Talking Tramlines is the day-by-day blog of Tramlines 2021, which today covers the opening evening of the festival on Friday, 23 July.

Hearing the PAs blasting out as the Uber enters Hillsborough it dawns on me that this is the first time my ears have heard live music in over 16 months. The tears nearly arrive. But stepping onto the holy Hillsborough grass, it is clear that everyone is overcome with emotion. Screams, laughter, and a fair few wet eyes. Tramlines, we’ve missed you. Now let’s party.


Local boys The Blinders kick the evening off on Sarah Nulty’s Main Stage while Chesterfield five piece The Rooves ignite the T’Other stage. With buckets of northern charm and killer riffs, they both fire up the festival as crowds begin to gather and people flood into the park.

Red Rum Clubs stomping through their set on T’Other Stage

Circa Waves play a roaring set spanning their four album discography. The festival-primed hit ‘T-Shirt Weather’ doesn’t fail to bring the energy levels up ahead of The Kooks and The Streets. Meanwhile fellow Liverpudlians Red Rum Club also put on a stellar show. A band with a real cult following, the show feels like a homecoming – a reunion with their fans who throw themselves into the experience, going wild for the indie band, especially during ‘Would You Rather Be Lonely’ and ‘Eleanor’.

Circa Waves Guitarist

Circa Waves get things going on Sarah Nulty’s Main Stage

As The Kooks arrive the festival noticeably turns up a gear. Having just celebrated the fifteenth anniversary of their pivotal debut Inside In / Inside Out the band play every hit from the record: ‘Ooh La’, ‘She Moves in Her Own Way’, and ‘Seaside’ are all adored and enjoyed with synchronised chanting and word-for-word singing. Of course ‘Naive’ ends the set with a bang as some of the crowd disperse – but many save their spots for when the headliner arrives.

They move in their own way – The Kooks playing the Main Stage

Not one for a quiet entrance, the hook of ‘Who’s Got The Bag’ blasts as Mike Skinner leaps onto stage. Skinner starts things off with the more chilled Streets tracks – ‘Could Well Be In’, ‘Everything is Borrowed’, ‘Dry Your Eyes’, and ‘Never Went to Church’ are all played. Skinner has a good chinwag with the crowd. I say chinwag, a set of monologues would be more accurate. Skinner bigs up the festival line up, shouting out Dizzee and The Kooks, he then talks through some life lessons and calls to see more girls on shoulders.

Leaping on to stage: Mike Skinner play the Main Stage

A theme of the set is a bottle of champagne which Skinner continually teases to pop as he continually announces that the crowd need to reach a level ten energy. To be fair, it did ignite to that level as the big hitters came out, ‘Fit But You Know It’ and ‘Has It Come To This’ got things soaring with ‘I Wish You Loved You As Much As You Love Him’, the highlight from comeback album None Of Us Are Getting Out Of This Life Alive equally bringing the energy.

Mike Skinner gets the night popping off

The champagne was popped and ‘Who’s Got The Bag’ was played in full with its altered lyrics “Twenty first of June, then they fucked that too”. Speaking of fucked, the entire crowd seemed mangled as they dispersed out the park, it wasn’t the end of the night for plenty of people, especially with clubs back on.

It’s good to have you back Tramlines.

Images: Jacob Flannery