Neighbourhood Weekender 2023: the highlights

Some of the warmest, wildest and most wonderful moments of the Warrington festival

It was a warm and wonderful Neighbourhood Weekender festival in Warrington this weekend, in more ways than one. The weather was as summery as anyone could hope for over a May bank holiday and the friendly audience in Victoria Park met their musical guests with open arms and loudly-expressed love. Up and comers drew big crowds, festival veterans performed the hits, and Pulp reunited on the main stage to dazzle with their headline set. Here’s everything that went down in Victoria Park this weekend.

Reignmaker warm up the Viola Beach stage

Never has the adjective ‘fresh-faced’ been more applicable. Reignmaker may look like they’re on study leave, but they open the Viola Beach stage with confidence, charm and a strong catalogue of cheeky chappie indie pop. Not bad for their very first outdoor festival.

Paris Paloma brings the female rage

Photo credit: Tom Martin

The singer-songwriter has been making waves on social media over the last few weeks with her dynamic, lyrically dense brand of folk pop. Her viral hit ‘Labour’ sees the woman in the crowd raising their drinks, and their boyfriends looking more than a little scared. She’s going places.

Scouting For Girls introduce their fifth member

Photo credit: Tom Martin

It’s us! “I need you all to be my backing vocalists”, Roy Stride tells the crowd gathered at the main stage, before leading everyone through the chorus of ‘Heartbeat’. A consummate professional and a festival veteran, Stride knows exactly how to show an audience a good time. There’s a lot of excitement surrounding the group’s upcoming album as well, which Stride declares himself to be immensely proud of.

Sugababes get the whole field dancing

The trio treat us to hits old and new in an impeccably polished set. Judging by the loving response from the crowd, and just how packed the field in front of the mainstage was, their reunion tour may need to continue until the rest of the time. Read our full review here.

Jamie Webster knows his audience

Photo credit: Tom Martin

“You f*cking know what’s coming now, don’t you?” shouts Webster before launching into his festival favourite, ‘Weekend In Paradise’. We do – and he’s nearly drowned out by the voices singing along. Elsewhere in Webster’s set, an enthusiastic chant of “F*ck the Tories” gets its own two minutes, accompanied by his band. Read our full review here.

Inspiral Carpets bring Madchester rock to the Big Top

Photo credit: Natalie Argent

The group throw it back to the 80s and 90s with an energetic set that proves their forty years together could well stretch into fifty. Seeing groups of sixth formers bobbing along to ‘Two Worlds Collide’ is strangely meta.

Rachel Chinouriri plays a cosy set on the Viola Beach stage

“Everyone take a step forward!” Chinouriri encourages. She’s got stories to tell us, from the five-year relationship that ended because they were ‘Better Off Without’ the other one, to the time she fell in love whilst battling a chest infection and wrote a song about both things at once (‘Ribs’). It’s a warm, chatty set that sees Chinouriri dancing around the stage.

The Kooks organise a summer singalong

Photo credit: Barnaby Fairley

The Kooks will always be a hit in Warrington. Front man Luke Pritchard conducts the crowd through their short but beloved track ‘Seaside’, a cheerful summer tune that sets the field swaying. There’s also a few repetitions of the final chorus of ‘She Moves In Her Own Way’, just so everyone gets a chance to raise their voices. It’s a very happy hour.

The Enemy love that they’re playing in a tent

Photo credit: The Enemy

“This tent is fantastic,” says Tom Clarke, looking up at the ceiling of the Big Top. The band then proceed to take the roof off it.

The Goa Express play through their hangovers

All in sunglasses, The Goa Express explain that they’re not in the best condition after their show in Manchester the night before. They’ve also mislaid some of their equipment – “We don’t have a tambourine, we don’t have a harmonica, we’ve barely got ourselves.” Their enthusiastic crowd don’t seem to mind.

The Wombats get the Big Top moshing

Photo credit: Barnaby Fairley

Another Neighbourhood favourite, the Wombats get the warmest of warm receptions at the Big Top, where most of the younger demographic have gathered to close out the evening. Proceedings are brought to a joyful, rowdy close with ‘Turn’, as multiple mosh pits break out in the tent.

Paul Heaton and Rianne Downey dazzle on the main stage

Photo credit: Tom Martin

In true Paul Heaton fashion, money had been put behind multiple bars in Warrington before the singer took to the stage. Sadly, Jacqui Abbot was unable to join him, but young vocalist Rianne Donney stepped in for the second half of the set, stunning the field with a lilting rendition of ‘Don’t Marry Her’. To listen to the two of them perform ‘Caravan Of Love’ was especially unifying, as the sun set on the first day of Neighbourhood Weekender.

The Bootleg Beatles play a sunshiny set

The tribute band open the main stage for the second day of festivities, cheerfully rattling through favourites such as ‘Here Comes The Sun’, ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Hold Your Hand’. They close out with ‘Hey Jude’, and a resounding “na na na na” echoes around Victoria Park.

Ber tells us about her Hinge dates

Photo credit: SJM Concerts

“This is embarrassing to admit, but I’m going to play a bunch of song about Hinge dates I’ve been on,” Ber tells the crowd, which steadily grows throughout her set as her confessional pop attracts curious listeners. All the way from Minnesota, she wins over the northern crowd with self-deprecating humour and some excellent indie pop.

CMAT is everyone’s favourite grandmother

Photo credit: SJM Concerts

CMAT shuffles onto the Big Top stage with a scarf tied around her head and a Betty Boop purse on her arm, from which she tosses sweets into the crowd. Five minutes later, she’s performing energetic dance routines with her keyboardist and filling the tent with powerful, operatic vocals. In-between, she takes breaks to lie on the floor. The crowd adore her.

Dolores Forever bring a buzz to the Viola Beach stage

Rising indie pop duo Dolores Forever draw quite the crowd to the festival’s new music stage thanks to the buzz that surrounds them – and their excellent vocals. ‘Party In My Mind’ inspires a party of its own.

Kula Shaker have the best hair of the weekend

Whatever conditioner Kula Shaker are using, we need some. The group took to the main stage to deliver a dose of psychedelic rock, and front man Crispian Mills had just as much fun dancing to ‘Hush’ as anyone in the crowd.

Ella Henderson brings her club bangers to the main stage

There’s a lot of moshing to Ella. She and two excellent backing vocalists perform a high-energy set packed with dance-pop hits, closing out with ‘Ghost’. “This is the song that started it all for me,” she says. The crowd scream their way through it.

Gang of Youths’ David Le’aupepe makes a run for it

Photo credit: SJM Concerts

Security aren’t too keen on the idea of Le’aupepe jumping into the crowd to dance with everyone. No matter – once they’ve pulled him back over the barrier, Le’aupepe makes a break for it around the side and finds his way into the middle of it all anyway for a triumphant final chorus of ‘Magnolia’. He also comes out waving an Everton shirt, just to rile everyone up.

Modernlove. promise to get us all dancing

…and they deliver. “Don’t worry if your head’s still hurting on Monday,” says vocalist Barry Lally to those seated on the grass. But by the second verse of summery indie-pop track ‘2 Missed Calls’, most of us are on our feet.

Sea Girls aren’t letting anyone slip through the cracks

If Harry Camamile tells you to jump, you aren’t getting away with a half-hearted arm raise. “Every f*cking one of ye’s!” he yells, before launching into the chorus of ‘Do You Really Wanna Know?’ He softens a little bit before ‘All I Wanna Hear You Say’, in order to dedicate the track to his girlfriend.

Everything Everything turn the Big Top into a disco

‘Distant Past’ has everyone moving from the barrier right to the edges of the tent. The Manchester art pop band play a trippy, infectious set to a loving crowd, packing the Big Top so full that people are spilling out into the field.

Self Esteem takes us to church

Not only does Self Esteem make excellent experimental pop, she’s a fantastic live experience. With three backing dancers and a set of steps, she delivers one of the most meticulously choreographed performances of the entire weekend, with plenty of surprising moments. Watching her stand in a white suit under a harsh white spotlight and smear her red lipstick over her face is something spiritual.

Corella cover Viola Beach at the Viola Beach stage

The indie-pop quartet honour the late Warrington band with a cover of ‘Boys Who Sing’ – a performance equally joyful and moving. They’re closing out the Viola Beach stage and they do so excellently, with a large and loving crowd to shout the lyrics to their catalogue of indie pop.

Anne-Marie brings the house down in the Big Top

Photo credit: SJM Concerts

No one is allowed to silently observe during an Anne-Marie performance. “If you know this song then you have to sing, and if you don’t know this song then you have to sing,” she tells the crowd. No issues there – her headline set on the Big Top stage is unbelievably loud throughout, particularly when she reaches nostalgic hit ‘2002’.

Pulp triumphantly play us out

Photo credit: Tom Martin

Jarvis Cocker promises magic and more than delivers, from the visuals to the atmosphere. A packed field cheers him on as he dances jerkily across the mainstage in a velvet suit, singing his way through a catalogue of crowd-pleasers to festivalgoers young and old. It’s a victorious encore for the band, and a triumphant close to a wonderful weekend of live music. Read our full review here.

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