Tramlines 2022 became the 2nd year post covid that saw eager festival goers fill the park. From start to finish we saw the festival showcase some of the best up and coming bands the country has to offer, carefully curated with cult icons that made us see nostalgia succumb to the wonders of live performance; the collaboration of the two that secured the biggest and best all-inclusive 3-day extravaganza Hillsborough Park has seen to date.

This year Tramlines festival hit different.  This was a weekend that no longer felt filled with worry and unease, that would be only a memory of what was a year ago. This time around, it became clear that attendees that no longer were phased by the worries of days gone by, and after a good year of practice, it very quickly became apparent that the hunger for more was not going to go anywhere soon.

Friday was a frenzy full of excitement as attendees swarmed the Park for the first day of fun to commence. Admittedly, there still is something truly special about seeing people enjoy themselves freely once again. Tramlines seems like the perfect opportunity for those to do that; a large open space fuelled by live music and entertainment where everyone can connect and be free.

After navigating our way through a much busier crowd compared to last year’s covid regulated audience cap; we found our feet back at the Sarah McNulty main stage once again. It was clear amongst everyone that it felt good to be back. It wasn’t long before a young Declan McKenna took to the stage with his band, to the sound of ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’ which felt all a bit too fitting, giving the feeling of a great weekend to come. Quickly getting things underway with ‘Beautiful Faces’ and ‘The Key to Life on Earth’ reflected Declan’s eagerness to get dancing with all those who were watching him. Plenty of interaction with the crowd ensured that everyone felt involved as this well-rehearsed machine made their way through the set effortlessly. It wasn’t long before final song and hit ‘British Bombs’ reached the ears of the audience across the park, which felt like the climax of what we had building up to so far. Coloured smoke burst from flares filled the air as the intro dropped down into verse and shortly following chorus, all the while as fans clambered onto the shoulders of whoever was closest by. A bouncing crowd and chunky guitars will prove to warm a crowd up well and truly, especially after a performance like that.

Following this was largely subversive Manchester icons, James. The forever growing 9-piece filled the Sarah McNulty Stage with lead singer Tim Booth following shortly after; before taking a short moment, glaring into the sea of viewers; while letting the iconic synth line drive them into huge hit ‘Come Home’. The song encapsulated the nostalgic Madchester 90s era in its entirety and was certain to get audiences moving. The band closely followed up with track from their most recent album; ‘Isabella’ which would prove to get those younger fans dancing along too. The effortless flow into tracks from ‘Le Petit Mort’ is entirely reflective of the bands aim to play a different set every show; and was further backed by Tim speaking directly to the audience where he reassured them that “No show is the same”. This was also further emphasised by the growing scale of sound the band now provides with new addition. It wouldn’t have been a James festival slot without a couple of classics thrown in for good measure; ‘Sit Down’ and ‘Laid’ proved to get the audiences belting out the iconic lyrics to the top of their lungs, echoing throughout the park. A final farewell and euphoric finale were ensured through hit classic ‘Sound’ which gave space for all members of audience to encourage a reprise once more, and then some.

Closing Tramlines on the Friday was none other than rising star Sam Fender. If the swarm of pinstriped shirts stamped with the iconic ‘Newcy Brown Ale logo hadn’t given it away yet, the thumping drums leading into ‘Will We Talk’ quickly established his presence into the Yorkshire fields.  Shortly following this was ‘Getting Started’ which felt amply fitted for the weekend to follow, with the crowds belting out chorus after chorus. Quickly blitzing the way through the setlist, Fender addressed the audience in recognition of his rapid growth over the years and how this was his first ever headline slot at a major festival, quickly following up with a humble message of thanks. Chunky tunes ‘Spice’ and ‘Howdon Aldi Death Queue’ really seemed to get the party going once more as Fender spared no penny on the production, with heavy pyro blasting up into the darkening sky within the second and third reprise respectively. Following this, we saw Fender effortlessly bring everything down a notch once more, with ‘Spit of You’ and ‘Get You Down’ which saw audience members arm in arm swaying to the sound of Johnny ‘Blue Hat’s Sax. It wasn’t long before we reached the title track of Fenders preceding album; ‘Seventeen Going Under’ and final track ‘Hypersonic Missiles’. No expense was spared as the whole crowd bounced in unison as fireworks lit Hillsborough Park throughout the two tracks, from start to finish. It would have been wondered that the Geordie lad could have been overwhelmed once more with the sheer appreciation that he gets from fans of all ages, somewhat reminiscent of his Glastonbury performance earlier in the year. However, this time Mr Fender was back with a bang, with a debut headline performance as one to be remembered by one and all and he certainly got the party started.

Written by Joe Mcrae
Photo by Lindsay Melbourne