report by Alex Murray
Sheffield: a city of steel and fields, grey concrete tempered with green parks, topiaried townies balanced out by floppy-haired hippies and hipsters. Tramlines too treads the line between extremes, a speed date between styles and eras.
As a result, trying to see everything you want to takes discipline and self-control. That’s why things got messy for me. It’s hands up time: my Tramlines 2015 was a blur of sound & vision, a boxcar of memories blurring past. Here’s what I can remember…
Cocky cockneys Slaves paused a storming Main Stage show when their singer lost his cap stage-diving; he wore every hat lobbed at him while waiting for the “scumbag” to return the real one (he did). Across town in the Frog & Parrot, Avida Dollars frontman Joseph went all messianic, intoning “Down, down…” till the pub fell like angels to the floor, performance artist Ben translating their fuggy punk into Kabuki, a man-mast lashed by the longhairs losing it at the front. Near the end, Joseph was joined on the stage by Jack Clayton, a sleeker, Sheffielder Mark E. Smith, singer in both Idle Hans and Mysteron, for a louche version of Louie, Louie.
The next day, Sunday shoppers on Sheffield’s Fargate found their consumerism soundtracked by Clayton’s rants about regionalism and regret. “Will I ever write another local song/Just as unpopular as the last?” crooned the sinister street preacher, backed by Mysteron’s maniacal fandangos. “I know my record won’t make the shops/Self-reference won’t save me now,” the organs swirling on this track from their forthcoming EP, a release suffused with the bittersweet tinct of schadenfreude.
Another heir to the The Fall’s fungal empire is Fat White Family, who headlined the Leadmill on Saturday and must have been told this was a family festival, only getting naked from the waist up and conjuring one lone crowdsurfer (some kind of record, surely). Their anarchic, anaerobic sludge pooled around our feet, sucking us all into a whirlpool of floppy limbed devotion, a mulch of delirious organs and stoner singalongs while the singers’ nicotine-stained fingers flicked over the crowd like we were their marionettes.
At the other end of the spectrum was Martha Reeves, an impeccable, ageless machine primed for the production of thousand-year hits, voice undimmed while fashions rust to dust around her. Catching the last of the sun, her wholesome Motown revue segued perfectly into original party duo Basement Jaxx, who took her sweet, crisp sound and spun it into cotton-candy bliss. Good Luck took its place as my earworm for the weekend as the dancing spread high up Ponderosa park’s tilting hill of friends from five minutes ago or five decades and counting.
I ended my Tramlines dad-dancing in the Night Kitchen’s labyrinthine techno rooms, tardis spaces which shut down one by one around 7am, an experience akin to the amnesia sequence in Spotless Sunshine of the Eternal Mind. No matter; the memories I was left with are all keepers.