Tramlines, The UK’s No.1 Inner City Music Festival? || Review

The ever expanding, tumbling energy ball that is Tramlines festival succeeded on putting on another fantastic weekend for not only the local Sheffield folk, but music fans nationwide who flocked to Sheffield city centre over the weekend of the 22nd July to listen to their favourite bands and discover a spectrum of new ones. The festival is now the biggest urban music festival in the UK, and you can tell why.

The streets are bustling with excitement, boomboxes sit outside shops pumping sounds through the city – there’s no escape, whether you liked it or not, you know Tramlines has arrived!

Photo by Simon Butler

Mr Scruff opened at The Leadmill filling his Thursday night slot which has, it’s safe to say, now become a Tramlines tradition.

On Friday night The Enemy took to the same small stage and turned The Leadmill into a heaving mass of devoted fans hurling themselves about to the sound of their indie heroes. This gig was particularly special as earlier on in the year the band announced their plans to split and perform a final farewell tour in September. Tickets sold out almost immediately, leaving this Tramlines gig a last opportunity for loyal fans to enjoy a bittersweet final performance. Needless to say, the energy at the gig was immense and the affection The Enemy holds for their loyal fan base was conveyed by the heartfelt words spoke in between songs.

The Enemy perform at Leadmill - Photo by Kevin Wells

The Enemy perform at Leadmill - Photo by Kevin Wells

Dizzee Rascal headlined the Ponderosa stage on Friday, satisfying the crowd with his bass heavy hits “Bonkerz”, “Flex”, “Fix Up Look Sharp” and the classic “Just a Rascal” – with much of the crowd surprisingly themselves at how many lyrics they knew by heart. The Dandy Warhols also performed a number of their hits on Friday evening, receiving a particularly rousing response to “Bohemian Like You” and attracting an impressive crowd who were all to keen to commence the weekend of shenanigans.

Dizzee Rascal performs at the Ponderosa - photo by Gary Wolstenholme

The Dandy Warhols perform at the Ponderosa - photo by Gary Wolstenholme

Throughout the weekend the entire city came to life with happiness and chatter in the air. People walked along with set guide in hand, thumbing through the pages and turning down corners to mark bands they simply couldn’t miss. The diversity of venues allowed revellers to watch an indie band in the Cathedral, hear a world rewowned funk DJ in the student union and later finding themselves up a hill in the Ponderosa, beer in one hand burrito in the other, watching the sun set behind an incredible light show on the main stage.

MT Wolf perform at Sheffield Cathedral - photo by Richard Linley

Saturday evening was uncharacteristically humid and warm, which created a surreal summer vibe across the city all night long with many seizing the opportunity to relax outside in the many green spaces of Sheffield and soak up the festival atmosphere.

On Saturday night Kelis delivered an atmospheric electronic set at the Ponderosa stage, very different from the r ‘n’b hip hop sound she is famous for but nevertheless proving her impressive genre spanning capacities. It felt like a more mature, evolved sound which was well received by the crowd. This comes at no surprise as “Milkshake”, arguably her most famous song was released back in 2003, a massive 13 years ago.

Kelis performs at the Ponderosa - Photo by Jenn McCambridge

Indie-psych outfit Sundara Karma headlined The Leadmill on Saturday night. The fresh talent made their way onto the stage and immediately flung themselves straight into their set with a unified blur of bouncing and arm waving exploding from the crowd. Mid set, frontman Oscar Pollock threw himself at the audience which invited a surge of grabbing hands desperate for a close encounter. There wasn’t a single moment where the energy slowed. Even after Sundara had finished and left the stage, the entire crowd stayed in their exact spot and continued to fling themselves about to the music of the club night which followed.

Sundara Karma perform at The Leadmill - photo by Kevin Wells

On Sunday afternoon Jurassic 5 put on arguably one of the best crowd intergrated performances of the weekend. The band emulated good vibes of the highest calibre and their joy and pure enthusiasm for their music and cause was completely infectious. Their relaxed, friendly and completely unpretentious attitude warmed onlookers into a bopping, feel good group of revellers from one song to the next.

They performed playful chorographed routines, much to the crowd’s amusement, at one point inviting everyone to mount an imaginary motorbike, rev-up and prepare for their performance of “A Day At The Races”. The band’s incredible efforts at communicating with the crowd had everybody laughing, shouting, fist pumping, singing along and dancing at regular intervals throughout their short and sweet one hour set.

Jurassic 5 perform at the Ponderosa - photo by Rich Linley

Jurassic 5 perform at the Ponderosa - photo by Tarquin Clark

Half comedy, half skill, the two DJs (Cut Chemist and Nu Mark) took centre stage for ten minutes and threw themselves headfirst into showcasing the craziest DJ battle the crowd had ever seen. There were DJs. There were decks. But there were also the wackiest portable intruments containing mini mix tables which had been engineered around the concept of a DJ being able to leave his decks, head to the front of the stage and truly integrate with the crowd – something normally impossible.

There was a make-shift guitar containing a spinning deck and a necklace chain suspending a series of records fastened together. They played their portable mix tables as if they were conventional intruments with high paced, super skilled skipping and mixing much to the wonder of all watching. The real piece de resistance was the epic oversized spinning deck which took centre stage for the entirety of the performance. It was impossible to tell whether the deck was functional or was for show, but every time the DJs battled it out it appeared responsive to their movements which in turn send the crowd roaring in applause with woops and cheers reserved for something this truly unique and special.

Jurassic 5 DJ battle - Photo source

Catfish and the Bottlemen headlined on Sunday night delivering a slick, powerful performance with a fantastic light show and impulsive pops of coloured holi powder jetting up from the audience an regular intervals, making the performance a spectable to behold.

Pops of holi powder erupt from the crowd during Catfish and The Bottlemen

Launching straight in with ”Homesick”, Van McCann and the rest of his band carried the huge crowd through their setlist with heartfelt dedications to old and new fans, “This one’s for the fans that came and saw us headline at the Frog and Parrot those years ago” and praising those who helped the band reach number one with their recent album “The Ride”.

The staging and acoustic of the Pondersoa park worked perfectly with the natural slope of ground, creating an ampitheature like effect so that wherever you stood you had a fantastic view of the stage and an impressive sound quality.

Catfish and the Bottlemen - photo by Jenn McCambridge

Our top festival fashion looks of the weekend are:


Tramlines is an incredibly friendly festival. It’s warm, sociable vibe reflects the city of Sheffield and it’s all encompassing inclusive attitude, with independant traders and charitable projects shaping the city’s progress and expansion as in grows into a thriving hub and increasingly desirable city take root in.

Bring on Tramlines ’17! First release tickets are now on sale for £35+booking fee and can be found here:

Written by Becca Linnard and Hannah Bellamy

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