Big weekend for the North West's indie kids
Laura Dean
13:13 31st May 2022

Neighbourhood Weekender is back! The Warrington based festival sees thousands of music fans descend on the town each year, bringing together an incredible weekend of live music across three stages - from prolific names to the best breaking new bands.

Saturday

We kicked Saturday off with Liverpool’s Red Rum Club's first ever festival main stage set - accompanied by glorious sunshine, they opened their eclectic set with ‘Angeline’. Over a period of thirty minutes, the six piece impressed with retro guitar riffs, magnificent trumpet - courtesy of Joe Corby - and not to forget, lead singer Tom Williams’ dance moves. From ‘Would You Rather Be Lonely’ to ‘Vibrate’, each song in their set sounded just as huge as its predecessor. Red Rum Club are certainly a band that you want on your radar.

One month since their self-titled debut album hit the number one spot, Wet Leg have kicked off their summer of festivals. The duo stormed through a set of tracks laced with millennial angst and humour - including crowd favourites ‘Wet Dream’, ‘Too Late Now’ and their infectiously catchy debut single, ‘Chaise Longue’. Their earlier sets were paired with an awkwardness that was most likely due to their fast-rising success, but that wasn’t the case when they took to the main stage of Neighbourhood. Impressing with hooks galore and their effortless swagger, the duo have a careless joy to their stage presence that’s refreshing to see. 2022 is the year of Wet Leg.

The Lathums took the UK by storm last year when they released their debut album ‘How Beautiful Life Can Be’. Having packed out the Big Top tent at last year's festival, the Wigan lads took to the main stage on Saturday afternoon. Orchestrating multiple mass singalongs with their set of glistening indie tunes - including ‘Little Bird’ and their latest single, ‘Sad Face Baby’, the four piece certainly impressed. Evidently grateful and blown away by the volume of people present, frontman Alex Moore surprised the crowd by changing things up mid-set to deliver a beautiful rendition of the poignant and perfectly understated song, ‘All My Life’ - providing a festival highlight for those lucky to be present.

In the midst of a support slot with Miles Kane, Tom A. Smith’s name is on everyone's lips. Just seventeen years old, Tom’s been on the scene since the age of eight and has built quite the following. Now backed by a full band, Tom took to the Viola Beach stage with a wealth of original material - including his debut single, ‘Wolves’ and ‘Dragonfly’. No stranger to covers, Tom paid tribute to his favourite band, Led Zeppelin by dropping a solo cover of ‘Whole Lotta Love’ mid-set - a much welcomed tribute that showcased not only the strength of his vocals and how talented a guitarist he is, but also how far he’s come at such a young age.

After their last minute cancellation the day before last year’s festival, The Snuts were a band that everybody was keen to see this year - something that was particularly apparent by how many people turned up to the Big Top on Saturday night. Opening with ‘Burn The Empire’, the four piece delivered a flawless performance of tracks; including the bass heavy ‘All Your Friends’ and the scuzzy ‘Zuckerpunch’. Accompanied by a bottle of Buckfast, frontman Jack Cochrane owned the stage throughout - with a particular highlight being when the feisty scots tugged at everyone's emotions with the heartfelt ‘Somebody Loves You’.

Australian three piece DMA's returned to their rock roots recently with their third album, 'The Glow' and their return to Neighbourhood's main stage reflected this. Opening with 'Feels Like 37', the trio filled the stage with their frenetic energy as they worked their way through a perfectly crafted setlist of old and new material - including 'Silver' and 'Delete'. It's rare that every track in the bands setlist has a 'hands in the air’, but that's the case with DMA's and this continue to be the case even when they show their softer side with tracks like 'In The Air'.

Renowned for their spectacular live shows, this year was the second time that the Courteeners have headlined the Neighbourhood main stage, and based on the smile pasted across frontman Liam Fray’s face as he shouted “Evening Warrington”, the band were more than happy about their return. With a career spanning set of classics that included ‘You Over Did It Doll’, ‘Summer’ and ‘Are You in Love With a Notion’, the Manchester icons had the crowd in the palm of their hands from start to finish and each song was met with a rapturous reaction. Something that was still the case when Liam and co took the tempo down a notch with a double whammy of the lesser played ‘That Kiss’ and the heart-warming ‘Small Bones’. With flares galore, the band provided an electric atmosphere that brought the first day of the festival to the perfect end.

Sunday

Based on the wealth of support behind her - from the likes of Pale Waves and Radio 1 - it’s hard to believe that Baby Queen only entered the pop sphere last year. Bringing nothing but good vibes to the Big Top, Baby Queen played a slew of tracks that got everyone moving - including the relatable ‘Lazy’ and anthemic ‘Want Me’. It’s not only good vibes that Baby Queen brought and in a moment of hilarity, she shared a fans vape - forever showcasing her bubbly personality and pure enthusiasm, she made several trips into the crowd throughout her set and they happily returned the favour when it came to singalongs.

At just nineteen years old, Frankie Beetlestone has already written and produced an EP. Proudly taking to the Viola Beach stage for his first open air festival, he impressed with a genre bending set of tracks that included ‘Slowly Break My Heart’ and ‘Lucky Me’ - sharing resemblance with early Jamie T, the latter shone a light on his tongue in cheek lyrics that explore tumultuous relationships, heartbreak and both the aches and pleasures of growing up. Having already supported Tom Grennan on a sold out headline tour across the UK, we’re sure that Frankie and his jangly guitar are on to big things.

Following their triumphant set on the Big Top stage at last year’s festival, Irish rockers, Inhaler graced the main stage with their presence on Sunday afternoon. Showcasing a selection of uplifting indie anthems from their debut album, ‘It Won’t Always Be Like This’, the band received a euphoric response from the animated crowd - with ’When It Breaks’ and crowd favourite ‘Cheer Up Baby’ sounding like they’d been blasted from festival main stages for years. By the time the quartet got to their final song, ‘My Honest Face’, the crowd went wild from front to back and we couldn’t help but think how this would be our last time seeing them in an afternoon festival slot.

With their third album due for release this August, Pale Waves have been making their own waves since the release of their debut back in 2018. Their main stage set saw them fly through a set of angsty pop-rock – starting with heartbreak hit ‘Change’ and ending with the eerily catchy ‘There’s a Honey’. As cool as ever, frontwoman Heather Baron-Gracie strutted around the stage in an animated manor – frequently interacting with the crowd and the cameras. Whilst the heavier, more rock-inclined tones of ‘Jealousy’ illuminated the talents of guitarist, Hugo Silvani, and bassist, Charlie Wood, Heather took a trip to the crowd and for a few minutes, it was entirely possible to forget that we were stood in a huge field and not at a Pale Waves show.

The Amazons packed a hefty punch when they brought a selection of tracks from their two highly acclaimed albums to the Big Top on Sunday evening. Launching into ‘Stay With Me’ from their debut album, the Reading boys had the tent bouncing from start to finish. Dedicated to their absent drummer, Josef Emmett, the nostalgia fuelled ‘Junk Food Forever’ encapsulated the essence and energy of the whole show as the band came together at the front of the stage to deliver a truly beautiful rendition of the crowd pleaser. Though the quartets short but sweet set was ramped up once more as they came to an end with the raucous ‘Black Magic’.

Looking slick in a white suit, singer-songwriter Tom Grennan attracted a huge crowd during his set on the main stage on Sunday evening. Visibly excited, Tom bounced onto the stage and launched into ‘Found What I’ve Been Looking For’. As he delivered a hit heavy set that included ‘Don’t Break the Heart’, ‘Remind Me’ and ‘Little Bit of Love’, it wasn’t just the strength and uniqueness of Tom’s voice that impressed, but also his charisma – as he raced about the stage, Tom oozed with a confidence and when he asked the crowd to join in, they were more than happy to oblige. 

Our chosen festival closers were the might Manic Street Preachers, who’s return to Warrington was long awaited as the Welsh legends played both Legends and the Parr Hall in the early nineties. The Manics never miss with their festival setlists and tracks such as ‘A Design for Life’, ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ and ‘You Love Us’ practically had the tent shaking during their headline slot at the Big Top. Tracks from their latest album ‘The Ultra Vivid Lament’ weren’t overlooked either - with ‘Orwellian’ and 'Complicated Illusions' sitting strong in the setlist, alongside classics including 'Everything Must Go' and 'Kevin Carter'. The two biggest setlist surprises of the evening came from 'Found That Soul' and the bands sublime cover of Madonna 'Borderline', which they recently played at 6 Music Festival. For a band that have been active for over three decades, they couldn't have enjoyed themselves more - with frontman James Dean Bradfield energetically spinning with his guitar throughout and bassist Nicky Wire scissor-kicking to his hearts content. All we say can is God Bless the Manic Street Preachers.

With a unique community feel, Neighbourhood Weekender is the biggest indie festival in the North West. With another successful year them, we can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2023.

See photos by Georgia Hurdsfield below:

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Photo: Georgina Hurdsfield