The majority of festivals which attract thousands of people are field-based, but even Tramlines’ hashtag #escapetothecity directly opposes this. Last weekend, Sheffield’s city centre was taken over by masses of people ready to experience the multi-genre three dayer, but with the atypical location there was more than just music to experience. From captivating venues to inspirational speeches, here – in no particular order – are our top ten of Tramlines 2015.
- Billy Bragg’s speeches
I may have said this list was in no particular order, but this was a hands down favourite for me; beforehand I had been warned that Bragg’s live shows are an “experience”, and this was a claim that was lived up to. His half-an-hour overtime set saw his setlist interspersed with what can only be described as political rants and prep talks to inspire even the most haggard of hearts in the final hours of the festival. I challenge anyone to go to a Bragg performance, even if you don’t agree with his political views, and not come away motivated to do your bit to change the world.
- Slaves’ finale
Maybe it’s not fair to pick a highlight of the weekend that may well never appear in another set ever again, but oh well. Whilst closing their set with first single Hey, drummer and vocalist Isaac Holman took to the crowd, with a hat. After managing to stand up on the audience and crowd surf a bit, he returned to the stage, sans hat. Then followed a demand for its return, a very real threat to stop the set till it was found, a crowd-wide chant of “where’s his hat”, a plethora of incorrect hats being thrown at him (including a neon bobble one which was louder than their set, and a good five or six from Team Sheffield Hallam), and an eventual reunion. Yes, bizarre, but with the sort of fun that only festivals can boast.
By having a city festival, almost any acceptable space is turned into a venue – sometimes this may mean the spare six square foot of floor at the front of a pub is cleared of tables and crammed with musicians, but there were rare occasions when these buildings were more glorious that claustrophobia-inducing. One of the main venues, the Cathedral, was a perfect and wonderful example. Of course, the acoustics alone were enough to make the space a fantastic choice, but it’s a rare and wonderful time when you can happily spend all your between-set time gazing at the architecture and admiring the ceiling.
- City Hall
Another brilliant main venue came in the form of the City Hall’s Basement, far away from the wristband collection station and seemingly buried a good way underground. Transported away from the chaos of the ground-level nightlife, this room boasted several of our stand out acts of the weekend including And So I Watch You From Afar. Though the room seemed accustomed to holding events of a more delicate nature in general, it did a brilliant job of containing the massive sound each act delivered, and truly engulfing the audience with it.
For those who couldn’t get to the main festival, the free fringe version served as an apt substitute, and this didn’t (necessarily) mean having to compromise on venue quality. Crystal (where we headed to check out Scarlet) was a fine example, with its intriguing half in/half out architecture and cosy-meets-sophisticated furnishing making it a simply lush space.
In fact, the entire fringe section of the festival is worth noting for all manner of reasons. As well as allowing non-ticket buying punters to enjoy some of the weekend’s delights, these venues showcased an even wider variety of music for those who had a gap in their time. Transforming spaces allowed the festival to flood to very literally every corner of the city, and pushed what the weekend was capable of boasting.
Let’s take things to an even more general level – the entire festival’s set up. Sheffield takes pride in being a city with such nearby countryside links, and whilst not strictly out of the city, the main stage took advantage of this. Despite being a stiff ten-fifteen minute walk from the general “center” of the festival, they managed to get the whole open field, generator-run food vans, ridiculously large flags, canvas covered stalls and generally slightly muddy vibe of a more typical festival alongside the packed rooms of the true inner-city festival.
- Food all night
Whilst in the grand scheme of things, there may have been acts or moments that deserved recognition more than this, I feel this is a fair point for non-McDonald’s fans and potential punters for Tramlines 2016. After you’d enjoyed the festival till the sun was rising, or even just till the small hours, there was food to be found in the city, at Subways if no where else, remaining open 24 hours through till the late-nighters’ nights ended and early-morningers’ mornings began on Friday and Saturday (or Saturday and Sunday, depending which end you’re coming at it from).
Let me point out again more perks of Tramlines being an inner-city affair; the music doesn’t stop at 11pm when the last band play and the main stage shuts down. Head into the city and you’ll find all the big venues remaining open with DJ sets till the early hours (7am for the Friday and Saturday, 3am for the Sunday) with the likes of Basement Jaxx and Mike Skinner (The Streets) providing the entertainment.
Dominos were handing out small pizzas by Devonshire Green for £3; I feel this point needs no explanation to its brilliance.