Festival touches parts it hasn’t reached before

Jon Windle performing at the Green Room
Jon Windle performing at the Green Room

It came, and it went. And now the city is recovering from the hangover of hundreds of live performances, umpteen DJ sets, impromptu dance-offs all over the city and a surge of people.

But there was something very different about the atmosphere at this year’s Tramlines. The party atmosphere that kicks in every year as soon as the working day ends on Friday didn’t start until Saturday and the spontaneous carnival vibe was more low-key than usual.

Whether this was down to the charge for admissions or not is hard to know, but there was certainly a lot less queuing involved most of the time.

But that’s not to say the festival didn’t have its busy times and its highlights which began on the Friday night with Mike Hughes in the Library Theatre, playing a set of southern-tinged blues folk which, backed by his band, completely commanded the crowd. Hughes’ clincher was Temple Blues - a stomping apocalyptic number, which shook the Art Deco auditorium.

Indeed the contrast between the decorous but quietly raucous Library Theatre and Division Street defined Tramlines this weekend - though the city centre was at time chaotic, there were pockets of cultural respite.

In the City Hall Ballroom a crowd of long-haired middle-aged men watched some of prog-rock’s most cutting edge acts, including The Enid, who played a set of intricately tight orchestrated rock, complete with operatic vocals, soaring instrumentation and undulating tempo.

And like the Library Theatre, the ballroom provided a relaxing - albeit loud - haven from the crowds and lager-swilling outside.

Throughout the weekend Millennium Gallery ran its own musical programme, with an audio visual set from 65 Days of Static.

The set was a pre-recorded soundtrack, played through a forest of speakers with four heads bobbing frenetically and visually communicated via a huge screen or aerial views from across the globe. The effect was both baffling and mesmerising but a testament to digital splicing and cutting-edge musical technology. At the other end of music’s technological spectrum was the Red Deer’s folk programme.

Here, off piste from the main drag, Christina Lloyd and Manny Grimsley - performing as The Black Hares - played a set of stripped-down traditional folk with fiddle and guitar. The performance - unplugged, unpretentious, unadulterated - marked the variety of music: whether fiddles, synthesisers or folk blues - anything goes.

As far as main acts go, Lulu Jones dominated the Devonshire Green stage on Saturday with her flamboyant attire and striking physique. Sunday offered homegrown delights starting with the Everly Pregnant Brothers’s traditional opener followed by those personable young men, The Crookes, and boy-girl duo Slow Club.

The Jim Jones Revue proceeded to really rock the crowd, playing a set mainly of material from Savage Heart - a gritty, boogie-woogie drenched stormer. The band’s piano-stomper, 7 Times Around the Sun, ignited such a response that security had to extract particularly enthusiastic fans from the arena.

Weston Park and the Folk Forest in Endcliffe Park were the places for family picnics - since food and drink was confiscated from anyone going into Devonshire Green.

Among other highlights were festival favourites Jungle Lion getting the Peace Gardens jumping, intimate acoustic sets by R&B trio N.O. in the Bowery and Soyo, the ubiquitous High Hazels popping up in the Cathedral , Weston Park and Shakespeares on Saturday and the Bowery on Sunday afternoon.

The Frog and Parrot’s line-up acted as an amplified magnet for the Division Street crowd, drawing people in on the back of its continuous cycle of music. And over at the Washington on Sunday the live line-up included Beat Black Blues, a striking bluesy outfit displaying violin, carefully-crafted lyrics and grunge like vocals.

Richard Hawley and Jarvis Cocker were among Beat Black Blues’ cult followers at the Washington. Needless to say, the atmosphere was electric.

Back on Devonshire Green two-tone veterans The Selecter proved the perfect closing act with their infectuous beat which had young and old cavorting joyously on the grass as the sun set on this slimline Tramlines.

The overall sense was that the musos may have been a tad underwhelmed but that the festival had reached Sheffield at large more than ever before.