Festival of the people
Tramlines Festival 2012

For many free festivals quantity quickly comes before quality. Many start well before a quick downslide that leads to the likes of Razorlight sharing headline slots with Basshunter. Tramlines has had its share of ups and downs but now awash with underage teenagers and swelling with alternative acts it’s become a beast of its own.

Small cupboards host emerging acts while makeshift stages highlight household names, creating a strip of excitement in the city centre and beyond. Tea parties hide in the City Hall with street art by the theatre and world music in the Peace Gardens. This is truly the festival of the people.

Friday starts with Alt-J packed into miniscule bar The Bowery, and Reverend and the Makers relishing in hometown glory, but it’s the weekend’s sleeper acts that take a hold of the festival.

Sheffield’s Hey Sholay couple sexy rhythms with an animated singer who manages not only to add audience participation but bring an air of impulsiveness to the main stage at 1pm, while a quick walk to Mazes brings a Weezer influence with it, but with many missed notes they’re left falling short.

Eugene McGuinness debuts his slick new look in the sunshine, suited and booted for the reinvention of new album ‘The Invitation To The Voyage’. With it comes a new confidence from the singer, now built on faster chugging rhythms and doo-wop vocals. ‘Lion’ sails with ease with ‘Shotgun’ bringing an air of swagger to the complex rhythms.

And the main stage keeps adding to its already darling indie line up. Field Music baffle the crowd with their everlasting songs and offbeat rhythms but still manage to win over the beer swillers and teenage gigglers after pogoing to Frankie and the Heartstrings. And while she may be a little lost on audience conversation (“You all look miserable”) there’s no questioning Beth Jeans Houghton’s beautiful harmonies and subtle pop prowess.

But despite Tramlines’ indie credentials there are, with any festival, dips in quality. Miss Dynamite is not only over an hour late, she then spends her thirty minute set shouting over unknown beats and miming the remainder. Luckily Roots Manuva manages to offer a little damage control. Boasting a huge band and hype guys galore the blend of hip hop and world instruments added to dash of relaxation in a bubble of city bliss.

Free festivals usually scream community involvement and council guidelines but somehow Tramlines has managed to get off scot free and produce some of the best emerging artists, a wonderful atmosphere and, most importantly, the sunshine. By Sunday night we have the choice of We Are Scientists or 65daysofstatic and there’s not a Johnny Borrell in sight.

Words by Ruth Offord
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