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My Experience at Sheffield UK Outlines Festival

Chris has been fascinated with music ever since he saw early Depeche Mode as a young teen in 1981. He still seeks out new fresh live music.

A wild night of live music in UK Sheffield

The well built young man had already flung off his t-shirt although his energetic dancing meant there was still a sheen of sweat visible over the muscles of his chest and upper arms. He picked up a can of cool refreshing Red Stripe, opened it, took a sip and poured a little on his head, chest and back. A second can of Red Stripe soon appeared in his hand; he looked around the room when an impish grin quickly emerged, spread and overtook his face; he opened his jeans at the waist; a healthy patch of hair sprouted below his belly button. Our young man poured the contents of the whole can of Jamaican beer into his jeans and over his crown jewels; a line of wet spread down the jean fabric to floor level. I suspected his chances of pulling a woman that evening had diminished somewhat.

Apparently energised our young man bounded off the stage over the audience barriers and on to the dance floor; by this point the young man was a sticky sweaty beery mess but it didn’t stop him hugging members of the audience to his chest. Later he sat on the stage barrier slowly glowering and threatening; flicking beer across those of us he had not already given a beery embrace to, singing all the time into his microphone. That was quite the live music festival performance.

It was apparent to all: those of us that had witnessed the band Shame; we all smelt a little beery that evening. It was surprising just how far two cans of Red Stripe could be spread amongst an entire audience. I whispered to my beloved: “His Da obviously never told him that liquid and electrics don’t mix”, but fortunately our hero lived to spill another day.

Clean Cut Kid at Outlines Festival

Clean Cut Kid at Outlines Festival

Clean Cut Kid at Outlines Festival

Outlines Music Festival at Sheffield UK

Some might have been horrified at the thought of audience participation with the band Shame, and the rather frantic “The Streets” vibe to their angry songs might not have appealed; but when you go to a 2 day music festival you can guarantee at the very least you have something to talk about and a tale to share. For me, I fully expect Shame to be huge, and I can recount another rock and roll moment.

Outlines is the “other” Sheffield festival which is held at the opposite end of the year to its bigger and more famous brother Tramlines. As this is a winter (early March) festival the activities are strictly in-doors and restricted to four music venues. The idea is the same; you pay a ticket price; you exchange your ticket for a wristband for the weekend and you then wander around the venues seeing as little or as much live music as you might wish.

It’s better value to grab a ticket as quickly as you can; early bird tickets for Outlines 2018 is a bargain £10 for 2 days of live music although of course you are taking pot luck with the bands you might see. Immediately before the gigs I think the tickets were something like £30. We paid £15 I believe and booked them someway in the middle after I had discovered that one of my current bands of choice (Jagwa Ma) were headlining. Outlines Festival has been going for 2 years; the Friday evening in particular was fairly quiet, and that meant we got a great up close view of punk survivors The Membranes. There was even space on the floor for Jagwa Ma and I was very happy to be in the second row.

Outlines Music Festival

Outlines Festival

Outlines Festival

Sheffield Outlines Music Festival Venues

On the downside the venues are a bit spaced out but you can catch one of those famous tramlines rather than use your legs. The venues are as follows:

The Leadmill; the granddaddy of them all; I remember seeing Killing Joke at the Leadmill as a teen in the mid 1980’s, so I’m rather hoping that the place will still be going when I’m restricted to my bath chair. The Leadmill is a big old venue and a couple of rooms. If you end up in the Leadmill at the end of the evening, they usually throw on a couple of rooms of music (Indie and Northern Soul), to encourage you to buy another one of their drinks and linger a while. I always like the atmosphere in the Leadmill and no, I’m never the oldest in the place.

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Unfortunately the downside to the Leadmill is that the beer is fairly rank; the lager tastes pretty vile although they have taken to holding a pump full of American IPA beer. It’s still pretty poor, but better than it was. Many folks (including the young man from Shame) are taken to buying cans of Red Stripe at the Leadmill.

Plug has more recently taken on a mantle of having live music on; there are two stages and this means you can hear wall to wall music at Plug as the acts start on alternative stages. Plug2 is a lot smaller than Plug, so if there is a band playing at Plug2 you might want to get there 10 minutes early so you get a good view. Plug is the plushest venue of the 4; not that I’d wear my glittery ballroom outfit for it. From memory Plug is pretty much fizzy lager city, but it is kept far better than at the Leadmill.

Queens Social Club is about a mile out of town and is a social club with a large crumbling and grotty hall attached. It smells damp and cold and the sink in the gent’s toilet was hanging off the wall. There was real ale on for the gigs which were sold straight from the barrel for £3 a pint. The Queens is one of those places where you just know the walls could tell a tale or two. It’s a large old venue and the sound system was actually pretty good.

The Harley; is a big sprawling relaxed student type pub with a space for live music. It has a regular gig roster and if you are brave (and bring ear plugs) you can stay a night upstairs. We didn’t trouble to go to the Harley on this weekend; just the way the cookie crumbled, but it’s a nice gig venue.

Outlines Festival; Quiet in the Afternoon

It can be quiet at outlines in the afternoon, but you get a great view of the band

It can be quiet at outlines in the afternoon, but you get a great view of the band

Planning the acts to see at a music festival

It pays to do your research for the weekend; I downloaded a helpful mix download from Spotify where a number of the more well known acts had some sample songs. That gave me something of a structure to the weekend; while I didn’t stick religiously to a timetable it did give a focus, and each of the bands I really wanted to see did not disappoint. I did so want to see Jagwa Ma and didn’t want to risk being locked in a queue in the rain outside because fire regulation numbers had been hit, and we so ensured we were there at least 2 acts beforehand.

For 2017, the main act was Jagwa Ma; an Australian dance act who sound very much like early trance Stone Roses. There are a lot of people in their late 40s liking Jagwa Ma. The Selector (1980’s two tone) also played although I’ve seen them before, and 1990’s punk survivors the Membranes (who were excellent and reminded me of the Clash). We also saw a woman called Laurel who had something of a Joni Mitchell vibe and Clean Cut Kid who are bouncy mainstream rock/pop. Another favourite of mine was Shock Machine who were a bit 1980’s Bowie in style and fronted by the little known husband of actress Keira Knightley (who happened to play in the Klaxons until last year). I was also pleased to have caught Flamingods who are a dance orientated band from Bahrain who incorporate traditional musical instruments into their dance trance style.

Given there were more than 100 bands on stage on the Friday evening and between 1-11pm on the Saturday, I’m sure lots of people enjoyed very different experiences.

Dip Out and take a Sheffield Real Ale Pitstop

While it is tempting to immerse in as much free music as humanly possible, its actually sometimes worth taking a bit of time out to grab a seat, a bite to eat and a good beer (rather than the bad or indifferent ones often served by the venues). This time we went to a brew pub about 5 minutes walk from the Leadmill; the Sentinal.

While the food was good and wholesome (I had a lovely quality pizza for a tenner) and the home made beer great, the service was somewhat lacking and we ended up feeling frustrated. I could have shouted at the girl pulling drinks one handed and then after each one was poured she slowly wandered over to the customer with it (rather than carrying them together at the end). I can therefore fully recommend The Sentinal; but not when you are on a schedule.

Food at the Sentinal

Pizza and planning the next bands

Pizza and planning the next bands

To Finish

I love the summer festival vibe and I’m so ready for it when it seems that winter is losing its grip. This year we completely enjoyed Outlines Festival; everything was timed very well, organised very well and we chose some cracking bands and have some great memories.

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