Monday, 30 July 2018

Tramlines 2018 - Part Three

Sunday 22nd July

So today was all about the fringe stages with my girlfriend Beckie. Stevie P was gonna be joining us later, Mark's chances of joining us less likely after the mess that the Saturday had evolved in to. I was incredibly glad that Beckie had been drinking on the Saturday too. It meant I didn't have to feel quite as guilty about my fragile state. She (annoyingly) doesn't get hangovers but at least had the decency to be tired. Our first port of call was The Roebuck for a pint. It's become a kinda tradition whenever we go to Sheffield, That first pint took an absolute age. Our first spot of live music for the day was to be The Frog And Parrot for Murder At The Seaside. 

Having begun as an acoustic duo (Phil and Sally Johnson, although Sally wasn't a Johnson back then) they have gradually grown, first as an acoustic trio with the addition of Heather Cassim, technically a four piece with Dave the temperamental drum machine and now a fully fledged electric five piece. 

Today could well have been the hottest day of the weekend and Frog And Parrot was yet another jammed packed sauna. Murder At The Seaside have alarmingly good tunes and with the combined harmonies of Sally and Heather have something wonderfully unique. A set full of quality originals with the addition of a triumphant work through Duran Duran's Rio more than has the Frog And Parrot crowd enraptured. They finish with old favourite 'Coffee In The Morning' and I can guarantee if you see them live you will have the opening 'Na na na na na naa' etc in your head all day. There are far worse ear-worms. It should also be said they are some of the nicest people on the planet. They were kind enough to play my 50th birthday earlier this year for which I will always be thankful. A perfect way to start the day. We said our goodbyes with sweaty hugs (Tip: Never kiss a bald man on the head who's just done a gig in 90 degree heat) and headed out. After a quick bite we headed to the Crystal greenhouse.

Former Bottleman Billy Bibby was due on stage with his Wry Smiles but we opted to stay in the beer garden and just listen. It really was just too hot inside and my hangover was making no effort to depart any time soon. Drinking through it really wasn't having the desired effect. Had a chat with the October Drift boys and told them the tale of Mark and the previous night. The overall consensus was just how much they missed The Washington. October Drift were on my must see list along with Liberty Ship who were next up. Also today's Jimmy Mac was there and all of the Jimmys are always a joy to hang out with.

Liberty Ship seem to have been with us an age now. Think I first met them backstage at The Leadmill at a King Charles Tramlines gig some 5 years ago. The thing is they were so young when they started (watch the brilliant video for 'Which Way' for evidence) that they are still one of the youngest bands out there. This time together though has given them chance to seriously hone their craft. It's indie pop of the highest order. Wonderfully written and arranged and played by a band that really know what they're about. The place is packed for these local heroes and quite right too. The four minutes of latest single 'Which Way' may well have been my favourite part of the whole weekend. Another band destined to be a South Yorkshire success story. 

Stevie P had joined us prior to Liberty Ship and was staying for October Drift before the biggest of dilemmas regards clashes. October Drift leave absolutely nothing on stage. They throw everything into their set with a tangible energy that leaves you exhausted just watching. In these temperatures it's a brave move but that's how they've always played it. Take no prisoners is the October Drift mantra. Singer Kiwi as always tries to find anything accessible he can climb on, always trying to engage the crowd a little be more. Trust me, they're fully engaged.

When he strips down to just black jeans and Docs it's like seeing a young Iggy up there. (Thankfully unlike Iggy he doesn't go full monty. I saw Iggy stage dive naked once. That was an experience). October Drift are a powerhouse. It's a wall of noise and energy driving through every soul in that room. They're a hurricane of sound, a force of nature but in all this maelstrom the tunes are never lost. They are simply magnificent. 

A much need break was needed and we retired once again to the beer garden to mull over the clash dilemma. Avalanche Party were due on at Crystal soon, Mint were at Maida Vale and Strawberries at Cafe Totem were the main issues, plus Himalayas were on at Cafe Totem later who I had still failed to see live despite 5 attempts. I think Stevie P went to see Mint. Beckie loves The Strawberries which suited me fine. I'd not seen them for some time unlike the others on the list so we headed to Cafe Totem. 

I was going to say there was literally no air in Cafe Totem but that is obviously not true otherwise you wouldn't be reading this. It was stifling though. Hat's off to any band that played there. I didn't have my hat with me so couldn't doff away. I believe Jack from Cora Pearl had played there the previous day in a polo neck jumper. Wow.

The Strawberries have had a bit of a line-up change in the last year and are better for it. Joe Connolly firmly established on bass now has given Ethan Sherwin the chance to shine on guitar and he does it so well. Psychedelic wah-wahs dancing all-round the stage backing up Sam Neil’s blues tainted vocals. Joe is a seriously accomplished bass player, another that makes it look effortless, which has freed up drummer Ben Heath to show his beat perfect class. They are just a great, tight band. New single ‘In Your Dreams’ just soars with a new found maturity. Not gonna lie though, I was so glad when last song ‘Laburnum House’ kicked in, I just couldn’t take the heat anymore.

My mate Sam Craggs was playing at Crucible Corner and the plan was to go see him then back to Cafe Totem for Himalayas. The sun was dropping, Crucible has a lovely chilled outside area, we were knackered and very close to the station and not sure we could face the walk back to Cafe Totem, or endure that heat again. After a quick chat with Sam we decided to call it a day. 6 times I've missed Himalayas now. I might go back into promoting just so I can book the buggers and finally see them. 

So that was Tramlines 2018.

I got home to an email from the Tramlines organisers announcing there is to be a permanent memorial to Sarah Nulty (director and co-founder of Tramlines who sadly passed away this year aged only 36) on Devonshire Green. Virtually every band (especially the local ones) whether on the Main Stage or Fringe dedicated their set to Sarah. If it hadn’t been for Sarah Nulty then Tramlines wouldn’t exist. Simple as that. I have been going to Tramlines for several years now. All over the City this was the best one yet. It was truly magnificent. There can be no finer tribute to Sarah than that. This is her legacy and it is beautiful.


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