Tramlines 2023 review: It rained, it poured - but we just about conquered mud and music mayhem

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It rained, it poured – but somehow, thousands of music lovers conquered the mud and mayhem of this year’s Tramlines music festival in Sheffield.

South Yorkshire’s premier outdoor live music event turned into a sodden quagmire on a weekend when the rain just wouldn’t stop deluging Hillsborough Park.

But that didn’t stop 40,000 music lovers making the most of the horrendous conditions and enjoying a feast of top notch performances from a string of top perfomers including headliners Richard Ashcroft, The Courteeners and Paul Heaton.

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Here’s our look back at this year's muddy madness – and a catch up with indie rockers Sea Girls who were among those taking to the stage

Muddy mayhem threatened to overshadow Tramlines but music won out in the end.Muddy mayhem threatened to overshadow Tramlines but music won out in the end.
Muddy mayhem threatened to overshadow Tramlines but music won out in the end.

Kicking off the first day of were British Midlands-based group The Enemy, who brought their usual firebrand edgy rock to the early onlookers.

Bug Club followed with fun filled anthems, that were neatly tied in with everyday stories woven creatively into each song.

Scouse rockers Circa Waves kicked off the indie party with fan favourite anthem "Movies" which saw the first sight of moshpits forming at the festival.

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The high energy set, being led by energetic front man Kieran Shudall, felt like an extension from their prior gig at the Sheffield Academy earlier this year.

The Merseyside band followed with indie hits one after the other, such as "Move To San Francisco" and "Sad Happy", which saw the crowd hit back every lyric.

The band still found time for newer songs from their latest album Never Going Under, which generated positive responses from the audience as "Do You Wanna Talk" and "Carry You Home" were repeated back line by line. Circa Waves rounded off the set with an indie favourite which saw the crowd being encouraged to get on shoulders, with that "T-shirt Weather" closing off what was a spectacular set.

Carrying on from the indie rock before them came Sea Girls.

The English alt indie pop band, who delivered storytelling anthems in a stylish rock themed way, really got everyone feeling in the festival mood.

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With each tune played, you could hear the mosh pits chanting every word back to the band, with tunes such as "Do You Really Wanna Know" especially hitting the right notes.

They also played their new unreleased tune "Weekends and Workdays", which the crowd lapped up - and are now anticipating for its release.

As always they finished on a high, seeing out their set with "Call Me Out", which saw the front man Henry head down to the barrier for the last couple of lines from the song.

The festival was then set with its first major schedule split which saw DMA's and Pale Waves taking to their respective stages at similar times.

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DMA's took to the main stage and worked their way through a tightly packed set. With their dedicated following rocking to each anthem.

The energised trio kept the crowd moving and singing through out the entire set, performing anthems such as "Tape Deck Sick" and "Forever" which saw a wave of hands fly towards the air.

The Manchester indie punk band Pale Waves took to the T'other Stage in a tent filled with dedicated fans.

Lead frontwoman Heather Baron-Gracie took to the stage as guitarist and vocalist for the group.

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A couple of tunes in, she proceeded to state that “Northerners do it better”, which received a loud roar of response from the crowd.

Anthems like "Television Romance" saw the tent rocking to the sweetly tuned guitars and romance angst filled lyrics.

When nearing the end of the set, Heather chose to wear the LGBTQ+ flag, stating songs such as "She's my Religion" were for the “queers among the crowd,” the openly gay lead strongly showing her beliefs to a crowd with overwhelming positivity. They ended an energetic guitar strung set with fan favourite "Jealousy".

Continuing the party atmosphere was Bloc Party, the post-punk band who recently supported Paramore on tour.

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They took to the T'other Stage where their ambitious genre mashing tracks saw the crowd being hit with anthem after anthem.

"This Modern Love" saw the crowd enter a frenzy and songs like "Helicopter" brought back memories of their early 2000s as the crowd rolled along to each lyric.

The band found time for their latest releases from the new EP "The High Life", continuing their legacy of hits. "Banquet" saw the crowd erupt instantly into a ball of joy as the iconic string anthem, launched the crowd into reciting word after word, hands in the air leading to an atmosphere unmatched.

Friday headliner Richard Ashcroft swaggered into view in a set that was sprinkled with plenty of moments from The Verve’s back catalogue.

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Sonnet and Lucky Man were early highlights, but of course, the biggest cheers and singalongs were reserved for much-loved classics like Song For The Lovers, The Drugs Don’t Work and of course, Bitter Sweet Symphony, which rounded off a lively first day.

Day two saw a half an hour entry delay due to the weather conditions but that wouldn't stop the people of Sheffield from having a good time.

To brighten up the stage early on were the Everly Pregnant Brothers, who brought their usual comedic proceedings to the stage with all their usual favourites.

Billed as The Scottish Flies in a mystery set announcement which set the field buzzing, by the time boy band McFly took to the stage, there can't have been anyone in Hillsborough who wasn’t aware.

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All About You, Obviously and 5 Colours In Her Hair were the perfect pop pick-me-ups as the muddy conditions threatened to overwhelm the park.

There was space for the angsty-anthems of Kate Nash who then gave way to Stockport indie icons Blossoms, who were next to take to the main stage, which they did in style.

As soon as the synth driven riff to "Your Girlfriend" was blasted out, the crowd got moving instantly.

And they swiftly followed with "Honey Sweet" which was met with a loud roar from the crowd, and even had the non-fan onlookers singing the catchy riffs.

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The quintet love their onstage antics – as for "Oh No (I Think I'm In Love)" they'd stop all at once and play musical statues until leadman Tom Ogden would unfreeze and ask the Sheffield crowd if they were still there, which would warrant a loud cheer continuing the rest of the anthem.

Tracks such as "Care For" and "The Keeper" showed the band’s ability to play mellower offerings yet still retain the crowd’s attention and keep them grooving.

Between a couple of the later tunes, they announced how their first ever festival was Tramlines in 2014 and that the band had been around for 10 years, warranting Tom to ask the crowd to raise the "tins" in celebration of the band’s longevity.

The Britpop revivalists took to their last anthem "Charlemagne" in style and rocked through the indie classic with their usual flair.

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The return of Blossoms felt like a celebration of all they have accomplished over the years and seeing them this far up the bill surely should be a sign that it won't be long until they are headlining Tramlines soon.

It was down to perennial festival favourites The Courteeners to close Saturday’s proceedings and of course, they did it in style with a carefully picked set of crowd pleasers with Summer and Small Bones getting the party started.

Of course, it was mega hit Not Nineteen Forever which received the biggest ovation of the evening, drawing to a close another muddy and wet day in this corner of Sheffield.

Sunday then came around with a worrying statement from the festival organisers, stating that “following the continued rain overnight, we are carrying out essential work on site which is likely to delay today's opening time."

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Fortunately due to the hard work from on site members, the festival’s opening times wasn’t delayed massively, which was a relief for fans of music and having a good time, as English weather like this has never stopped anyone northern from making the most of it!

Fortunately The Zutons weren't impacted by this delay and were still allowed to take to the mainstage as the first act of the day.

Following on were pop icons Sugababes – and the defining British girl band took to the Sarah Nulty stage and gave a performance showing why they defined an era of 21st century pop.

On the T'other Stage, London singer-songwriter Matilda Mann graced an audience with easy-going melodies that made a horrendous day for weather feel like a calming spring afternoon.

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The youthful artist played tracks from her latest EP "You Look Like You Can't Swim" among her other singles which saw the crowd sway softly to a lovely sounding and melodic set.

Her last song "Bloom" got the crowd moving and was a sweet end to what was a really moving performance. Her name is one that should be on more people's music radars, and is definitely one to watch for future festivals.

Sheffield’s very own Reverend and The Makers were, as you’d expect, treated like Gods, with frontman Jon McClure as ever having the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand.

Another band more often than not on the wishlist for festival organisers are Yorkshire’s very own Kaiser Chiefs.

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As per usual, frontman Ricky Wilson was in fine form, and of course Ruby and I Predict A Riot are just the job on a rainy day when big songs were needed.

Which just left it to Paul Heaton to round things off.

The former Housemartins and Beautiful South icon has more than enough up his sleeve in terms of hits and they were all on show as the rains continued to deluge Hillsborough.

Rotterdam, Perfect 10, Don’t Marry Her, Sheep and Caravan Of Love were all on show as the Sheffield United fan gave Tramlines a superb if soggy sign off to 2023.

Let’s do all it again next year – hopefully without the mud and rain!

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Ahead of this year’s festival, I caught up with Henry (frontman) and Oli (drummer) from Sea Girls.

What's it like to be returning back to Tramlines and this time to be further up the line-up?

Henry: Good, yeah it’s really exciting. We were pretty early on in 2019, still on the main stage and the weather was awful but the crowd were amazing.

Oli - But it's nice, we can feel the tangible improvement and the progress.

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Henry - It's been one of the ones we've really been looking forward to this summer.

Henry - We really love the site, Sheffield is always really great.

What song of yours do you believe best compares to the atmosphere of Tramlines and why?

Henry - "Too Much Fun", because walking around and going to a festival just getting into the music, really fits the themes we delve into.

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Which other artists on the line-up are you looking forward to watching?

Henry & Oli: We're really looking forward to Richard Ashcroft, the DMA's and Circa Waves. Love Circa Waves, very friendly lot. But yeah those tend to always sound really good and are a must for us, when we get the chance.

Which song do you most enjoy performing at festivals?

Henry - It has to be "All I Want To Hear You Say" or "Call Me Out", although we have been saving this new song, that we've been playing for ages and have really tightened it. Which we play just as good as our old stuff, called "Weekends and Workdays".

Favourite thing about festival season?

Oli - Being able to see other bands, often as a band we don't get to see other acts, whether that be from touring or recording, so it's nice to have it all here at once.

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Henry - With the atmosphere of each band being all there to perform, like recently when we were next to Self Esteem who was really lovely, she even gave some of her birthday cake, which is a bonus for me because I really love cake. I just love the backstage atmosphere.

What 3 words would you use to describe the feeling of Tramlines?

Henry - Wild, Wet.

Oli - Buzzing.

Who's your favourite Sheffield artist?

Oli - I love Pulp, we also love Arctic Monkeys as we got to support them the last time they did Sheffield. But probably has to be Arctic Monkeys for us.

Which song have you enjoyed performing most from the latest album?

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Henry - "Sick", I love playing "Sick", it's got such a good attitude and it's quite different to our other songs. Which is nice as it breaks up the set, it's also one of the key reasons why we placed it near the start of Homesick as it was the most different and we like to show the progression from each title.

How important do you believe festivals like these are to the music industry and why?

Oli - So important, it gives people a chance to discover new music, as a bassline. As many will be here for Richard Ashcroft but in the process they could possibly discover their next favourite band, because you could mindlessly shuffle through songs on Spotify in hope to find new artists but being able to see something and hit you is just a massive difference.

Henry - We noticed originally when we put out "Call Me Out" and it was massive as it allowed us to tour festivals, travelling in hatchbacks, going from progressively larger stages, it just made a huge difference for us.

Oli - Festivals are like a city of music.

Do you see yourselves returning to Sheffield?

Henry - Yes, definitely. We played here in 2022 and it was such a highlight, playing at the Academy, we absolutely loved it. We think it's about time we come back and do a headline show here soon.

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