The story goes that the Tramlines organisers are bidding a fond farewell and handing over the reins to a new promoter in 2018. As such, their final throw of the dice was to consolidate the main acts (Libertines, Primal Scream, Metronomy, The Coral) to 3 outdoor stages and trust in the weather....What could go wrong? Oh.
Still, no need to dwell on that here – as those who went to Truck or the Y-Not (or Not as it happened) festivals can confirm - the weekend scored 10/10 on the inclement-o-meter. Well 8 then... So, once more it was down to the various indoor fringe venues (15 of ‘em including alt-rock favourite The Washington, Plug, HUBS and Bungalow & Bears) to step up, and step up they did with a varied and eclectic mix of musical treats.
Here’s my summary of the pick of the bands this year.
Day 1 – Friday 21st July
Pyramids (The Washington) – A new band (this was their first ‘festival’ gig) at what is traditionally an alt-rock venue normally. Veering from indie rock to prog they weren’t afraid to let the music do the talking. Three instruments, Twenty pedals and a lot of noise. Wonderful.
Just Mammals (The Washington) – Grimsby based band with a clever mix of nouveau art style vocal/music performance delivered in a retro style. Given it was only 6.15 in the evening and the regulars were just arriving, they had a good crowd and plenty of local support who lustily sang along to live favourite ‘Happy’
Chest Pains (Bungalow & Bears) – Hailing from Leeds, Chest Pains are an indie band to watch out for. Passionate vocals from Sam Robinson, with excellent clattering guitar work from Callum Crombie. ‘Petrified’ and ‘Shame’ two songs that are recommended.
Pillow Queens (Bungalow & Bears) – Irish gay girl punk/guitar band comprising Cathy, Pam, Rach and Sarah who have been receiving heavy airplay from Steve Lamacq on BBC 6Music. I ran this by them after their show and asked how excited they were about it, only to be met with blank stares and admissions that a) they didn’t even know b) they don’t have a 6Music equivalent in Ireland so it’s tougher to get attention nationally. Methinks their Manager is just keeping ‘em keen. ‘Rats’ is the single with airplay, but they have massive versatility, can play and can really belt out a good tune laced with acidic lyrics. Highly recommended
Chemtrails (Bungalow and Bears) – They describe themselves as ‘salt bleached harmonies and fuzzy lo-fi guitars delivered impeccably’. Can’t argue with that. The band are led from the front by the excellently named Mia Lust with recommendations including ‘Aeons’ and the not so subtly titled (but ironically good) ‘Headless Pin Up Girl’
Ganglions (Bungalow and Bears) – Combining thoughtful poppy punk and math rock in one dollop, they struggled a bit to engage the audience but won them round with sheer enthusiasm.
Black Peaches (HUBS) – As their debut album is titled ‘Get Down You Dirty Rascals’ you’d be forgiven for thinking BP come from I-diddly-Idaho in the sow’than US but you’d be very wrong. Singer and main man Rob Smoughton is known as drummer with Hot Chip and has been a long time hired gun for Scritti Politti. But here Rob and his band played a set that was reminiscent of Little Feat/Dr John dance boogie based songs. Correction. Song (albeit I was only there for half their set they just played one ‘jam’). Truly excellent musicianship – very enjoyable.
Day 2 – Saturday 22nd July
Spring King (Devonshire Green) – They seem to have learned their Festival craft well, and played a high energy set that got the crowd involved from the get go. Drawing from their debut album ‘Tell Me If You Like To’, highlight of the set was the (ironic as it was played in a downpour) ‘The Summer’ and ‘Better Man.
Vultures (Plug) – Tipped as a big thing (well by Sheffield’s ‘Exposed’ mag anyway) they say they are inspired by The Horrors, Nick Cave, Joy Division and The Cure and it shows. Extravagant vocals, the songs all have a big landscape and so Plug’s intimate stage/atmosphere didn’t allow them their full range. Still, they gave it all they had (I haven’t seen anyone have a fight with a piano since Keith Emerson and his organ, but Dillon Willis – for it was he – met that obligation). They describe themselves as ‘hazy cosmic jive’ and they are spot on. Recommended song ‘Eleven Fifteen’.
Bloody Knees (Plug) – I enjoyed them more than the sparse crowd, their noisy, pop-punk sentiments and slightly sleazy riffs came across well. This four piece from Cambridge have been on the UK circuit a while but are finding their feet. Recommended song ‘Daydream’.
Her’s (Bungalow & Bears) – What can I say about this two piece of Audun Ladding (no, I haven’t nodded off on the keyboard – he’s Norwegian) and Stephen Fitzpatrick? Excellent and truly unique. Audun throws his – ahem – timber laden frame about with abandon sending out fizzing bass guitar lines that contrast perfectly with Stephen’s rasping vocal’s. Highlight was them both sitting at our feet pumping out a tune (I think they wanted to mingle with the audience but suffered guitar lead ‘shrinkage’. My gain). Check out ‘What Once Was’ and ‘Dorothy’. Excellent – one of the picks of the weekend, and the crowd loved ‘em.
Day 3 – Sunday 23rd July
Our Girl (O2 Academy) – Highlight of the weekend for me. This 3 piece from Brighton set the tone with ‘Sleeper’ in late 2015 and they now have an EP called ‘Normally’ Led by guitarist/vocalist Soph Nathan is astonishing – intense personal vocals, brilliant guitar work and hooks with again – a lack of fear to let her guitar do the talking – that really make them stand out. Check out the EP produced by Blood Red Shoes drummer Steve Ansell
Flamingods (O2 Academy) – Another highlight. This 5 piece band hail from Bahrain. Founded by Kamal Rasool they are a multi-instrumental band and they gave the crowd on a wet Sunday afternoon a much needed lift
So...... Once again the fringe based venues lived up to the standard set in 2016 (Yndi Halda were my 2016 pick). Let’s hope that the new promoter recognises their importance and throw a bit more money at re-engaging The Leadmill and the main O2 Academy space to draw bands in next year, still, as always the Sheffield crowd are great, and really get behind the bands which is great to see.
Thoroughly enjoyable – my top picks? Our Girl, Black Peaches, Her's and Pillow Queens.
A toast to inclement weather.