DAY 1 and Friday started off gloomy and wet in Sheffield but it didn’t dampen the spirit of the festival go-ers, even those dressed more suitabily to the heatwave earlier in the week. The first four hours it chucked it down but I’m guessing the opening acts on in the tents weren’t complaining about the large numbers of onlookers sheltering. Upon entering we were greeted by a free small can of INCH’S apple cider, delicious. The only food stall I visited throughout the festival was the CURRYWURST stall, the vegan hot dog with rosemary fries was the only food that looked like it was worth paying £10.50 for, it was so delicious and filling I went back the next day for the same. There was something for everyone though, from Greek to Indian and Pizza to Poutine and if you were lucky enough to get hungry while a top act was on then the queues weren’t too bad. The bars never seemed too busy either, although they had run out of a few drinks by Sunday evening.
SHED SEVEN on the main stage were playing to the soggy massive, all the crowd pleasing tracks were there, DISCO DOWN, CHASING RAINBOWS, OCEAN PIE and GOING FOR GOLD merging into the usual cover of SUSPICIOUS MINDS. Rick Witter managed an adequate amount of banter for a short set and threw a couple of maracas into the crowd for the kids.
BABY QUEEN had a massive upgrade from last year to the main stage and she won me over with her edgy and witty teenage lifestyle songs, WANT ME, BUZZKILL and her latest single NOBODY REALLY CARES. A nervous start but boy did she own that stage by the end (maybe the large glass of wine she downed in one helped, my kinda girl!!)
JAMES were on the main stage and are usually a big favourite at festivals, but this was a very young audience and I think the band knew early on it would be a tough crowd to win over.
The die hard fans were obviously singing and dancing at the front during COME HOME, BORN OF FRUSTRATION, CURSE CURSE, WALK LIKE YOU, GETTING AWAY WITH IT (ALL MESSED UP) and some newer stuff ISABELLA, ALL THE COLOURS OF YOU, BEAUTIFUL BEACHES, but it was only during SIT DOWN and LAID that the whole sea of bodies started bouncing around and belting it out. The band played as well as they always do and Tim stood on the barriers for a whole song but it just felt slightly underwhelming for a lifelong JAMES fan like me.
ORLA GARTLAND and KYNSY were both worth a watch, some good tunes in there, JADE BIRD has great vocals but the songs themselves didn’t really capture me. Other acts I managed to see, but only briefly, were LIME GARDEN, PERSIAN FURS and comedy acts VINCE ATTA and SEANN WALSH.
SAM FENDER was the main stage headliner and the park was heaving, this guy is the in thing right now. He’s a talented singer and musician but some of his songs just feel like I’ve heard them somewhere before, definitely a KILLERS vibe in there. I caught 7 tracks before I had to depart for the train home, and the fans did get a bit frenzied at one point during SPICE and he had to pause his set to calm things down before someone got seriously injured. It was the right thing to do and didn’t seem to affect the rest of the song. He was very good, just not to my taste.
DAY 2 and the weather was slightly better, I missed the openers due to cancelled trains, transport always seems to be an issue when travelling to and from Sheffield. Luckily I was in time for one of Yorkshires finest on the main stage, THE EVERLY PREGNANT BROTHERS, they really lift everyone’s spirits with their parody tunes like FAT TWAT, STUCK IN THE LIDL WITH YOU and DUNT THA WANT MI (Laura McClure from REVERAND AND THE MAKERS joined them on stage for this one). Frontman BIG SHAUN was modelling a BE MORE NULTY T shirt to honour the festivals founder SARAH NULTY and also payed tribute to AMY WINEHOUSE (she died 11 years to the day) with the parody of REHAB, ROVVRUM, where everyone gets to shout “FUCK Off” at the end, always amuses me.
THE LOTTERY WINNERS were on the main stage next and even though I only caught just over half the set from this Mancunian indie pop band they had great banter with the crowd and their songs are bloomin catchy too, FAVOURITE FLAVOUR, THE MEANING OF LIFE and HEADLOCK (which was coincidently locked in my head for the next few hours) were the ones that I remember.
On T’other stage was comedian RUSSELL KANE and he was hilarious, what more can I say, it did what it said on the tin. It was a bit like watching a tennis match though as he’s constantly flitting from one side of the stage to the other, I’d definitely go to one of his full shows.
Some other acts I caught a little of and enjoyed were OCTOBER DRIFT, CRAWLERS and PULP FRICTION ( a theatrical tribute to TARANTINO).
INHALER were the band I was most looking forward to seeing for the first time and they really knocked it out of the park on that main stage. This is a guitar fuelled rock band with talent, charisma and some totally banging tracks like MY HONEST FACE, IT WON’T ALWAYS BE LIKE THIS, WHEN IT BREAKS, CHEER UP BABY, MY KING WILL BE KIND and new single THESE ARE THE DAYS. Elijahs voice has an essence of Bono (his dad) and a few of the songs are slightly reminiscent of the early U2 days, let’s hope they make it even bigger, they deserve mega stardom.
THE VACCINES were next on the main stage and they were awesome, although I was very very very far away because the crowds were immense. Luckily the big screens capture the acts really well and also the crowd so you get an idea of how well the bands are going down. No danger of not enjoying this band though, thoroughly outstanding performance including all the favourites I ALWAYS KNEW, POST BREAK UP SEX, IF YOU WANNA, NORGAARD and ALL MY FRIENDS ARE FALLING IN LOVE.
KASABIAN headlined Saturday night on the main stage and they were more than worthy of that slot. I managed to catch CLUB FOOT, III RAY (THE KING), UNDERDOG, EEZ-EH and YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH A PSYCHO before I had to get a tram into Sheffield centre. They sounded fantastic and I’ve never been a massive fan before but having seen them live I’ve been converted.
I would have happily stayed for the full set but my favourite band THE VIRGINMARYS were playing TRAMLINES fringe at THE WASHINGTON and nothing could have stopped me going to that one. The place was rammed but I eventually got in after watching a couple of tracks through the window. These guys really rock and would love to see them at the main festival one day, their new single YOU’RE A KILLER sounded awesome live.
DAY 3 and the rain had returned with a vengeance but no way it was stopping these hardened northerners enjoying themselves, shares in the poncho business rocketed!!!
Comedian EMMANUEL SONUBI filled a gap in a packed out tent at T’other stage (whilst JASON MANFORD was stuck in traffic) and he did a fine job, very funny guy.
About 30 minutes late but, hey, Jason was hilarious, just wish I hadn’t been stood next to a boring guy that talked all the way through the act,obviously just sheltering from the rain in case it washed away the rest of his personality. The end of the show was rather surreal, culminating in everyone singing school hymns to a beat, unusual but it worked.
SPORTS TEAM were a winner on the main stage, I know I’m a bit late to the party having never even heard a song before but I stayed for the full set despite planning on seeing another act. Alex is a natural showman, moves like Jagger, looked like he’s been doing it for just as long too. The mic lead was extended to its full potential as he headed towards the crowd. He also took over the role of guitarist for one track, LONG HOT SUMMER, and Rob (guitarist, backing vocals and songwriter) obtained the vocal limelight instead, wow he has an awesome voice, I really enjoyed it and being able to mix it up a bit could keep this band very interesting for a long time.
Other tracks I liked were CAMEL CREW, FISHING, KUTCHER and their new single COOL IT KID.
Next on the main stage were local regulars REVEREND AND THE MAKERS, always popular at this festival as singer JON MCCLURE was one of the original founders. They are also highly entertaining and always get the crowd in party mode with their catchy tunes and witty lyrics.
The set was full of bangers to get the crowd bouncing, BASSLINE, HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION OF THE WORLD, BANDITS, HE SAID HE LOVED ME, SILENCE IS TALKING, OUT OF THE SHADOWS, OPEN YOUR WINDOW and SHINE A LIGHT. They also played 2 brand new songs HEATWAVE IN THE COLD NORTH and PROBLEMS and Jon commented that he’d never had such a good response to 2 new songs before, they also have a new bass player, Antonia, and she really fits in well with the band. Great vibe during this set and the sun even came out at one point!!!
Well I tried to get to see SHAUN WILLIAMSON for his BARRIOKE but so did afew hundred other people so I wandered over to T’other stage to see if I could catch KELIS, tent also overflowing so back to the main stage for a bit of THE WOMBATS and headliners MADNESS, although I had to leave for the replacement bus service after one song ONE STEP BEYOND.
This has always been one of my favourite UK festivals but the transport situation puts more of a dampner on it than the rain does and is possibly why the crowd are mostly local. Don’t buy a return for the tram because they either finish early or are rammed. If you are going next year I’d book a hotel asap and I can guarantee you will enjoy it a lot more.
Words by Joanne Marsland
Photos by Philip Goddard