Featured image and gallery: Tom Martin (SJM Press)
Starting the summer festival season in the right way in 25-degree heat at Neighbourhood Weekender Festival in Warrington’s own Victoria Park Becoming increasingly popular in its fifth year, masses of people travel to the park to hear their favourite alternative and indie rock artists. With three different stages across the park, there’s something for everyone in the NBHD Weekender line-up.
The early birds at the park are greeted by the sounds of Cassia, The Mary Wallopers, and Paris Paloma, who play to a stream of people entering the park, setting the scene for the day. Amusement park rides, food vendors, and of course, many bars surround the outline of the park, so there’s always something to do while waiting for your favourite bands to grace the stage.
People flock to the main stage for the start of the Scouting For Girls set and they don’t disappoint with ‘Heartbeat’ and their iconic song ‘She’s So Lovely’, which gets the crowd going immediately. Shortly after, in a blast from the past, Sugababes take to the main stage, playing ‘Hole In The Head’, ‘Round Round’ and crowd favourite ‘Push The Button’. True pop hits that got every reminiscent 20-something year old dancing.
Unfortunately, not everything was smooth sailing, as there were some technical issues right before Jamie Webster’s set. Although this didn’t stop him from coming out to a screaming crowd for his first festival with the band, last year, he smashed it out of the park on The Big Top stage and has now returned to grace the main stage for the first time. With songs such as ‘This Place’ and ‘Davey Kane,’ a well-known hit about the prison and justice system in the UK, the audience sings back to him as loud as they can in between anti-tory chants.
Over at the Viola Beach Stage, Chappaqua Wrestling surprises with a fresh burst of energy as they finish their UK tour with a show at NBHD Weekender, celebrating their new album Plus Ultra. Their hard-hitting brand of indie rock translates well to the stage, as they call upon the audience to get down on their knees and launch up for the chorus of ‘Need You No More’.
Further afield, at The Big Top stage, Reverend and the Makers can be heard performing “banger after banger”. The Sheffield-born and bred band never miss as they scream for the crowd to “bounce from the front to the back” as the beat of ‘Bassline’ opens their set.
Next, we hear single ‘Heatwave in the Cold North’, named after their new album. This album takes the band in a different direction, but The Reverend’s loyal fans join him in slowing down the tempo for this one. Ending on the iconic ‘Silence is Talking’, like they do every performance, everyone in the tent bounces with the band and continues to sing the catchy tune as one even after the band has finished their set.
Sticking to The Big Top stage, The Enemy are up next, performing the first festival they’ve played in eight years. In true Northern competitive spirit, they have a favour to ask the audience. The band calls upon the huge crowd in the tent to drown out The Kooks,who are performing over on the main stage,by singing ‘We’ll Live and Die in These Towns’ with them. Within seconds, the lyrics echo in the tent as every member of the audience sings by themselves, and The Enemy become the listeners, taking it all in before jumping into the song.
Drinks are flown in the air as ‘You’re Not Alone’ plays out, and the audience screams, “you’re not alone, you know, you’re not alone at all” with the band. Just in time for the band to play ‘Be Somebody’, a sudden rush of people enter the tent, signalling the end of The Kooks’ set, and everyone starts bouncing to the fast drumbeat, ending the set on a massive high.
The headliner for Saturday’s show is none other than the legendary Paul Heaton. The ex-Housemartins and Beautiful South singer is very much a local hero after putting money behind the bars of four pubs in Warrington, so fans attending the festival can “have a drink on him”. Up on stage, he explains: “The reason we’re doing this (referring to kind gestures and making music) is because we have a government that attacks you too much and me not enough”, which is met with a deafening cheer as the anti-tory chants start anew.
With a plethora of songs and albums under his belt, he plucks out some of his best-sellers for a very special performance. Beautiful South’s ‘Old Red Eyes’ goes down a treat as the audience sings along with him to the catchy chorus, before slowing it down with ‘I’ll Sail This Ship Alone’ from their debut album, as couples hold each other and slow dance in the field to the heartfelt song. ‘Rotterdam’ gets the crowd jumping and dancing again.
Unfortunately, his singing partner, Jacqui Abbott, is unable to perform with him due to illness, but the very talented Rianne Donney steps in halfway through the show as Heaton’s special guest. At only 23 years of age, her beautiful voice is effortless, and she doesn’t seem phased by the masses of people hanging on her every note. Leaving the big crowd by the front stage, it’s easy to see that Heaton has everyone wrapped around his little finger during ‘You Keep It All In’. Everyone is dancing, even all the way on the other side of the field near the food vendors; it’s impossible not to get caught up in the feel-good festival atmosphere at NBHD Weekender.
As curfew draws closer, the sky is lit up by a stunning firework display behind the main stage, creating the perfect ending to day one and setting the scene for Pulp’s long-awaited festival return on day two.
Check out our Neighbourhood Weekender Day Two review here.