This is to be my first time at Neighbourhood Weekender and I’m beyond excited. In my home town of Warrington I’ve heard it in the distance in previous years, the far off cheers of crowds always making me wish I’d gone, but somehow never getting there. This year it’s happening… I’m happy… so just imagine my delight when it’s announced that (one of my fav bands) Pulp will not only be re-forming but headlining the Sunday! With this gift from the musical gods it just has to be done. So, with the sun shining and what promises to be a stellar line up, I head over to Victoria Park Warrington, filled with a knowing “this IS gonna be special”.
A summery start to proceedings: vibrant fresh feels; a sweet and very controlled vocal with shimmering indie guitar; a sometimes jazz feeling sound which blends perfectly with the more guitary, indie quality. A very joyous and light set to watch, performed exceptionally well. Very likeable and quite fascinating to watch.
This is one cool band with a real bounce to them, properly funky, tropical sounds of holidays, but with an edge, deliciously calypso feeling guitars but that rock n roll indie sound in there too. The vocal is light and free but with a real grate or gravel, filled with character. Sheer brilliance and tons of energy thrown in. Brilliant sound, mesmerising set.
Scouting for Girls
There’s a mass gathering at the main stage for this! Another set perfect for the sunny weather! It’s a carefree attitude and it’s obvious Scouting for Girls are up for a laugh and just want to give everyone a good time – mission accomplished! Crowd pleasers are the obvious ‘She’s so lovely’ and ‘Elvis isn’t dead’ but the entire set has us all dancing and you can’t help but smile. Blissful set, bubbly sounds, a free and far reaching vocal, the keys lift the sound and fizzing guitars and skippy beats give the summery vibes. A sparkling and effervescent performance, full of enthusiasm.
Adrenaline fuelled, super turbo charged – that’s the K’s all over. This tent is rammed now and there’s a bouncing crowd outside too. Tunes are banging and the ferocity is second to none. It’s going off in here! Guitars are swung and the band gives so much to this performance: indie guitar driven sounds, the songs are anthem feeling with great choruses and hooks. The K’s bring the wilds to each and every set and this is no exception. Ryan and Jamie end up in the moshpit whilst playing – now there’s a performance and crowd pleaser! It’s been like waiting on a knife edge waiting for this gig to erupt, which it did early on and when it does, my God, it does it with velocity! Viva the K’s!
For sheer explosive energy and a runaway train of musical energy, look no further than the View. Just wow! These guys spontaneously combust on stage before us…indie rock and it’s careering from the stage right at us! Positively pogoing around on stage, no one is still; instruments often played whilst balancing on one leg, it’s a force to be reckoned with alright! Rocking, jagged guitars, strong, hard beats fired out, crunching bass lines – it’s phenomenal. The energy and feels are immense and the bouncing of the crowd ripples throughout the big top. This was really something to be a part of.
Now this is one frantic pace from the get go: whirling retro organ sounds drive this musical machine; beats are fired at us like military marching bands then like rapid fire gunning. Bass lines soar, guitar lines are catchy, intricate and jagged; the vocal is deep, steady and so far reaching. This is pure nostalgia. We’ve all taken a trip back to 90s Madchester with the zeitgeist of an era and this feels like some sort of rave in a huge field but under a tent! The warbling sounds of that iconic Farfisa wrap around us, drawing us into this all-encompassing sound. These guys are icons, legends, and are so full of energy it’s just pure joy to behold! Bloody loved this set, possibly my favourite set from Saturday if I’m honest.
Reverend and the Makers
I LOVE this band…perfect festival vibes; the feels go up and up at a Rev gig. It’s packed to the rafters and the crowd are buzzing; every single song is readily devoured by a hungry gathering! Dance meets indie, fast paced for most, a more chilled out vibe for others, like the most recent single ‘Heat wave in the Cold North’. This goes down incredibly in the summery weather! Club like feels, an ever pounding bass drum (we just love), the quirkiness of the keys, witty and clever lyrics and that instantly recognizable vocal with the Yorkshire accent – perfection. Bass lines soar, guitars shimmer. It’s just so danceable…calories have been burned during this set! Nonstop hits delivered in the most energetic and party fuelling way ever – another stand out for me this set.
Back over to the main stage in the evening sunshine, a great relaxed feel in this set. The Kooks bring laid back and easy going vibes, mellow, familiar but real sing-along stuff. The vocal is exquisite – throaty, yet high. This sound brings real seaside vibes of gentle melody waves lapping onto soft golden sands under a blue sky; the cheeriest voice, up and down in a singsong way in its tone, adding texture and interest. Shimmering cymbals lift the feels while light percussion anchors the sound. It’s all very soothing and is a real pleasure to listen to. The performance is very up-beat . Great set, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
This is one I’ve been looking forward to, and I’m not disappointed! Utterly crashing guitars, heart stopping beats, crunching bass lines and a real mod sounding and textured vocal. It’s carnage in the best possible way…it’s like this band detonated something inside of us energy wise and it’s gone ballistic. What a crowd to be among! The sounds are pure dynamite: loud, fast, hard and burning up this set, the power and energy on stage is outstanding; the guys are everywhere, guitars held high. As a crowd we want more and more and it’s readily provided – so much so that the Enemy just keep on playing past the set time, on more, more songs, then more. It’s epic, the crowd love it. An extra ten minutes or so and it’s looking like no sign of stopping, when suddenly the plug’s pulled and the sound goes off. (I mean, as a stage manager you would be in melt down mode by now so it’s understandable) but, undeterred, the Enemy continue with clapping and loud singing and the crowd chant along to the end of the song then erupt into a frenzy of applause. My God what a set! One of my all time bests, I’m not gonna lie!
The Wombats – Headliner
Very 80s feel with the stage – a giant Rubik’s cube forms the drum platform and the screens display imagery of pixelated Space Invader arcade games from that era. Coordinating coloured lighting effects complete the retro feel; the energy is like a shaken can of fizzy drink just waiting to be opened then it can explode and, once the Wombats begin, the explosion occurs! It’s one chaos-fuelling set. The power, force and energy is gargantuan, each song a total banger and reacted to in epic style. Pounding, bouncing, guitars scream; the band hop about. It’s another ecstatic- feeling set and it’s fast and hard hitting. Quirky, tongue in cheek tracks, real fun-filled, great musicality but with wilds thrown in for good measure. It’s frantic, pure brilliance. Another musical storm just hit Neighbourhood Weekender, swept us away, musically obliterated us and then left. We’re slightly bedraggled but on THE biggest musical high. You just can’t have too much Wombats action !
The Bootleg Beatles
Not normally my thing, to be honest, but you know what? They won me over! Such a fun and friendly feel, obviously stratospheric songs that everyone knows, whatever their age. The detail put into this is impressive and the sound is so like the Beatles it’s uncanny. It even has that vintage, of the time sound. Small kids are dancing with parents, arms are swaying, people are doing the twist! So welcoming to all, and plenty of space to dance. No wilds, no moshpit; just pure, family friendly fun. A really enjoyable set. Very pleasantly surprised.
I’m right up front for this one, in the centre, right in the mosh pit heartlands. The stage is draped with Far Eastern garlands. When Kula Shaker arrive on stage it’s known about…the energy is inspiring, it radiates from them. Real cool but hippie vibes emanate, then once they play the sound is incredible! These guys really are cool and Crispian as a front man just oozes it! Real rock n roll vibes and psychedelia. He’s s throwing his guitar around, leaping, flying kicks in the air, on his knees, covering the stage. The eastern sounds are hedonistic and absorbing. It feels transcendental, particularly during ‘Tatva’ and ‘Govinda’, the swirling moshpit engulfing anyone who’ll submit – wild but at the same time magical. It feels like a spiritual experience or something. God it’s brilliant, fast paced and high octane and the crowd bloody love it. I’ve been longing to see Kula Shaker, and now I need more! I will definitely be seeing them again. Truly magical, uplifting, music for the soul stuff! Stand out for me this set.
The Lottery Winners
This is pure, unadulterated, feel good and fun vibes: indie pop with a hint of dream pop about it. You can just feel the love these followers have for the Lottery Winners, and it’s also easy to see how this fizzing and vibrant band are appreciative and genuinely humbled by it. After recently reaching number one with their latest album, it’s a performance with real gusto. Pop filled soda float, summery sounds filter through the big top, with a real carefree vibe throughout. Skippy, light drum beats and warm bass lines, with an indie guitar line. The harmonies and vocal combinations work perfectly and add to a multi faceted sound . A real crowd pleaser, happy-making set. Inject some Lottery Winners sounds into your life for instant ‘feel good’.
The Big Moon
Glittering, stunning and completely mesmeric! This vocal is on another level. The three female harmonies are stunning and combine to give one incredible sound. Jingly jangly guitar lines are quite beguiling, it’s a dreamy sound but with a rock feel. Fuzzy bass lines, fast beats, but a hypnotic feel at times, truly stunning set! I’ll certainly be seeing the Big Moon again, that’s a given!
The Reytons are wild, it’s a raging bull of musical genius and no holds barred. The big top IS alive and banging. Edgy, jagged and jutting guitars hurtle throughout the tent; gritty and observational lyrics and a hard hitting vocal with distinctive Yorkshire accent giving another dimension. It’s bonkers; flares are being set off everywhere, the heat level is soaring and the ferocious mosh pit is stretching into all areas – you just can’t not bounce. The power with which the Reytons deliver their sound is a true force to be reckoned with; the guys do not stand still for a second and put so much into this. It’s infectious, the energy is batted from performers to crowd then back again. It’s immense, knife edge stuff and bloody amazing to be a part of. Again, the Reytons smashed it right out of the ball park.
Another power house performance: electro, soaring bass lines, glistening guitars, solid fast beats drive this indie/alt sound. The vocal is haunting, full of emotion, but with an edge. There’s s a progressive yet punchy feeling. I love the juxtaposition of angsty vocal with that cheery background in the sound; it’s quite epic , it builds into huge crescendos . This band is immense live!
A huge production here, with coordinating costumes. Four backing singers/dancers, fully choreographed performance, it’s got the wow factor. The feel I get from this is empowerment, It’s feisty, fiery and very attention grabbing. The vocal is breathtaking and there s often a pulsating, underground club like feel to the sound, then it switches to an R & B pop type feel. Often times verging on performance art, it’s a very full set, and the vocal range is impressive!
Pulp – Headliner
(Unfortunately it was decided at the eleventh hour that there was to be no photography of the Pulp headline set so sadly no images for this set).
For so long this has been longed for and eagerly anticipated but Pulp can and will deliver, of this I’m sure as I’ve seen them before and, trust me, you get everything and more. If there’s one thing Pulp always deliver, it’s the unexpected – ever quirky, ever eccentric and never what you think it might be.
After an atmospheric and epic intro of flash-card- like graphics giving details about performance numbers and moon quarters (all relevant to tonight), and prompts for noise, over an eerie, drawn out strings background and the intro to ‘I spy’, the curtains swish apart spectacularly and to our amazement we see a full orchestra along with the band. Before us is an impressive set with the image of a huge full moon, with tiered stage in front, then up on a hydraulic platform in slow motion appears our iconic and cool as fuck (just saying) front man, Jarvis Cocker. We’re agasp…told ya, expect the unexpected, but still be ready to be floored! What follows is one set of gargantuan proportions: a packed set full of classics spanning various albums.
Pulp always did have that eerie, seedy undertone sound with observational yet dangerous-feeling lyrics, layering of sounds, and the indie feel mixed in, but now with the orchestral sound added onto the mix it’s special – the hairs on our necks stand on end. Jarvis isn’t still for a second, gyrating, posing, strutting about the stage, leaping up and down that immense central staircase as the images on the screen behind alternate between grand chandeliers and retro 70s dancing figures, past Pulp images, to rave- like coloured hands. It’s a delight for the senses. Nostalgic, atmospheric feels, undulating beats, odd ball sound effects – it’s all here during darker tracks, like ‘Hardcore’ and ‘F.e.e.l.i.n.g. c.a.l.l.e.d. l.o.v.e’ , then indie pop but with perverse and witty lyrics, like ‘Babies’ and ‘Do You Remember the First Time’, then banging anthems and crowd pleasers like’Sorted for E ‘s’ and ‘Whiz’ and ‘Disco 2000’.
With as much vigour, expertise and passion as they had back in ‘96 when they blew Victoria Park apart last, this band have definitely still got it and with Jarvis, who has to be the coolest and quirkiest front man on the planet, what’s not to love? I’m blown away, truly. Every time I see Pulp. I just love them more. It’s been a while, but, my God, worth the wait.
Now I’m broken (in the best possible way). I have no voice, my feet ache, my legs hurt, I’m overcome with total festival burn out… whilst floating on a cloud of gig highs… but my God hasn’t it been worth it! It’s been brilliant, phenomenal. Both days delivered, but in so many different ways: from the floating, spiritual feels of Kula Shaker; the crowd wilds and the ferocity of the bands like the View, the Ks, the Enemy, Reytons; the retro, nostalgia filled vibes from Inspiral Carpets; the fizzing, summer sound of the Lottery Winners and the utterly bewildering, vintage and atmospheric creations of Pulp, to spine tingling vocals like Brook Coombe and Self Esteem. Both days were equal in stature but differing in feels, energies and sounds; two days I shall treasure in my musical memories. It’s been a very special Neighbourhood Weekender!
A huge shout out to the amazing and vibrant people I got to hang out with during this festival, who all contributed towards making it a Neighbourhood Weekender to remember. Thank you – John, Tracy, Emma, Carol, Jas, Matt and Tina.
REVIEW- JANET HARDING
IMAGES- PAUL W DIXON PHOTOGRAPHY