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FESTIVAL REPORT: Neighbourhood Weekender 2023

When: 27th and 28th May 2023

Where: Victoria Park, Warrington

Neighbourhood Weekender kicks off the summer with an incredible weekend of non-stop live music at Warrington’s Victoria Park. Now in its fifth year, the popular festival has once again succeeded in curating an incredible weekend of live music across three stages – the Main Stage, the Big Top and the Viola Beach Stage.

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First up for us were Reignmaker – a guitar band from Liverpool, who drew in quite the crowd for an early Saturday afternoon slot on the Viola Beach stage. With smooth vocals and a sound that combines youthful energy, mystery and desire, the five-piece impressed with a set of shimmering indie pop tracks that included their debut single ‘Hope I’m Not Alone’ and the infectiously catchy ‘Find My Own Way’.


With beautiful melodies and mighty vocals galore, Paris Paloma delivered a short but sweet set on the Viola Beach stage due to technical difficulties. Joined by a guitarist and drummer, the singer-songwriter captivated the audience with her powerful lyrics and ethereal sound and received a particularly rapturous response with ‘Labour’ – an anthem for the female rage that recently became quite the TikTok sensation.


Despite only being active for two years, The Royston Club have already completed two UK headline tours and gained themselves a reputation for being the next big thing to come out of Wales. Taking to the stage of the Big Top, the young four-piece blasted out a set of rock anthems including ‘Blisters’ and the angst-ridden ‘Mrs Narcissistic’ to an audience who roared every lyric back at them.

Arguably the biggest surprise of Saturday was the original lineup of Sugababes, who occupied a spot towards the middle of the day on the main stage. Though past their point of peak popularity, the girl band appeared as confident as ever as they delivered a nostalgia fuelled set that had the crowd bouncing. Aside from the harmonious ‘Flatline’, which the three-piece released as MKS in 2013, the group focused on their classic hits – including ‘Round Round’, ‘Hole in the Head’ and ‘Push the Button’.

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Taking her huge sound to the Viola Beach stage, Hannah Grae demonstrated how she’s put a new spin on the pop-punk genre, with a set of spiky tracks that explore the navigation of turbulent teenage years – a theme that’s so often romanticised – and the feeling of standing up for yourself. Impressing with the recently released ‘Hell Is a Teenage Girl’ and a cover of ‘What’s Up?’ by 4 Non Blondes, it’s evident that Grae passes a huge amount of vocal talent and is more than deserving of her place on recent ‘emerging artists to watch’ lists.

Hailing from Wigan, Stanleys took to the Viola Beach stage on Saturday evening with a polished sound that would lead you to believe that they’d been around for years. Boasting jangly guitar lines and subtle drumbeats, the band have a lot to offer and based on their infectiously catchy debut single ‘A Better Life’ alone, it’s easy to see how they’ve made their mark on the North West scene so quickly. With a distinctive sound capable of catching anyone’s attention, we’re certain that Stanleys have a bright future ahead of them.


Back in April, Inspiral Carpets announced their first gigs since 2015 and we were thrilled to see them on the Neighbourhood line-up. Walking on stage to the sound of rapturous applause, the band stormed through a set of classics that included ‘Two Worlds Collide’, ‘Sackville’ and ‘Saturn 5’. With a set that was a true celebration of the band’s music from the last 34 years, Inspiral Carpets undeniably cemented their reputation as one of Manchester’s much-loved bands.


The Kooks brought their distinctive brand of indie rock to the main stage as the sun was starting to set on Saturday evening. Opening with ‘Always Where I Need to Be’, it was audience participation galore, with frontman Luke Pritchard promising the crowd that they’d stick to the classics. It’s not often that a band can retain the attention of a festival crowd with an acoustic track, but it wasn’t a problem for the Kooks and a highlight of the set lay in a mass singalong to ‘Seaside’ from the band’s debut album. From the anthemic ‘She Moves in Her Own Way’ to the more experimental ‘Bad Habits’, the Brighton band’s set went from strength to strength and Pritchard is just as charming a frontman as he was nearly two decades ago.

After a hiatus of six years, The Enemy are back and their bigger and louder than ever. With the penultimate slot at the Big Top, the indie trio played a high-energy set that featured a heavy selection of tracks from their iconic debut album, We’ll Live and Die in These Towns.  In an unexpected move, the band dropped crowd favourite ‘Away from Here’ mid-set and if they weren’t fired up before then, they certainly were after, as the band raced through classic tracks including ‘Had Enough’ and ‘We’ll Live and Die in this Town’. Unfortunately, their triumphant set came to a sudden end as, despite the roadies’ best efforts, the band failed to leave the stage on time and had the pull plugged on them during ‘This Song’.

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Over 15 years into their career, The Wombats are pulling in bigger crowds than ever before, so we weren’t surprised to find them headlining Saturday night at the Big Top. With five studio albums behind them, the Liverpool trio aren’t short of tracks to choose from and though they made space for five tracks from their latest album Fix Yourself, Not the World, their set was packed with singles from all eras of their career – including their debut single ‘Moving to New York’ and the synth ridden ‘Techno Fan’. The Wombats pack an impressive punch for a three-piece and despite having emerged from the golden age of indie, they possess a wide-ranging tonal palette, which they demonstrated throughout their set – from mellow tracks such as ‘Pink Lemonade’ and ‘Method to the Madness’, to tracks of a funkier nature, like ‘Cheetah Tongue’. With deep lyrics, upbeat music and euphoric singalongs, the headline set had it all and the Merseyside boys didn’t scrimp on their production either, with striking visual effects onstage in the form of light-up columns. Sixteen years have passed since the release of the band’s debut album and in that time, they’ve unquestionably perfected the skill of crafting a setlist that caters for all.


We kicked our Sunday off with a trip to the Viola Beach stage for Dolores Forever. Despite having only played their first UK headline show a few months back, the equal frontwomen had total command of the stage as they churned out a set of ready-made festivals anthems, including the shimmering ‘Good Time All the Time’ and ‘Baby Teeth’. With infectious hooks and lush harmonies, the dreamy indie duo have mastered the art of songwriting and we can’t wait to see what’s next for them.


Just a few weeks after landing their first UK #1 with their latest album Anxiety Replacement Therapy, The Lottery Winners brought their infectious melodies and vibrant stage presence to the Big Top tent. Drawing in a huge crowd, the four-piece delivered a set of rousing tracks that defied the crowd not to singalong – from the raucous ‘Burning House’ to the optimistic ‘Start Again’, which usually features punk/folk singer-songwriter, Frank Turner. The Lottery Winners continue to be one of the best live bands around and based on the sheer volume of people packed into the tent to see them on Sunday afternoon, we’re certain that they’ll be bringing in even bigger crowds on the main stage in the future.


Sea Girls set the tone for their set by kicking things off with the anthemic ‘Damage Done’, before launching into ‘Ready for More’. Delivering good vibes galore, the indie four-piece ploughed through 45 minutes of shimmering indie tracks that received a rapturous reaction from the energised crowd. From ‘Hometown’ to ‘All I Want to Hear You Say’, each track resulted in an abundance of people on their friend’s shoulders throughout and crowd and there was no shortage of circle pits. With delicate lyrics, punchy instrumentation, and live chemistry that some bands can only dream of, the band’s performance was nothing short of slick. The exhilarating set came to an end with guaranteed crowd pleaser ‘Call Me Out’ – a poignant choice as it’s the band’s debut single, thus responsible for getting them to where they are today.


Having played at the Big Top in 2021, Self Esteem returned to the festival to play the penultimate slot on the main stage on Sunday evening – and it was certainly a set of biblical proportions. Dressed in an oversized white suit and joined by her powerhouse of a band, Rebecca Lucy Taylor stormed through an empowering set of tracks that address difficult topics such as consent, putting yourself first and the objectification of women – including opener ‘Prioritise Pleasure’, the snarling ‘I’m Fine’ and the blistering ‘How Can I Help You’. Never one to do what’s expected of her – and rightly so too – the Sheffield-born singer-songwriter performed two explosive new tracks that not only showcased some of her best choreography yet but also gave us an insight into what we can expect from album number three. Though Taylor’s talents don’t solely lie in up-tempo tracks and the crowd hung on her every word when she brought the pace down for ‘The 345’ and closing track ‘I Do This All the Time’ – two tracks of an empathic nature from her Mercury Award nominated album Prioritise Pleasure that highlights her skill as a lyricist. If we learnt anything from Self Esteem’s set, it was that she belongs on the main stage.


For us, the final act of the weekend wasn’t up for debate – it had to be Pulp. Having played in Victoria Park as part of V Festival in 1996, the 90-minute set from the reunited Britpop greats was 27 years in the making and more than worth the wait. Always one to make an entrance, frontman Jarvis Cocker ascended from beneath the stage while singing ‘I Spy’, before launching into the youthful ‘Disco 2000’, which has been responsible for filling dancefloors everywhere since 1995. Though peppered with some lesser-known tracks – including ‘Pink Glove’ and ‘Weeds’ – the set mainly consisted of hits that triggered mass sing-alongs from front to back. What appeared to be a fairly simple stage setup wasn’t that at all and an interactive screen sat behind the band, displaying lyrics, animations and at one point, a young Cocker introducing ‘Babies’. In a velvet brown suit, Cocker was as charismatic and engaging as ever and seeing his distinct silhouette shadowed on the screen as he danced his way through ‘Sorted for E’s and Whizz’ served as a reminder to us all that he’s not your average frontman – and there’s certainly nobody else like him. The main set came to an end with ‘Sunrise’, before the curtains closed and Cocker emerged alone with his guitar, to deliver a beautiful rendition of ‘Like a Friend’ before the curtains opened for the penultimate track, ‘Underwear’. With the curfew dangerously close, Cocker began to tease the crowd, asking if the band had forgotten something – of course, ‘Common People’ erupted soon after, with confetti and pyrotechnics shooting from the stage. If this is what Pulp do for an encore, can we make it a double?

With a mix of the best breaking new bands to huge names including Paul Heaton, Pulp, The Wombats and Anne Marie on the bill, it was another triumphant year for the North West festival and we’re already counting down the days until Neighbourhood Weekender 2024.

Photography: Alan Gregson Photography

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.