It would only take a glance at the previous Outlines line up to prove that the first date on the 2017 festival calendar is a northern hub for artists on the verge of breakthrough. Since a 2016 debut, alumni such as Estrons, Spring King and Loyle Carner have gone on to bag major slots at Tramlines – Outlines’ older and more established sister.
The same progression is bound to engulf 2017’s roster - one that unfolded to be a sprawling mix, submerged with potential. Local poster boys for moody, White Lies-esque alt-rock Dead Slow Hoot made the first lasting impression, with a set as good as any other locals on the bill.
30 minutes after the quartet’s slot, Boxed In headlined a Queen's Social Club laced with golden tin foil decor. Oli Bayston’s material is pumped with twice as much energy in the live arena – ‘Shadowboxing’ and ‘Up to You/Down to Me’ crawled out of their nuanced shells and converted a swaying audience into a gyrating one.
Finally on the Friday, The Wytches – fuelled with a hype-filled tank – packed out Sheffield’s best pub-club, The Harley. Their set stuck firmly within the boundaries of straight-up psychedelic rock and became music to the ears of fans of doomstruck chord-hammerings and grizzling distortions (cue pathetic fallacy with a relentless downpour of rain).
In contrast, Saturday began with a much more optimistic introduction of bright and clear skies – even further whetting appetites for a festival season drawing ever closer. Though that didn’t stop Ella On The Run, armed with recent single ‘Undone’ and a subtle cover of Ace of Base’s ‘All That She Wants’, beaming dark and melancholic atmospheres in Plug.
Next, it was local lads The SSS performing at The Leadmill - Sheffield’s rock mecca. It was a well-received and busy show, though you have wonder how well it would go down outside South Yorkshire – considering how overbearing it can be to watch a carbon copy of Arctic Monkeys.
It was then back to Queen's Social Club to catch the Leeds-incepted party-starters Cowtown. Whether it’s Nash’s (frontman) dexterity in tearing out skewed riffs up and down his guitar at psycho speed, or the band’s onstage rambles about “hardcore emoji abuse” and “a very emotional song about the perils of architecture”, this trio are drenched in satire.
With a debut album yet to drop, Shock Machine are a supergroup going under the radar. James Righton (ex-Klaxons), aided by such performers as Anna Prior (Metronomy) and Edd Gibson (Friendly Fires), launched himself onstage during 9pm opener ‘Open Up The Sky’ and didn't keep a limb still from the off; at one point invading the crowd and cradling a fan with a shirt matching his bold scarlet suit.
The vibrancy only intensified as Aussie headliners Jagwar Ma took to the stage with their delicious meld of bubbling electronica and neo-psychedelia. Think Django Django ditching Egyptian sands for steamy tropical rainforests, and you’ll get a rough idea of where this group’s brainchild exists. “And left/and right/and left/and right” ordered an effervescent Gabriel Winterfield (lead) during ‘Give Me a Reason’ at a packed-out crowd, which was firmly lodged in the palm of his hand.
Although still in an embryonic phase and yet to annex the Steel City like Tramlines does, its sheer value for money makes Outlines festival an absolute essential for anyone wanting to catch tomorrow’s stars today.