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Festival review: Neighbourhood Weekender 2018 - Saturday

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Every indie kid's wet dream came true this weekend, as the likes of Noel Gallagher, Blossoms, Courteeners, Jake Bugg and Miles Kane arrived in Warrington for the first edition of Neighbourhood Weekender.

Following the success of its sister Neighbourhood Festival that takes place across various inner-city venues in Manchester each October, Neighbourhood Weekender took place in Warrington's Victoria Park over two days. The atmosphere seriously felt like a mini Leeds Festival - even the stages set out similar to that of the NME tent, BBC introducing stage and main stage - and there were various food stalls, rides and bars laid out across the park. 

The Main Stage stood at the bottom of the park, playing host to some of the biggest names on the bill, while the Second Stage was the only one inside a tent. However, the 'third stage' was pretty special. Named the Viola Beach Stage, after the Warrington band who were tragically killed two years ago, hosted the 'up-and-coming' acts and was poignantly decorated with rainbow umbrellas - a Viola Beach icon after featuring on their single cover for 'Swings & Waterslides’.

Ten Tonnes kicked off our weekend as he took to the Second Stage with his uplifting indie including tracks such as 'Lay It On Me' and 'Silver Heat'. This Saturday was a gloriously sunny day, and even though he was on the only 'indoor' stage, singer Ethan Barnett's chilled out tunes still brought the sunshine into the tent. Closing with 'Lucy' (not sure why that's my favourite...) his pretty packed out audience sang along to every word.

Brighton pop quintet Fickle Friends' set was great, their tropical infused pop complementing the beautiful weather Warrington had been blessed with wonderfully, 'Wake Me Up' being a definite highlight. Then The Big Moon brought a nostalgic-feeling crossover of pop, rock'n'roll and grunge to the Main Stage playing tracks from their debut album Love In The 4th Dimension. This was my first time seeing these gals, and they’re so impressive - vocals on point, amazing stage presence and a strong set list.

Grunge trio Hey Charlie sassily tore up the Viola Beach Stage, treating fans to explosive tracks such as ‘Love Machine’ and ‘Hey’. They’re a band full of energy and excitement, and it’s almost impossible not to feel completely thrilled while watching them strutting about the stage doing their thing.

Heading back down to Main Stage, we caught huge indie pop band Circa Waves. Kings of crowd participation, they got their crowd completely riled up - up on shoulders singing, shouting, screaming - it was one of the most fun crowds to be in the middle of all weekend. They asked for pits, they asked for sing-a-longs, they asked for the camera men to focus on the crowd rather than the band. The quartet, fronted by Kieran Shudall, played the perfect mix of crowd-pleasing newer and older songs, finishing with fan-favourite ’T-Shirt Weather’.

Sundara Karma played to a completely full Second Stage! We only got to see the first part of the set, but the band’s choices of songs were disappointing. Though they opened with banger ‘Loveblood’, the crowd quickly settled down for the next four songs, many looking a little bored waiting for another song they could actually sing a long to, before we left to head to our next act. It was a shame, because Sundara Karma are a band that are usually subject to rave reviews from critics - but this set just didn’t do it.

Standing on the Main Stage’s viewing platform, it was during Jake Bugg that it became apparent (and it would worsen over the weekend) that the sound quality coming from this stage was, to put it bluntly, fucking horrendous. Unless you were dead centred and down towards the front of the crowd (like we had been for the other acts we’d seen on this same stage during the day) the music was quiet, fading in and out with sudden loud bursts, then sometimes cutting to being completely inaudible for a few seconds. Sometimes you could only hear a guitar line or a bass; sometimes you could hear the band play but not the vocals.

Nevertheless, Jake himself played a perfect set. Though, even after years of performing, he still appears a little shy and quiet on stage, it’s clear he’s putting everything into the music he’s playing instead. His last four songs were definitely the strongest: ‘Broken’, ‘Two Fingers’, ‘Simple Pleasures’ and ‘Lightning Bolt’ were perfectly placed on his setlist.

Finally it was time for Saturday night’s headliners Courteeners to take the stage. I’d love to say they were ‘explosive’, and I’m sure they were - if you were stood front and centre. However, from where I was stood I could bare even whisper along to the words of ‘Are You In Love With A Notion?’ without hearing myself louder than Liam Fray himself.

Still, it was a sight to behold as colourful flares were set off left, right and centre, covering Victoria Park in a smokey rainbow haze. The crowd were wild, jumping around as if this was the best day of their life - and for many, it actually might have been. Courteeners are one of those bands that bring together both young fans and old - the mix in the crowd was lovely as everyone put aside any differences and simply joined each other in song and dance. Men that didn’t know each other were shouting the lyrics out to one another as they fell into an embrace, while younger people offered up their shoulders to shorter strangers.

Unfortunately, Northern Rail’s strikes cut the day short for many fans, but every single person leaving the park had a smile on their face, still singing along to the faint sound of Courteeners that could be heard the whole walk to the train stations.

After an incredibly successful and well organised first day (especially considering it’s the festival’s debut year) - hopes and spirits were high for day two.

Take a bow, Neighbourhood Weekender.
Read our Sunday review here.
read more



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