Tramlines has got bigger and bigger since it started in 2009 so this year the main stage has moved from Devonshire Green to the much bigger Ponderosa Park and the headliners reflect the upward trajectory of what is now considered one of the best smaller festivals in the country.
The last band I went to see in Sheffield were The Dandy Warhols so it is quite fitting that their influence looms large in 90’s throwbacks Menace Beach. Occupying the space somewhere between The Dandy’s and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Leeds band Menace Beach strolled on stage at the Harley with little fanfare having set up the equipment themselves.
Liza Violet’s hushed vocals kicked things off with a low key rendition of Tennis Court. It took a few songs to get the sound right particularly on Ryan Needham’s vocals which is a shame because aside from that Elastics and particularly Drop Outs sounded flawless. Menace Beach are mostly indebted to 90’s alt-rock hero’s such as Pavement, Breeders and Pixies but listen hard enough and there is a hint of their English upbringing as they almost sound like Elastica or even the Boo Radleys at their poppiest moments.
By the time new song Super Transporterreum landed Menace Beach had found their range and the simple singalong chorus of that song made the crowd suitably rowdy for set highlight Taste Like Medicine.
The Harley itself is one of the most intimate venue’s in Sheffield and as well as always playing a key part in the annual Tramlines festival it has played host to such high quality acts as Courtney Barnett, Royal Blood, Drenge, Alt-J, Peace, Bastille, and of course the Arctic Monkeys in recent years. The 200 capacity venue is the perfect place for a DIY slacker band such as Menace Beach and the Yorkshire band seemed totally at home crammed in on the tiny stage.
Album opener Come On Give Up had the front rows dancing and the hook laden chorus would have had beer cans thrown across the venue were Menace Beach the kind of band to attract such a crowd. As it was they settled for some serious head nodding and feet tapping. An audience full of music geeks to watch a band who wear their alternative influence on their sleeves. You could almost smell the limited edition 7″ singles emanating from the crowd.
Set closer Lowtalkin’ works much better live than it does on the album but it still seemed an odd choice to close the evening off especially as the eponymous Ratworld remained unplayed. Ratworld is far and away Menace Beach’s best song and I was moved to confront guitarist Nick Chantler after the gig who broke the news to me that they have actually never played that song live. He took my unwanted intrusion into his life so well however that I immediately felt bad and decided to let this one go.
Like their peers Yuck, Menace Beach are probably always going to play similar sized venues to the Harley but when they fit so well in there does it really matter?