Tramlines Festival 2016 is depressing and warm: Friday

It’s 4 o’clock and I order a pint from the pub across from my office and bring it up to my desk. All my emails are sent and I have nothing to do that I cannot do better on Monday, so I finish the beer, head home to drop my equipment off and get an Uber to town.

Upon arrival I meet Amber from True North Brew Co, she tells me that she needs to go into the office upstairs of The Forum to get something so I follow her and make idle conversation with the office staff about the incredible growth of their pub brand. They start talking to me about gin.

True North Brew Co make their own gin, Sheffield Gin, behind the Forum in their distillery. They tell me they have used an odd combination of botanicals, including Henderson’s Relish and locally-sourced honey. I decide that after Tramlines is over I will buy a bottle, and make sure to buy a lot of Rennie because my stomach erupts with acid every time I dare to think about drinking gin.

We sit outside the Forum and drink Bulleit watermelon cocktails from the promotional vehicle-cum-pop-up-bar. I look over at the skate park further down Devonshire Green and notice a Black Lives Matter demonstration.

The organisers are stood above the crowd on a bench, shouting through a makeshift PA system composed of what looks like a Playstation Singstar microphone and small guitar amplifier. The intermittent squealing and clipping crackles make me cringe.

 

Even if I did agree with their cause I don’t think I could take them seriously from the obviously lazy effort. Fair play to them for gathering a crowd but it’s clearly a two-bit operation. If I was addressing a crowd for a serious political issue, something kinda big – like supposed racial profiling and murders against my people – I would be conscientious enough to arrange for appropriate audio equipment. It’s not like this protest is spur of the moment, it is clearly planned which means they have failed to prepare accordingly.

I imagine Donald Trump saying, “I LOVE protests, I do the BEST protests. If anyone speaks to me about protests I tell them: IS THIS LOUD ENOUGH FOR YOU? I don’t need to know if they can hear me at the back. They can hear me all the way over in China! Now THAT’S a protest. Am I right?” and laugh to myself.

I feel a sense of injustice because demonstrators think this kind of carry-on is acceptable. How dare they ignorantly disregard a basic equipment checklist after so many people have fought (I use this term loosely) and died (this even looser) manufacturing equipment to deliver speeches through. People like Mr Tannoy and the guy who makes amps for Slash. How dare they oppress them? Do they not know #ProductionValuesMatter?

They all throw up their right hands with a clenched fist and if I did not know the raised fist is a symbol of solidarity I would have mistaken it for a Hitlergruß. Still, even the raised fist installs an uncomfortable feeling in me, rather ironically because I associate it with White Power instead. The raised fist is a common symbol among white supremacists, although they usually call it the Aryan Fist. I expect the #BLM supporters would not appreciate me telling them this, so I sit and finish my drink, watching them.

I’m relieved that I neglected to wear my official Trump campaign “Make America Great Again” hat because no good would come of it up against a mob of misinformed demonstraters. They march off away from the city centre, away from people, which once again confirms how clueless the organisers are.

I get an Uber to meet Harris and Tom at Uncle Sams on Ecclesall Road. I’m there before them and they enter, excited. We all order burgers. Me and Harris order sweet martinis and the waitress laughs at us. After tasting my sweet martini I immediately regret it and wish I had ordered a Boddingtons like Tom. After the meal, we head to the Rocking Chair to fill the time before Conor Houston plays later at another venue.

Downstairs in the Rocking Chair watching I Set The Sea On Fire, I see that they have a brass section and I figure that unless they are a ska band I will enjoy them just for the brass. They play and I try to enjoy it if only for the brass musicians looking light-headed in the heat. The humidity makes my entire body sweaty. A bead runs down the back of my neck and stops in the small of my back.

The espresso I had after my food has done something to my intestines and I flee for the Gents. Sadly the toilet lock is broken, the seat is broken, the toilet paper dispenser is broken and so are my dreams of light relief. I decide to use the Ladies instead. As I enter the female toilets a girl stands there and looks horrified at me, I walk past her telling her that in the Gents everything is broken and she goes back to applying her makeup.

When I emerge I notice that Harris and Tom are nowhere to be seen. I must have been longer than I thought. We all agreed to go to Crystal Stage on Carver Street at 9:30pm so I walked up there and find them at the front left of the crowd.

It’s very warm in Crystal and Conor Houston is playing to a swelling crowd. I order a bottle of mineral water and after a minute it’s already too warm to be refreshing. A friend buys me a beer and I realise I have no appetite for it.

Conor finishes and the crowd applauds appropriately. I am swamped by people saying hello, asking how I am, asking if I remember them, asking me what I’m doing now, asking me who I’ve seen already, asking me who I’m seeing tomorrow, asking me if I’ll come to another bar, and I become anxious.

 

I wonder if it’s the food I had earlier, or the espresso, or the glasses of gin which have left me so unamiable. All I want to do is be mardy somewhere else without people.

I head for the smoking area, avoiding people as best I can entirely in vain. As I stand outside in a cramped area of people, smoking a cigarette, friends approach me and again I’m answering the same questions. I feel bad that I’m not in a personable mood, but I complain I’m tired and exhausted from the heat.

Phil and his girlfriend ask me if I want to grab food. I tell them I’ve eaten already but agree to leave with them. As we leave the smoking area and then the bar the temperature is noticeably colder on the street which relaxes me. We walk along idly looking for somewhere to go. I decide to buy a drink from a shop to get rid of the taste of beer and cigarettes.

I’m in a Tesco, buying a drink. My friends wait outside for me. I scan my item at the self-service checkout and select pay with cash. As I drop a pound coin in the machine an overwhelming pang of paranoia grips me.

For a second I wonder what would happen if my pound coin is swallowed by the machine without registering it? I imagine asking the attendant and she doesn’t believe me, so I’m forced have to pay again for my drink. I contest it and she makes me fill in a form then notifies me the store will check and they will contact me in the next 10-12 weeks. I realise I’ve been stood here idly looking at the machine for too long and that my change is already in the tray for collection. I grab my drink and head outside.

I open the can, drink from it and walk down the road discussing what to do next with my friends. The lemonade is cool and refreshing but too sour and lasts on my tongue minutes after I’ve finished it. We decide not to go into another bar, instead, we sit on Devonshire Green and watch everyone who walks past.

As we talk I retreat mentally into a subdued state, a cerebral siege position, my brow lowers and feels noticeably heavier. The detachment brought on by the familiar depressive fog somehow relaxes me, pushing away all the excitable feelings from earlier which have made me exhausted, silencing the manic erraticism for sterile, logical cynicism.

I flag a taxi and he takes me home.