As a subsidiary of Sheffield’s city wide Tramlines Festival that has been around for a number of years and which I have attended previously and seen some amazing acts like Myrkur, Amplifier, Anathema, The Pineapple Thief and Oathbreaker to name a few.
The whole day was massively subsidised, though the beer prices weren’t, with an advance ticket price of just £6, yes you read that right, for which I got to see seven extremely varied acts that kicked off with Yorkshire band Trigger Thumb whose math rock gymnastics were testament to their talent but not their ability to write cohesive songs to embed in the head. That being said the band was welcomed very warmly by the already decent sized mid-afternoon crowd. The spiralling guitar work equated to a style similar to Rolo Tomassi as each guy cavorted around the stage with distinct accomplishment.
I’d seen local act Body Hound before and was hugely looking forward to their show as they produced a masterclass in instrumental post rock vibrancy. Their energised tunes were saturated in acrobatic guitar work as each guy utilised the stage fully, engaging with the increasing crowd with fluidised tempo changes and cohesive riff morphing that instilled an aura of catchiness with adroit musicianship. Each riff catapulted their songs to varying levels of impetus, balancing the heavier denser phases with more tuneful ripostes.
I was vaguely aware of the name Boss Keloid, before this gig and indeed the act is playing Bloodstock in a couple of weeks, but alas I doubt I will be checking them out there unless there is nothing else on as whilst their set was rammed with riffs and hooks it felt a tad jaded which isn’t to say that the band wasn’t skilful as they definitely were. The dulcet dolefulness was balanced by more intricate progressive poise as every song offered something different, from Amorphis like melody lines to a grungier Pearl Jam or Soundgarden down-tuned riffing viscosity style. However the audience clearly enjoyed their set as I opted for another beer courtesy of my shooter; thank you very much.
Talking of my shooter, he had ‘bigged up’ A.A. Williams prior to coming and indeed after his description I was very much anticipating an emotive set which is exactly what I and the gathered crowd got. The multi-instrumentalist played keyboards, acoustic and electric guitar and performed vocals with a backing raft of musicians who were equally dextrous. The band took a while to get going as the drummer took an age to get his sound right it seemed, before they breezed on stage ready to start, though the pink gaffer tape on the keyboard needed removing as it was a distraction. The songs offered varying levels of intensity with more austere metal aspects contrasting with the sorrowful acoustic moments to produce a set laced with atmosphere though the vocals were far too low in the mix, and at times inaudible to my ancient auditory system. I did enjoy the blackened intrusions to the songs as they created angst against the more dramatic and emotively charged moments as the crowd, again, fully appreciated what was being played and moreover were mostly very respectful during the set for the quieter more serene songs or sections as I was left thinking I needed to hear the studio output for a fuller appreciation.
Svalbard was another act I was looking forward to as this UK act increased the power massively with their blackened infused post rock assault. The band was incredible on stage, with each member fully absorbed with each song played, they crashed through a handful of tracks that varied in tempo as much as they varied in riffs which exuded in waves of unmitigated fury. The vocalist was astounding, her ability to produce outright vehemence tempered by that post rock sensibility was superbly executed. It was interesting watching the crowd whilst these were on as it was clear that some had turned up to this event to see what it was like and given it was only a tenner on the door who can blame them, but I suspect for some of them it was their first time witnessing a blast beat which were as vitriolic as any black metal act you care to mention. There was a seething acrimony about their set that created layers of texture amid the pirouetting guitar work as the band thanked everybody for attending and I vowed to check out this exceptional band pronto.
The only band not of UK origin was Japanese instrumental post rock juggernaut Mono, who had by far the largest audience. Their brand of music wasn’t the easiest to listen to as their epic tunes produced a pyroclastic bombardment as, curiously, both guitarists were sat down for the set. Their atmospheric guitar work weaved portentous melancholy into the pummelling drum display that was set against a minimal lighting display. Blanketing the audience in solemnity was a huge facet of their music and undeniably that was what the crowd particularly enjoyed as the bass player started to sing on one song. The pattern of tranquil atmosphere followed by utter savagery was repeated in the set and though I started to tire of their music after about 40 minutes Mono were absolutely the favoured act of the day by the crowd.
Closing the 2019 Tramlines Fringe Festival were Belfast post rock instrumental act And So I Watch You From Afar. Their name maybe a handful but their music was beautifully played with sumptuous guitar work interlaced with thrumming dynamism and energy. Their ability to link in calm ethereal pieces with more intense eclecticism was delivered excellently as the slight psychedelic overtones danced neatly atop the hypnotic guitar work which was rife with hooks and delicate texturizing. The eruptions in heaviness were well received by yours truly adding another level of power to their set which I couldn’t unfortunately stay until the end due to transport arrangements. However if you’ve never been to the Tramlines Fringe Festival then I suggest you give it a try as it is an excellent day out held in a fantastic venue that maybe you wouldn’t ordinarily see rock and metal bands in.
WORDS: MARTIN HARRIS