Review: Tramlines Festival 2018

Last weekend, Sheffield celebrated it’s most famous music festival’s tenth birthday as more people than ever before descended on Hillsborough Park for Tramlines 2018. Now at it’s new permanent home away from the city, the main festival site has seen itself distanced from the city centre “Fringe Festival” in a move both criticised yet applauded. Making the travel to see the fringe a bit difficult, yet establishing a new identity as a major festival in Hillsborough, Tramlines 2018 made the headlines for several reasons; we for one though, loved every minute of the weekend and are already counting down the days until 2019’s edition.

“Stereophonics own the Friday making Hillsborough Park their home for the night”

With a long travel across Yorkshire on the cards to get to the festival we arrived in time to catch The RPM’s (HHH) play the Library Stage. One of our picks to watch, they didn’t let us down and proved why they’re being tipped by BBC Introducing in their patch right now as one of the bands who could rapidly take off in 2019. It was then the turn of hometown band Milburn (HH) who despite a bumper crowd turning out, never really took off the way it should have. Maybe knowing they weren’t headlining made them under perform? We’re not sure, but it was far from the Don Valley performance and left us feeling a little flat. Announcing it was one of their last shows for a while, maybe that’s a good decision; go away, make some great music and come back energised.

Thank god then one of Britain’s best bands Stereophonics (HHHH) were up next to liven everything up. A huge two hour set filled with over 20 tracks was just what the festival’s Friday needed. From A Thousand Trees right to Mr and Mrs Jones, the Welsh rockers were on top form, despite a terrible PA system holding back their full sound. The perfect festival headliners proving why they’re still capable of doing it at this level.

“If you had to pick one band who are destined for success, it’s Doncaster’s Bang Bang Romeo”

Saturday came around with a blazing hangover but we had to get up early to catch our number one pick for the weekend, Bang Bang Romeo (HHHHH), who might as well have been playing to a home crowd in Sheffield such was the quality of the crowd. There is something very, very special about this Doncaster four-piece who brought all of their big hits from Chemical to brand new dance-to track Shame On You. We met the guys afterwards and they were blown away by the support they had and thoroughly deserve all the accolades they’re sure to start receiving.

The Library Stage this year hosted some of the best upcoming talent the UK has to offer. Described as The Strokes meeting Wolf Alice, Paris Youth Foundation (HHHH) offered up a set like no other at this year’s festival. Making the venture from the North-West for the show, they seemed genuinely humble to have the large crowd they did and were infectious bringing in more and more passers by as their music caught the ear. 2019 could be a big year for these guys after the festival season they’re having and whilst they combine all of the traditional indie riffs and vocals, they have an edge that will make them stand out from the crowd.

Sticking to the main stage in the excellent weather, Coasts (HHH) were on solid form. Never exceptional but always a good bet, the band have probably peaked right now but it’s not a bad place to peak at. Their catchy tunes were perfect for a Saturday afternoon and were a welcome addition to the lineup. Reverend and the Makers (HHH) seemed to go a little more through the motions than normal. Still great, it did seem at times the crowd wanted a little more from the normally energetic band.

Before Noel Gallagher and the High Flying Birds (HHHHH) delivered their impeccable set, Blossoms (H) bored the crowd with their generic indie rock which failed to impress with several leaving after one or two tracks. Had they stayed to the end to hear Charlemagne and I Can’t Stand It they’d have seen a much improved performance, but unfortunately the set was just not good enough for a band who seem to be on the cusp of stardom.

From Hillsborough Park to Owlerton Greyhound Stadium..yes you read that right! Sticking a cheeky fiver on dog number four as we walked in, we were £25 up heading to end out night with The Covasettes (HHHH) who smashed their sent beyond all expectations. Their new track Top Drawer was the standout signalling a shift in the guys’ music. The room was bouncing with their indie stompers and they well and truly announced themselves to the Sheffield crowd, as one of the finest talents on the fringe circuit right now.

“Crystal Stage once again proves it is THE place to be at Tramlines Festival”

Our final day in Sheffield saw us head into the city to catch up with the Fringe Festival. Getting down early to check out Timesellers (HHH) they certainly didn’t disappoint. With several fans donning their t-shirts it was a very lively start to the day. A healthy crowd showed up to watch the four-piece play their catchy indie anthems and set-up a classic final day at Tramlines.

Artella (HHH) and The Rosadocs (HH) followed in two not overly memorable sets but accomplished all the same. Some way behind some of the other bands on the bill it seemed like both artists were going through the motions and are yet to define their own band sound. One band though who have definitely done that and impressed us with the surprise set of the day was Young Monarch (HHHH) who’s interesting take on the London Grammar/Florence indie sound still sticks in my mind. The Manchester outfit didn’t let the small crowd bother them and played a very professional set in which Rebecca on vocals stunned. We will be seeing these guys again and are looking forward to seeing their inevitable rise.

Sticking with the Scruff of the Neck stage The Vellas (HHH) followed with their second set of the weekend. Another band who could have potential with a more defined sound, after a while they sounded very similar but professional all the same. There were some wonderful musical moments within the set but we’d say they’re a work in progress that is definitely moving. Heading back to Crystal Bar we headed to see one of our favourite bands in the UK Billy Bibby and the Wry Smiles (HHHHH) who, other than Liberty Ship (HHHHH+) who followed, provided the set of the weekend. Rattling through their incredible set including Are You Ready? and Substitute Billy Bibby and his band were, as always, well honed and are really establishing themselves as a force in this industry. We’re looking forward to new tunes from these guys!

Liberty Ship though were up next and played to the biggest crowd we saw in the venue that day, blowing the roof off the Aggressive Management stage. I’m yet to hear a bad song released by the Sheffield band and their live show is so infectious, I can see them really going a long way in the next 18 months. With highlights being classic indie track Cast Away as well as 2018 single Which Way the band have crafted a sound that is distinct to any in the industry, fronted by a unique vocal and they were the perfect penultimate act of Tramlines 2018.

Ending our weekend was Corella (HHHH) who were playing to an unjustifiably small crowd back at Plug. We have come to be great friends with the four-piece in the last 12 months through their music and like Liberty Ship, they have a distinct sound that is a wonderful blend of pop and rock, ensuring they don’t fall into the “generic” category. Every song the guys have carefully worked on live came across well and the set highlight was without doubt (as always) Caught Up and we urge you to listen to these guys; an excellent end to a super weekend!

Tramlines 2018 was nothing short of a success and the move to Hillsborough Park, whilst meaning seeing less of the Fringe, was a positive decision and away from the excellent music, the organisation must be commended. See you all in 2019!!

Photo Credit: Stand Out Magazine

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