After a few trial events around the UK, over the past few months including Sefton Park and Download Festival, it was time for a weekend of festivals across the UK to be opened up to mass audiences. With Latitude and Standon Calling both taking place at the other end of the country, Northern-based music fans descended on Hillsborough Park in Sheffield for a weekend of music, comedy and arts at Tramlines Festival.
Festival punters, most of whom won’t have been to a gig in over eighteen months, let alone a festival, bathed in glorious sunshine, as the Tramlines 2021 party kicked off in style. The Blinders kicked off the main stage to a field filling up with fans of all ages, families, school friends and music lovers all of whom were acting like the last eighteen months had never happened. Elsewhere on Day One, there were plenty of highlights and new memories to be made as The Pigeon Detectives really got things bouncing with their energetic antics, Irish comic Ed Byrne skipped about the stage with a huge grin on his face and fans who had travelled to the edges of the site probably found their new favourite band popping up on the Library and Leadmill Stages both showcasing a diverse slew of great new acts over the weekend like The Rosadocs, The Hara, R.A.E., The Rooves, KIN, Havelocke and Billy Nomates.
The smaller of the two “main” stages, The T’Other Stage, saw band after band playing to packed out tents as fans were lapping up this feast of music and comedy. Friday saw Red Rum Club and Slow Readers Club play to enthusiastic crowds before Sophie Ellis-Bextor brought a touch of glamour to proceedings with her sparkly, glitzy disco-pop getting everyone from security to the punters queuing up for a burger up and dancing. Saturday saw comedians like Jojo Sutherland and Joel Dommett bring some laughs to the early part of the day while the second half was given over to another selection of diverse quality music from Yard Act to the wonderful Georgia.
However, if you wanted something special, the final two acts of the second day on the T’Other Stage saw the incredible grime star Little Simz turn the heat up with a set that was one of the highlights of the weekend before Mahalia brought the curtain down for another day with an equally stunning set. For the numbers of fans who were up early, day three again saw the morning given over to comedy with the highlight for many people being Mock The Week funnyman Milton Jones who played to a packed tent. After that five more acts graced the stages with Holly Humberstone showing precisely why she is one to watch for the year ahead while The Snuts showed why they’ve gone from one of the most talked-about names on the indie underground to chart botherers in just twelve short months.
However, away from all of the other stages, thousands of fans were happy to enjoy the glorious weather and stay camped out in the main arena to enjoy their first taste of live music in over twelve months. Despite Sunday headliner Richard Ashcroft pulling out, nothing was going to stop this being one hell of a weekend of live music. Both Circa Waves and The Kooks dished out exactly what this crowd needed but, as was the case throughout the weekend, this was all just an appetizer for the headliners starting with Mike Skinner’s The Streets and with the vocalist wasting no time in getting down and into the crowd, festival season in the UK was back with a bang. Drenching himself and the front rows, Skinner’s set caused absolute bedlam from front to back as fans danced their Friday night away the sight of which hasn’t been seen in fields like this one for nearly two years.
Day two and judging by the gaggle of people hovering around the side of the stage wanting autographs and photos afterwards, South Yorkshire nutters the Everly Pregnant Brothers had gone down a storm with this local crowd. Elsewhere on the Sarah Nulty Stage, Lauren Hibberd easily answered the question “Who The F*** is Lauran Hibberd” with her infectious alt-pop while The Lathums, The Sherlocks and The Blossoms each treated their young, excitable fans to their own indie anthems.
Although there was no denying the quality of music on the main stage. again, there were two diamonds who really shone out from the crowd. First up was local favourite Lucy Spraggan who, having got over the fact that she was playing at a festival again, had the field rocking to “a bangin’ cover” of “500 Miles” and everyone within a hundred or so yards of the main stage singing along to “Tea & Toast”, the song that kicked it all off for her. It’s Saturday afternoon, it’s sunny, we’ve all had a few beers, there couldn’t have been a more perfect act than the Sheffield lass to provide the soundtrack to a perfect day. By the time Brighton rock favourites Royal Blood were ready to take to the stage, Tramlines was in full swing and the rock two-piece didn’t disappoint with a set that cemented their place as festival headliner material. Having risen through from the clubs and smaller venues, tonight the Brighton outfit thundered through a career-spanning set and one that warms things up nicely for their long-awaited arena tour in 2022.
Onto day three and with the sun beating down, it’s no surprise that the atmosphere is a little more chilled out in the main arena but that would not last. Phoebe Green brings a bit of colour to everyone’s early morning hangovers before special guests The Fratellis saunter out onto the stage with the strains of the Can-Can ringing around the field before getting everyone up and dancing to hits like “Chelsea Dagger”. Elsewhere late addition to the bill, Scouse indie kids Spinn joke about their shock and landing a main stage slot while local lads The Reytons prove they’re more than just kids off the estate with a suitably raucous set full of bangers like “Antibiotics”.
Sunday main stage highlights? What about singer-songwriter Tom Walker who is simply flawless and provides one of the highlights of the entire weekend with a jaw-dropping version of his hit single “Leave A Light On”. Hearing thousands of fans join him for one final chorus of the hit was all you needed to show exactly why we’ve missed live music. Too laid back for you? Well, Dizzee Rascal certainly put a rocket up the backside of this sunburnt crowd. Bouncing around the stage, there wasn’t a single person in the main arena not up and throwing all manner of shapes as he dished out a bass-heavy, building-shaking rendition of his hit single “Bonkers” at the end of his stint on stage.
And so, while Supergrass were always going to struggle to follow that explosive set, the indie favourites were still of a standard worthy to bring this weekend to a close. Rattling through a hit-laden set, these songs sounded as fresh and as infectious as they did when the band first burst onto the scene. For us though, our Tramlines had come to an end and, after three days of music, comedy, friends and great memories, we left hoping this is just the start of a great summer ahead.