March often has the potential to be dull and gloomy. The weather is unpredictable at the best of times and after purchasing your first round of festival tickets, you’re left with a sudden urge for live music on a mass scale. Outlines may not offer huge stages or the most established headliners, however, that’s not what the festival is about. Extending its coverage to two days after a successful debut last year, Outlines boasts a daring line-up heaving with up-and-coming talent.
Simply take a look at 2016’s roster. Acts hotly tipped as some of the years emerging talents have done anything but fall victim to such a tagline. Loyle Carner, has since been described as the UK’s hottest hip-hop prodigy and Shura, to name just a couple, went on to release her pop recharging debut album to glorious acclaim. So, with an exciting weight on their shoulders to produce yet again, stepping into Plug on a grey Friday evening you simply couldn’t escape a sense of anxiety concerning this year’s bands and whether they would deliver.
You can’t fault the festival for embracing local talents. At Plug alone on Friday night the likes of The Seamonsters and Kong paved way for a string of Sheffield acts. Both these bands are well adapted to their home surroundings and it was this familiarity with their city that seemed to pull in the early finishers. Whilst The Seamonster’s may still be tip-toeing around their identity, shimmering glittery faces and awkward sparkly melodies ensured they packed lustre. KONG on the other hand, are more of a brutish force that draw from the cities unique strand of punk. At times it’s an all too familiar sound, but discordant chords and an attitude that embraces imperfections they’re set on a somewhat different path.
Yassassin would like you to know that they’re firmly against any outdated macho culture lingering around. And, that quite frankly, it pisses them off. “If you like my pretty face, I’ll wash it off” seethes through fuzzy riffs and fierce vocals that are reasserted with some high pitched backing repetitions. With hints of shoegaze, furry coats and polka dot dresses glam up songs that are aggressively relevant but also irresistible head bobbers.
After leaving Plug, it was onwards to The Harley. One of the city’s cultural gems, the pub often sports new music and plays host to popular club nights such as the disco funk filler, Soul Jam. A cue outside meant The Wytches were set to play their headlining slot to a full house. The Brighton outfit are renowned for their grunge psych rock, that flicks between beating versus and chaotic outbursts. A tight live outfit its songs from their debut album ‘Annabel Dream Reader’ such as the reverberating ‘Gravedweller’ that brings about the raucousness. The Harley moves in a sweaty wave whilst frontman Kristian Bell screams through a mop of flaking hair, a reception that perfectly encapsulates their performance.
Saturday offered plenty more artists and even more variety. Heading to The Leadmill to catch local’s SHEAFS early on in the afternoon, a modest crowd didn’t distract from their punchy belters. Still in their formative stages, SHEAFS lurk dangerously close to sounding like another easy listening Yorkshire band. But their ambition to set themselves apart undoubtedly comes across through some on trial newbies. Their live performance is full of energy and whilst it frustratingly doesn’t reach its deserving audience capacity, they seem none the less grateful.
Over at Queens Social Club, Laurel is setting up to deliver a standout performance over the weekend. The self-produced solo artist showcases mature and husky vocals that are layered over a diverse mix of instrumental works. On record, her tracks are complex bundles of electronic infused pop although during this intimate setting they’re bravely stripped back leaving her vocals to take centre stage. During ‘Hurricane’ they truly shine and those that have ventured a little off the beaten track to reach Queens are rewardingly left in awe.
From demanding vocals to bubbly indie, Clean Cut Kid appear to be the first band to draw the morning dwellers out from underneath their covers. Love torn lyrics, crisp guitar riffs and even their sense of style is fittingly combined to produce uplifting tunes begging to be blared aloud on a sunny afternoon. Okay, it’s the beginning of March and summer is a distant daydream, but listening to the catchy hooks of ‘Make Believe’ could have fooled you into believing the season is just around the corner.
Outlines is positioned at an odd point on the festival calendar. Its multi-venue format is familiar, and its bold ambition to give emerging artists a stage, has enabled it to recapture the spirit of a younger Tramlines. The summertime sister festival is forever expanding which has unavoidably left some of its original values in the dust. Well, maybe not quite. Refreshingly Outlines embraces the inner city routes that made Tramlines successful. And on these smaller stages its evident that there is still plenty of desire for it to continue.
You can pick up super early bird tickets for next year’s Outlines here.
Review by Jacob Flannery |