FESTIVAL REVIEW: Tramlines 2023
Photo Credit: Sian Connolly
Most people may say that summer is the best time of the year; endless days relaxing and soaking up the sun. Well, those people aren’t from the UK. Rain, rain, muddy puddles and more rain bang slap in the middle of Tramlines weekend. This one was definitely one for the book.
With it being the 15th anniversary special, the Tramlines crew had put together a jam-packed weekend full of top performances from the likes of The Courteeners, Blossoms, Circa Waves and Sea Girls. Not to mention the mysterious, secret set from a band deemed to be called the “Scottish Flies”… but we’ll get to that later.
The day had finally come for the wild weekend to commence and from the moment the gates to Hillsborough Park opened, so did the heavens. But nothing was going to put off 40,000 festival goers, even if the ground was quickly turning into one giant quagmire. For us, the day started a little later than we had hoped due to delays in travel (thanks to the rain) but once we were finally in, it was time to get into festival mode.
Kicking off the day over in the Leadmill tent are Scottish post-punkers, Dead Pony. Delivering an electrifying performance, front-woman Anna Shield commands the stage with her fierce presence whilst the band stormed through their set. The crowd absolutely loved these guys with people up on shoulders screaming their hearts out. The young Glaswegians proved again why they’re absolutely a force to be reckoned with in the upcoming alt-rock scene. 7/10
Next stop, Circa Waves. After being recommended (too many times) to me by a friend, we had high hopes for these guys and they certainly delivered. From the second they came out onto the iconic Steel City stage, the Liverpudlian legends had the audience captivated, setting the tone for an unforgettable night. With a set composed of infectious riffs and catchy melodies, it wasn’t long before the crowd were singing and bouncing around. The atmosphere was truly something else. It would’ve been impossible to not get swept up by that carefree festival feeling. 8/10
As we venture back over to the Leadmill tent, bodies were lined up, ready and waiting for the rising, post-punk outfit that is Deadletter. Frontman Zac Lawrence, delivers a unique, theatrical performance, jumping in and out of the crowd throughout the whole set. Of course, this only hyped the audience up even more creating a mosh pit frenzy. One thing we love about Deadletter is how different they are from most bands, we mean, we haven’t seen many saxophones around this weekend and it adds such dimension! Deadletter are moshpit-worthy yet dance-worthy and everything in between. They really are the epitome of “letting loose” and “being yourself” – top performance from a top band. 8/10
This next band wasn’t originally on our list of who we wanted to check out over the weekend but boy did it end up being the best last-minute decision ever. The indie-rock Londoners, Sea Girls definitely made our top three of Tramlines this year. Side note, if only you could’ve seen our confused face when the band walked out and they were in fact NOT girls… we’ll remember to do my research beforehand next time. Moving on… the park was ablaze with excitement as the highly anticipated show began. Lead singer Henry Camamile, is one of the best performers we’ve seen to date. We’re suckers for when bands interact with the crowd and he absolutely nailed it. Within seconds, he’d jumped off the stage into the pit, stood on the barrier and held hands with another lad in the audience. A truly unforgettable moment. 10/10
Now if you’re in the mood for a good old laugh or a chuckle, this band is for you. Diving straight into an Irish Folk extravaganza, The Mary Wallopers treated us to a very memorable night. The dynamic seven-piece had no problem transporting the crowd right to the heart of Ireland and as an Irish person myself, we did indeed feel right at home. It was such an interesting contrast of a performance compared to the one’s previous and we were all here for it. A few jokes about Sheffield were made here and there (of course, we all booed), creating a really intimate and quite special atmosphere. They definitely delivered a performance of passion and precision and some good old Irish storytelling. 9/10
So, this next band seem to just be absolutely everywhere. We were walking the streets of Manchester a few weeks back and this huge billboard had their faces plastered all over it and we thought, yep, we’ve got to see them. Australian rock trio, DMA’s are here to take over the main stage and we’re ready for it. Before we knew it, the crowd were bouncing in unison to the upbeat energy of the songs. These guys are masters at versatility with each song showcasing pure quality. Even though Hillsborough Park doesn’t have a roof, if it did, it would’ve definitely been blown off. 8/10
Up next we have rising indie-rock band The K’s. Walking into the Leadmill tent, you could already feel the excitement brewing in the air as the buzzing crowd waited for the lads to take the stage. Lead singer, Jamie Boyle’s energy and charisma instantly captivated the crowd with everyone singing along to one song after another with pints in the air and more people up on shoulders. The K’s wasted no time in getting people moving along to the infectious rhythms. The whole performance was an absolute hit, making it clear why these guys are making their mark in the indie music scene today. 7/10
With the day coming to a close, we have one band left on the agenda tonight and we can already tell it’s about to be euphoric. The iconic, British indie-rock band, Bloc Party are taking Tramlines by storm. By the looks of all the people scrambling for a good view, it was obvious that a bigger tent may have been needed. Their performance was nothing short of electric as the crowd went absolutely wild. The colours, the sounds, the atmosphere, everything was executed to perfection. The band’s versatility was absolutely on point, switching from raw, emotional songs to upbeat and carefree. The love between the band and the crowd was something special, closing down the first night of Tramlines beautifully. 8/10
Rise and shine, we’re back in Hillsborough Park for the second day of Tramlines and we’re kicking it off with an absolute banger… Over to the main stage we’ve got the one and only, Everly Pregnant Brothers. Now, when we tell you we’ve been wanting to see these guys live for ages is an understatement. So, when they finally came out on stage, we were more than ready for what was about to happen. Diving straight into a classic about Worcestershire Sauce (long story, have a Google), the crowd went wild. Everyone knew the lyrics and we mean everyone. We’re sure you could’ve heard them from a mile away. To sum it up in one word; class. They put on a proper good show full of laughs which is exactly what we needed whilst battling the amber weather warning. Thanks lads, you were incredible. 10/10
As everyone felt in good spirits for the day, the next bad only added to it. Hailing all the way from down south, Portsmouth lads, Crystal Tides are here to light up the Leadmill tent with their classic, indie pop tunes. Taking the stage, immediately you could feel the band’s passion for music was palpable. With upbeat rhythms and melodies, it was clear the band’s potential was huge. Drawing influences from the likes of Two Door Cinema Club and The Wombats, Crystal Tides were destined to be loved from the get-go and we’re sure everyone else in the tent agrees. 7/10
We have another Liverpudlian band gracing us with their presence this weekend, the incredible Red Rum Club. If you know the band, you’ll know that these guys like taking music to a whole new level. We’re talking your good old classic indie but let’s mix it was some funky 70’s disco and a little bit of groovy salsa topped with the iconic sounds of rock. Red Rum Club do it all and they do it well. Feel-good tunes were flowing out one after another as the crowd were absolutely loving it. In fact, it felt more like one huge party than just your average festival show. It was definitely a goosebump type of moment as we had people up on shoulders singing to their heart’s content with smiles all around. Such an amazing atmosphere. 8/10
Next on the list today we have up and coming, Irish indie-pop band, modernlove. Already we were excited to see another Irish band play this weekend so to me, they’re automatically awesome. From the tiny little town of Drogheda to the biggest festival in Sheffield, modernlove. put on a show full of seamlessly blended indie rock and experimental music, leaving the crowd watching in awe. The boundary-pushing lads took that stage and made it their mission to make sure we left tonight knowing exactly who these guys are and we definitely did; the crowd loved them. With such tight musicianship and immaculate energy, modernlove. went straight onto the list of bands to be keeping an eye on in the future. 7/10
Okay, so where do we even start this set…. Originally down on the lineup as the “Scottish Flies”, a band no one had ever heard of, we didn’t think anything of it. Until, a huge message came up on the big screen saying that the Scottish Flies were unable to make it and McFly would be filling in instead. Well didn’t we feel stupid, only realising it was a play on names right then and there. Anywho, I rushed down to the main stage to catch the incredible surprise show and we can confirm it was indeed McFly. Thinking to myself how jealous my cousin would’ve been back when she was thirteen, knowing I’m now seeing her once favourite boy band was a weird, heartwarming feeling. Of course, they performed as amazing as ever and the crowd… wow. The crowd were absolutely ecstatic. McFly in Hillsborough Park? Never in a million years, ey? This performance was definitely one for the books. It might not have been a surprise to some people (whoever put two and two together on the name play) but to me, it was a damn good one. Incredible. 10/10
Topping McFly seemed a little hard now but fear not, STONE are here and are about to cause maximum chaos. After hearing about them through friends and seeing videos online, we’ve been wanting to see these guys for a while and they were even better in person. This was definitely my type of gig. Jumping, diving, kicking, spinning; lead singer Fin Power (what a name) put on THE best show all weekend, easy. You should’ve seen our face when he jumped off the stage, over the barrier and straight into the pit, go on lad. It was awesome. If we had to describe it, we would say it was beautifully unhinged. The collective charisma and passion between the band members were like a house on fire. These guys know how to perform and we will absolutely be seeing them again. 10/10
Up next are probably one of the most quintessential bands for a festival, the Blossoms. Gracing the main stage with their presence, they kicked things off with an absolute classic, Your Girlfriend. The band put on a sensational performance, leaving the crowd in utter awe. Lead singer, Tom Ogden knows how to put on a show and how to do it well. He has the audience captivated by his moves and distinct vocals, whilst the band’s incredible instrumentals create an irresistible mix of catchy, melodious tunes. With people up on shoulders, swaying in the air as the second day of Tramlines slowly comes to a close, it’s safe to say we loved the Blossoms and hopefully, they loved us too. 10/10
With just one band left before Saturday’s headliner, Spector had the crowd at the Leadmill tent multiplying by the minute. The arrival into the stage was met with roars of excitement and they dived straight into their set. The enthusiasm of both the band and the audience didn’t slip for even a second. Frontman, Fred Macpherson is chaotic yet fun, someone who you could stand and watch all day. His engagement with the audience was a show in itself, taking it upon himself to play an age-guessing game of who the oldest in the crowd was (of course, everyone laughed when they got to sixty-nine). The band also teased a cover of Chelsea Dagger by The Fratellis to which the crowd went wild… Macpherson shut it down by humorously saying “Well we won’t be playing any of that” and carried on with the set. Definitely a band who could’ve easily been on a bigger stage but they still put on a hell of a performance. 8/10
Is it headliner time already? It certainly is and I can feel The Courteeners calling me from here. One word, incredible. Not only was this one of the loudest crowds I’ve ever heard but it was clear just how much it meant to the band to see thousands of people singing along to some of the most iconic songs in indie rock history. Appearing on stage in a bright yellow rain mac, lead singer Liam Fray kicks things off with Are You In Love With A Notion… the crowd goes wild. Cups were flying, toilet rolls were flying….(don’t ask). They even had to stop halfway through and restart the second song due to someone in the crowd needing assistance, probably because they were going that mental! It’s amazing how just one band can create so much happiness among so many people. Of course, they played the classic Not Nineteen Forever which, by the way, was definitely another goosebump moment as the rain poured down over Hillsborough Park and 40,000 people sang along to one of the best festival songs. 10/10
The final day of Tramlines is finally here and instead of it being your typical, “good vibes only, let’s make the most of it” last day, Mother Nature woke up and decided she had other plans for us. Oh yeah, she decided that it would be the perfect day to issue an amber alert for a years’ worth of rain in 48 hours. Unlike most delivery companies, the rain was delivered bang on time and it did not stop. Delaying the opening of the festival from noon to about half one, a bunch of acts had been cancelled and one of the stages had apparently been closed off. So, let’s just say, today was bound to be interesting.
Only a little bit behind schedule is the first band of the day Bilk. With half the crowd seeking shelter from the rain and half here as part of the snail gang, the guys sure had to put on a spirit-lifting performance and they absolutely did. It was fun, groovy, upbeat and they ended up having a really great turnout (all things considered). With blends of punk and indie uniquely creating their own sound and the energy they had on stage, it was a really good show for a band that was thrown in the deep end. We’d definitely see them again. 8/10
With the rain only getting worse, we felt like staying put in the Leadmill tent for the next band was the best plan and it definitely was. Courting put on an awesome, high-energy show even adding a cover of the iconic hit I Love It by Icona Pop which undoubtedly got the audience hyped up. Not to mention how the lead singer, jumped off the stage and spent time with the crowd down at the barrier turning a show into a much more intimate gig. It’s safe to say that Courting made our top five this weekend, their whole stage presence was just awesome. Loved it. 7/10
Now this is the moment that battling the torrential rain was worth it for. Sheffield’s own Reverend and The Makers are here to take over the main stage and we already have the perfect new nickname for them, The Rainy Revs… okay we’re still working on it but it’ll do for now. Walking out on stage, cig in hand, looking like a proper Yorkshire cool dude, frontman Jon McClure, doesn’t even need to say anything before the crowd goes absolutely mental. We see a little smirk come across that face, we mean, wouldn’t anyone, looking out onto that crowd, in your hometown, opposite your favourite football ground, what more could you possibly ask for? Probably for the Sheffield Wednesday team to be stood at the side of you but we’ll save that for another day, ey Rev? We don’t even need to say that without a doubt, these guys should be headlining. Well, you could say they practically were. Don’t tell the lovely Paul Heaton but most people ended up going home halfway through the day because you can only enjoy so much swamp, can’t you? Or maybe it was because the owls weren’t a fan of Heaton changing his lights to red and white…. a little Sheffield banter right there). Opening up with Bassline obviously sent the crowd bouncing into oblivion – the vibes were immaculate. Rev in the rain? Could you ask for a more euphoric moment? 10/10
As the battle with the rain continued, we knew this would be our last act of Tramlines 2023 after deciding to call it a day. On our walk back up to the Leadmill tent for the final time this year, we knew that with the way this rain was going, people would be fighting for a spot under the tent, we could easily predict a riot was about to happen (a terrible attempt at a Kaiser Chiefs’ joke there, a riot did not happen but the tent was bursting as the seams). Upon our arrival, we made the grave mistake of walking through a very well-hidden puddle to which our whole foot went under… that was not very nice. Soaked through to the bones, literally, we still had some excitement left in me as we wait for Wunderhorse to take the stage. When we tell you, we reckon every person possible at Tramlines was trying to fit in this tent meaning this band definitely had some boots to fill. They needed to put on the show of a lifetime because they had a lot of damp, fed-up people to impress. Once on stage, they absolutely justified why they’re currently one of the UK’s most exciting bands. We had people in the back dancing, people in the middle up on shoulders, people at the barrier swaying their pints in the air, it really was a lovely set. We’ll absolutely take my hat off to the lads because they certainly raised the spirits here at muddy Tramlines. 8/10
With all that done and dusted, we will hopefully see you next year, if the park manages to return to its natural green state…
Review and Photo Credit: Sian Connolly