In a darkened and gloomy establishment, otherwise known as the O2 Ritz in the middle of Manchester, I watched as our spontaneous photographer rushed her way to the barrier and parked herself among the other lovely snappers at the front; I continued to do what I do best, sit back at a distance and judge immensely. I think the person next to me was giving me a dirty look, but I thought this wasn’t an excuse to ask security to remove the guy. Hence, I can’t really make a judgement on the staff at Neighbourhood Festival.
Despite the relatively early time, the crowd was still lively from the previous set, which was enthusiastically delivered by Reading rockers The Amazons, who are continuing their stellar year so far. Aside from the bangers of ‘Black Magic’ and ‘Junk Food Forever’, I sat patiently, not wanting to do any injustice to those around me who were properly getting into their set.
For the sake of journalistic impartiality, I’ll openly admit this now: I’m a massive Strypes fanboy. After interviewing Evan Walsh, their badge-laden drummer, the Strypes’ hype train was in full swing, I was taking full advantage of the drinks available in the catering coach. I’m sure that if Becca would have turned around and glanced at the balcony, she’d have seen me grinning like an absolute moron, chuffed to see these lads who have been touring locally twice now. Thanks, work.
The crowd from The Amazons to The Strypes was almost entirely different, aside from a few dedicated individuals on the barrier. However, both groups were equally as lively. From my nest, I could see the multitude of circles and pits opening up throughout their set, glad of my seat and distance from the anarchy. Christ, I must be getting old. In a festival that’s offered some hundred bands, could The Strypes’ set stand out?
Yeah mate, course it could.
Delivering their expected forte of energetic, passionate rock ‘n’ roll, the Cavan lads did a stellar job at capturing the audience’s attention and maintaining it throughout their hour-long set. Affirmed tunes such as ‘What a Shame‘, ‘Mystery Man‘ and ‘Blue Collar Jane‘ were accompanied by newly-minted belters, from the lead single of Spitting Image, ‘Great Expectations‘, to ‘Behind Closed Doors‘, ‘(I Need a Break From) Holidays’ and ‘Easy Riding’. Considering the sombre nature of ‘Great Expectations’, along with its relative youth, I was expected a mere fraction of the reaction it gained; an extensive build-up got the crowd jumping at the first opportunity.
Despite early guitar worries, and a close call with the venue’s curfew for the set, The Strypes concluded proceedings to the undeniable ‘Scumbag City‘, seeing the crowd home happy, with a last-minute spot of stage diving from bassist Pete O’Hanlon. The group’s lively combination of rhythm and blues, rock ‘n’ roll, and a dashing of speed-blues makes for a live experience that needs to be witnessed to do it justice. Just as their records cannot truly capture their utter enthusiasm, my words can only do so much.
From Pete’s unchained excitement, to Evan’s understated foundation of superb drumming, and the group’s unmatched cohesion, this gig at Neighbourhood Festival was an excellent slice of the cake which is The Strypes’ extensive touring schedule. They even slipped in a bit of Talking Heads’ ‘Psycho Killer’ for good measure. My apologies for the cake metaphor, I’m a bit peckish.
To experience them for yourself, have a gander at The Strypes’ site and their Facebook page. Stick around for the second half of our lengthy interview with Evan Walsh, and have a gander at our snaps. Don’t use them though, or we will find you and sort you out.
CONNOR FAULKNER/BECCA EMMONDS