Tramlines 2012 – Guest Review #1

We asked through several outlets (social media, post its, telepathy) for people to send in reviews of their Tramlines experience. Here’s one by Mr. Simon Roberts. Enjoy! Tramlines Festival: Friday 20th July

Tramlines volume four started bang on 5pm down the Frog & Parrot with some tasty Exile-era Stones rock from The Ruby Jacks. Despite sporting a Moz-style quiff, front man Will Barstow was quick to disown the flowers that decorated his mic stand and led his band through a lively set of blues riffs and howling vocals that teed everyone up for a post-work weekend of music and booze. Good stuff!

Next we crossed the road to The Forum and saw Low Duo. I’d heard good things about these guys but I wasn’t too impressed with their brand of folk/indie. The sound in The Forum has always been pretty horrific and did little to aid some painful vocals (somewhere between The Cooper Temple Clause and Cast). The guitarist was the only highlight, wrestling inventive licks from his instrument but the poor sound made it hard work to hear. A quick murder of The Walkmen‘s classic single ‘The Rat’ was enough to have me running for the exit.

After the inconvenience of having to eat (always the thing you forget about at Tramlines) the next destination was Sheffield Cathedral for Don’t Sleep Dream, another tip-off band but thankfully this one paid off. Having seen Low in Halifax Minster the week before, I knew how great gigs in churches can be and Don’t Sleep Dream‘s Shack-like use of melody coupled with sparse instrumentation (double bass, two acoustic guitars, two vocalists) and the glorious reverb of the location got the evening right back on track.

Next was a mysterious man called Juffage who I’d been informed was A.) American born but locally based and B.) really rather good. So we stuck around, drank more beer (in a church this is even more enjoyable, though we may well burn in hell at some point) and used the unexpectedly posh toilets. Juffage took to the stage/pulpit armed with an electric guitar and little else but his excellent finger picking and Chicago-twang vocals. His songs reminded me of the massively underrated band Karate but (obviously) more stripped down. A real treat.

A hat-trick of greatness in the Cathedral was disappointingly avoided when Robert George Saull arrived. A sharp suit, tremendous beard and beautiful guitar don’t always mean great music and he proceeded to empty the place with a pretentious/ridiculous drone of worthy folk. The bad stuff was making a worrying come back, it was time to call in the cavalry….

We fled to The Library Theatre to see local legend Neil McSweeney with his full band of Gents. I’ve not seen Neil with backing for a couple of years, not since he released his last album Shoreline. At Tramlines, I’ve only ever seen him hungover and solo at Soyo, although I hasten to add that he sounds really good hungover.

In the sanctuary of the Library Theatre, he didn’t disappoint with the added textures of an organ/accordion player he blasted through old favourites like ‘Standing Still’ and ‘Postcard’ but also treated us to new songs, mostly beginning with the letter ‘S’. Of these new tunes, my stand-out was one featuring lines about driving bulldozers. It’ll all make sense when the new CD appears, I’m sure and most of these new songs had Neil McSweeney sounding more like Neil Young, complete with ragged glory solos! After a rousing ‘Flowers’ and ‘London Road’, Neil returned with David J Roch in tow for a duet version of ‘Satisfied Mind’ and after a reception more akin to an Oasis gig, played ‘Long Way Round’ on his own. Well, not entirely alone as everyone in the place was hollering along and some even attempted a stage invasion at the end. Much to Neil‘s surprise/alarm/bemusement. A cracking end to day one of the festival!

Words: Simon Roberts




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