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Tramlines 2012 – Guest review #2

Tramlines Festival 2012: Saturday 21st July

Saturday at Tramlines is always the main event and the day you can pack more into (not being at work and all). As the sun finally appeared, I made my way to the band stand in Weston Park to catch The Early Cartographers who, with their expansive line-up and multi-instrumental nature, were a good fit for a lunchtime slot on a sunny Saturday. They do have a dark side though, blinding several small children in ugly sweet-throwing scenes (joking, of course). 
Decided to brave the main stage next and arrived in time to see the end of Hey Sholay‘s set – top stage diving and crowd surfing but little else for me – but the best thing was Clock Opera who I knew nothing about but blew me away with their mesh of Hot Chip/Dutch Uncles danceable pop. Great energy and instrument swapping got the crowd moving suitably and frontman Guy Connelly sported the finest beard of the weekend, looking like a Hawaiian-shirted Rabbi. Most fun.

I hot-footed it to the City Hall next to see Dave Woodcock‘s solo set on the Club60 Stage and found the man himself in a sorry hungover state, having enjoyed Neil McSweeney‘s set the previous night a bit too much. Ever the pro, Dave soldiered on and put in a gutsy performance with sideman guitarist Chris Saunders battling against the aforementioned hangover, a rebellious PA and a broken string. They gave us grand versions of Woodcock classics ‘Firewater’ and ‘Here We Go’ but also a special treat in Springsteen‘s ‘Dancing In The Dark’.

The underground bunker of the City Hall also gave us a set from dapper local gents The Payroll Union, who fit the scene of the Ballroom very well. Their rockabilly retro sounds on the likes of ‘Julia Died Of Cholera’ and ‘General James Wolfe’ livened up the audience who seemed to be flagging after a few delays and an earlier headphone gig experiment that confused rather than amazed. Onwards and upwards anyway – literally in our case – as we emerged blinking into the sunlight for our next date…

Future Of The Left are always an exciting prospect and on the New Music Stage outside John Lewis, they did not disappoint. Opening with one of the finest rock songs of the last five years, ‘Arming Eritrea’, Falco and co blast through a top-notch set featuring old and new songs with a “racist keyboard” thrown in there too. High points for me were ‘Beneath The Waves An Ocean’, ‘You Need Satan More Than Satan Needs You’, ‘Small Bones Small Bodies’ and the now customary McLusky numbers. The sight of Falco screaming the lyrics to ‘Lightsaber Cocksucking Blues’ on a stage sponsored by Nandos and half the crowd screaming it back (while the other half looked confused) was utterly brilliant. The only slight disappointment being that Falco never laid into the horrific chicken chain of crap restaurants. There’s always next time!

Testament to the popularity of Tramlines that we struggled to get into much from this point in the evening onwards: we wanted to see Wet Nuns but the queue at DQ looked likely to last til next year’s festival. So we wandered down to The Leadmill hoping to catch the end of Hot Soles but just missed them. Balls! However, it turned out The Violet May were doing a secret headline show: result! Saw them last year at DQ before The Duke Spirit and (frontman Chris McClure‘s Liam-apeing aside) thought they were great. In the small side of The ‘Mill, however, it wasn’t so good. Where last year’s set was dark and shoegazy, this gig was just mediocre. The sound didn’t help but the edge and interest seemed to be replaced by sluggish mess. Chris McClure has toned down the ‘madchester’ rubbish though, which helped. And so a good Tramlines Saturday ended in disappointment. Roll on Sunday!

Words: Simon Roberts

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