Neighbourhood Festival, Manchester, UK – 12th October 2019

Posted by Bianca on Saturday Oct 12, 2019 Under Festivals

Review + Photography by John Hayhurst

There goes the Neighbourhood! Manchester opens its gig venue doors again with over 100 bands playing on 15 stages across the city. Sold out for the third year in succession and showcased some incredible music in 12 hours.

I’ve been coming to this one day metropolitan festival ever since it started back in 2017, unusual for such a huge musical city to follow the likes of Leeds and Camden, rather than setting their own trend, but whilst Live at Leeds always traditionally starts festival season for me in May, Neighbourhood in the last 2 years has closed it. Of course, there is no reason for these types of festivals to not continue well into the winter, you don’t need decent weather, mobile toilet facilities, camping areas or huge bars and food vendors. It is all indoors, the only issue you have is the distance between the venues and the timing of needing to get into somewhere to see the band you just can’t miss. Only twice did I find it difficult to get into a venue but that was with queues going around the block for places like Gorilla and Bread Shed.

At Gorilla we had The Magic Gang kicking things off, and it wasn’t a surprise that the place was packed 15 mins after doors opening. These lads know a thing about a good catchy chorus or two and even though they had played the Ritz last night, which is just across the road, we still get a hits laden set with ‘Getting Along’ starting things off. I like a bit of Slippin’ too, which was positioned in the middle with ‘All That I Want Is You’ at the other bookend. That’s enough to give the punters what they want, however, I stupidly decided to try and get to Deaf Institute for the 2nd half of Squid’s set and get turned away as it is as crammed in there too. So back to Gorilla for another eagerly awaited performance – Snapped Ankles.

Magic Gang-3

Magic Gang-4

Having watched them soundcheck in blue overalls, looking as normal as a band can. When they actually take to the stage they have these head masks that look like they have been dragged through several hedges backwards. Industrial psychedelic rock is their music of choice with bass, guitar, synth & drums and tree banging. Yes, we have synths attached to stick like stands which make several different noises when hit. They take great delight in dragging one stand up to the top of the steps and then another on stage which is used by anyone in the audience wiling to have a go. Punky pogoing in the crowd and surreal imagery on stage made for a heady mix of substance. You won’t find that at The Sherlocks I thought, and thankfully I didn’t need to visit their indie boys bore-a-thon to confirm it. Apparently, they performed one song whilst standing in a wheelie bin, best place for that load of rubbish I said, and headed off to the Bread Shed for Bloxx who were already kicking up a storm in another packed venue. This was well before any of the headliners (apart from The Sherlocks) were due to perform, so this year there was so much on offer for the early bird, who is prepared to walk around a bit.

Snapped Ankles

Snapped Ankles-2

I’ve decided early on that I’m not going to visit any of the bigger venues and stick to the smaller gigs as it is such an impressive undercard at Neighbourhood, and last year I saw more amazing new artists such as The Murder Capital and Zuzu at those little places like Yes and Night People. The Nova Twins are on my must-see list, so it is my second visit to the Deaf Institute already, and I’m hoping to get in this time. The pile of effects pedals on stage is something to see, how these two girls manage to pick out the right sound I’ll never know, and exactly what that sound is, is another mystery. It’s a bass guitar that sounds like a Harley Chopper starting up, then it’s a screaming aeroplane, then a normal fuzzy bass sound. Georgia South (Bass) has her hair in bunches and when she bobs her head about it’s like cocker spaniel ears flapping in the breeze. Amy Love on guitar and vocals is wearing a matching vinyl shorts and top outfit and a bobble hat, she alternates between guitar and then taking the mic to deliver a rap or two. It’s not quite grime, rap or punk, and with those serious basslines very hard to pigeonhole anywhere really, which is more than refreshing.

Nova Twins-2

Nova Twins

A longish walk to Night People was next to catch Lauran Hibberd, I have seen her before – 2 years ago at the Isle of Wight festival and her style has changed, it’s less folky and more pop punk princess. Kicking off her set with ‘Call Shotgun’ this was a slice of indie pop that went down very easily and with a tight backing band it meant the half hour flew by really quick. I fancied a spot of chaotic punk, so it’s back to the Bread Shed again for Heavy Lungs. It can’t be bad having a song written in your name by Idles but frontman ‘Danny Nedelko’ carries that around like a medal of honour, and whilst the fellow Bristol punks have shot up the musical ranks in the last 12 months, Heavy Lungs continue to grow gracefully in their shadow. Nedelko is all over the place, in the crowd, balancing on the barrier and then casually slow dancing on stage, whilst the chaos of band behind him creates a beautiful anarchic noise. One of the surprises of the day, as I hadn’t seen them before, but now on an ever-growing list of new bands to catch again.

Lauren Hibberd-3

Lauren Hibberd

Heavy Lungs-2

Heavy Lungs-3

I’m keen to check out son of Bono (U2) – Elijah Hewson’s band Inhaler but having seen the queues around the block before I’ve joined early enough to get in for the previous band – Top Tip: If you join the queue early you get to the front! I’m in the Yes – Pink Room and boy does it do what it says on the tin…of very pink paint used to decorate this room. The place is so pink the artists performing look black and white in comparison. Witch Fever are just concluding their set and it made me wish I could have seen the whole show, a magnificent din, this all female grunge/punk band from Manchester will be in the same pink room on December 6th for their own headline gig. Inhaler were quite tame by those standards, you can see a glint of Bono in Elijah, but Inhaler were far too restrained, pleasant enough, but I’d like a little more rock’n’roll with my pizza and beer next time.

inhaler

inhaler-2

That’s the beauty of the Yes venue, 2 stages, one in the basement and the other pink one upstairs. In-between you have a pizza and beer bar area with various DJ’s playing indie classics while you wait for the next act. You could have stayed here all day and seen around 20 artists and had several pints and pizzas, that is some kind of festival heaven!

I’ve disappeared down to the basement to catch Liz Lawrence, long time singer with Bombay Bicycle Club (and will be supporting them on their next tour). She has a MacBook and several pedals on a table, these constitute her band, and it is quite impressive that she is able to adjust beat sounds and echo guitar at the same time as singing harmonies to her own vocals. Her album Pity Party is due out later this month and she has promised to have a proper band with her next year when she tours. ‘None of My Friends’, ‘Navigator’ and ‘USP’ will be on the album and they sounded great solo tonight. I stayed for the next band, North Yorkshire Moors finest (name another ?) – Avalanche Party, also the most local band to my home, and having seen them several times before – I knew the drill. Lead singer Jordan Bell douses himself in water and declares ‘I’m So Wet’ as he dives off the stage and rides the waves of those at the front keen to hold him up. He’s disappeared into the green and red fog that has filled this small basement room whilst the band continue on stage with their heavy brand of psychedelic rock and roll, spiced up with some punk attitude and showing clearly to everyone here why they are named as one of the most exciting bands to emerge in the last 18months. Watch out for their own tour starting in November with their Middlesbrough date of 14th December one not to miss.

Liz Lawrence-2

Liz Lawrence

Back up to the Pink room for probably the finest new band from Liverpool – Red Rum Club. They combine some infectious danceable tunes with a trumpet player. Hard to explain but if you can imagine a soundtrack to a Clint Eastwood western, a raucous saloon bar scene where fighting ensues whilst a Mexican Mariachi band are playing in the corner – you are getting close. There are a considerable number of ladies at the front, and this is largely down to the charismatic singer Fran Doran but that doesn’t stop one lad from getting up on his mates’ shoulders. ‘Honey’, ‘Calexico’ and ‘Casanova’ are all great live but the party really starts when they play ‘Angeline’ and there is this eruption of movement that could probably still be heard in the pizza bar below. If they aren’t playing some bigger venues in the next 12 months, then that’s a complete travesty.

Red Rum Club

The C33’s meanwhile are in the smaller upstairs bar at Revolution, so we move sharply to take in a few of their fast rock’n’roll tunes with guitarist and singer Cav Green doing this unusual bended knee move in every song, their part aerobics show sounded really good, but this was a short whistle stop as I knew the queue for Gorilla and in particular Sports Team was going to be a long one. Sure enough it had snaked nearly all the way back to the Oxford Road Station but I did just make it inside in time. It’s a miracle that the band were playing today as earlier that morning they had their van contents stolen, all their guitars and synths had been taken and they had to beg from other bands and friends to lend them some gear to play. As it was, you couldn’t tell at all, and if anything, it fired singer Alex Rice up even more to conjure up some dance moves that Jagger would be embarrassed to try. Surely heading for bigger stages and wider audiences their brand of pop infused indie rock is perfect for the latest crop of students wandering around Manchester Universities open day. With their tunes still ringing in my ears it was a short few steps across the road to the Refuge for Kid Kapichi who have been around a while but only in the last few months have they registered on my new bands radar. They have some big rock riffs in their arsenal and ‘Glitterati’ is loud and proud in this pub corner, shame there weren’t more in the room to see them. From Hastings of all places, a sleepy retirement town on the South Coast, not so quiet when these lads are around. Choices needed to be made as we were into the last hour or so of the festival, so I headed back to Night People for two bands to complete the night. First Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard who were a band I missed at Live at Leeds earlier in the year, wasn’t quite ready for the comedy action going alongside the tunes, but Tom Rees is a natural comedian and provides 5 minutes stand up routine whilst conducting the soundcheck. Ending it with “Ok we might as well start –‘Late Night City” and they go into a great 70’s inspired track which I’ve been playing in my car for weeks now. Starting with my fave tune might not have been the best move but the setlist was great throughout and ‘John Lennon is my Jesus Christ’ is a ridiculous singalong in the style of Digsys Diner, with Tom pulling out some camp stage moves straight out of the Freddie Mercury handbook. The quality of the musicianship on offer is better than I imagined though, they are a strange cross of 70’s glam rock with an indie twist, not too dissimilar to The Darkness but without the falsetto and over the top rock star posturing, perhaps they are their denim wearing cousins.

Sports Team-2

Sports Team

C33s

Kid Kapichi

Kid Kapichi-2

Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard-3

Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard

Final band of the night had to be Sophie and the Giants, my 5th viewing of them this year and they get better each time, such energy in the room and they quite rightly pack it out. Sophie and Antonia (Bass) do not stop moving and her vocals are sublime, think Florence Welch with more vigour – ‘Waste My Air’ and ‘Bulldog’ are favourites but I’m getting to know all the set these days and now the mash up of Supertramps ‘Breakfast in America’ with Chris Isaac’s ‘Wicked Game’ is an inspired choice of cover. A class band to end a fantastic day, proving you really don’t need to be watching those bigger bands in the Academy and The Ritz, with so much going on in the other venues. There goes the Neighbourhood for another year and festival season for 2019, roll on next year.

Sophie & The Giants

Sophie & The Giants-2

LISTENING: Sophie & The Giants Adolescence EP released 2019

WATCHING: Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard – John Lennon is my Jesus Christ

See the full photoset from Neighbourhood Festival 2019.

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