Each summer a handful of new festivals seem to crop up to suffice the needs of those who don’t want be drowned to death in a field of 100,000 people by a fourth time, monotone headliner. This year organisers in Sheffield took the plunge, just as they did with Tramlines in 2009, and set up sister-festival, Outlines. We headed down to the one-day festival to see what all the fuss was about.
Sheffield has long been a hotspot for bands, be it those seeking some practice before a UK tour or bands just starting up. For many of the bands on the bill, they fell somewhere in between, teetering on the fringes of a Radio 1 playlist mention.
Twitchy indie pop babe heart throb, Oscar, is one of these and his appearance at Queens Social Club, which looks like it’s been plucked from a 1970s school disco, should be taken more seriously than his Mickey Mouse sweater. His happy-go-lucky track ‘Beautiful Words’ swoons over the early evening crowd with grit-pop track ‘Breaking My Phone’ and off-beat ‘Daffodil Days’ ramping up the set. Latest single, ‘Sometimes’, from his forthcoming debut album Cut and Paste is anything but rough around the edges.
Elsewhere, growingly popular Manchester four-piece Spring King thrashed their way through a 40 minute set at The Harley tearing through 14 songs. The band, who have recently signed to Island Records, lined up on stage with singer Tarek Musa perched behind his favoured drums. Lung-busting performances of ‘Who Are You?’ and latest single ‘Rectifier’ have the crowd signing along and the bassist somehow snapping a string. ‘They’re Coming After You’ gave the band a breather with it’s vocal reverbs amounting to something epic before launching into early singles ‘Mumma’ and finishing on early-bloomer, ‘City’. It’s a moment in time for anyone in the crowd as it’s unthinkable just what size of stage this band will be stepping out onto in a year.
Similar things can be said of Loyle Carner, who’s not been shy of praise this year but appeared overwhelmed at the turn out at Plug. Carner (real name, Ben Coyle-Larner) from London brought a raw performance to Sheffield with his upfront lyrics and simplistic beats emulating Nas. He tells the crowd of a fight he got into recently after someone accused him of only rapping about his family and with that he hurls into ‘Ain’t Nothing Changed’ – “It all started with this song!” he shouts.
The theme of family is profound and justifiably so, as Carner drapes an Eric Cantona shirt around his shoulders, kissing it after his track, ‘Cantona’. “It’s the most important song I’ve ever written, it’s about my Dad” he says before leading a chant of “Oo-ah, Cantona“. It’s about all he does off the mic as much as the lyrics he spits though, as he leaps around the stage preaching: “The last song’s about a girl who finished with me the other day, I hope she’s not her. Actually I hope she is here, get the fuck out!” he chuckles.
Another solo artist, Rosie Lowe, closed the live music at Queens Social Club. The crooner may have fallen victim of scheduling and the trek between venues, with the room clearing out after fellow songstress Shura’s set. Nothing was out of place onstage though, with lapping waves of electro-soul, breaking for Lowe’s crystal vocals, and whilst headliner Roots Manuva closed Plug, performances at Skate Central played out like scenes from an American 90s film. Veteran and foundling post-punk bands such as PINS thrashed around at one end of a roller rink whilst festival-goers skated under kaleidoscope patterns at the other. It was certainly the most eccentric venue on the Outlines roster, and sadly the most idealistic with sets often being marred by sound complications, and the cavernous space threatened to swallow many of the acts.
Perhaps organisers have taken note announcing that the festival will be back next year for not one but two days. It’ll be intriguing to see which ones to watch will be treating us in The Steel City next year.