What Happened at Neighbourhood Festival, Manchester?

Neighbourhood Festival kicked off Saturday with the busiest Manchester I’ve seen in a hot minute, notably due to the University of Manchester open day, along with protests in St Peters Square. The Saturday was also faced with train strikes, which surely must be the reason so many artists and bands dropped on only hours before their sets.

Having planned to go to L’Objectif, one of the many who pulled out, I found myself with time to kill or spare. Popping into the Rosellas in the Bread Shed they had great crowd engagement and exciting use of keys. Most of their songs were fast paced which started the festival off well. 

Heidi Curtis in Deaf Institute had a wonderfully soulful voice, with many of the accumulated crowd sat at the back of the venue. Her transitions between songs were filled with chat, showing off an appreciative and friendly personality. Accompanied by two others on stage, all eyes remained on her due to her powerhouse of a voice. Different songs through her set had different energies and perhaps would be classed as different genres, but the big consistency of her music was her voice.

Overpass unfortunately were faced with sound issue after sound issue, not only with vocals being overpowered by guitars and bass, but with screeching and eventually losing one guitar – resulting in only ¾ of Overpass making it to the end of their set. Despite being young, they came across confident and purposeful on stage, including asking for sound to be amended throughout their set. Not only did they play fan favourites and classics like ‘Changes’, ‘One Night Lover’ and ‘Otherside of Midnight’, but they also treated the buzzing crowd in Bread Shed with a new track ‘Right Time’. Overpass clearly won over the Manchester crowd despite this only being the third time they’ve played here, coming across extremely appreciative, grateful, and warm.

Throughout the day notifications from the Neighbourhood app were either pinging stating another band had dropped out or pinging saying that a venue had reached capacity. If this wasn’t the case, the venue was pretty packed anyway! 

Nieve Ella played at the Zombie Shack, and surprisingly this was her first ever festival, and her first show with her band! Emphasis on surprisingly as they sounded in sync and had the crowd in a trance. Nieve seemed over the moon with the turnout and the response to her songs; dropping the exclusive that she has a new song that will be released this month.

Manchester’s own Spangled didn’t shy away from their home roots. Discussing the derby of City vs United, they asked the crowd to cheer for the reds and the blues, with the unconfirmed result of who the audience favoured! To my surprise, the crowd was slightly older in terms of age but nevertheless the crowd got involved, clapping along and cheering throughout; and despite it being slightly smaller, it felt as though each person was a hardcore Spangled fan. ‘Good Life Better’ was a highlight of their set, with the band describing the song as a track that means more and more to them every day.

Dolores Forever started slightly late due to sound adjustments, but it paid off, and I’m sure everyone would rather have a perfect sound and slightly late start – I definitely do. Hannah spilled the tea that her past gigs in Manchester have been disasters and I can confirm the set was the opposite – everything from the set list order to the arrangements, dancing on stage and chatting in between was seamless. Not only did they play their songs ‘Baby Teeth’, ‘Kilimanjaro’ and latest release ‘Funeral’, but they tested out upcoming single ‘Conversations with Strangers’ which included the lyrics “my head is a mess”. Despite the tracks covering a range of important (and deeper) topics, the crowd were grooving along with the band, and the whole set and crowd felt like a really warm and safe community. Ending their set with ‘Party In My Mind’, there had also been a fab party in YES Basement, with singing along to the phenomenal vocals and harmonies, swaying and boogieing, and perhaps the odd tear. Huge applause followed the end of their set, and was most definitely well deserved!

The Royston Club kicked off the Albert Hall for the festival and were immediately met with huge cheers as they came on stage – as expected due to a queue accumulating outside for over 3 hours prior to their time slot. It’s well known at this point that they have great fan presence in Manchester, with the crowd singing along throughout the entirety of their set. Playing ‘Mrs Narcissistic’, ‘The Backburner’, ‘Believe It or Not’, ‘Shawshank – Demo’; frontman Tom Faithfull thanked the crowd in between each song, consistently showing gratitude and appreciation. This was also evident through the crowd, and it felt very happy and safe.

The Royston Club; Serena Jemmett

Tom’s voice was exceptional, and at some points during the set, the crowd ended up louder than the band – proving their strong fanbase. This was noted by Tom who responded with “you’ve got some voices on yous”. From the first arpeggio of one of their songs the crowd already knew what song it was, even humming along to the tune. Following on with ‘Tangled Up’ it was a nice drop in pace to really appreciate the talent and skill of the band, before the pace increased and the crowd got grooving again. ‘Cold Sweats’ had members of the audience on shoulders singing their hearts out before ending their set with ‘Mariana’. As they walked off stage they were met with huge cheers and chants of “Wrexham”, there were even cheers as they packed up their gear off stage.

Headliners the Snuts fell nothing short of expectation. The entire production was perfect to the absolute T – from the drumkit saying Burn (with reference to the album released the day before), to the video before the Snuts entered the stage, to the screen playing videos and pictures that changed and matched each song, to the lighting production – everything was so clearly thought out. Best band live, no doubt.

Kicking off with ‘Pigeons in New York’ and ‘Glasgow’ it was almost surprising that the hit ‘Glasgow’ was plated so early on in the set when previously the Snuts ended with ‘Glasgow’, however it sure did kick the set off with a bang, especially ending the track with the personalised twist of “I always loved the way you say Manchester”.

The Snuts; Serena Jemmett

Frontman Jack Cochrane regularly interacted with the crowd, undoubtably in control of the room. From comments such as “Manchester how we feeling tonight. Are you loving it? Please help and sing along, it goes like this…” seamlessly into The Rodeo, to regularly saying “thank you Manchester”, it’s clear the band are always appreciative of their fans, and always will be.

Midway through their set the crowd started to wonder off and chat during their performance, in a way it felt almost disrespectful as their performance on stage and arrangements of tracks were stellar. An example being the backstory of ‘13’ was somewhat lost due to the crowd talking over Jack. Perhaps some of the crowd zoning out was due to the slight decrease in pace, and the set lasting a total of an hour and a half.

‘Blah Blah Blah’ had great visuals on the backing screen including a mouth and hand playing keys. Before ‘Somebody Loves You’, Jack instructed the crowd to give the person next to them a hug –a lovely moment to appreciate those around us, and take a moment to play into the caring nature of humans.

There was some faffing in between tracks, but the production made it worthwhile in my eyes; ‘Cosmic Electronica’ felt like we were in the next century, with a futuristic vibe being expelled across the Albert Hall. ‘Blur Beat’ from W.L. was well received with the crowd chanting along; as was ‘Don’t Forget It (Punk)’, where everyone put their middle fingers in the air for their favourite band! “Fuck Your Band” was on the backdrop which seemed almost ironic – I loved it. Notable lyrics in this specific track was “I’m the king of the spot” and on Saturday the Snuts were the kings of Manchester!

‘End of The Road’ features Rachel Chinouriri on the record, so the performance at NBHD had a heavier arrangement – again the production was insane with “we can get back to the start” on a misted-up window on the back screen. This was their final track before the encore. 

Instead of fans chanting the classic “one more song” or “we love you”, the Albert Hall started chanting and singing “fuck the Tories” (in the tune from the Pigbag song). This was followed by the Snuts re-entering the stage with huge cheers.

Crowd; Serena Jemmett

Walking on stage with neon green lighting, like their marketing for this album, Jack preached “Manchester if you want change in the world, it’s up to you; This ones called Burn the Empire”. The backing screen was mesmerising with politicians moulding into each other – really emphasising that it’s not individuals they are angry with, but the whole system – the ‘empire’. Again, just like when they performed at Manchester Academy, it felt as though the Snuts were about to lead a revolution with the crowd turning into a cult, chanting “burn the empire” repeatedly; Jack in control and commanding the crowd having climbed up onto a speaker.

Not wanting to end on a somewhat angry song, they ended their encore and set with ‘Fatboy Slim’, it really was the perfect end to the day. Jack exclaimed “thank you for spending your hard-earned money to get us where we are, it means the world”. I can’t see the Snuts ever losing this gratitude regardless of their continual growth and success. And the crowd reaction said it all, huge applause and huge cheers, and almost the denial that the set was over by not wanting to leave the venue.

So, all in all, I’d say NBHD was a successful day and successful multi-venue festival. It’s a shame that so many artists pulled out last minute, but there were plenty of other great acts to discover. And perhaps I’m biased (especially as a politics student), but I can’t fault the Snuts; and their end to the festival left the absolute opposite of a bitter taste in my mouth, so I’ll look back fondly and positively at NBHD festival, as will other attendees – I’m sure!