Neighbourhood Festival 2018 What better way to spend a Saturday than to run around Manchester’s music venues looking for your next favourite artist. My festival year always starts at Live at Leeds in May and then finishes here in Manchester at Neighbourhood Festival in October. Both of this year’s metropolitan day festivals have been superb, packed to the brim with fresh new talent and if you are prepared to stray away from the larger venues then there are some real goodies to be found amongst the also rans. Be prepared though for quite a trek to some of the places - walking from Albert Hall or Jimmys to the Academy is well over a mile, so I decided early on not to go to those extremes and stay in the nucleus of talent and go to the smaller venues that I hadn’t visited before.


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Anna Calvi Anna Calvi is an artist cut from the same cloth as Nick Cave, St.Vincent and PJ Harvey. Unique, intriguing and completely breath-taking to see live. She’s one of those artists that creates their own off-kilter world and invites you in to share their vision for an hour and a half, drawing you further and further in with every note.


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Rex Orange County As I stood in the enormous queue outside the O2 Institute, I noticed the rare September sunset had turned a beautiful Peach colour. It seemed even the sky was excited for Rex Orange County’s sold out set tonight.


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Halestorm About 8 years ago I was completely blown away by a voice that captured everyone inside an arena within 30 seconds - completely acapella. It gave everybody goose bumps and stopped them in their tracks - and the performer wasn’t even on stage yet. It was an offstage intro from Lzzy Hale from Halestorm and it had everyone mesmerised from the get go. 8 years and 4 albums later and they have lost none of that ability to instantly capture a room full of people. If anything, that ability is even stronger now with a catalogue of incredible tracks to choose from.


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Pale Waves Birmingham's O2 Institute was awash with teenage angst as Manchester band Pale Waves rocked into the city on Tuesday night, as scores of young fans waited excitably for their upcoming idols they were treated to support from indie rock band Swimming Girls.


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Tash Sultana Where to start? Well, to give some context, at least for me personally (actually, I’m certain as with many, many others too) the obsession started with FIFA, obviously. I’m making my way through the menus and this song comes on, the kind that make your ears prick up, cat-like. It catches me so off-guard, this isn’t what I had planned for my afternoon! The intro has already got me, then these vocals come in and yes, this is a bit of me. Forget FIFA, YouTube is now the mission. Who is this? I must know. This song (Jungle) will be on loop for the foreseeable future. Dramatic, I know, but as I write this, just shy of a year later, not a lot has changed.


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Biffy Clyro As storm Ali blows a hooley across the UK, inside, amongst the stunning surroundings of Birmingham’s Symphony Hall we are comfy and snug for a magical night courtesy of Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro.


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50 Cent Coming into a half filled Arena, the usual buzz seemed to be lacking, a fight broke out with disgruntled fans but rap megastar 50 Cent saved the day, whether intentional or not by putting back the headline for 30 minutes he allowed the Birmingham venue to fill up and all in attendance managed to beat the gruelling queue beforehand to see their idol.


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Albert Hammond Jr Feel Good Indie Rock – Albert Hammond Jr offers some kind Strokes in Manchester. It’s a difficult job for a rhythm/lead guitarist from a highly successful worldwide band to make it as a solo artist. Like Carl Barat without his oppo in The Libertines, you are reduced to playing drastically smaller venues and releasing introspective, much more personal but probably less commercial albums, with various collective friends and acquaintances forming members of your live band.


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Janelle Monáe It's possible to say the crowd that were going wild, hearing hit after hit from Janelle Monáe at the Academy, however, I feel that would be a discredit to this icon. Manchester saw how much more this icon gives in terms of music bringing anthems of honesty, rebellion and love, lifting up the crowd with her immense stage presence and colourful emotive pictures.


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Goat Girl Goat Girl are a young all-female band from South London who have real attitude and write great songs. Their debut album, released last April, contains 19 short (most under 3 minutes), diverse and punchy songs and has received great reviews and radio play. The Brudenell is sold-out tonight for the Leeds stop on the band’s extensive tour. Goat Girl are really working hard at gigging: earlier this year I saw them in Montreal during their tour of North America supporting Parquet Courts. They were very well received by the Canadian audience and are making new friends wherever they play.


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Garbage Let me begin with a word on the venue. Digbeth Arena is not an arena. That would be too grandiose a term for what is essentially a small space between a railway track and a old viaduct. The enclosed nature of the space acts as a natural amphitheatre that results in possibly the best sound quality I have ever heard at any gig. In short, this is a dream performance space for any artist worth their salt. In Birmingham, we are treated to three bands worth enough salt to keep the second city in fish and chips for a lifetime...


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Jonathan Wilson Six months after his last UK appearance, Jonathan Wilson is back in town with what looks to be a different band and an ever so slightly improved video backdrop. Three keyboardists are in the line-up including Drew Erickson who played with Wilson as part of Roger Waters’ touring band. Ny Oh’s backing vocals are a particularly welcome addition. The setlist is largely unchanged (notably ‘Dear Friend’ is substituted for ‘Moses Pain’) and focusses on his recent Rare Birds album.


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Ezra Furman “Are you nervous? I’m not nervous!” says Ezra Furman at the start of his Brixton Academy set.


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