Circa Waves, DMA’s and Richard Ashcroft performing at the Tramlines Festival Sheffield on Friday 21st July 2023.

Images and Review by Kevin Cooper

It does not matter how much planning the organisers put into a Festival, if the Rain God’s have decided to make an appearance, there is nothing that can be done about it except embrace the mud and ensure that you have a really good time. And that is exactly what this packed crowd did on Friday night at the Tramlines Festival.

With the likes of Cian Ducrot, Pale Waves and Bloc Party gracing T’Other Stage and The Enemy, Circa Waves, Sea Girls, DMA’s and headliner Richard Ashcroft dominating the Sarah Nulty’s Main Stage, it was difficult for some of the crowd to decide which artists they wanted to see given that the mud made it increasingly difficult to move between the two.

On the Main stage after The Bug Club was the Liverpudlian quartet, Circa Waves, who are no strangers to the Festival circuit and can always be relied upon to put on a great set, as they did exactly that on Friday night.

Guitarist and lead singer Kieran Shudall, lead guitarist Joe Falconer, bassist Sam Rourke and drummer Colin Jones took to the stage to a huge cheer from the energetic but wet crowd. Opening with fans favourite Movies from their 2019 album, What’s It Like Over There? the crowd went wild.

Celebrating their tenth anniversary as a band this year, their winning formula of simple verses and catchy shoutable choruses meant that the crowd knew every word and were not ashamed to sing along. Highlights included Get Away which got a great reaction from the crowd as did the Wombatesque Sad Happy. Fire That Burns is undoubtedly one of the band’s finest songs and on Friday it was given an outing.

There was a rapturously received Jacquline and the three songs from their latest album, Hell On Earth, Do You Wanna Talk and Carry You Home which were all very well received. With Shudall’s fine passionate voice and Falconer’s guitar ringing around the Arena, the crowd were fully engaged.

They finished with an extended and exemplary version of the band’s trademark early single, T-Shirt Weather, which gets the same reception whether played in small rooms or on a huge festival stage and whilst it was suppose to bring back memories of English summers, with the weather on Friday doing its very worse, only the very brave wore a T-Shirt, much to the admiration of those around them.

With Circa Waves waving to the crowd, they left the stage. This Steel City crowd duly acknowledged their triumphant return to Tramlines.

Australia’s DMA’s are also no strangers to Festival stages and at Tramlines they brought a much needed bit of sunshine to an otherwise wet and windy Friday night. They have taken the indie rock world by storm since their formation in 2012 and their heartfelt lyrics and infectious melodies have earned them a legion of dedicated fans and it would seem that most of them were in the Tramlines audience.

Delivering a set list that was expertly curated for the Festival stage; they combined fans favourites with new material. New song; How Many Dreams? kicked off their set and did so in sublime fashion as the crowd bounced in unison to its upbeat energy. There was no letting up from lead vocalist Tommy O’Dell, lead guitarist Matthew Mason and rhythm guitarist Johnny Took, as they grasped the crowd’s attention, and they gripped it so tightly with The Glow that the intricate guitar work of Mason and Took was evident for all to see and for the ever popular Silver and new song Olympia saw the crowd give a passionate response.

A real highlight was Delete, a fans favourite from their debut album Hills End. The powerful acoustic arrangement of the song showcased the lyrics and had the crowd singing along to every word. Feels Like 37 was a haunting melody with emotional lyrics and O’Dell delivered a powerful and heartfelt performance, captivating the crowd from the very beginning.

Their too short set flew by, despite the weather, and there were brilliant moments when the crowd completely lost themselves in a display of pure euphoria. Hello Girlfriend with its extended outro was one of the songs that sent them into sheer bedlam.

Finishing with their biggest hit from their new album, Everybody’s Saying Thursday’s The Weekend, their set had been a testament to their status as one of the most talented and captivating live bands of their generation. And a soaked and sodden crowd absolutely agreed.

Headlining the Sarah Nulty’s Main Stage was Richard Ashcroft who was finally able to put in an appearance, having refused to take part in the Covid Government Experiment Festival in 2021, only to be replaced by Supergrass.

British culture has always had a soft spot for enigmatic eccentrics, and that has to include Ashcroft who has always been an irrepressible force, not shy at making his presence and his views known to anyone who is prepared to listen. But his contribution to UK music over the course of thirty years should not be under estimated.

Swaggering onto the main stage to a rapturous applause, the former Verve front man, with his arms aloft opened up with 1997 hit Space And Sound followed swiftly by another couple of Verve hits like Lucky Man and with a raise of his acoustic guitar and with a staccato like strum, Sonnet immediately captured the crowd’s attention.

An appreciative Ashford introduced his band and thanked the crowd for coming out and supporting the Festival as he reflected on how hard it had been for the music industry in recent years. He launched into Surprise By The Joy from 2018’s Natural Rebel which was a real rock stomper and which was perfectly suited for this enthusiastic crowd.

A Song For The Lovers soared around the Arena and is in itself a defiant call to arms. Underpinned by those gothic stings it was certainly a classic in its own right. Break The Night With Colour turned into a bluesy spaced out jam and Music Is Power with its reggae tinged funk had the crowd dancing along, and not just to keep warm.

The Drugs Don’t Work came in the middle of the set, and with its gently strummed chords, lifted by Ashcroft’s reflective vocals had the crowd singing along at the top of their voices. Set closer, Bittersweet Symphony, crafted twenty five years ago by five lads from Wigan and sung back at full volume by the Tramlines huge crowd, must have been a trip down memory lane for most.

A mention must be made to everyone involved in organising this year’s Festival. They surely looked at the weather for Donington and Glastonbury and thought that they must have been in with a shout for some good weather. Not being deterred by the heavy rain and wind everything was done to ensure that everyone attending was safe. There were late Arena openings whilst straw was put down to soak up the mud and to make it easy for the emergency services to access the Arenas if needed, as well as making sure that the camping facilities were still habitable and offering assistance whenever they could. From the thousands of fans who braved the elements to enjoy a fantastic weekend of great music; thank you and until next year.