A week and a half ago saw the centre of Sheffield turned into a living venue for multi-genre music festival Tramlines. Along with the music of the weekend (for which you can check out our musical rundown) and our top ten moments of the three days (which can be read about here), there were all manner of other pros and cons and quirky tit-bits about the festival that stand as noteworthy.
Sheffield, like Rome, is built on seven hills. For any non-locals who didn’t know this, at Tramlines you will be quick to discover this painful and brutal truth – well, it’s not too painful till the hills need to be climbed. However, this setback comes in balance with the rather excellent layout of the festival – despite the main stage being oddly far from the rest of the venues since being changed from previous years’ Devonshire Green to Ponderosa, there was a good mix of inner city indoor venues and the more typical festival vibe of flags, glorified burger vans and mud at the main stage.
For the sort of people who are up for going to see any sort of music live, like myself, multi-genre festivals are a dream; there’s no way you can ever get bored. This doesn’t apply for everyone though, and with music ranging from dozens of DJ sets, through political folk-punk and every derivative of alt-rock, to grunge, psychedelia and shoegaze, it’s no wonder the crowds weren’t always up for whatever sing along or audience participation was demanded of them. This seemed to be a fairly weekend-wide phenomena, with even Saturday night headliners Basement Jaxx only having a big impact on the biggest refrains of closing Where’s Your Head At.
Festivals don’t stop with the night’s headliner, but inner city festivals do have the advantage of vamped up clubs over muddy rave tents, and Tramlines was no exception. City-wide, the music continued till 7am on the first two night for the fool hardy, determined, or Jager-bomb fueled, and an almost modest 3am on the Sunday. If you’re the sort to be interested, you could’ve probably made your money back on your £30 ticket with the nightlife alone. However, with great nightlife does not necessarily come great service, particular low points being waiting an hour wait for a drink at the O2 Academy (whilst everyone around us was served) which coincided with the majority of Mike Skinner’s set, and an unnecessary shove from a Foundry bouncer over a genuine misunderstanding.
Keeping things relatively local meant that the vans which lined the main stage had little extravagance to them (I found a bizarre pang of disappointment at the lack of zebra/ostrich/kangaroo burgers), but quality was improved with this compromise. Personal favourite’s came from Grolsch’s 40o years celebration, as much for the free beer as the quirky photo booth, and The Street Food Chef’s burritos – I can vouch for the pulled pork and veggie option. Head into town, and there’s your usual food stops, plus 24 hour Subway (for the festival’s first two nights) and £3 small Domino’s pizzas near Devonshire Green.
With every square foot of the city turned into a festival venue, there were some intriguing corners dusted off and brought to life. From the stunning architecture of the Cathedral to the booming space of the City Hall’s Basement, let alone the tried-and-tested atmosphere of the made-to-fit venues such as Leadmill and O2 Academy, again this was a something for everyone affair.
Tickets for the weekend were limited, and although the best part of 200 bands made the main festival’s line up, there was more beyond that. Even without a ticket, you could access any of the weekend’s Fringe venues, a selection of which were showcased in the guide, but these were by no means the limits of what was available. The sheer volume of music over the weekend was enough to blow even die hard fans of live acts away, and with Fringe venues showcasing local and lesser known talent, there was every chance you’d wander into a pub for a pint and come out with a new favourite band. That’s surely what festivals are for.