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Tramlines 2013: The Bands Speak

 
By on Wednesday, 24th July 2013 at 11:00 am
 

Not counting the varying levels of success in 2006 to 2008 at a Baltimore racetrack and since 2009 when Richard Branson brought in the Virgin Mobile FreeFest to Merriweather Post Pavilion (the venue, not the Animal Collective album), Washington DC doesn’t have a major music festival. And the FreeFest doesn’t even attempt to cater to people who might not be mainstream music listeners, such as myself. I wouldn’t drive anywhere to go see the Black Keys or Jack White, just two examples of previous FreeFest headliners. Most other American festivals suffer from the same problem. They focus on getting huge names that the MTV watching public would enjoy. Coachella and Lollapalooza, anyone? Despite John and Martin’s urging that I need to do one at least once, I don’t think I could survive the massive camping festivals, so city festivals, with their many venues dotted across one given place while also allowing me to sleep in a real bed for the night, are very appealing to me.

This year I decided to pay more attention to a local UK city festival that has been going on for a couple years and seem to be doing it right: while they bring in big names to headline the main stages, there is a whole wealth of bands, big and small, playing traditional venues to the town cathedral. I am, of course, speaking of Sheffield’s Tramlines, which I had understood from the get-go had been an idea borne by local Sheffielders such as Arctic Monkeys’ Matt Helders, Jon McClure of Reverend and the Makers and Toddla T.

Even the name of the festival, inspired by the friendly-looking tram transit network I admired when visiting the city in the spring, seems to indicate the pride the festival organisers have just by being from the city and wanting it to remain something very special to the people that live there, yet all the while being entirely welcoming to those who choose to come into town to enjoy it with them. It’s hard not to have your heart warmed when you hear things such as Festival Director Sarah Nulty talking about this year’s event, “A huge thank you to everyone who attended and made it a truly wonderful event. The fantastic weather on Friday set everyone in a great mood which lasted across the site all weekend. Musically it was a great year for Tramlines with so many talented artists on the bill. Through Tramlines we get to showcase exactly what Sheffield has to offer and we’re very proud of it.”

John and I have been in discussion that next year we might just join forces and go finally, having looked jealously as this year’s line-up and whinged that we weren’t there. Who was there were the bands, of course. We’ve asked several of them to weigh on their Tramlines 2013 experience, so here we go…

Andrew Parry, keyboardist, Story Books:
Tramlines 2013 was our first band trip to Sheffield, and what a pleasant one it was. Tramlines is one of those inner city festivals that takes over an area of a city, encouraging sprawling crowds on streets and music coming out of its ear holes. Situated a few yards away from the aforementioned tramlines, our venue of battle was The Bowery, a cosy bar with a stage the precise dimensions to squeeze us and our gear on. This made for a real fun set. Nice and close in, we forgot any inhibitions and had a ruddy good time. The crowd were attentive and appreciative, with many a complimentary post-gig word. Which is all you can ask for isn’t it? That, and chips and gravy. And ‘scraps’. We’ll be back, Sheffield. Cheers.

Fran O’Hanlon, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, Ajimal:
The cathedral might have been the most beautiful construction site I’ve ever played! Unfortunately, the body of the cathedral is being renovated, but the sound was pretty incredible none the less, such a beautiful and massive space. There was a bigger crowd there for me than I expected, which was lovely to come out to, and really attentive – those kind of venues always seem to inspire pin drop silence.

It was nice to wander round and get a sense of everything going on in Sheffield at Tramlines. I also managed to catch Dutch Uncles who I’d been meaning to see since their last album came out. Brilliant band.

James Leesley, vocalist and guitarist, High Hazels (read my Bands to Watch on them here):
To collectively summarise the weekend in two words, hectically pleasant would probably be accurate. Saturday was a day where we had three shows to play, the first being inside the Sheffield Cathedral. I think we were all particularly excited about playing in the cathedral, it’s quite a rare place to play and sonically speaking, it has a natural sound that we strive for within a lot of our music. The gig surpassed all our expectations and went really well – the audience sounded like they enjoyed it which is always a good sign. Along with the Cathedral, we played at Weston Park and later at Shakespeare’s, which was our highlight. There was a great atmosphere and it was a fitting ending to a very good day.

Sunday, we were on at The Bowery in the afternoon which was another full house and a great show. It was a good way to draw the curtains on our playing for the weekend and we were all really pleased with the response and quite humbled by the way we were received.The rest of the day was the first real chance we had to catch some of the other bands and join the traffic of the festival, which is always nice.

We thoroughly enjoyed it and are looking forward to next year.

Eddie Dullaway, guitarist, Van Susans:
After a 4-hour drive and two festival gigs in Kent on Saturday, we arrived in Sheffield’s Weston Park for the first of two performances. As we were setting up there was an apparent air of anticipation. A crowd, not on their feet, but sitting waiting for the next eargasm. We made for a musical fixation, drawing in with technical interludes and catchy hooks; our set time was halved but it kept us short and sweet and the crowd eager for more!

Our second show was at The Forum at 10.30 PM so with a little time to spare we engaged ourselves in frisbee, interviews, football, eating and more interviews. It was also Olly’s birthday, so a small amount of alcohol was consumed! The second show came bringing much of the crowd from the first into The Forum for an acoustic show which equally entertained the listeners. Overall, it was a brief, hectic but energetic day. We left Sheffield at around 12 AM to return to base (Bromley, Kent) and arrived home at 4.30 AM just in time to see the sunrise.

Ben Duffy, vocalist, Fenech-Soler:
Sheffield, for me, felt like it all clicked from a live perspective. It takes some shows and some experiences to fully get to grips with new material, especially the way we make our music. On the first record we had hundreds of shows testing things out but Tramlines felt like we were fully comfortable. We hadn’t actually slept in few days as we’d come straight from Switzerland so that just added to the mental state on stage. It’s nice getting totally lost in a performance. It’s also always hard at festivals playing songs that no one knows but the reaction has really made the last 12 months worth it. We’re just looking forward to releasing ‘Rituals’ (their second album out on the 2nd of September) now.

Dave Fendick, multi-instrumentalist, Fossil Collective:
Tramlines was pretty cool. We love playing in Sheffield, and it’s always good to be so close to home (as we can sleep in our own beds!) Although the weather forecast predicted rain, it held out and it was nice to arrive and see everyone lounging about, drinking beer and soaking up the vibe.

Playing on a bandstand instead of a normal stage was a nice touch. It made a change from the normal festival stages that we play. The crowd were very receptive too. (The cheap beer helped!) It was a nice family vibe, with lots of little stalls selling a variety of food and drink. We stayed on for a bit after the gig, talking to various people who’d seen us by chance and who were very glad that they did.

We left having made some new friends, and hoping that we get another invitation next year.

Tom Sanders, vocalist and guitarist, Teleman:
We played in the afternoon on Sunday, the weather was calm and temperate and everything seemed nice and relaxed. I don’t think many people knew our songs, or who we were, but that didn’t seem to stop people from enjoying it. I always think these kinds of festivals are about just wandering round and discovering new music anyway. Some of the best shows I’ve seen have been entirely by accident. Sheffield seemed a perfect setting for the festival and I can only see it going from strength to strength!

Bridie Jackson, vocalist and piano and guitar player, Bridie Jackson and the Arbour:
We played two gigs at Tramlines on Sunday, starting off with The Folk Forest, where we enjoyed some great music and our first Pimm’s of the season! The atmosphere was fantastic and the audience were great – we even managed to get them to join in with our rather whimsical Justin Timberlake cover.

Our second gig was at The Riverside, which boasted the highest ratio of cellos on one stage that we have ever seen! All the music was excellent, but particular highlights were The Early Cartographers, The Pocket Satellites and Joe Banfi. Again, the crowd were great and fun was had by all.

Matthew Whitehouse, vocalist and guitarist, The Heartbreaks:
Arrived in Sheffield at about 8 PM. Sat in the van outside the Harley mixing vodka and tonic in the bottle until Russ and Tom from the Crookes walked past and Russ gave us some promotional Red Bull cups. Tom was eating a margarita pizza. Saw the singer from Grammatics (who we went on our first UK tour with) and met the singer from Komokino, who our tour manager Mark used to drum for. Charlie Bone was there too. At about 5 past 10, we walked out to Sharpe’s ending theme as sung by Rifleman Daniel Hagman and played seven songs, including ‘Polly’ for the first time since February. Joe did a nice new drum bit at the end. Dedicated a song to Richard Sharpe and no one laughed. Ate an entire packet of custard creams.

Tom Dakin, guitarist, The Crookes (photograph below from the stage by drummer Russell Bates):
Tramlines is comfortably the highlight of the musical year in Sheffield, and will always have a place in our hearts. We’ve played at every year of the festival and it has been thrilling seeing it grow from its smaller roots into the city-wide, all encompassing event it now is. Every day on our route to our practice room in town we cross the green where the main stage is (Devonshire Green) during the festival, and it’s hard to believe it’s the same place when we’re stood onstage looking out at all the people.

This year has been particularly special for Sheffield music, which really is the lifeblood of our city. Bands such as Hey Sholay, Seize the Chair and High Hazels are just a few of the brilliant new wave of Sheffielders breaking through, and 65daysofstatic created a stunning combination of three-dimensional music and visual effects which left us wondering if our minds would ever be the same again as we wandered in a daze from their installation at the Millennium Galleries.

Needless to say, as the dust settles on this year’s Tramlines, all we can do is try to shake off our hangovers and begin the countdown to next year’s festival. May there be many more.

Crookes Tramlines 2013 sm

And that’s it from the bands of Tramlines 2013. Funds and time off from work willing, we’ll be in the thick of next year’s festivities so we can experience first-hand what always sounds like one of the best UK city festivals of the summer. See you soon, Sheffield!

 

Video of the Moment #1226: Teleman

 
By on Thursday, 6th June 2013 at 6:00 pm
 

While I was disappointed that I couldn’t see nor hear Teleman very well at this year’s Great Escape, I’m pleased to announce they’ve got a new video for their new single ‘Steam Train Girl’. The song itself has a heavy guitar at the start, but then Tommy Sanders’ distinctive voice goes staccato to match the guitars and the dance beat, while a synth whines in the background. They’d never be confused for, oh, that other band they used to be part of (you know which one I’m talking about…) The single is available on limited edition 7″ and by digital download.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYEoVI5EVxU[/youtube]

 

Great Escape 2013: Mary’s Day 3 Evening Roundup

 
By on Tuesday, 4th June 2013 at 2:00 pm
 

I’ve now done SXSW, Sound City and the Great Escape all in the same year, in both 2012 and 2013. Each comes with its own perks and challenges, but I think the one underlying thing that ties all three of these events together is the mental exhaustion, on top of the physical you already put your body through. Admittedly, I knew John and I had to leave the flat at 7 in the morning on Sunday to catch our trains to go back north (Sheffield for me, Lincoln for John), so that terrible thought weighed heavily on my mind while I tried to sort just how exactly I was going to work my Saturday night. Before I’d left America, I had grand plans to crisscross Brighton up and down on the final evening, but by the time I’d actually reached day 3 (and over two weeks in Britain), my mind was saying no way to that.

After getting shut out of the Zanzibar a fortnight earlier in Liverpool during Sound City, I made the conscious choice and made good on my promise to Matthew Healy of the 1975 that we would cover them at one of the two festivals in May. Directly before them on the CMJ-sponsored showcase bill at the Paganini Ballroom at the Old Ship Hotel were China Rats, who I’d seen at SXSW 2013 at the PRS for Music / Kilimanjaro showcase on Friday night with the Ruen Brothers and the Crookes, and Young Kato, who I’d written a Bands to Watch piece on last summer but had not seen live yet.

It sounds a bit textbook and far too easy to decide to stay in one place for nearly an entire evening, but it turned out to be the right decision in the long run for me, because as John described in his Saturday report, the place was later oversubscribed and full up with people that probably should not have been let in. This was pretty annoying, since I as editor was the one to make sure John was on the press guestlist for the Paginini Ballroom and I know it wasn’t the press office’s fault either. To be honest, I still feel very bad about John missing the 1975, because I’d seen them twice before and John still hadn’t. I offered to give up my spot and told John to tell the bouncer I was coming down if it meant he could come back up, but like the professional he is, John said no and decided to head up to the Dome to catch the fuss surrounding Bastille instead.

China Rats Great Escape live

I don’t know if they were feeling especially confident, or because it wasn’t so hot, or it had to do with playing in England. But China Rats looked and sounded 100x better in Brighton than they did in Austin. It wasn’t even the crowd so much that lent to this atmosphere; as you can probably guess, most people who had arrived early were primarily there to stake their places for the 1975, who were to be followed closely behind with late night programming of Tribes. No, there was just something about them that when they played, you could tell they meant business. ‘Nip It in the Bud’ was loud, raucous and just pure fun. The “ai yi yi yis” of ‘To Be Like I’ reminded of the early Beatles, and in an entirely good way.

Young Kato Great Escape live

Cheltenham sextet Young Kato look primed for Radio 1 exposure. Talking to other punters, I’m pretty sure no-one there had any idea who they were, so I knew they had their work cut out for them. To be honest, I was a little worried; they are all so young, how are they going to take it if the audience doesn’t like them? I shouldn’t have worried. Their single from last summer, ‘Drink, Dance, Play’, has a tribal beat-themed second half; it’s like they took the best bits of Bastille and put it into an indie pop song, which can only be a good thing, and the crowd just ate it up.

The anthemic ‘Lights’ is another great singalong, I’m seriously wondering why they haven’t been picked up for more airplay. I thought for such a young band, they sound remarkably polished and it was nice validation after hearing them on recording and writing a feature on them to discover that they’re excellent live. After watching them, I silently thanked myself for choosing the Paganini Ballroom for that night.

And then came the piece de resistance for the night, who everyone was waiting for, the 1975. Oh my. I already knew I was going to enjoy this, but I didn’t know how much I was going to enjoy it. They only played seven songs, but they had so much energy and the crowd assembled was so ready for this, there was only one way this could go: all the way up. The crowd jumped up and down to the infectious beats and you could feel the room literally shifting from side to side from all the bodies bouncing. I didn’t expect him to but Matt Healy did see me down the front during ‘Girls’ and smiled widely at me. He knew this performance was huge and they were having the times of their lives playing this grand ballroom. I’m sure it’s a moment they will always remember, and I was glad that I’d made a special effort to be there.

The 1975 Great Escape live

The only blemish was towards the end, when I felt a sudden breeze behind me. That’s not right; the ballroom is rammed and there was a massive wall of people behind me. What’s going on? I looked back to see that a circle of people had parted and backed off while two blokes, probably heavily intoxicated, were going at it with each other. Bouncers quickly got involved and it was clear both men were hot-headed, one of them giving the bouncer that was holding him a murderous look. Whoa. My first experience with violence at the Great Escape, and luckily, it looked like no one was seriously injured. It was a good thing it was over soon after that, as the crowd dispersed quickly once their set was over and I think everyone in there needed some air.

The City
Head.Cars.Bending
Milk
Chocolate
Girls
Sex
You and I

My last port of call for the Great Escape 2013 was to be all the way up the hill back towards the train station. I knew there was no way in hell I’d be able to leg it quickly enough to catch Teleman‘s set, so I flagged down a taxi driver to take me. Unfortunately I must have wasted at least 10 minutes yelling at the taxi driver because at first he refused to take me (grrrr). There was a taxi van in front of him, but it was full of a band’s gear and with my patience being tried, as nicely as I could I explained that the van was currently not in service. Finally, he let me in and drove me to the Green Door Store.

Then began the most infuriating moment for me at this year’s festival. I was desperate to see Teleman so I’d requested guestlist for the venue, figuring I’d have a better shot at this venue than some of the others. I get to security and tell the bloke there I’m on the press guestlist, and he decides to give me lip, claiming there is no guestlist. I hadn’t come all that way up to the Green Door Store to be denied entry. I insisted that I was on the guest list, I was press, and that was legitimately supposed to be there. Finally, he decides to pull out a ripped piece of paper out of his pocket, looks my name up, and what do you know, I’m on there and suddenly I’m allowed in. ::facepalm::

Not that this really did much good. Through the arguing with the taxi driver and the bouncer, I’d missed the first half of the set, and there was so much pushing and shoving inside the venue, I couldn’t get any closer to the stage than the brick archway leading into the main room. A funny moment was hearing someone say to their girlfriend, “can we get any closer?” and to turn and see it was Stephen Black of Sweet Baboo saying it; he’d played that same stage earlier in the evening We had a brief moment to say hello, so that was unexpected and nice.

I wasn’t a fan of all the pushing, especially from the very tall men with pints in their hands, obviously not caring that the group of girls I was with, all much shorter and unable to see anything, would have appreciated some graciousness. Occasionally, when punters would leave the main room and come back out through the archway, I could see the outlines of Tommy Sanders and band briefly. I could hear the notes of ‘Cristina’ but couldn’t really enjoy it. I recalled 2 years ago when I’d seen Pete and the Pirates up close in Islington’s Buffalo Bar a week before my birthday. One day, Teleman, I’ll see you up close and personal too. Just you wait.

The next morning, somehow John and I got out of our respective beds. I remember fighting my suitcase to get it shut so we could leave Brighton on time and make our connections in London. I nearly forgot my purse on the kitchen table. (Thank god we hadn’t dropped the keys through the letter slot yet.) But the Great Escape and our time in Brighton was over, and for me, it was time to switch gears…to be reunited with friends in Sheffield.

 

Live Gig Video: Teleman play ‘Cristina’ for a Topman CTRL In-situ session

 
By on Wednesday, 13th February 2013 at 4:00 pm
 

Teleman are brothers Tommy and Jonny Sanders, Peter Cattermoul and newly acquired drummer Hiro Amamiya. Now as a four-piece, the band are ready to take on this year’s Great Escape in Brighton, the first of I’m sure a long list of shouts during the summer festival season.

Here is the band performing their current Moshi Moshi single, ‘Cristina’, for a Topman CTRL In-Situ session. Watch it below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zna2kpSmBok[/youtube]

 

Video of the Moment #1088: Teleman

 
By on Wednesday, 9th January 2013 at 6:00 pm
 

Teleman‘s new video for their single ‘Cristina’ – out on Moshi Moshi on Monday (14 January) – can get away with being simple, because the song itself is brilliant…in an understated way. Watch the pretty coloured circles below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHJjBNAoQqE[/youtube]

 

Live Gig Video: Teleman play ‘Redhead Saturday’ for a Topman CTRL In-situ session

 
By on Friday, 14th December 2012 at 4:00 pm
 

My first taste of Teleman was on Marc Riley’s late night 6music programme. I was so sure it was one of my fave bands that I was asked not to mention in this article, one that disbanded this year. Well, I was half right.

Teleman are brothers Tommy and Jonny Sanders plus Peter Cattermoul, all from the smouldering remains of this band I’m not supposed to name. If you are a fan of Lammo’s programme, no doubt you have heard them, and you will hear plenty of Teleman in the future. Here is the threesome performing new track ‘Redhead Saturday’ for a Topman CTRL In-Situ session.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4ucVZW5jbo[/youtube]

 
 
 

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