Neighbourhood Festival 2017: The Review

Neighbourhood returns to Manchester for a day jam-packed with bands from across the indie spectrum

Live Review by Meg Roberts | 06 Nov 2017
  • Dot to Dot 2014 – Peace

This weekend, central Manchester is descended on by denim jackets and vintage plaid shirts as far as the eye can see for Neighbourhood's sophomore one-day citywide takeover. Manchester is, after all, the UK's self-confessed indie-pop capital: the birthplace of the Haçienda, Britpop and let’s not get started on the whole Madchester scene which defined an era. What we’re trying to say is Manchester has a lot to answer for, so it seems only right that it play host to Neighbourhood, a city festival where you can discover your new favourite band – with a combination of well known artists within the niche to draw in the crowds alongside a hefty bill of smaller bands which it hopes to provide a platform for.

First up we catch Peace at the Albert Hall. Despite being one of the headlining acts they open the festival at the packed-out main hub, a once-forgotten Wesleyan Chapel in central Manchester, daylight pouring through the stained glass windows reminding us how early in the day it is (despite the pints in hands). We want something to wake us up and excite us for the day ahead; perhaps a generous helping of honest indie-pop from the Worcester-formed four-piece could be just the ticket.

It’s difficult to know how to describe the period that came after noughties indie, when the likes of The Wombats and The Pigeon Detectives suddenly had a little less relevance, and floppy hair and skinny jeans weren’t enough to be cool anymore. Peace are the 2010s' indie bread and butter and the hype that has surrounded them for the past half-decade mean expectations are high.

Peace have that sugar-coated appeal for the younger indie-pop/rock connoisseur and a lot of it comes down to aesthetics, which doesn’t really count for much if you don’t play well. They’re the kind of band which often need to prove their worth as something more than just throwaway indie fodder for teenyboppers. That would be enough, were it not for the little crowd interaction and general lack of enthusiasm or showmanship on display today.

Despite not being their best performance, it seems as though it doesn’t matter how Peace play or how much effort they put in, the crowd lap it up all the same. It’s just not the headlining gig you might have hoped for. 

After that uninspiring and surprisingly restrained offering, we hope that The Strypes over at the Ritz might give us the shake-up we pine for. These guys could teach the most seasoned indie groups a thing or two about how to put on a show. Ross Farrelly’s passionate stage presence is infectious, and it’s refreshing to see the whole band vibing off the energy of the crowd, particularly for favourites like Blue Collar Jane and What a Shame. Throughout the set, hardcore influences from cult punk bands like Black Flag are obvious; The Strypes truly put us through our paces, their raucous anarchism prompting mosh pits across the centre of the venue. The Irish four-piece know how to work a crowd and they do it well.

We're now more than ready to take on Superfood at Manchester student haunt Sound Control, all of us sardined into the second floor of the 450-capacity venue. A combination of crowd-pleasing favourites from their first record along with newer material from the recently released Bambino, which prove to be instant hits for the hip-swaying crowd who seem to almost instantaneously pick up the lyrics from lesser known tracks with ease.

Whether after a few beverages or not, like most of the crowd you're guaranteed to leave a Superfood gig on a euphoric high, humming along to their instantly memorable hooks. Superfood are one of those bands made to play live, serving up a feel-good show of soul-infused funky beats and singalong choruses that quite obviously keep their fans coming back time and time again.

Jaws have come a long way since one of their first Manchester gigs little over four years ago as some obscure band from Birmingham in the basement venue of the Northern Quarter’s Soup Kitchen, as support for indie favourites Swim Deep. Those days are long gone and that much is obvious just from the sheer volume of people which snake along Oxford Road, many being turned away, in anticipation of the now three-piece's set tonight. On stage, it's obvious their confidence has grown and their sound has largely evolved from the originally lo-fi vibe of their Toucan Surf era, to something much more concrete taking on a wide range of sub-genres which really offer something different in an over-saturated category.  

This is an ambitious festival, and with a substantial line-up it's impossible to get through more than just a handful of acts in the day. But when we said city takeover, we weren’t lying; it was all in all a mad rush to get from venue to venue with little time between sets. The stellar line-up means the pay-off was worth it but we just hope next year’s festival is over a whole weekend rather than crammed into a matter of hours. Maybe then we can avoid too many unfortunate clashes, and have a bit more time to explore a thriving Neighbourhood.