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Tramlines 2013 | Juan de los Palotes

(as dictated to Sam Valdés)

There’s no such thing as a free meal and this applies to gigs too. A “free entertainment” model is unsustainable and unless there’s a massive funding behind, the piggy banks will have to be broken.

So, yeah, this year’s Tramlines required people to part from their dosh, but it wasn’t too expensive. Let’s face it: the average gig goer spends that amount (15 quid for the whole weekend – early birds) in alcohol alone, so better fund an event than the ever expanding girth in your body.

Right, that’s outta the way.

I arrived to Sheffield early Friday afternoon, got my press pass and a program and sat idly outside the Cathedral (getting a facelift like Cher). I scanned through the program and decided what to see. First target was Oxo Foxo, smartly placed in a proper venue for her vocal range, Sheffield Cathedral. Her angelical tones fit so perfect with the venue I considered going back to religion. Almost. I still am hiding from Father Christian, he won’t forgive the missal and candle wax incident…

I mosey down to Penelope’s, a venue that takes me a good 10 minutes to find. You ask any Joe Q. Public where the friggin’ place is and you get the same glazed looks American detectives get when they are asked where is Jimmy Hoffa’s body. Got just in time to see the second half of Everyone an Army. Some twat in a mask was getting his pic with the bassist and while I’m not impressed with the sound of the place, the show the three hobos put is an impressive array of Oceansize-meets-Beach Boys: hard notes and sweet voice tones. I try to interview the band outside, but they are nervous as they mention some weird stalker that sends them photos of him wielding guns.

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Right, Cathedral time again. Need to be early as Hey Sholay will be packed. Again, the Cathedral is a great venue, but whoever decided to place Hey Sholay there clearly wanted people to boil alive, as the place became like a brazen bull full of Hey Sholay acolytes who weaved, danced and clapped to every single song, from crowd pleaser ‘Wishbone’ to dronetastic ‘The Bees, The Clocks, The Bears’. No stage diving, sadly. Although I think I saw God drinking Grolsch. Tightwad.

Before heading back to my hotel (aka a friend’s couch), I drop by the Forum. The place is rammo (who the actual fuck uses that term?) and I can only see the violently happy Seize the Chair by the windows. There’s actual crowdsurfing inside and security has given up on dispersing the happy crowd.

So endeth the first day. Saturday morning seemed uneventful, so I took a stroll through town. A stark reminder of how “fun” sometimes equates “garbage” was on display, as some attendees decided to regale Sheffield with discarded takeaway, crushed cans and undigested food everywhere. The council had the cleaning crews doing their best and I salute every single person who actually gave a fuck and put trash in its place.

Menace Beach! I get inside the O2 Academy and witness the slacker surf band. Tighter than the last time I saw them, their set was criminally unattended. Oh, well.

Some venues are just perfect for a band and so was the case of the extremely swanky Sheffield City Hall. The well-curated stage had two of the highlights of Tramlines. Maybeshewill, one of the most energetic and happiest bands in the United Kingdom right now, offer a brand of post rock with metal that never feels like ad music or even worse, the soundtrack of a tween football drama. I Like Trains have the pastoral solemnity of a Victorian funeral, but enough powerful moments to make you believe the dead will walk the Earth again, when the Rapture comes. I’m sure I saw the Whore of Babylon bobbing her head when the band rocked out ‘A rook house for Bobby’ and ‘Beacons’.

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A good friend had previously recommended to check Mega Aquarians due to the fact that they rock and also due to the fact that they break up as often as Kenny died in South Park (seasons 1-4). How can I describe them? Think of the film Watcher in The Woods, where an unknown, ethereal entity haunts the forests of Anytown, USA. Mega Aquarians have that creepy atmosphere, delivered with jazzy drums and very heavy metal guitars. A ZZ Top cover is greatly appreciated.

My Mega Aquarians-loving friend was there and he suggested we snuck into Tye Die Tapes headquarters. Their gigs weren’t on the programme, but the prospect of catching Slowcoaches or Fawn Spots was an attractive one. The trip was entertaining, to say the least.

Whilst drinking a couple of IPAs from a local supermarket, we wandered into a garage with a “dodgy Corsa” (that’s my friend’s description) in the front. A guy with a German Shepherd that growled like a famished wolf came out, asking sternly who we were and what we were looking. A shadowy figure in the back of the place was just nodding “NO!” and we slowly backed away.

White people, uh? We know shit.

Anyways, a quick call to the Tye Die Tapes means we get to their abode and we continue drinking our beers. A band called Collider rocks the place out, with a fast, punk roar. Although I don’t smoke, I appreciate a place where there’s still the option for the ones inclined to consume nicotine. There’s moshing, pogoing and crowdsurfing. I regret leaving after Collider finishes.

I separate from my friend and manage to park my fat arse in the Millenium Gallery. 65daysofstatic have created a sound installation and in a long white room heavily guarded with speakers, a projector is displaying some strange sights. The music hypnotizes me and I look, with mouth agape. Then the visuals change to aerial shots of landscapes with a loud ROAAAAAAARRRR that makes my sphincter change from Curry to Burrito mode. The gorgeous soundscapes were tremendous, something you’d expect from a band with a palette as wide as 65daysofstatic and their as-sweet-as-a-jackhammer-to-the-face subtlety.

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I venture back to Penelope’s and Firesuite are playing. The program & website described them as glam, but they sound a bit more Slowdive & Silversun Pickups than anything else. The drummer is a jazzhound, possibly needs to do a mano a mano with the Mega Aquarians drummer. A band called Smithereens follows and they seem to have groupies (all male) in the audience.

It dawns later that this is the band’s last gig, as the singer is leaving for Uganda. Shit, son, my girlfriend left me “for Uganda” too! They are fast, aggressive and sound like a thousand sea shanties shipped to Boston. Their singer’s headband is thrown to the audience, like the bouquet a bride would throw towards the bridesmaids.

A trio of very drunk Russians are drinking near the steps by City Hall. The police seem to be busy with something more urgent or are just allowing this because no one is being a dick to anyone else. Except maybe their livers. I sit with the Russians and they give me some free vodka. It tastes horrible and my vision blurs. I decide to stagger away after they start singing ‘Kalinka Maya’ and lose myself in the crowd by Division Street. It’s midnight and the place is buzzing like some sort of carnival, where the usual Saturday night crowd of ne’erdowells, spinsters and lager-chuggin’ lads clash with The Young, The Thin and The Trendy that somehow landed in this city.

I try to pull rank to get into Great Gatsby’s but security says no can do. Fair enough. I try to go into Bungalows and Bears. Same. Every place looks like that Radiohead song that mentions people being packed like sardines in a crushed tin box. You know the one, I think it’s called Bones.

A different approach gets me into The Bowery. I tell the security guy that I’m the fluffer for the drummer of the band that’s playing right now and he lets me in with a wry smile. I make my way to the bar, get some weird cocktail that looks like a Vietnam jungle after getting Agent Orange-d and I look at the stage. A waif-like lady is playing some desert rock while a very tough looking dude punishes the skins like there’s no tomorrow. It’s a right racket and I ask a guy with wild tattoos the name of the band. “Flaming Skulls, local dudes.”

I think I danced to ‘You got the love’ with a girl wearing a neat black dress, cool stockings and a strange tattoo between her shoulderplates. She gave me her phone but I lost it somewhere. I’m gonna die a virgin.

I begin Sunday at The Bowery. A local dude who looks like Mark Kozelek’s British twin takes the scene with two dudes that look long in the tooth. It turns out to be a very, very sharp tooth. They call themselves The Nose and it’s a fanfriggintastic way to start the day. Punk? Hard rock? Metal? All there. Maybe some post rock too. I will later find out he’s a very easy going crooner going by the name Neil McSweeney. His acoustic stuff is pretty cool too.

Another guitar wieldin’ fellow ensued. His name was David J. Roch, had a complete band and his songs were the happiest shade of depressing. I leave halfways to get to the O2, where Eagulls were going to play.

Only, they didn’t. Even if the schedule outside swore they would play, they weren’t even booked. TTNG had already finished and Lemuria was now on stage. I stuck for a while and saw their quick, manic set.

Meant to take a quick spin on the Busker Bus, but there seemed to be some mechanical issues and I decided to stick around the area surrounding Devonshire Green. A big crowd gathered outside of a pub and I weaselled my way in. The star attracting the crowd? Little Man Tate’s Jon Windle.

Somewhere between the fourth or fifth verse of ‘House Party at Boothys’, Jon Windle gets chucked into a van by 4 muscled man, with a Doppler-affected “Marie’s at the door hand in hand with Anitaaaaaargghhhhhh!” being the last words the crowd heard before getting dispersed and herded to other parts of the festival. The Wicked went to see The Crookes, the Blessed went to see Wet Nuns, The Bewildered ended up drinking grade-A espressos from Motoré Café.

‘Kinel, sounds weird, uh? You better believe it. Steve Papa Edwards was just a swallow’s flight away from the Jon Windle kerfuffle, with a sparser crowd in Division Street forming a circle with cameras lined up in perfect diametrical forms. He sung and namedropped himself over the synth lines, cracking a wry smile from time to time.

When I arrive to the O2 Academy, I see Bernie from Dead Sons carrying Leki, the drummer from Wet Nuns. I am confused by this scene, but still manage to sweet talk myself into the photographer’s pit and take a few shots of the pair doing what they do best, bub. ‘No Death’ has to be seen live to be enjoyed to the max. I stick around to catch the supercrazy Castrovalva do their thing to a criminally under-attended O2 Academy.

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Man, I’m fucking starving and every single food stand in Fargate is closing. It’s not even dark! This is why the economy is in shambles. I wander, half emaciated, into Dada and catch the dark, brooding atmospheres of Vuvuvultures. I expect a very gloomy, slow goth type of show, thanks to the heavy smoke and perpetual blue light. I am blown off my socks by what follows so hard that I no longer need to file my calluses. The dark atmospheres explodes and the lead singer does this eerie, slow scream that was born from a wail and a death knell. Impressive show.

In that hazy atmosphere at DAda, I could only see the words THIS IS NOT AN EXIT forming by the only illuminated part of the venue. I thought this was cool, but then I realised that I was getting intoxicated by the fumes.

I leave. I endup listening to Blessa from outside of Bungalows and Bears. Thankfully, I know a sod that was taking photographs inside, so a quick text message helps me score a photo which I will pass as my own. Hey, it’s show business. Blessa’s music? Ethereal shoegaze, pretty promising.

So, yeah, I was outside Bungalows and Bears, gnawing a couple of toothpicks I had in my wallet when I saw this fat fuck wearing a brown Electric Six beaver t-shirt.

“Hey, kid!”

“Yeah, man?” he replied with a thick accent. Mexican?

“Want to earn a tenner?”

“Sure, my main man…”

“Take my camera, go inside and take pictures of the next band.”

“Ok… hey, you payin’ me now?”

“You don’t trust me?”

“No.”

“Look, I need food. I’ll go to Devonshire chippy and will bring you wedges if you take photos of Wolf Alice.”

“With barbecue sauce?” I could see his eyes watering as much as his mouth.

“And garlic mayo.”

“You got it, brah!”

He fumbles his way inside Bungalows & Bears and I go for food. 40 minutes later and I go inside, the place a bit emptier than when I left it and my camera bag by the bar. I talk to the man serving, prove that the camera is mine and ask about the guy taking the photos. He just shrugs.

Oh, well. Could’ve been worse. I wave goodbye to Sheffield and jump back to my train, writing this as I make my way to Mexborough. I need to write it fresh, God knows what would happen if I didn’t, I’d end up making a tall tale…

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Sam Valdés runs the wonderful Sloucherzine.

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