REVIEW: Tramlines 2016
My festival experience started this year with Friday headliner Dizzee Rascal, albeit about 15 minutes into his set, as I must admit it was a struggle to get there for the 8.45pm kick off.
Having to await friends arrivals from London, Manchester and Barnsley and get them fed, watered and wristbanded up was like a military operation.
But after introducing them to Tramlines several years ago, it’s now a firm fixture in their diaries and they’re always eager to return.
I enjoyed Dizzee’s classics like Fix Up Look Sharpe and Jus A Rascal from outside the arena as we charged to the gate.
Luckily, as promised, there were less queues and more security on the gates so getting in was a much speedier experience.
The arena wasn’t as packed as I thought it would be, which was a shame, and I wondered if many others also found it as much of a struggle to get there on time.
Note to Tramlines: can we push the headline slot forward just a tad next year so I can digest my tea?
It was great to catch the rapper’s energetic big dirty stinking bass again and six years on from my last rendezvous with him he hasn’t slowed down, but sadly has added more Calvin Harris duets to his repertoire.
Then it was onto Hope Works warehouse near the Wicker for Sheffield Techno Institute’s set, and luckily my friends had learned by now that Tramlines was not a festival for heels and that you will cover some (mainly uphill) ground in the Steel City.
Although doors were not opening until midnight, the queues were already forming by around 10.45pm.
After failing (i.e giving up on queuing) to get into the popular venue twice last year, part two of my military operation involved getting there early and getting comfy.
As the clock struck midnight, the bouncers had the ingenious idea of ordering the swathes of people to start queuing from the other side of the gate.
Trying to turn a queue on its head is never going to go well and as the confused crowd moved around there was quite a big crush on.
It wasn’t the most pleasant experience and it seemed dangerously unnecessary, but the gates were finally opened around ten minutes late.
The experience was soon forgotten though, once inside, and friends were reunited to dance away the night in the Rave Cave, which took on an unexpected disco feel, or the main room, which also hosted a load of DJs.
I confess that, unlike all my friends, I know nothing about techno, but I love Sheffield’s backstreet, disused-warehouse settings – there’s something fulfilling being away from the neon lights of West Street and the chains of bars.
After a hectic night of it, there’s always only one thing for it on a Tramlines Saturday – get to the main stage, set up camp in the sun and listen to some soothing reggae, funky beats and groovy R’n’B pop.
So thanks Dawn Penn, George Clinton and Kelis for a perfect Saturday.
A personal highlight of mine was seeing Dawn Penn – who is best known for her hit You Don’t Love Me, No, No, No, – walk on stage with her huge handbag and plonk it down in front of the drumkit in a very grandma-like way.
I saw some confusion in the evening with festival-goers who were ordered to leave The Harley before 10pm if they didn’t have the ‘After Party’ wristbands.
This also led to a very reduced crowd for post-punk trio Cowtown after many people had arrived early to stake their place.
I think the wristband system needs simplifying next year — a full weekend band should mean full weekend and not having to buy an extra band for Sunday after-parties.
The biggest crowd of the weekend was for Sunday headliners Catfish and The Bottlemen, who professed their love for the festival (but I bet they say that to them all!) and reminisced about their last slot years ago at The Frog and Parrot pub on Division Street.
Top billing was a huge step up, but after two huge albums they now have the setlist to back it up and a bit of shout-out-loud, anthemic indie was just what I needed.
It brought everyone together and there wasn’t a song that wasn’t sung back full pelt at the band.
As ever, I ended Tramlines with arms high, holding onto my mates, with a sunburned nose and a feeling of happy exhaustion from smiling.
Buy early bird tickets from £30 for next year here http://tinyurl.com/h7ozoh8.