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Tramlines From MCR With Love

Now Then Manchester takes a trip across the Pennines for Tramlines Festival.

One golden rule when attending a festival is to ensure that you have an idea of when the acts you want see are playing. Although numerous venues schedule performers from midday onwards, not all of them do. So if you decide to embark on a two-mile walk to reach venues that are not so much fringe as almost based in Doncaster, be prepared to hear on arrival, “…but they’re not on for another three hours”. At least the four-mile hike revealed the lovely Sentinel brewery en route.

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Was it worth it? Well, yes, because there is the change to drop in and discover groups such as Granfalloon – a three-piece from Manchester, rather than the USA version who are presumably also familiar with the works of Kurt Vonnegut after which they are named.

There aren’t many people who use an Omnichord, but Richard Lomax is one. He sat between Dave Bertram (guitar) and Peer Van See (keyboards). Perhaps the Omnichord’s use will become more prevalent once audiences hear its beautifully light sounds.

Describing themselves as ‘folktronica’ is a perfect summation of the richly glorious songs they have created and delivered in near total darkness. Previewing tracks from Lomax’s album, Down There For Dancing, their lyrics can be both biting and humorous, linking Manchester places such as Trafford bars, then coupling Princess Eugenie with Queen Nefertiti.

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Beyond headliners Noel Gallagher and Blossoms, there were other well-received Manchester outfits, including The Moods, whose ten musicians just fitted onto the Crystal stage. Crowds can remain indifferent, but here at least one person went to the bar, bought a drink and passed it across to the band with an approving nod. That was in appreciation for a mashed up collection of rap, reggae and rhythm, supplemented by trombone and violin. It’s a musical version of the Fast and Furious films.

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From wider Greater Manchester, Wigan’s Lottery Winners’ nonstop gigging has honed their performances to be as slick and engaging as their hook-laden songs. Deep in the labyrinthine Plug venue and in scorching temperatures, Thomas Rylance still donned his beanie hat and flak jacket. It might be his only clothing, in which case it could be a very aromatic tour bus, but it may be more a sign of the defiant attitude that facilitated a new record deal. Along with Robert Lally (guitar), Katie Lloyd (bass) and Joe Singleton (drums), the poppy rock eventually won over the 50 people standing in the venue.

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If there were similar numbers downstairs at Cafe Totem, there’d be no room for the sweat to drip down the walls. As it was, the venue hailed by Noel Gallagher as “the best club in the UK for future rock’n’roll stars” was still packed. In Dean Carne, Generation have a frontman with the charisma and stage presence to grab attentions. Supported by brother James, Nathan Sanderson (drums) and Joe Murdoch (bass), the Liverpool-based four-piece are thankfully nothing like The Beatles. Setting a furious pace, half the band were soon stripped to the waist, before Dean wrapped himself in a stars’n’stripes banner, wiping away the river of perspiration running down his face.

Although music is a main constituent of the three-day festival, it has never been Tramlines’ sole concern, with family entertainment around most corners. Professor Vanessa’s street arts arena saw a host of entertainers working their socks off repeating sets throughout the day to keep old and young engaged, whilst the main events area is now down at Hillsborough Park, which means the crowd is more dispersed. The irony of the event is that trams were on strike that weekend. ‘Buslines’ doesn’t quite have the same impact.

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Learn more

Tramlines 2018 took place from 22-24 July at various venues across Sheffield.
All photos by Ged Camera.

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