Tramlines

Various venues, Sheffield, Friday, July 20 - Sunday, July 22

Once a year, every year, the good people of Sheffield put on a festival that’s fun, free, and bulging with brand new talent. Here’s how 2012’s installment went down…

THE BUBBLING UP…

Though AlunaGeorge’s sultry hit ‘You Know You Like It’ remains their calling card, Friday night at The Harley proves the London duo have more in their arsenal. Producer George Reid peppers probing pop hooks with bass-heavy influences, but it’s vocalist Aluna Francis who takes centre-stage. Her quietly dominant presence and her vocals decorate Reid’s intelligent constructions with a shimmering finesse.

…AND THE SIMMERING DOWN

Like AlunaGeorge, Charli XCX feels on the cusp of blowing up. Live, however, the 19-year-old lacks the invention or charisma of her peers. Mid-afternoon on Saturday, her voice falls flat trying to recreate the dark edges of her juddering electro, and a near-wardrobe malfunction during ‘Lock You Up’ provides a greater talking point among the crowd than her enthusiastic but ultimately slightly limp performance.

THE GRANDEST RETURN OF THE WEEKEND

For Esben & The Witch’s first UK appearance since November last year, only ‘Marching Song’ and the spine-tingling finale of ‘Eumenides’ are included from their 2011 debut ‘Violet Cries’. The rest is all new, taking their cavernous beat-driven atmospherics up a notch, with Thomas Fisher now switching between keys, drums, guitar and vocals – sometimes in one song. The trio are occasionally rusty, but frequently brilliant. The omens for album two are good.

THE OFCOM AWARD FOR FOUL LANGUAGE

According to Frankie & The Heartstrings drummer Dave Harper, swearing’s forbidden on the main stage, but that doesn’t stop Frankie Francis asking the crowd if they’re “pissed”, before being called a “daft shit” by Harper. There’s nothing so blue in the music, and their breezy indie jangle is perfect for the glorious Sunday afternoon sun, galvanising a crowd whose ears are burning for all the right reasons.

THE BAND THAT SLAYED THEM ALL

Andy Falkous has been Wales’ angriest man for over a decade, and the frustrations of every toilet venue pour out as he leads Future Of The Left in front of a humongous crowd. They play two mclusky songs, which merely show how much the shark-bite quality of FOTL songs ‘Failed Olympic Bid’ and ‘Sheena Is A T-Shirt Salesman’ now outstrip them. On this form they’re the best rock band in the UK.

Simon Jay Catling