It was Heaven

Tramlines.  A concentration of musical joy into one exhausting, exhilarating weekend.

We saw 18 bands – could have fitted in a few more, perhaps, and certainly there were so many more that we wished we could have seen.  But heavens above, what we did see…

The sheer variety is one thing.  Even limiting ourselves to a cluster of City centre venues, we went from indie pop to instrumental jazz to hypnotic electronic trance to grunge to ska to bluesy soul.

Only two bands were known to us, and both of those only through previous Tramlines.  Nordic Giants‘ visceral post-rock with accompanying films left us stunned last time and no less so this year – we stumbled out of the City Hall ballroom and took refuge in the Cathedral for Beaty Heart’s psychedelic drum pop.

And we went back for more from Allusondrugs, having been blown away by their urgent psych-grunge with accompanying manic leaping about and flailing of locks a couple of years back.  Still just as potent, and the venue enabled the more fearless members of the audience to hurl themselves about with abandon too, joyfully thudding into one another, and screaming out the words.  The bass player – and his bass – surfed the crowd too at one point.

Saturday afternoon means the World Stage, in the Peace Gardens.   The sun shone for us all and the music was infectious and energetic.   Steel City Rhythm‘s reggae fusion featured mad ska dancing and we all danced too, albeit with rather less energy and agility.  And Danish band Whiskeyordnen turned up in dapper suits (jackets were soon discarded) and delivered what they variously describe as Worldtheaterjazzfunkrock, Chaoslounge, Fusion, Technojazz, instrumentally tight and delightfully engaging.

Sheffield Cathedral has always been one of our favourite Tramlines venues.  It’s not just the deliciously transgressive feeling of sitting on the floor of the Cathedral drinking Moonshine (this year sitting just behind a dude in a Antichrist Bootcamp t-shirt…), it’s that, with the right band, the acoustics become part of the performance.  Most bands playing there for the first time are very powerfully aware of the nature of the place, the associations it has and the atmosphere that its architecture creates.  This year the music seemed especially well fitted to the venue.

Mt. Wolf, Meilyr Jones, Beaty Heart, Dan Mangan, King Capisce all played with it in various ways, allowing subtle or soaring vocals to resonate, rhythms to echo, and harmonies to multiply.  Meilyr Jones at one point abandoned the stage to swim across the stone floor, still singing. And Dan Mangan too left the stage and the amps and performed for us as we sat on the floor around them.  The finale was Moon Duo, whose space-rock sounds were accompanied by a light show playing hypnotically across the Cathedral stone work.

What I’ve found myself unable to do this year is to pick one absolute, no real contest, stand-out moment.  We didn’t see a duff band this year, and that wasn’t achieved by playing safe.  With the two exceptions noted above, we knew nothing about the bands we chose to see, other than the brief (and often enigmatic) blurb in the programme. We took a punt on them, and were rewarded with performances that were at the very least enjoyable and engaging, and at best exhilarating, engrossing, moving and intoxicating.

Throughout the weekend, the city was suffused with music.  It seemed to be spilling out from every doorway, every venue packed, the vibes, or so it seemed to us, joyous, positive and inclusive.  There’s lots to be anxious about just now.  We know that the city is not as united as it seemed to be, as we flitted between gigs and street food emporia.  We know too that the aftermath, a sea of cans and bottles and general debris, will not look so lovely and will take a heck of a lot of clearing up.  But if we can be united in music for a weekend, dancing together in the sun, that gives me hope.  We walk back to the road, unchained.

The children of the summer’s end
Gathered in the dampened grass
We played our songs and felt the Yorkshire sky
Resting on our hands
It was God’s land
It was ragged and naive
It was heaven

Touch, we touched the very soul
Of holding each and every life
We claimed the very source of joy ran through
It didn’t, but it seemed that way
I kissed a lot of people that day

Oh, to capture just one drop of all the ecstasy that swept that afternoon
To paint that love
upon a white balloon
And fly it from
the topest top of all the tops
That man has pushed beyond his brain
Satori must be something
just the same

We scanned the skies with rainbow eyes and saw machines of every shape and size
We talked with tall Venusians passing through
And Peter tried to climb aboard but the Captain shook his head
And away they soared
Climbing through
the ivory vibrant cloud
Someone passed some bliss among the crowd
And we walked back to the road, unchained

“The Sun Machine is Coming Down, and We’re Gonna Have a Party
The Sun Machine is Coming Down, and We’re Gonna Have a Party
The Sun Machine is Coming Down, and We’re Gonna Have a Party
The Sun Machine is Coming Down, and We’re Gonna Have a Party
The Sun Machine is Coming Down, and We’re Gonna Have a Party.”

(David Bowie, Memories of a Free Festival)

Our Tramlines 2016 was:

Friday 22 July

Leadmill: Northern Adolescence, Gramercy Park; Cathedral: Mt Wolf, Meilyr Jones

Saturday 23 July

Peace Gardens: The Unscene, Steel City Rhythm, Bell Hagg Orkestar, Whiskey Ordnen; Cathedral: Dan Mangan; City Hall: Nordic Giants; Cathedral: Beaty Heart

Sunday 24 July

Crystal: Starkins, Allusondrugs; Peace Gardens: Sushi; Leadmill: Reflektor, Hot Soles; Cathedral: King Capisce, Moon Duo

 

PS Early Bird Weekend tickets for Tramlines 2017?  Sorted.

 

 

 

 

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  1. #1 by Tom on September 30, 2016 - 2:37 pm

    Hey just stumbled across this post!! Thanks so much for the kind words, come say hello next time you see us, hopefully we’ll be on the peace gardens again in 2017! -Tom, Steel City Rhythm

    Like

    • #2 by cathannabel on September 30, 2016 - 2:53 pm

      We would never miss Tramlines Saturday in the Peace Gardens, a highlight of our musical year. See you then!

      Like

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