Hillsborough Park, Sheffield 23-25 July 2021
To steal the title from a recent album by The Slow Readers Club, Sheffields’ Tramlines 2021 provided the joy of the return. A designated Government test event with all ticket holders going through a series of COVID safety procedures meant the city could host a reported 40, 000 crowd across Hillsborough Park.
Tramlines Friday – “AC/DC – proper band”
That was the comment from a local on the walk to Hillsborough Park (I was sporting a Stiff Upper Lip tour shirt…). Perhaps he thought there weren’t going to be any ‘proper bands’ across the several stages over the next three days. He’d be grossly mistaken as there were one or two who could comfortably stake the claim to the status of ‘proper band’.
The Blinders for one, who opened proceedings on the main stage, for once not surrounded by a densely packed crowd but one still boisterous enough to be letting loose the first of the weekend’s regular smoke bombs and who were going to climb on each other’s shoulders and mosh to anything. Even the can-can (more of which later). However, the new expanded lineup delivered a pumping and pounding eight-song half-hour set that included a prophetic Brave New World.
Even with a Friday that featured the Sophie Ellis-Bextor disco show, Jake Bugg and The Slow Readers Club (the latter sounding majestic – and loud) under the cover of T’Other Stage (yes – we were in Yorkshire…) the main stage line up saw The Pigeon Detectives (“by far the biggest and most important show we’ve played”) royally entertain before The Kooks’ frontman Luke Pritchard fought gallantly against some loose trouser elastic. Typically throwing an enviable choice of ‘what to see’ into the mix. And of course, that was even before counting in the choices offered by the Leadmill Stage and the Library Stage tucked away near one of the entrances that offered a slightly more chilled option (aside from The Hara’s Josh Taylor offering a glimpse up his kilt by mounting the scaffolding… It was going to be a tip of the iceberg weekend
With the thrill of remaining dry (unless a flying pint cup had headed your way) and being back in a live music-loving crowd, was topped by the champagne (or maybe a less wasteful sparkling but equally explosive alternative) let off by The Streets’ Mike Skinner – rounding off the joy of the return of the brave new world.
Tramlines Saturday – “Me guitar’s not working!”
You had to feel a bit for the astonishingly young-looking lads The Lathums, who’d bagged a halfway up the bill, trophy slot on the Sarah Nulty main stage when hit by technical issues,. At least Alex Moore provided us with the quote for the Saturday subheading.
Having dealt with the gremlins – of which there were an impressively miniscule amount across the weekend, smooth running generally being the order of the day – local band The Sherlocks swaggered on. Sporting the alternate the anorak & shades/Sheffield Wednesday top look (oh and flying the white rose flag for what would herald a particularly vociferous burst of “Yorkshire, Yorkshire”) they upped the indie guitar band ante, paving the way for what was possibly the band of the weekend. What can we say about Blossoms… Expanded into a ‘big band’ line up, a Rickenbacker-inspired lush sound, immaculately coiffeured and retro-fashionably cool. And they covered Tonight The Street Are Ours by one of Sheffield’s favourite sons, Richard Hawley. Crowd-pleasing or what? Add a nod to their hometown-ish with a snippet of Blue Monday and dare we say Stockport’s Blossoms seduced Sheffield?
A strong main stage meant many may not have budged, at least very far (toilets and water and all unless one of the numerous other refreshment outlets appealed) and forsaken the likes of Sophie And The Giants reportedly doing the business on one of the outlying stages.
Perhaps Saturday was all about fortifying the Tramlines crowd for the Royal Blood storm. Certainly the heftiest proposition of the weekend and possibly the heaviest offering Tramlines has ever offered. Definitely, a band who was going to throw fuel on the flames of any potential moshpit and see the barriers stormed with crowd surfers and those of a less sturdy constitution. A band who also provided the first experience for many of their very first drum solo – not hard when there’s just two of you, which is when the boys from Brighton do their best work. Their new material, supplemented by backing singers and keys on stage might have them heading into a field dominated by Muse, when they kick in on the Figure It Out riff and the ground shakes, you can see the appeal.
Tramlines Sunday – “the laziest teacher just died and was buried in an unmarked grave”
With the sun peeking through and a causal approach to the final day, special guests Fratellis went for the high kicking can-can as their opening music, proof that you can mosh to anything. All in black against a black backdrop and followed by 2019 Brits British Breakthrough artist, Tom Walker from over the border (Scotland, not the dreaded Lancs…) who provided an interval of cool with the best backdrop of the weekend, they filled the breezy aperitif slot for The Reytons – kids off the estate – living the dream despite a recent bout of ‘the evil C’ and reveling in their moment in the sun (literally).
Ok – now were the ear defenders at the ready or did you have to do as some parents did and cover the ears of your offspring as things got a bit sweary? On the Lord’s day of rest and all. With the comedy stage being hosted by Matt Reed who occasionally lapsed, Milton Jones put in a star shift firing off a barrage of deadpan one-liners (with the occasional clarification – Derbyshire isn’t near the sea…) before we had the frenzy of Dizzee Rascal and his buddy engaging in a “F**k that side”, ‘No! F**k THAT side” duel. And he was a very naughty boy, with a slight hint of anarchy by playing Bonkers twice and overrunning, but time flies when you’re enjoying yourself. As the man says – Love Life Live Large, or to quote Wayne & Garth, party on.
How do you follow a field full of euphoric humanity bouncing round en masse conducted by an MBE award-winning master of rap? The massive feel-good, twenty song, Britpop showcase set from Supergrass was as good as any to bring down the curtain on a celebratory party in the park and the chance to gorge on live music. No one, not even Mr Creosote, could have failed to have had their fill. Not even one more tiny, wafer-thin mint sir?