Sunday 2 October 2022

Neighbourhood Festival (The Murder Capital / Egyptian Blue / Venbee / Tom A Smith / Rianne Downey / The Covasettes / Pastel / Corella / Rosellas) - Manchester Various Venues - 1st October 2022

Neighbourhood Festival returned to venues situated across the Oxford Road corridor in Manchester on Saturday boasting an impressive line-up of up and coming talents. We swerved the biggest venues and names on the bill to catch nine sets by The Murder Capital, Egyptian Blue, Venbee, Tom A Smith, Rianne Downey, The Covasettes, Pastel, Corella and Rosellas.

Our first stop off is for Rosellas at Bread Shed and there's already a healthy crowd here for a band who under the radar are building a strong following and their set demonstrates exactly why. Their love of the music of Manchester over the year is evident in their own music, but what they do is give it their own personality, critical for any guitar band these days. Front man Drew may be a little more unassuming than most, but Rosellas' magic is in their songwriting craft and the accomplished delivery of it. Songs like On Solid Ground, Calm Before The Storm, recent single Switch Off, Over and Born Under A Cloud feel both familiar and fresh and they go down a treat with an eager appreciative crowd.

We head over to Gorilla with trepidation after the venue openers Lovejoy have packed the place out, but thankfully the chaos has moved across to Canvas where they perform a second set later in the day that was a lockout by noon.

Corella are our first band of four in Gorilla's new smartly revamped music room and it's full of a mix of their Manchester fanbase and the curious festival attendee. Mixing tracks from their recent EP Today, Tomorrow, Whenever with a couple of older fan favourites Barcelona Girl and Waterfall at the end of the set, they get a rapturous response to an upbeat half hour of songs that are perfect for an early afternoon festival slot. Full of energy and with an obvious joy of being on stage and with front man Joel a charismastic and engaging presence backed by a band of musicians with a real chemistry between them, their momentum seems to be building and today will have enhanced that no end.

There's a lot of hype about Pastel right now. Their debut EP Deeper Than Holy now sells for three figures online, its follow-up Isaiah has already sold-out a month in advance and they recently supported Liam Gallagher in front of 80,000 people. "It's too fucking early" front man James declares a couple of songs in and it seems he's not happy with something, declaring something "shit" and saying the guitars need turning up to hide him singing out of tune. That said, we could listen to lead guitarist Joe all day and recent single SOHO is a great tune. They've got the swagger and confidence about them to take them far, but, and perhaps the sound issues and time of day worked against them, but they didn't quite live up to the, admittedly stratospheric, billing our friends had given them.

The Covasettes are very much a good time band and front man Chris is determined that the still-packed Gorilla room have exactly that, declaring their set as a "Covasettes greatest hits" as they run through eight songs including this year's singles Wave and Plastic Gold all the way back to early single Top Drawer than finishes the set to a euphoric reaction. Like Corella before them, they have the knack of writing songs with hook lines that grab you and hold you - familiar but also critically with the band's personality on them as well. The crowd, again a mix of die-hard fans and festival goers, respond accordingly and we get our first festival mosh-pit of the day.

The Murder Capital have taken their time recording their second album, the task of following up When I Have Fears a monumental one. If the four songs they play today and recent single A Thousand Lives that they can't because of an equipment malfunction, are anything to go by, Gigi's Recovery will be a fascinating departure from the sound and style of their debut. Darker, more complex and less immediate, they've resisted the urge of many of their contemporaries to produce more of the same in a short timeframe and remained true to their creative instincts and release something that reflects them when they're ready. 

The Stars Will Leave Their Stage is claustrophobic and intense, We Had To Disappear has a darkness to it that contrasts with the powerful surges of adrenaline that run through More Is Less, For Everything, Feeling Fades and Don't Cling To Life that generate seething pits, over which James launches himself during Feeling Fades. They finish, pointedly as if to mark expectations for the 2023 version of the band, with a new song Ethel that builds then diverts via multiple twists and turns. The evolution isn't being compromised.

We then head back to Bread Shed for an impressive set by Glaswegian Rianne Downey. It's impossible not to be taken in by her charm and obvious delight and sense of wonder at being able to play her songs that clearly mean so much to her so far away from home and get a response. Her set has a couple of tracks from her debut EP - Stand My Ground and Do Or Die - as well as recent single The Devil's Going To Get You, but is mostly new material that marks out a promising future. Songbird, written about her Gran, as Rianne likes to explain her songs, the set-ending certain future single Alright and the stripped-down Paperweights, with just her on vocals and guitarist Nat, are particular standouts. The latter really showcases the impressive power and range of her voice. 

Equally impressive is Tom A Smith's set that follows, showing that he's grown from the boy who posted covers on the internet a short few years ago into an artist with the potential to become the North East's next big star. He's already got a fan club chanting his name between songs. He starts with Could I Live With Being Fake from his latest EP and finishes with Dragonfly, the opener on his debut and in between delivers a forty-minute set of supremely confident anthemic-tinged songs delivered with a swagger, confidence and a joy in performing, that belies his still tender years as well as a cover of Swedish House Mafia's Don't You Worry Baby. 

We then head to the basement of Yes where there's a small but ecstatically enthusiastic crowd for Kent's Venbee. Performing with just her friend Amy providing the beats on a Macbook, Venbee owns the stage and the adoration that comes from the dozen or so in the front row who sing along to the songs they know and threaten to drown her out including her recent single Messy In Heaven. She tells us to take music and use it to "scream the shit days" away and there's not a soul in the room that disagrees with her. Her last song is one that she tells us "changed my life" and you sense she's telling no word of a lie such is the intensity in her expressive energetic performance.

Our final act of the festival was Egyptian Blue's headline slot in the Yes basement. Just before they came on it looked like they'd be playing to a handful of us, but the room suddenly filled up by the time they'd started first song Contain It. Their set mixes tracks from their two EPs to date and their yet-to-be-released debut album including one song getting its first ever live performance. Andy takes lead vocals on most of the set, intense and focused whilst Leith struts the stage. Their sound is even harder and more abrasive than before particularly on the newer material like Belgrade Shade and the unnamed debutant although their mastery of the fast / slow interchanges in songs is still very much in evidence throughout. A great finish to the festival and one deserving of a bigger stage.

Rosellas are on Facebook and Twitter.

Corella are on Facebook and Twitter.

Pastel's website can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter

The Covasettes are on Facebook and Twitter. They play Manchester Gorilla on February 25.

The Murder Capital's official site can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter. They tour in February at Antwerp Trix Club (February 4), Cologne Luxor (5), Hamburg Molotow (6), Berlin Lido (8), Munich Hansa 39 (9), Strasbourg La Laiterie (11), Paris Le Trabendo (13), Amsterdam Paradiso (14), Manchester Albert Hall (16), Glasgow SWG3 (18), Leeds Stylus (20), Birmingham The Mill (21), London O2 Kentish Town Forum (23), Bristol The Marble Factory (24), Dublin Vicar Street (26) and Cardiff Tramshed (27).

Rianne Downey is on Facebook and Twitter

Tom A Smith's website can be found here and he is on Facebook and Twitter.

Venbee is on Facebook and Twitter.

Egyptian Blue are on Facebook and Twitter.

Murder Capital headline photo by Emily Grayson. Reproduced with permission.


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