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Tramlines 2011 Marathon…

July 27, 2011

Tramlines, tramlines…what can I say? Sheffield’s really struck gold. The biggest free festival I know of, 600 odd bands and a shedload of venues, what more could a live music lover ask for?

Maybe a time turner…

There were so many things happening simultaneously, my only regret is not getting to see enough. More venues were involved than last year and the year before, which meant less queues in general (good thing) but more clashes (bad thing).

I saw a mere snippet this year, giving myself a well earned break after a week of work. Last year’s Tramlines posts( were largely journalistic, but this year, I’m going to give you more of a punters’ p.o.v.

Gotta get down on Friday…

The Ruby Kid and Black Jacobins feat. Unome in Bungalows and Bears

There was only one choice on Friday, which was being a mega-fangirl alongside my chums and heading down to Bungalows and Bears (nice and early – got stuck in the queue with a can of Pimm’s two years ago. Terribly unladylike), to watch some top drawer UK hip-hop in the shape and form of The Ruby Kid, Jehst, Micall Parknsun and DJ Jazz T. Not much to dwell on as you can see an depth interview with all of these kids, which I undertook at last year’s tramlines (see above links). They were all on top form, The Ruby Kid absolutely nailed it, and Black Jacobins were killing it on stage. The welcome addition of beatboxer Unome of Sheffield’s Burleskimo pushed their sound sky high – beatboxing as an instrument equals awesomeness. Funny to consider how although the sounds and styles are worlds about, beatboxing ain’t that far away for the diddling I was discussing a few weeks ago in my review of Lady Maisery. That would be a pretty awesome collaboration.

Bungalows and Bears became a sweaty hip-hop fest, packed to the rafters with people dancing, bouncing, and drinking. My only criticism is that the bar was three deep at all times and there really didn’t seem to be enough staff on. Getting temporary workers in for the weekend might be a tip for next year.

I danced my little vintage heels off (literally. heels aren’t made for skanking) and top props go to all involved. A stellar opener.

Saturday Night’s Alright

Sleeping it off on Saturday morning, I rather failed to make it out of the house before a late lunch. Burgers in Spoons and a trip to the Nando’s Stage in Barkers Pool to watch some terrible punk (I’m not out to name and shame, but whatever it was, was not enjoyed), the boyfriend and I went vintage sunglasses shopping at Freshman’s after this happened:

Glasses fail.

New aviators and cat-eye specs looking cool now though. We headed off to see our friend Kas’s band, Generation Kill at the Tiger Works. Tiger Works is one of those bars on West Street that I would never normally go into. Conjured images of bad R&B, overpriced vodka and cocktails with milk in (vom)…not my scene. This unfortunately showed, when they were clearly ill equipped to be staging live bands this weekend. I think it’s great that Tramlines brings live music to venues that would never normally have it, and hopefully creates a longer term culture of live gigs, but Tiger Works really didn’t step up. The guys were not properly soundchecked, leading to a very underamplified vocal/overamplified bass and guitar. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the sound engineer disappeared for the entirety of their set. Not withstanding this, however, a review of the band.

Generation Kill

Generation Kill comprise female vocalist Claire, Kasun Witana on guitar, and Dan Westwood on bass. Claire’s brooding vocals and the post-rock sound jetted me into a canon of awesomely understated female fronted Sheffield bands – Screaming Mimi, Black Cat White Cat, and to a lesser extent, the Long Blondes. Sheffield can’t help but keep producing wicked female rock stars, and Claire fits the bill. It was a crying shame that these guys were let down by the sound mixing, and getting Claire’s vocal to stand out is a must, as it makes the sound. My only criticism is that the guys seemed a little nervous on stage, and that the aloof cockiness to match the sexy sound must come with time, but overall, a thumbs up.

I was determined, after this, to go and watch the aforementioned Black Cat, White Cat at the Frog and Parrot, but one thing that I learned over the weekend is that you usually end up following your friends around at these things. Which is what I did. So, low and behold, off to watch The Ruby Kid et al again at the Raynor Lounge in Sheffield University Union. Very good again, got some rather lairy blokes dancing about at the front spilling beer on me. Nice.

Hunchback Spiders at Under The Stars

Not sure what to do with ourselves for the early evening, we walked down to HUBS – which I was glad of anyway as Devonshire Green was becoming rather too much for me – to check out Under The Stars. Under The Stars is a semi-regular clubnight run by and for people with learning difficulties and disabilities. Everybody seemed liked they’d been having a great day, and I saw people there throwing the best shapes I saw all weekend. Max (of Black Jacobins) had done a moonlight flit and turned up on stage there, suddenly becoming an incredible singer and frontman. The band performed a range of jazz, motown and rock covers, and were clearly enjoying themselves. One person described them as ‘a right motley crew’ – to be sure, but they weren’t half bad.

I had a disco nap…and went to a house party dressed in a feather headress, covered in glitter. Tramlines could wait.

Sunday Girl

Refreshed and raring to go, a lazy brunch in the fabulous Okeh Cafe! on Abbeydale Road was heartily enjoyed. I’m heading down to do an interview soon, so watch this space. Strolling into town with the Ruby Kid in tow (who is a most excellent house guest), we met up with our respective chums and had a wander. No quieter today than Saturday, to my surprise, my friend Gemma and I went vintage shopping for a bit. I bought the most amazing pair of dusky plum high waisted palazzo pants, which involved exposing my upper half to the entire of Devonshire Street. Luckily, I didn’t care much, and the trousers rock (numerous compliments on them since).

We met back up at SoYo, just in time to watch Neil McSweeneyand his guitar. What a delight. Neil’s self penned songs had the entire room enthralled – his folk/blues style was fantastic, and he is a proper gem. You can listen to his tracks at the above link, and I reckon you should go watch him soon as well. Favourite track has to be London Road, an ode to pointless nights out, and the main road I grew up along. Neil – fancy doing an interview?

Neil McSweeney at Soyo

After being fully romanced by Neil’s music, it was time to check out the busker bus. We thought we’d just hop on and see what happened. I was charmed by the concept, though the nervous James Harding didn’t really do it for me. Nevertheless, a great way to spend twenty minutes, and spied the lovely Kate of Cocoa fame bobbing along at the back of the top deck.

Monster Ceilidh Band

I hopped off at Hunters Bar, to end my weekend at the Folk Forest. You all know I’m a pretty hardcore folk and trad fan, and so it takes a lot to impress me in this department. Well, what can I say – I was impressed. The Monster Ceilidh band were absolutely rocking the largest stage with their infectious croft house style (that’s dancey scottish fusion to you -plebs) – bouzouki, fiddle and accordion all accentuated by the best bass guitar I’ve ever heard in a folk band. The drum and bass set worked well without being novelty, which will be news to some of you (people have been trying this stuff for a while, and to my mind it is rarely pulled off). Props to you guys – let me know if you need a caller!

Sitting with folkie types as we waited for the last act of the day, Martin Simpson, little Hamish Kerr-Fagan, whose parents had headlined the same stage the previous day, was showing me his morris dancing moves. Pretty worryingly good for a nipper by all accounts.

So. Martin Simpson, what can I say? he’s bloody good. His songs make you cry and wonder why you can’t play the guitar like that, and never will. Martin sings a mixture of traditional and self-penned folk songs, with a few anomalies such as a fantastic rendition of ‘Brother Can You Spare A Dime’ mixed in. His song, ‘Never Any Good’ about his father, a worker from their home time of Scunthorpe, is real lump in the throat material, while his tales of the closure of the steel mills and other political nods appeal to the Trotskyist in me (which is all of me, to be fair). Great stuff. May have even persuaded the boyfriend that not all folk is rubbish.

The Folk Forest packed out for Martin Simpson

So, a very different Tramlines to last year by all accounts, and not nearly as many bands seen as would have liked. Missed out entirely on Dananananaykroyd, Los Campesinos and Johnny Foreigner, but no regrets as had a great time.

Another Tramlines post I have enjoyed since is:

What did you get up to this weekend?


2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 28, 2011 4:28 pm

    I did a post about Friday night in Barkers Pool and the Legends that are Heaven 17. I took my daughter and have caught her singing “Temptation” all week!! We went through on Saturday too – what a brilliant atmosphere.

  2. September 11, 2012 8:00 pm

    I LOVED Tramlines! Although not so much walking home in 5 inch heels at 3 o’clock in the morning! Great Post! :)

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