As the sun set on Friday evening, Pete Doherty swaggered onto the Ponderosa stage with Carl Barat, Gary Powell and John Hassall in tow. The Libertines had arrived. It’s surreal to think that the same field to host Sheffield’s community festival Peace in The Park, just a matter of weeks before, was now welcoming internationally acclaimed artists like Primal Scream, Toots & The Maytals and Metronomy.
The Libertines rolled through their hits, including ‘Boys In The Band’ and ‘What Katie Did’, all met with a swaying, energetic young crowd spraying beer in the air. Doherty and Barat fell around the stage, throwing guitars about and pushing Hassall and Powell away from their microphones in spells of playground bullying. But no Libertines set is complete without a touch of controversy. Doherty took a break in between songs to rouse the White Stripes vs. Jeremy Corbyn chant, followed by an entertaining and impassioned rant about the housing market, advising people to save rent by sitting in on court trails and squatting in accommodation otherwise unoccupied by prisoners serving their sentence.
The Libertines are definitely a band that recognises what is expected of them at a live show. The performance is audience focused, with little attention paid to their new album tracks in favour of the well known anthems – a good decision judging by how well they were received by the Ponderosa crowd.
Carl Barat played a DJ set at Plug following the gig, though anyone who attended would testify Gary Powell did most of the work. Indie hits aplenty were appreciated by the strong following who flocked to ride The Libertines wave until the early hours.
Saturday saw sunny Division Street pedestrianised with a true carnival feel to the city centre. Shops rolled their storefront windows back, stalls and stands served strawberries & cream, John Lennon glasses glimmered in the sunshine and bunting hung from displays. Those who protest how the festival is no longer free cannot deny the joyful, Tramlines induced atmosphere that ignites Sheffield over this special July weekend. Although a ticket is necessary to catch the big acts, those wanting to join the fun don’t have to look far to enjoy the free fringe gigs, bustling bars and street busking spread across the city.
The torrential rain on Saturday afternoon put things on pause for a few hours. But, in true Tramlines spirit, festival goers weren’t going to give up that easily and set about kitting themselves out in DIY ponchos made from Sainburys bin bags, as far as the eye could see. People handed them out to each other and marched off to Devonshire Green and Ponderosa for the All Saints and Primal Scream headline slots, respectively. Neither of which disappointed. All Saints saved ‘Pure Shores’ for the end of the gig and gave a wholehearted, nourishing girl band performance that doesn’t typically fit into Sheffield’s music scene but successfully tugged at the heartstrings of nostalgia.
Primal Scream know how to work an audience. Their climatic, teasing intros – that seem to go on forever – set the crowd up for satisfying bass drops whilst Bobby Gillespie dances around the stage, shaking a maraca and wearing orange flares with a 70s cut collar. He encourages the crowd to sing along, which they gladly do. Its feel good rock music. Simple enough to be instantly recognisable but powerful enough to keep every single person engaged.
Let’s face it, the rain didn’t waver once throughout the gig. But how is it that extreme weather conditions somehow have the ability to amplify live rock music?
Saturday’s after parties saw Prince Fatty & Horseman and Junglist Alliance shake the walls of Yellow Arch Studios, proving to those mourning the end of Night Kitchen that Sheffield’s underground rave scene isn’t ready to be compromised.
The Folk Forest is the perfect Sunday remedy for anyone feeling a bit overwhelmed by day three of partying. Overarching canopies, good coffee and a family friendly atmosphere compliment the ambient stage set back in the trees. Sheffield’s Sgt Peppers Project drew an impressive crowd for a 1pm afternoon slot, where the forward thinking residents of Ecclesall enjoyed Prosseco and strawberries on picnic rugs (drawing envious glances from all around). The performance ran through The Beatles’ famous album in it’s entirety – with different singers voicing each track to deliver a varied and engaging performance.
Buffalo Skinners uplifted those low on energy with their upbeat, home grown Americana country rhythms and the nearby Indian Street Food stand, definitely worthy of a mention, served traditional dosas and delicious vegan curries to hungry revellers.
Sheffield’s indie three piece New Road Kings impressed crowds during their 7pm slot at The Green Room – with tasty alcoholic sodas, provided to onsite bars by the Crooked Beverage Company, complimenting The Coral’s set at Devonshire Green later on in the evening.
And for those pacing West Street after Sunday’s headliners had eased, with an inevitable sinking feeling crowning the end of a brilliant weekend, the New York(shire) Brass Band were ready to rekindle moral with their spontaneous renditions of feel good hits including Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’. Taking less than thirty seconds to draw a fifty person strong crowd of joyous, pavement dancing onlookers, the band extended Tramlines weekend into the night.
Despite growing bigger by the year, Tramlines festival manages to retain it’s friendly community feel. Here, even a front row spot for The Libertines will leave you rubbing shoulders with friendly strangers rather than floored by a frenzied mosh pit.
Tramlines, keep up the good stuff. We can’t wait ’til next year.