enjoyable performances keep Neighbourhood Weekender crowds happy on opening day

Neighbourhood Weekender 2021 review

By Trevor Eales | Published: Fri 10th Sep 2021

around the festival site (Saturday)

Saturday 27th to Sunday 28th May 2023
Victoria Park, Knutsford Road, Warrington, Cheshire, WA4 4UK, England MAP
£127.50 for 2days; £66.50 for either day
Daily capacity: 25,000
Last updated: Thu 4th May 2023

It had been over 2 years since the last Neighbourhood Weekender but arriving on site on Saturday afternoon brought an immediate air of familiarity. The site layout was very similar to previous editions with changes that generally proved to be improvements.  Performers on The Viola Beach Stage (the smallest of 3) previously often only received minimal attention as crowds travelled between the 2 main stages. By moving it slightly, it more often had an audience of its own who stayed to watch; which can only be good for those performing. The Big Top stage kept the same location but appeared to be larger than in previous years – although that may be my imagination. Those purchasing VIP tickets found their area located on the opposite side of the main arena and closer to the stage, which was great for anyone taking advantage of the viewing platform. More negatively, its location next to a bar and toilets too often seemed to cause congestion.

First music of the day was Zuzu. I’d seen her previously but initially didn’t recognise the performer on stage. The pleasing singer-songwriter hadn’t just changed her appearance, her music had become much more bash, indie with an edge, accompanied by a more raucous Liverpool accent. She drew a decent audience who enjoyed her but I’m not quite sure it worked for me.

Next to grace The Big Top are The Mysterines. They’re are a rock band; and a good one. With impressive vocals and some extended guitar work, their brief set shifts pace but delivers songs that create an immediate impression. They’re an early highlight in a day of many. Performers in The Big Top had struggled with sound problems at the start of their sets, none more than Self Esteem. Her performance unfortunately curtailed to around 20 minutes, her frustration was clear to see. In an afternoon where the main stage presented a procession of indie guitar bands her brief burst of visual energy, verbal aggression, accompanied by backing singers and synchronised dancing was a breath of fresh air. It’s not music I would rush to listen to at home but live it was irresistible.

The Coral: Neighbourhood Weekender 2021

It was finally time to make my way to the main stage to watch The Coral. I’d expected them to plug their recent acclaimed album, “Coral Island,” and we did get a couple of numbers.  What they presented instead was a 45 minute journey through the some of the highlights of their noughties material. It was an unexpected pleasure; as was what came next. Like many I suspect I’ve been a little disappointed by the quality and diminishing returns found in Jake Bugg’s music since he burst onto the music scene a decade ago. Well Mr Bugg did choose to plug his new album, and with good reason; performed live the 6 new tracks that he aired really impressed – enough to make me want to take a listen to the album.

Before heading back toward the smaller stages I went in search of some food, but soon gave up. Neighbourhood has always been a well organised festival and this year proved no different, but this year queues for food proved to be an issue for long periods during both days. I’m not sure why and don’t recall waiting times being so long during previous years. It’s also worth saying that compared to the other couple of festivals I’ve covered this summer, prices were definitely a little higher for full meals. Having said that the couple that I ate were very tasty – and the vendor who warned me about the ferocity of his hot chilli sauce was right!

So food would have to wait. I needed to head towards something darker in the shape of The Murder Capital. Often described as post punk and compared to fellow Dubliners Fontaines DC, they were one of the bands that I really wanted to see at Neighbourhood and they didn’t disappoint. This was turning into one of those days when the highs just kept coming and I couldn’t help reflecting upon the diversity of styles that the The Big Top had offered during the afternoon.  

Having eventually eaten, I made my way back toward the main stage and soon became aware of just how much the crowd had swelled. The queues for food and fairground rides had disappeared as the masses eagerly awaited Sam Fender’s performance. He received a great reception and by the time he played Borderlands (probably his most Springsteen-esque song) about 3 numbers in the audience were completely captivated. Unfortunately, this was his moment to challenge those present to create more moshing circles than fans had at the Leeds festival a week earlier. Within a couple of minutes someone had been significantly hurt; leading to the band leaving the stage for 10 minutes. Momentum lost, the set began again more calmly but by the time he launched into closer, “Hypersonic Missiles,” mayhem ensued once more. In spite of the enforced break there was no doubting the power of the performance or the inevitability that we’d been watching a future festival headliner.

James: Neighbourhood Weekender 2021

It was noticeable that significant numbers drifted away after his performance although there was still a large crowd to welcome headliners James. They’re a band with a tremendous catalogue of work and one I’ve seen on numerous occasions dating back to 1990. There’re also a band that like to take chances, who don’t play the same set or roll out the hits night after night, at times obstinately choosing not to play the obvious. That can be frustrating. The last time I’d seen them was in 2018 when I thought that they were quite frankly, poor. It’s hard to say what makes a performance great for one person while for others it’s something else, but on Saturday night James gave probably the most enjoyable performance that I’ve witnessed from them.

Sunday's review to follow...come back soon

For the photo galleries see here.

review by: Trevor Eales

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