In an era where festivals are continued to be dominated by men, many hope that 2018 will arrest that decline by creating more equal bills. Not so, though, for the Neighbourhood Weekender, whose bill not only features just one female band, but makes them nestle among some of rock music’s most laddish anachronisms.
Festivals have been ripe for debate for quite some time. Take away skyrocketing fees, poor weather preparation and concerning reports of rape and theft, another prevalent concern has been the lack of female acts on fest bills. Many have proved this by simply removing male bands from line-up posters, revealing almost a blank page. ‘Heavier’ festivals such as Download had a bill where its male acts made up a whopping 94 per cent. On the whole, it leans towards 86 per cent. And this is in an era that’s supposedly progressive in terms of gender.
It seems to have reached its nadir, though, with Neighbourhood Weekender. Taking place over a May weekend in Warrington, the festival’s line-up has been met with both derision and exasperation. On one hand, it’s Tim Lovejoy’s wet dream of a bill – Reverend & The Makers rub shoulders with the likes of Blossoms and The Sherlocks (yet another band who have recently proudly gone to press to anoint themselves as ‘the future of British guitar music’). On the other hand, it’s shockingly male-orientated, a lad-a-geddon of Red Stripe-fuelled rock where the only female-led band is power pop upstarts The Big Moon, who represent such a juxtaposition they should consider renaming themselves ‘The Sore Thumb’.
Neighbourhood Weekender obviously knows its audience, and not for one moment does one suggest it’s geared only to lads. There will be female fans in abundance, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But for those who harbour ideals of forming their own bands, is the presence of The Pigeon Detectives going to muster up ambition in the same way as seeing PINS, Marika Hackman or Dream Wife?
Dig deeper and it leaves a sour taste. One act confirmed is Miles Kane. Take away the fact he spends most of his time riding on the slicked-back follicles of fellow dickhead Alex Turner and you have an indie also-ran with only an Edwyn Collins cover in his arsenal. And lest we forget his astonishingly sexist interview from 2016, where he frequently made a female journalist uncomfortable, rubbed his crotch repeatedly and then offered an incredibly half-hearted apology.
Then there’s Cabbage. It seems the band have dodged a bullet from the revelations that the singer had essentially abused a young female fan in the front row. Of course, they have paid their dues and are subsequently moving on, but when the excuse is that people from the North often put their hands down their pants, how much leeway should we actually give? To have both these acts on, and yet only one female band, is quite insulting to music, let alone to a gender.
Then, finally, crucially – the bands are just, well, not that good. Theresa May and Donald Trump’s ascensions to the top were shocking enough, but nothing is as startling as Courteeners becoming festival headliners. Granted, St Jude was consistent and quality, but what music have they produced since that could be considered even remotely vital? If that’s not enough, they’re warmed up by none other than Jake Bugg, a man who takes as much pleasure from gigging as most of us do from colonoscopies. It really does not spark any feeling of excitement.
This is not meant as an attack on Neighbourhood Weekender. There are some thoroughly decent bands on, including The Charlatans and Noel Gallagher, who work hard to try and create some emblem of progression in their music. But will most of the audience even care, or will they merely crave the swagger? The hits? The last-minute surprise Sunday slot from the reformed Viva Brother? Perhaps it’s a neighbourhood that needs thoroughly avoiding.