Live Reviews

FESTIVAL REVIEW: Tramlines Festival 2021

Photo Credit: Tramlines Festival 2021 / Fanatic

Sheffield’s biggest party was welcomed back into Hillsborough Park over the weekend of July 23rd-July 25th, as the twelfth edition of Tramlines Festival made its triumphant return to Steel City. Famed for being one of the UK’s longest running, city-based music festivals the country has to offer, Tramlines took in a full capacity crowd of 40,000 revellers for a proper Yorkshire get together. Showcasing the best music, film and comedy that local Sheffield acts and UK wide talent has to offer and featured flares, flying drinks and sets across five stages from Sarah Nulty’s Main Stage to T’Other Stage and The Leadmill Stage to The Open Arms. Tramlines put on a true northern style long weekender. 

Bringing some indie-rock nostalgia and some serious mic swinging to the Sarah Nulty Main Stage on the Friday of Tramlines Festival came northern noughties five piece The Pigeon Detectives. “Leeds scum, Leeds scum” is the warm reception the Leeds based band get as they start on their array of indie anthems which the band have in their armour. Opener I Found Out, a classic 2006 tune that caused chaos and carnage to erupt over the crowd, with beers being slung and choruses being belted out. A live act that always brings an energetic show to any stage, The Pigeon Detectives launched straight into second setlist song This Is An Emergency, keeping up the urgency the band bring to their live shows. “We’re a band called The Pigeon Detectives and it’s great to be with you Sheffield, even if it’s too early on in the day” says frontman Matt Bowman mid-set; a true statement for a regular festival band with a back catalogue of crowd-pleasing tunes like stellar debut album singles Take Her Back and closer I’m Not Sorry which should allow them to slot higher on the bill. The biggest and most important show The Pigeon’s have ever played, their fun filled set at Tramlines was a gleeful reminder of how much The Pigeon Detectives’ music has stood the test of time. 8/10

Festival favourites Circa Waves took to the Tramlines main stage shortly after. Having sat on latest LP Sad Happy for over a year since the record’s release, Tramlines was a first show back for Circa to debut the newer stuff. Fourth album favourite Jacqueline got the outing it deserved, bringing pure joy to the people’s faces of Tramlines Festival, something album Sad Happy conveys emotionally and there was no separating the two here. Classic Circa Waves crowd-pleasers Stuck In My Teeth and T-Shirt Weather provided some of the most melodic and memorable moments of the eleven-song set. But it was closer T-Shirt Weather that has become somewhat of a modern-day festival anthem, one that sent Sheffield into a frenzy of feel-good dancing and colossal crowd singalongs like it does without fail at every festival appearance. A Liverpool band that clearly felt comfortable on stage in Sheffield, Circa Waves delivered some distinctively infectious tunes for a first show back in a long time, as Kieran Shudall finishes “This has been surreal Sheffield, I am so happy to see you all.” 8/10

Second from the top, falling short to The Streets on the Friday of the festival, The Kooks could have easily been a headline-worthy booking by the standard set by one of Britpop and indie-rock’s biggest bands of all time. “Live fucking music. It’s been a minute” summarises The Kooks’ Luke Pritchard, speaking on behalf of all the artists who have felt the tough lack of live music over the past eighteen months, before starting off a sixteen song setlist with second studio album lead single Always Where I Need To Be. Recently releasing a reissue of the bands historically successful debut record Inside In / Inside Out to mark its fifteenth anniversary of the first full length release, this set was full of favourite tracks taken from the first album. “This is the first time we’ve managed to celebrate the birthday of our first album. I hope you remember this tune, sing it at the top of your lungs” comments Pritchard on the cause for celebration for The Kooks at Tramlines Festival. They used their festival stage time to mark the momentous occasion for Inside In / Inside Out, performing a slew of the album’s smash singles such as Eddie’s Gun, Sofa Song, Ooh La, She Moves In Her Own Way, Jackie Big Tits, See The World and an acoustic Luke Pritchard stripped-back solo of album opener Seaside; the indie soundtrack to the mid 2000’s on slick display in Sheffield. “Here’s another track from our first album. Keeping the nostalgia flowing” continues The Kooks frontman, wrapping up the reminiscent set with classic hit Naive, that infamous chorus I know she knows that I’m not fond of asking/True or false, it may be, well, she’s still out to get me being sung in synchronicity by a strong 40,000 turnout to catch the debut album spanning set. During their time at Tramlines, The Kooks had as much style and suave as their plush and lavish purple velvet-like backdrop sporting the band’s name, although for a group with such history as The Kooks, this band needed no introduction, providing songs to a lot of people’s youths during their time at Tramlines. 10/10            

A homecoming Hillsborough Park show on the Saturday at Tramlines Festival called for Sheffield’s very own homegrown talent The Sherlocks. Taking to the Saturday main stage after The Lathums for another good and proper British indie rock ‘n’ roll performance, the Sheffield boys were back in town for their set at their stomping ground. Before the band even walked onstage, “Yorkshire, Yorkshire” chants rang around the rowdy crowd, who were right up for the Barnsley born and bred band’s appearance. Remaining true to their roots for a special hometown festival slot, The Sherlocks walk on right on cue, with the county’s flag being proudly held by brothers and band members Kiaran and Brandon Crook in front of their people. “Sheffield, long time no see” states vocalist Kiaran Crook, before kicking into first setlist song Will You Be There? One of the songs that kickstarted the career for this band and one that still resonated strongly to this day, the visceral reaction the opener got from the bands passionate and loyal fanbase testament to that. New single Falling got its live debut at the mid-way point of the bands early evening slot; a soaring Sherlocks tune made for the festival fields. Closer Chasing Shadows however, captured the true essence of live music. Long after the songs finish, the crowd continuously croons “I’m always chasing shadows, woah oh oh oh”, a sure sign the Sheffield crowd didn’t want their hometown heroes set to come to a close, just not yet. For a band that have cut their teeth in local working men’s clubs in Sheffield to selling out tours and getting booked for major festival slots just a few years later, The Sherlocks are sure to be a headline worthy act one day and Tramlines Festival would be the perfect fit for this set of Sheffield lads. 9/10  

Next up on the Saturday main stage, Blossoms brought shiny synth sounds, singalongs and their own brand of indie new wave pop to Tramlines 2021. Having become a festival mainstay ever since bursting onto the British scene in the 2010’s with their breakthrough self-titled debut record, the Stockport five-piece put on a shimmering set that spanned their back catalogue. Coming into their main stage stay at Tramlines, after three long years away from Sheffield with new third full-length Foolish Loving Spaces, set opener and album lead single Your Girlfriend seemed a fitting opener to showcase a studio album again. Unlike many other bands on the bill, their recent album has had a live outing already, with Blossoms being the band chosen to headline the pivotal Sefton Park pilot event back in May 2021. “Good evening Yorkshire, we are Blossoms from Stockport” the Manchester based band greets the Sheffield crowd “You look beautiful tonight” continues vocalist Tom Ogden, staring out into the Sheffield turnout with pure admiration and gratitude. A setlist comprised of the bands finest groovy hits follows, consisting of spectacular songs There’s A Reason Why, Honey Sweet, At Most A Kiss and many more bliss Blossoms tunes turn the often-rowdy crowd into a relaxed dancefloor. “Have you got one more song left in you Sheffield” asks Ogden, as the renowned synth chimes of Charlemagne ring through what feels like the entire city of Sheffield, bringing Blossoms flamboyant festival set to a close with an absolute classic. 10/10

It’s been embedded in Royal Blood’s DNA that this Brighton duo would be destined to become a festival headlining band, ever since bursting onto the scene with the success of their self-titled debut album back in 2014. Now on their third successive number one LP, 2021’s Typhoons, this headline set at Tramlines seems completely deserved and justified given the number of records in the Brighton duos discography. Being able to put on a blistering set of back-to-back bangers, Royal Blood explode onto the stage to the sound of a storm whipping up, the sound of thunderous trouble coming and the pair made up of members Mike Kerr working a dazzling silver blazer and boot combo and Ben Thatcher sporting some blacked out shades, adding to their already established air of cool confidence. Bursting into title track Typhoons taken from the album of the same name, Kerr’s scuzzy bass generate a formidable force of frantic crowd energy, as 40,000 people scream the word “Typhoons” back at the duo with almighty power, a sure sign of a beautifully wild seventeen song set to come. “What’s up Sheffield, we’re Royal Blood let’s go” Kerr comments, as the band launch into another new number Boilermaker. A song that has some of Royal Blood’s most downright dirtiest riffs, yet the song at this moment in time in the setlist is representative of how far frontman Kerr has come since the song’s inception with Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme out in LA, a time where Kerr came to find sobriety “Staring at the bottom of a boilermaker”. Now two commendable years sober, this song carried a lot of weight to it at Tramlines, with the frontman oozing even more confidence and swagger than ever before and rightfully so. Third album numbers, included singles Trouble’s Coming and Oblivion, both of which are dance rock movers with flashed of funk and disco and prime examples of the band’s sonic expansion on the third record. The blues rock dynamism that make up Royal Blood roots were on full display on their ferocious Tramlines headliner. Self-titled LP tracks and second album How Did We Get So Dark? songs Lights Out, Little Monster and Out Of The Black come in like a tonne of bricks, driving that hard-rock sound Royal Blood were so known for in the early days, “I can’t tell you how good it feels to be up here right now” says vocalist meets bassist Kerr beforehand. During these songs and throughout the rest of the set, the duo feed off each other’s infectious energy, riding high on a buzz from the bands more intimate string of shows earlier in the week before Thatcher is left alone after clambering into the crowd during Little Monster for an unreal drum solo, jeering up the already raucous crowd and turning their noise levels up to riotous levels of loud. Typhoons deep cut All We have Is Now starts off the encore, as Kerr comes back onto the Sheffield stage alone in true John Lennon style for a tender piano solo, slowing the set right on down for just one reflective moment, something new for Royal Blood but one which Kerr carries off with true sophistication. “Alright Sheffield, are you ready? It’s time to let it all go” concludes Royal Blood for the bands fiery set closer Figure It Out, with the songs chugging bass riffs and pummelling drums getting the crowd right fired up one last time, sending out their headline set with a bang. Having been a band for a decade now, Royal Blood are a band that never put on a bad show no matter how small or how large the capacity crowd numbers are and this lively Saturday night Tramlines headliner plays its part in cementing Royal Blood’s status as one of the best live UK mainstream rock bands of all time. 10/10

Having stiff competition from fellow headlining rivals Royal Blood, The Magic Gang took to The Library Stage to a sizable audience ready to catch the Brighton four piece bring some jingling indie-pop to Sheffield. Showcasing lockdown album Death Of The Party at long last, take tunes such as the crowd friendly Take Back The Track or singalong song Take A Minute which provided some light-hearted moments that made the crowd totally get lost in a delightful daze of The Magic Gang’s easy listening music. 9/10    

Onto the Sunday of Tramlines, The Snuts took to T’Other Stage to show Sheffield some Scottish indie rock tunes. A grounded group who have not let their early success story of their 2021 debut number one record W.L. inflate their ego, this attitude was in the air at The Snuts set. Having performed at Latitude the same weekend alongside a string of other festival dates in the calendar this season, The Snuts set. apart from the exception of 2018 single Seasons, was very W.L. heavy. Featuring raucous hook laden cuts opener All Your Friends, comforting home song Glasgow and closer No Place I’d Rather Go amongst the many album choices. From the working-class kids of Whitburn to one of the UK’s most vital bands of the new decade, breaking records and making history just on their debut album alone, The Snuts are set for even bigger and better things and their appearance at Tramlines 2021 feels like another stepping stone to their rapid growing success. 9/10           

Hailed as a huge success by artists and audiences alike, Tramlines Festival marked a landmark moment for the city of Sheffield and the return of live music. A 40,000 strong turnout came to the green spaces of Sheffield’s Hillsborough Park to light flares, throw drinks and enjoy live music like headliners The Streets, Royal Blood, Supergrass and more. Tramlines Festival felt like it never went away. 

9/10

Written By: Katie Conway-Flood

Katie Conway-Flood
Katie Conway-Flood is a music journalist, music publicist and general band enthusiast. For several years, since graduating university with a first class degree in music business, Katie has written single, album and live reviews, and regularly contributed to news stories and feature pieces for a plethora of online music publications. Katie is otherwise a pop-punk, pop-rock listener and ethical vegan.