Neighbourhood Weekender @ Victoria Park, Warrington, 26-27 May
Neighbourhood Weekender offers up a sun-drenched weekend, with stand-out sets from headliners The Courteeners and Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
There are two kinds of music festival – those that unravel into a vivid recreation of the First World War (various survivors wandering through rain and mud with trench foot) and those that take place with sunlight and heat. Sunlight and heat are vital ingredients if a music festival is to be enjoyed; they help cover a multitude of sins and for this, the proprietors of Neighbourhood Weekender should consider themselves blessed.
You get the sense whoever was in charge of the line-up started with the headliners – The Courteeners on Saturday and Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds on the Sunday. Those two drew the crowds, but we sense they also took the majority of the money because there wasn’t much else in the way of a draw. If you take away the half-dozen ever-so-slightly-smaller acts – Editors, The Coral, Jake Bugg, Miles Kane, Beth Ditto, Blossoms – you're left with a lot of much smaller bands. To all intents and purposes, the festival is composed of bands you expect to see on the lower rungs of a decent festival, except they fill about 90% of the rungs here.
As a result, much of Saturday afternoon is spent casting about for bands that would have been a good fit for the crowd (The Wombats, Two Door Cinema Club, The Vaccines, Catfish and the Bottlemen, The 1975), while various bands (Blaenavon, Reverend and the Makers, Circa Waves) are underwhelming. There are positives though, particularly on the smallest stage, where both sparky three-piece Hey Charlie and Sam Fender draw a great response from crowds that grow bigger throughout their sets.
Later, Jake Bugg does his slightly sulky Gerry and the Pacemakers thing (squandering whatever excitement Two Fingers, Taste It and Lightning Bolt generate with maudlin song after maudlin song). It's up to The Courteeners to save the day, which they do in spades, mixing up the hits (Are You in Love with a Notion?, The 17th, Small Bones, Fallowfield Hillbilly, Modern Love, Not Nineteen Forever) with the odd crowd-pleasing rarity (Smiths Disco) and a bit of heartfelt sentimentalising, in the shape of a song (The Opener) dedicated "to the 22 angels.”
The Sunday sun shines brighter still, and the music responds. We get upbeat soul from Mo Jamil, Manchester Camerata do their out-there string thing, Knox Fortune provide some fuzzy beats and Gerry Cinnamon is at hand for some winsome folk. We get strong sets from The Coral and Editors, both of which leave you wanting more.
And then we get Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, lapped up like a big bowl of milk. He’s a canny lad, our Noel, and so he knows to mix it up. For every Dream On, we get a Little by Little; for every Holy Mountain, a Half the World Away. And as we go on, he only amps up the feeling. If you thought Wonderwall was as big a singalong as you’d want, hang around for Don’t Look Back in Anger and a cover of The Beatles’ All You Need is Love. Oh yes, he went there.
All told, for a first go, Neighbourhood Weekender was a success. Next year organisers will need more big names to pad the line-up out, and to get a better soundsystem for the main stage, but as sun-drenched weekends in a field go, they didn’t do half bad.
Neighbourhood Weekender returns on 25-26 May 2019