Live: Neighbourhood Festival 2018

This year’s Neighbourhood Festival was so full of attraction my eyes were on catching some of the new up and coming young acts, together with a few old favourites to keep it all interesting.

A little later than planned we arrived in the upstairs room at Oxford Road Revolution to hear the last half of our first act Stockport’s Rory Wynne  HHH. We thus missed Rory cope with a broken string on his second song.

Although not out of his teens Rory has had plenty of exposure over the past couple of years playing support to the likes of Blossoms and Cabbage. Unfortunately, things have not gone as well as anticipated on the break-through for Wynne who earlier this year claimed he would be calling time on his solo career for a while, and consequently has only undertaken a few gigs since.

It’s clear Wynne is a man who wants to be in a hurry for that icon status as his rock shades and theatrical swigging from an almost empty wine bottle attest. Musically, Wynne and his band have a solid flowing and bouncy guitar rock style and with his latest single D’ya Wanna Do It Again? there’s a clear instinct for a banging tune, and it certainly kicked off our Neighbourhood Festival in a good way.

Next up we discovered the new YES venue on four floors. With its nice retro industrial chic and cosy vibe it’s a yes from me. Southend boys Asylums HHH were playing in the basement and it took me a while to find the entrance doors much to the amusement of the regulars.

Asylums lead singer and guitarist Luke Branch has been in music for a decade or so (Hoodlums, Smother) and it shows through the band’s confident and warm performance. I was impressed with the range of songs on offer from hardcore punk to jangly bouncing indie. The band also run ultra smooth record label Cool Thing Records.

Luke highlighted the cost of the van fuel from Southend (and they were swapping drivers with Get Cape who were off on tour) to the intro of their biggest track, the American indie influenced Joy In A Small Wage. The travel effort meant that Luke was determined to fit in a crowd surf despite the early start and comparatively small crowd, and he managed it with panache. The band won some new fans with that performance and it was a sweaty moving hive at the front of the stage.

Next up in the Yes Basement (is it me or does the Yes Basement sound just slightly kinky?) was the well tipped Calva Louise HHHHH, that unlikely Venezuela/French/New Zealand combo, whose name when translated from Spanish becomes Bald Louise. Just don’t ask Calva Louise about air miles. Or hair for that matter.

Calva Louise was a band I really keen to see live and I wasn’t in the slightest disappointed. I rather got a vibe for a playful Wolf Alice, and the mock guitar wars between lead singer and guitarist Jess Allanic and bassist Alizon Taho gave a fun aspect to the performance. Drummer Ben Parker led the music with a muscular pulsing beat and it all felt pretty perfect and fun to me. I’ll bestow a drummer of the festival award to Ben as I don’t think anyone else topped him.

Calva Louse are a trio that knows how to make lots of good noise; lots of loud good noise in fact. The only slight downside was the rather rubbish lighting which ultimately dissected the stage into two halves, but hey that’s small beer.

When you look at a guys clothing choice and see nothing but a random collection of things rather than a fashion statement then you know you are old. The Skinner Brothers HHH collection of sportswear, tailored slacks and fishing hat gear had this random impact on me, and the hard man delivery reminded of the Gallagher’s or The Libertines.

Given these cheeky cockney lads have only been honing their craft for a year or so, they were good and tight and somewhat reminded me of a cross between the Streets, Shame and Chas and Dave. Unfortunately we had to hotfoot it across town before it got hard and messy.

A band that can guarantee to get a broad grin across my chops are Sheffield guys SHEAFS HHHHH.  In their 30 minute punchy, energetic and wild-free set at the Bread Shed they got everyone up and ready for it.

While I’ve loved SHEAFS for a while I have to admit their playing style has been a little rough around the edges in the past, but I enjoyed a much harder and neat sound this time around. I spotted a little evil glint in lead singer Lawrence’s eye before he created a mosh pit to lead. Top performance; I’d make a SHEAFS gig mandatory to every eighteen year old if I were PM.

York Fulford Arms 5th Nov, Leeds Oporto on 14 Nov. Sheffield o2 Academy 16 November – just sayin’.

In our full stride, we popped over to the wonderful Deaf Institute to catch one of my current obsessions, the insanely talented Stereo Honey HHHH. While perhaps Stereo Honey don’t have the big immediate guns of a blistering fast banger for the live music environment, their thoughtful and perfectly crafted sound soon completely enveloped the hall, and I swear I could see a sweet sticky substance slowly sinking down the walls.

Given I’ve seen Stereo Honey four or five times, I loved that the audience were bigger and pretty much totally into that perfect, delicate, well considered sound. It was also good to see the guys enjoying their set and inciting the audience to swing into it; I’ve never quite felt the band fully embrace the live performance like this.

In a bit of scheduling gold, the next band up at the Deaf Institute was another current favourite, those likable and unassuming Newcastle lads, The Pale White HHHH. I think there was a time where there was a danger that The Pale White might have got sucked into a somewhat derivative style after having great success with a few huge honking tunes which reminded me somewhat of The Black Keys. I underestimated these Pale White lads as the band have rebirthed and honed their style; still heavy, still banging, but with a different heavy guitar sound. Their performance tonight showed a band with a much wider breadth of sound, and with an impressive portfolio of songs to pick. These days they can even afford to choose to leave some early staples such as That Dress out of the set from time to time. Again the Pale White got a brilliant atmosphere going and the hall was moshing.

After a break, we were on the final leg (literally in my case as my knee gave up the ghost – never get old dear reader). I was determined to catch the sensitive synth Canadian band Boniface HHHHH back up at the Revolution.

Lead inspiration and vocalist Micah Visser has such a fragile vulnerability about his stage presence, I couldn’t help but feel relieved his brother Joey is also in the band; these are homeboys as even “Boniface” is the area in Winnipeg where they are from. In reality Micah was the one who sorted out the initial electrics problem before the band started, so I’m guessing he is perfectly sufficient. The band sound like a reflective Imagine Dragons crossed with 80’s synth and they sure know a banging tune or two. Boniface were the revelation of the day.

To close we popped over to the cellar at Night People to catch York band The Howl and the Hum HHH. The phenomenal voice of Sam Griffiths is undoubted and he’s someone I could listen to all night, and there are some class live tracks there.

Perhaps I was a little tired, but the rather rock opera (Tommy) sound did make my mind wander a little, although our men brought the fun back with their homage to Talking Heads. Overall, it was a grand way to end the Neighbourhood festival and next time I’ll want to see these guys as part of their own gig.

Overall the word for Neighbourhood has to be stupendous; all of our choices played their hearts out, did not disappoint and the organisation was second to none. See you guys next year.

Chris R     

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