even before the weekend started, I’d arranged to do an interview for the Tramlines Times with new girl group M.O, who were a late addition, and who I’d met before when they played at High Storrs school, back in November. Annie in the group is an ex-pupil, and she was just as excited about spending Saturday watching some music as she was about playing Tramlines on the Sunday. We chatted briefly on the phone about who we were looking forward to, and both got excited about the wide range of stuff on offer. She summed it all up though by saying what she was most looking forward to was ‘soaking up the brilliant atmosphere of the Tramlines weekend’. Well put Annie, that’s the best way to enjoy what Tramlines has to offer.
The Friday afternoon and evening are always a bit of a warm up, and after I’d seen a few bands in the Hop and the Washington the night was indeed getting very warm. I wrote up and submitted my reviews and then headed for the Green Room to enjoy the Tempertons. Not a chance. It was rammed, so I strolled down to the City Hall to see Melanie Pain. She was, and maybe even still is, the singer with Nouvelle Vague, and by happening on her unexpectedly, I’d achieved what I’d set out to do. I’d seen someone I’d not intended to, and it was lovely. The ballroom was full but not too full, but best of all it was cool. The audience could choose to stand or sit or just relax in the next room to let the jazzy, soulful songs drift over them. A great Tramlines moment for me.
On the Saturday, I’d got a hectic schedule planned at the Folk Forest and Weston Park, Devonshire Green and the Harley, and all points in between. I saw eight bands play almost all of their sets, and snippets of a good few others – but looking back on the day/night my best moment was actually failing to get in to see Liberty Ship at the Frog and Parrot. I’d arranged to meet my friend Chris there, despite me telling him we’d never get in at 10pm, but he remained optimistic. I was right, but we found that we could actually stand by the window and watch the band. With their backs to us, behind the drummer, it was almost as though we were on stage. All we could see were excited faces and fans clearly loving their performance – and as I’d seen so much that day, it seemed the gods were telling us, don’t be greedy, let someone else enjoy it and you go for a pint. So we did. The chance to reflect on the day over a relaxing drink was just what I needed to put an end to a great second day. Highlights? Many and varied, but 65daysofstatic at the Millennium Gallery was one, as was Pins, a totally new group to me, playing in the O2 Academy in the afternoon.
Sunday started with the Everly Pregnant Brothers playing the main stage, in what has become something of a Tramlines tradition. My big mission that day was to meet up with the girls of M.O, and have a chat before they played the first of three acoustic shows in The Old House. They were as charming and as excited as I remember them to be, and are clearly on the verge of big things. Being a live music obsessive, it always gives me a geeky thrill to be able to say how I saw a successful band when they started out, playing small gigs – and they are my current tip for this. The strength of their music is that they write it all themselves, and can sing it beautifully with just an acoustic guitar accompaniment. Next up came a true Tramlines moment when I came across Steve ‘Papa’ Edwards singing in Division Street, just a few yards from Jon Windle doing the same – and both causing a headache for anyone responsible for crowd control. If anyone asks me what is so good about Tramlines, this is the sort of thing I tell them about.
After hearing some Vuvuvultures music on 6Music, I was keen to hear them in the Dada bar on Sunday evening, and they did not disappoint. Smoke, blue lights, and thundering good music sent me home with a smile. And there it was. Another year done. Any regrets? Obviously moving the new music stage to the O2 Academy stage was a blow. A great deal fewer people saw bands that deserved a wider audience, but in truth, despite the end of the ‘Free For All’ slogan, the range of music seemed greater than ever, and I felt the usual ‘pride in Sheffield’ that I’ve felt every other year this event has been put on. 2014, you’re in my dreams.