A lot was resting on Manchester’s inaugural new music festival – Neighbourhood – to be a success. With over 100 acts lined up to play over the course of the all-dayer, ranging between established heavy-weights like Circa Waves and chart darlings Blossoms to fresh emerging talent like Ekkah and Cabbage also making appearances. It was obvious that the sold out event would cause quite a stir among patrons, and with anticipation flaring to catch your favourite band in a rare intimate proximity, long queues and frustrations will of course arise. But for the most part with a bit of pre-planning and smart thinking, it was possible to avoid the gridlock, and enjoy a hassle-free day of live music.
Arriving early to Sound Control, we find an endless queue trailing all the way back around the block, of course, this sight isn’t unusual considering who awaits inside. Quickly at capacity, the venue was proud to house the return of indie kings Pigeon Detectives, who are met with a genuinely excited crowd. Even the doorways are heaving full with eager fans, all hoping and hustling to catch a glimpse of the Leeds dream team, although blocked by obstructions, they still give in to a little dance or two. The set covered a few of the necessary oldies from the back catalogue (‘I Found Out’ being a particular highlight) but mainly stuck to showcasing the new material, this caused a slight disdain from the audience due to the need for familiarity in a festival situation.
Though, the band have been away from the live arena for some time now, they meet the early afternoon crowd in high spirits, frontman Matt Bowman was at his confident and energetic best. Boasting that “there’s only eight tickets left” for their tour date in Manchester next year, adding “It’s always a pleasure, not a chore” to play the city. Of course, the group lap up the attention that’s sent their way and encourage all to go wild, which is easy when song’s like ‘This is an Emergency’ roll into play. Merry with beers in hands, arms raised and voices fully tested, it was a strong and welcome comeback for the Northern lads.
Bristol’s The Shimmer Band are impressive. Throwing together flamboyance, spectral acid washed shimmers and heavy shades of Kasabian-style epicness, the band are a perfect sell to the Manchester crowd. Igniting mirages of Ian Brown and Tim Burgess at times. The stage is broken up by an inconvenient pillar but the five-strong group take it in their favour, allowing them to increase their interaction with the surrounding punters. For something a little bit different, we highly recommend seeking out the live experience of The Shimmer Band.
Following in Underdog was Liverpool’s VYNCE. Flowery shirts adorned, the spirited indie-pop quartet drew many popular bands to mind, with shades of The 1975, Fickle Friends and The Wombats present. Playing a pleasing set, they opened with their grooviest tracks first which were definitively the highlight’s of the 30-minute set, quickening the heartbeats of everyone in the room with their upbeat poppy bounce. One of the tracks that stood out firmly had a guitar line that sounded like it had been lifted off Daft Punk‘s ‘Lose Yourself To Dance’. The latter of the set was pretty much middle ground, straight-cut indie that felt a little predictable.
Manchester’s own Man Made ventured down to Sound Control to play a storming set, showcasing new tracks and well-loved favourites.
One of the biggest draws of the festival was the appearance of London band, White Lies. The trio, celebrating the release weekend of their fourth full-length album ‘Friends’, found themselves surrounded amongst a bunch of supportive ‘friends’. The die-hard’s were easy to spot, knowing exactly when the interactive parts of the song’s were coming around, which sent the room into headline gig territory. Playing new song’s to a festival audience isn’t ever going to be easy, and while there was certainly a more reserved reaction to the fresher cuts, the responses to classics like ‘Death’ and ‘Farewell to the Fairground’ more than made up for the general lack of familiarity.
The performance marked White Lies’ first trip back to Manchester since their celebrated ‘Big TV’ run back in December ’13, Neighbourhood was a good testing ground for them to get a feel for how they will approach their headline set when they return to the same venue, to play another sold out show, later in the year. A surprise enactment of ‘The Price Of Love’, from the debut record, was received with open arms and an excited blast of cheers. Even with all the new song’s mixed in, you’d be hard pushed to find fault with what was presented. White Lies aren’t in the business of faltering to expectation, they go with what feels right and with that, the new material feels like a natural progression for the much loved British band. Ending on ‘Bigger Than Us’, a point of euphoric high’s and solemn foreboding, the band exit the stage to a mandatory group bow, with a particularly enthusiastic Harry McVeigh waving abundantly as he leaves the stage.
One of the most criminally overlooked of the festival was Leeds newbies Caro. Playing upstairs at Revolution, they sampled an exquisite bunch of new material, alongside recent releases, ‘Cold Comfort’ and ‘Admit/Resist’. Their brand of alt-pop is both intelligent and intimately complex, affixed with progressive elements and polyrhythm’s, the trio provided a very promising late afternoon sumptuous listen. After previous problems arose during a quick soundcheck, the band opened their performance relaxed and poised, easily rolling through their set without any further glitches. A mention to a song titled ‘Monster Man’ must be acknowledged, with a Vampire Weekend groove in the vocal and quick-witted spit-fire runs of storytelling, it’s a certain bet for a new single. I like to describe Caro as a blend of Syd Arthur and Alt-J, fully about the groove but also particular attention is given to nuance.
London’s Jones was to be found in one of Manchester’s premier music venues, Gorilla. Her minimalist pop is sensual and beautiful, causing a handful of the crowd to breakout in dance, swaying and edging closer to their loved one’s. The humble backing of her three-piece band allowed for her stunning voice to fully fill the space, sending the smouldering caress far and wide. The laserbeam’s cast the singer in a pink prism of light before melting into azure and turning outwards on the crowd, as if to cast her spell on the on-lookers. A pleasing performance from the young artist, who just released her debut LP over the weekend.
Back in Underdog, London’s Anteros prove to be the biggest surprise of the festival. A modern-era Blondie offering hints of Goldfrapp. Ultra-cool indie chic is what’s on offer here, fronted by sassy Laura Hayden – she’s a free-spirited, animated fascination. You never want to take your gaze off the stage. The set is made up of EP track’s, like the colourful ‘Breakfast’, ‘Fade To Grey’ and calling card ‘The Beat’, the latter written about being dumped over text message. Anteros were a real highlight of the festival.
A few doors down, we find rockers VANT. A band who have had a very successful year, from sold out headline tours, to huge supports with Catfish and the Bottlemen and appearances at the biggest festivals this summer. The after-effects of all this good fortune means that when they hit the stage, VANT are certain to open to a packed venue, and that much was true. Circle pits, crowd surfers and rowdy adulation was the order of the evening’s proceeding’s. Die-hard fans were scattered all around, mouthing every word back at them in complete synchronicity, and with attention-grabbing lyrics like “the man on the moon shot JFK,” it’s easy to know why. The majority of the track’s only coming in at a trim two-and-a-bit minutes allow for energy to be spent quick and fast, each interlude gives just enough time to recharge until the next. Fronted by Mattie Vant, the quartet are incredibly likeable and ooze charisma, so it’s a shame that some of the song’s start to blend into one another but this could be easily rectified with better placement in the set listing.
Closing up at the Deaf Institute was Liverpool’s Clean Cut Kid, another band who have been experiencing some good fortune of late. A busy room meant a happy band, yet it’s their punchy power pop that was the main success here – full of bright melody, infectious vocals and interesting textures. Even in the breaks between song’s we are treated to sufficient banter from the band’s leader, Mike Halls, before he leaps into another joyous rendition. This time it’s ‘Pick Me Up’, a Springsteen-esque guitar-fuelled romp with a freight-train tempo and sugary hooks, it’s the ultimate rejoice. Ending on ‘We Used To Be In Love’ written about “a friend of ours,” Halls continues, “they don’t know it’s written about them,” it’s a pop-rocker with heart that brings to mind the dynamics of Fleetwood Mac. Clean Cut Kid rounded off the day in a relaxed, fun-filled celebratory way.
For further information on Neighbourhood Festival, head to their Website.
All photo’s by Tommy Davies. Except Caro and Jones, taken by Charlotte Holroyd.