Tramlines Festival Review: Episode Two – Tramlines Strikes Back.

I’m going to start with a minor rant. If you’ve been following carefully then you’ll know that our Tramlines reviews have a bit of a Star Wars theme to them; for no other reason than they both come as trilogies. The villain in Star Wars was Darth Vader. For me, at Tramlines, the villain would be Darth Vaper. When did it become compulsory for the under-25’s to vape? Vaping was ubiquitous and annoying. I really don’t need to be enveloped in your second hand ‘Honeydew-Melon and Candy-Floss’ lung mist thank-you very much!

On to the music.

For a brief part of the day Liverpool artist Pixey transformed a small part of the White-Rose county into the Sunshine State. It was Pixey’s first time on a festival main stage and she appeared to relish the experience. The crowd, at first sparse was gradually attracted to the stage by Pixey’s vibrant, sun-drenched, off-beat, pop songs – The Mersey Line, Free To Live in Colour and finally Just Move. Many more main stages beckon I’m sure.

Pixey on The Sarah Nulty Main Stage.

A combination of a partner giving birth and an accidental injury meant that Somerset band October Drift were deprived of their whole rhythm section. So it was an experimental line-up of singer/guitarist Kiran Roy, and guitarist Daniel Young, and stand-in drummer that took to the Leadmill Stage. Considering that October Drift’s sound is usually a brooding, growling, melancholic, shoegazery wall of sound, then the trio did a damn fine job. God only knows what a fully fit squad sounds like if two people and a sub can make this sort of noise. Most of the songs like Losing My Touch, Cherry Red, and Don’t Give Me Hope were from the band’s 2020 album Forever Whatever. The exception was the final song Like The Snow. Roy jumped from the stage with his guitar and microphone and commanded the center of the tent. The crowd formed around him like concentric ripples in a pool as Roy gave a captivating performance. One of my highlights of the festival. Look out for their new album I Don’t Belong Anywhere due out in September.

Kiran Roy center of attention in The Leadmill Tent.

My first dose of festival comedy came in the shape of Russell Kane, the thinking person’s Michael McIntyre. It was an odd experience watching comedy in such a huge space. As you approached T’ Other Stage all you could see were hundreds and hundreds of people sat cross legged on the floor facing the stage. It looked like a hybrid school assembly/Moonie wedding ceremony. Anyway, Kane was very funny. He did some stuff on the difficulties of getting to Sheffield from Manchester, the differences between Northern and Southern Women, and a bit about a ‘Fresher’s Week’ escapade which ended with a mate drinking flaming sambuca out of his arse-hole (Kane’s, not his own, that would be ridiculous).

Russel Kane on T’ Other Stage.

Saturday’s ‘Must See’ band for me were Leigh’s venerated sons and daughter, The Lottery Winners. They’ve produced two excellent albums – The Lottery Winners and Something to Leave The House For. Listen to them. You’ll enjoy them. But more than that, go see them. You’ll have a blast. Lead singer and guitarist Thom Rylance is a natural frontman. He has a great voice, a self-deprecating sense of humour, and he gets you involved. He and the band use a clever conceit where they teach you the chorus of the songs, without you realising you’re been trained-up. In such a way even the most newest of newbies can join in with top tunes like 21 and Much Better. There is a serious side to the band too. Their uplifting post-Covid anthem Start Again, written in conjunction with Frank Turner, is one of the few positive things to come out of lockdown.

Thom Rylance in full effect.

It has been a big year for Liverpool alt/rock noise makers Crawlers. They have toured America, supported My Chemical Romance, graduated from Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (home of The Wombats amongst many others) and embarked on their first proper festival season. I’ve seen Crawlers a few times in Liverpool, and their rise is not a surprise, but it must be quiet a buzz for singer Holly Minto to be on the Leadmill Stage at Tramlines and have the words of Come Over (Again), Fuck Me (I Didn’t Know How To Say), and I Can’t Drive sung back at her by the majority of the crowd.

Crawlers on The Leadmill Stage.

Gone are the leather jackets, replaced by nice linen and Hawaiian shirts. What remains is Justin Hayward’s velvety voice and The Vaccines ability to whip a crowd into a frenzy with a collection of perfectly constructed three-minute indie rock and roll anthems. I always have trouble placing The Vaccines on my musical timeline. They were not part of any scene or movement. In my mind they just appeared one night on Jools Holland, fully formed, leather clad and loud. It doesn’t help my mental calculations that everyone from 8 to 80 at the Main Stage knows all the words to If You Wanna, Teenage Icon, Wreckin’ Ball (Ra Ra Ra), and Wetsuit. Valuable additions to The Vaccines set list are newer tunes like Headphones Baby taken from the bands 2021 album Back In Love City.

Justin Hayward in a nice white shirt.

There was a fair bit of tension mixed with anticipation as Kasabian took to the main stage for their Saturday headline slot. Since the demise of Oasis Kasabian have been the undisputed kings of British heavyweight rock and roll. This was the band’s first festival headline slot following the split with their lead singer. There was a lot riding on this, but from the outset the result was never in doubt. Relishing his new role as front man, Serge Pizzorno bounded on to the stage, dressed in bucket hat and knee length iridescent smock, looking like some carp fisherman from the future, and owned the place. ‘How the fuck are we Sheffield?’ he enquired before launching into Club Foot. After 2 minutes all fears were allayed. After 20 minutes you’d forgotten the band had a previous singer. All the hits were there, Shoot The Runner, Underdog, You’re In Love With a Psycho, dutifully and lustily sung back by the massed ranks of Hillsborough Park. There was also a possible glimpse into the future where Pizzorno was joined by guest vocalist Mysie for an epic, all-encompassing rap/rave/rock rendering of new song Scriptvre. The King’s aren’t dead. Long Live The Kings.

Ian Dunphy

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