Having lived down south for the past five years I regrettably hadn’t been to Sheffield’s Tramlines festival since it relocated from the city centre. Although it took me a while to get my head around the fact that cans of Red Stripe cost £6 (I may as well still have been down south), as a Sheffield Wednesday fan it made all the difference being in the familiar surrounds of Hillsborough Park.
Despite having to show your NHS Covid-19 pass upon entrance to the festival, coronavirus felt like but a distant memory as fans dutifully filed themselves into the queues for the portaloos and formed teeming mosh pits, chomping at the bit to be able to lose themselves to live music once again. Taking place over three surprisingly sunny days — despite forecasted showers — Sheffield came together to celebrate local and national musical talent. Here are some of the highlights…
The Pigeon Detectives
Despite being on ‘far too early in the afternoon’ — by frontman Matt Bowman’s own admission — The Pigeon Detectives were the perfect band to kick off the weekend festivities. Their set was packed full of fan-favourites, with rollicking anthems such as the highly-chantable ‘This Is an Emergency’ and somewhat problematic bop ‘Take Her Back’. Bowman lamented being given 200 cans of water instead of the bottled water they’d put on their rider — no doubt thwarting their plans of passing it out to the crowd — but the audience still sang along to ‘I Don’t Mind’, so it would seem they were off the hook. The Pigeons have played many festivals, but their appearance at Tramlines is bound to stand out for both artist and fans for what it meant to those assembled after so long apart. Bowman read the mood of the crowd perfectly with his sartorial choices, rocking a ‘I <3 NHS’ t-shirt, and shouting: “How much are we fucking enjoying this lack of social distancing?”. Gig goers won’t have to wait long until the birds are back in town, with the Pigeons performing at The Leadmill alongside Apollo Junction and Ed Cosens on 16 September.
Liverpool lads Circa Waves had a hard act to follow given the Pigeons’ high-energy set, but their summery anthems kept spirits high. Opening with ‘Wake Up’, the band ploughed through an 11-song setlist predominantly comprised of songs from their upbeat 2015 debut, Young Chasers. Audience participation reached a triumphant high as the band “stole the show” with their sun-drenched anthem ‘T-Shirt Weather’.
Brighton indie rockers The Kooks are still riding on the astronomic success of their debut album, Inside In/Inside Out, released in 2006. Their set was packed full of singalong bops from the record that’s celebrating it’s 15th birthday this year, including ‘Seaside’, ‘Eddie’s Gun’, ‘Sofa Song’, ‘Ooh La’, ‘She Moves In Her Own Way’, ‘Jackie Big Tits’, ‘See The World’ and set closer ‘Naive’. The Kooks termed the festival a ‘lockdown rehabilitation centre’, their time out from live shows only evident following frontman Luke Pritchard’s admission that they’d started a song in the wrong key. Despite momentary confusion after saying ‘RIP Amy Winehouse’, Pritchard pointed out it was 10 years to the day since the singer’s untimely death. “We won’t forget tonight,” said the singer — and indeed, nor will we.
The less said about headliner The Streets the better. Despite being a huge fan of Mike Skinner’s clever lyricism, it was impossible to distinguish the act’s discography from Skinner’s rambling ad libbing between songs. After opening with ‘Turn The Page’ and listening to him randomly rate the audience’s energy levels out of 10, and ask if the crowd were ready for Dizzee Rascal’s set — despite playing on completely different days — we took ourselves off to T’Other stage, where Nottingham singer-songwriter Jake Bugg did an awful lot more, well, actual singing. Songs from his highly impactful self-titled debut were accompanied by offerings from his second record, Shangri La, as well as his third self-produced effort On My One, and fourth record Hearts That Strain — produced by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach. A mid-set lull came with the live debut of new single ‘Downtown’, before things picked up again with poignant ‘Seen It All’ and set closer ‘Taste It’.