Tramlines: Five Hidden Gems

Up and coming talent from Sheffield's musical bonanza...

Rather than waffle endlessly about how good (nearly) everyone was who I saw at Tramlines, I’ve picked five stellar sets from over the weekend that might have otherwise dipped under the radar.

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I tried to arrange an interview with Nao a short while ago and her PR team said Nao wasn't doing interviews at the moment because she didn't feel like she had a lot to say. Well, after watching her Tramlines performance I completely disagree. Her words, her body language, her outfit and the capacity crowd spoke volumes about what a talent she is. The Harley was packed out as she danced through her set of wonky dance which included stand out tracks ‘Firefly’, ‘So Good’ and ‘Zillionaire’.

Even at a festival, it can be hard to engage with a full crowd, but Nao's smile moved even person's feet in the venue – making the the sweatiest, and best, set of the weekend for me.

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The Half Earth
The Cathedral is a wonderfully arresting venue at the best of times, but on Saturday, as the sun shone through the stained glass windows behind The Half Earth, it was particularly beautiful. Conor Stephenson has already supported Lucy Rose and Rae Morris under his The Half Earth moniker and this set certainly proved his worth. Joined on stage by the now-defunct Sheffield duo PEAKS, Stephenson swept through his dreamy set that swirled through the airy venue.

For the last track, Stephenson put down his guitar and announced his last song, ‘Holding On’ as his 'pop tune'. The track had more melodic and musical hooks than some of his previous material and the synth-led material is something he's (thankfully) looking to explore further.

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The Big Moon
I found this four piece on Soundcloud some months ago and was keen to see how their sound came across live. The crowd in Queens Social Club were in good spirits masking two day hangovers as Sunday evening got underway. The quartet were tight, their songs underpinned by Celia Archer's catchy bass lines. Maybe it was nerves, or tiredness, but The Big Moon, didn't seem to know how to talk to the crowd.

Singer Juliette Jackson occasionally introduced a song or reminded us of the band's name but that was pretty much the extent of her stage patter. It perhaps seems harsh as their overall performance was solid, and musically they're a talented bunch, I'd just like a little more relaxed interaction from a band whose music I enjoy so much.

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Best Friends
To call Best Friends a hidden gem, as a Sheffielder, seems strange as I've been a fan of the band for years. Never taking themselves too seriously, Best Friends' music is punchy and to the point. Their debut album Hot. Reckless. Totally Insane. is the epitome of their songwriting – sounding carefree and loose while actually being rather articulate and considered. The band managed to look at home on one of the festival’s bigger stages, despite being more used to playing smaller, sweatier venues. The four piece didn’t look dazed from their recent tour as they raced through a set that included album material as well as earlier crowd favourites like ‘Happy Anniversary’.

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KOG & The Zongo Brigade
I watched KOG & The Zongo Brigade twice over the weekend; once at the Community Stage playing to a vast array of ages, and then at Queens Social Club playing to 18+ at the start of a heavy night. Each time, they played with a tenacity that engaged with two very different crowds. Earlier in the day it was kids on shoulders and fifty-somethings moving their shoulders while later it was people with looser hips.

Their afro sound is influenced by traditional Ghanaian music and UK underground styles and has earned them a reputation in Sheffield as the go-to party band. This collective is proof Sheffield is home to much more than indie music and moody frontmen.

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Words: Sam Briggs
Photography: Ellen Ofredy, Chris Longboard, Carolina Faruolo, Duncan Stafford, Dan Sumption (as credited)

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