Londoners Babeheaven begin the afternoon with a captivatingly hypnotic set as they play the Deaf Institute under the lights of a sparkly disco ball. The set is filled with wistful indie-pop, a mythical element to their floaty instrumentation. New single ‘Moving On’ was released a day prior, and ‘Friday Sky’ is a lovely, melodic number.
Elsewhere, in Sound Control a few streets away, a very different kind of heaven – INHEAVEN – produce a whirlwind of dreamy soundscapes nestled in distorted guitars. It’s impossible not to immediately fall in love with the Londoners and their soaring brand of punk-slash-shoegaze. The enchanting, newly-released ‘Drift’ features bassist Chloe Little stepping up on vocal duty, and crowd favourite ‘Bitter Town’ – a crisis anthem for the escapist in each and every one of us – exudes a dizzying energy.
“You lot, are you ready to dance?” yells frontman James Taylor. This comes seconds before he launches into the crowd for a surf during ‘Regeneration’, in what is to be the perfect send-off. “I want you to form a parting of the blue sea! Oh, right… is it the red sea? Sorry, I want you all to form the red sea! I was seeing a load of blue lights.”
They are only one of a string of stellar acts to grace Sound Control, with Hooton Tennis Club and VANT soon taking to the stage. Hooton Tennis Club – a project by four friends from Merseyside – charm the crowd with fuzzy, garage pop tunes. The performance comes a couple weeks before the group are to release second full-length, ‘Big Box of Chocolates’. The solid follow-up to their debut released just last year, today the band offer Manchester a taster of what’s soon to come. New tracks ‘Meet Me at the Molly Bench’, ‘Katy-Anne Bellis’, and ‘O Man, Won’t You Melt Me?’ are the strongest picks off the upcoming record.
It’s hard not to be swept by the band’s undeniable chemistry and 90s lo-fi stylings. First LP set closer ‘Always Coming Back 2 You’ is a wonderful cacophony of feral, distorted riffage. Lead vocalists Ryan Murphy and James Madden are caged in a whirling tornado of guitar noise, and they combine together to deliver melodies straight from the heart.
Later at the same stage, VANT set the room ablaze with storming, thrilling punk. The crowd’s thirst is quenched by new single ‘Peace & Love’ released last week, though the 45-minute set isn’t nearly long enough to fully appease. There’s a sort of frantic insatiableness to the audience that only the bestial nature of VANT’s set can satisfy. The band play with volatile, nervous energy on tracks such as ‘Parking Lot’, and it is both catharsis for the band and the sweaty youths of the circle pits.
Headliners Circa Waves close the night at the historic Albert Hall in typical high-energy guitar-pop fashion, and it is to them that the evening ultimately belongs. There’s no better way to close out a festival than with good old classic indie rock and mass crowd sing-alongs, Liverpool’s Circa Waves wearing their hearts on their sleeves. The infectious ‘Get Away’ opens the set with a Vaccines-like hysteria of danceable fun, and the whole night pays tribute to the band’s debut. ‘Stuck In My Teeth’ could have been sung by the whole of the Albert Hall alone; each song is more energetic, more frenzied than the last, and it comes to no surprise that the 2,000-strong crowd knows each and every word by heart.
The set has lead vocalist Kieran Shudall announcing this to be the band’s last gig of 2016, and comes with a promise that a new record is due soon. No new material is introduced, but it’s no matter, as it looks as if the band are set to see out the rest of the year finalizing the new record. An explosion of confetti accompanies classic set closer and festival favourite ‘T-Shirt Weather’. It celebrates not only the end of a joyous and momentous set, but also the end to a successful first instalment of Manchester’s Neighbourhood Festival. With beer and confetti coating most everyone’s hair, the thousands pour out of the venue and into the streets with the last of ‘T-Shirt Weather’ echoing in their heads: “It’s gonna be okay.”
Photos: Sinéad Grainger
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