SURREAL, euphoric, life-affirming — Tramlines returned with an emotional bang.
The largest festival Europe has seen since the start of the pandemic took over Hillsborough Park for a three-day knees up with 40,000 people and no masks or social distancing.
“How do we dance again?” friends asked as we stared around wide-eyed and overjoyed on day one.
But it didn’t take us long to remember when kitchen disco queen, Sophie Ellis-Bextor (pictured,below), took to the stage.
Her weekly Twitter karaoke parties were a lockdown staple and her set was lined with classic disco bangers — Madonna’s Like a Prayer being a highlight. Dressed in the glittery catsuit she wore for her first online kitchen disco, Sophie brought the crowd together for the first big singalong of the festival and it was joyous. Maybe even a little emotional.
After they were forced to cancel a string of hometown shows a week earlier due to Covid, I’d been holding my breath hoping The Streets would make their headline set, which they did — phew!
Frontman Mike Skinner toyed with crowd, telling us we had to “Save ourselves for Dizzee Rascal”, before launching into tracks from their 2002 debut album, Original Pirate Material — the soundtrack to my “yoof”. And I was 16 again as the lairy Fit But You Know It anthem got everyone jumping around.
Saturday’s Main Stage was opened by dreamy Sheffield quartet Before Breakfast, who eased everyone in with their piano, cello and vocal harmonies. I could get lost in lead singer Gina Walters’ ethereal voice.
Next up, ukulele legends the Everly Pregnant Brothers drew everyone else out of bed.
Paying homage to the NHS, telling Boris where to stick it — lead singer Shaun Doane was on his usual great form.
He admitted he was a little nervous — as did many acts over the weekend — but grateful to be back.
Laura McClure from Reverend and the Makers joined the band for their Human League cover, Dunt Tha Want Mi Baby, watched from the crowd by “The Rev” himself, with their son on his shoulders.
Improvements have been made to the layout, with a new area opened up for T'Other stage and the family area moved to a more suitable corner.
The Open Arms tent was also a great addition that had some quirky small acts on, like Ru Paul’s Drag Race star Vinegar Strokes (pictured, below).
Surprise highlight was multi-instrumentalist Georgia, who was worthy of being bumped up to a T'Other stage headline set. Think Kate Bush meets Robyn. She’s a one-woman powerhouse armed only with a huge drum machine and tonnes of energy.
But the final word has to go to Sunday’s headliner, Dizzee Rascal. Give him all the money. All of it. He’s one of the best festival bookings there is.
Grime, rap, pop, dance — he brings it all and his cover of Candi Staton’s You Got the Love had everyone embracing. Hugs! Finally! You can see from the video (above) how Bonkers the crowd went for him — just wait for the drop!
Well done, Tramlines —it was all so perfect.