“With an expanded line-up and new location it will undoubtedly continue to go from strength to strength in the coming years…”
Parklife | Heaton Park, Manchester
Now in its fourth year, a shiny new location and with almost double the capacity, Manchester’s Parklife festival is becoming something of a success story among the grey clouds of the challenges facing smaller festivals. So it was, that with sun-cream at hand, that the hordes boarded the new shuttle bus service to Heaton Park. Although a necessary move in terms of increasing the capacity of the festival, as well as bypassing the sound-level issues that plagued previous years, Heaton Park is awkwardly placed and the shuttle bus service quickly becomes an unwelcome hassle. Nevertheless, the increased space is used to good effect, with an array of fairground attractions and market stalls for the music-weary and easily amused.
The move also seems to have altered the make-up of the festival by a degree. Although there are still large numbers of students, the extra 20,000 or so seem to be a mixture of teenagers in snapback caps and chips on their shoulders, and middle-aged men with snapback caps and chips on their shoulders – only with more tribal tattoos. As to which tribes they belong, it remains a mystery – it’s probable that most of them weren’t from any tribes at all.
After one of the most intimate body-searches in history (£5 says he won’t even call), and procuring a programme, the first band up are Delphic. The quartet opened the festival in an appropriately upbeat, pleasant manner, bringing their inoffensive style of dancey-pop to the sun-drenched masses. London Elektricity, performing in the Hospitality tent, is next. It’s only 3 o’clock, which apparently is not too early to dance like a maniac for some of the attendees when assisted by the relentless throb of bass from the enigmatic Belgian. The only a shame is that he would have benefitted from being on a little later, when the option of lying in the sun isn’t such a tempting prospect, and one that many a punter decides to take.
It is up to Rudimental then, performing in another unusually early timeslot, especially considering their meteoric rise over the last year, to amp up the energy of the park with crowd-pleasing renditions of hits such as ‘Not Giving In’ and ‘Feel the Love’. Looking and sounding completely at home in this setting, under the glowering sun, with the uplifting trumpets and streams of screaming fans, it’s hard to believe that this isn’t a long overdue reunion tour; that this is only the beginning. Ella Eyre joins the band for a fittingly uplifting finale of ‘Waiting All Night’ that somehow manages to raise the temperature even further.
With the park now starting to gain that beautiful festival buzz, the London-based singer Jessie Ware, everyone’s current golden-girl and the primary school teacher we all wish we had, is as charming and charismatic as ever. Skipping around the main stage in a summer dress and without shoes, Ware glides elegantly through ‘Night Light’, ‘Wildest Moments’ and ‘If You’re Never Gonna Move’ with a confidence only gained through months, if not years of solid touring.
Away from the main stage, The Sounds of the Near Future tent showcases the highly anticipated Four Tet. Unfortunately, the performance seems to be missing something, and the somewhat muted set seems truncated. Although the giant balloons are a great touch, over the course of their slot the crowd seems to become more interested in batting them about than with having any sort of connection with the music.
The Hospitality tent is nearly full as no-nonsense, straight-down-the-line, drum and bass aficionado Netsky takes to the stage. Supported by an epileptic array of strobes and smoke, the ear-drum bursting twenty-something leads the audience through a relentless 40 minutes of solid, sweaty rave. To finish a fine first day, and in what is a fairly old-man type decision to avoid the crowds and see an act close to the exit, was Fake Blood. Competent, yes. Exciting, not especially. The veteran DJ puts his all into a set that suffers due to the likes of Disclosure and Plan B playing on nearby stages and, for us at least, ends day 1 on a strange note.
The following morning, refreshed, recuperated and having been given miraculous passes from the hangover-gods, the crowds return to Heaton Park.
If there is an award given out for the most underated act of a festival (and there should be) Toro y Moi in the Now Wave tent, must lay claim to it. The eclectic mix of chillwave is infectious and the extremely talented hula dancers at the back of the tent only distracted the concentration of the crowds for the very smallest amount of time. The Californian held the crowd enraptured through stunning performances of ‘Say That’ and ‘Never Matter’.
Later, those awaiting Savages in a curiously empty Now Wave tent are unceremoniously informed that they have pulled out of the line-up and are being replaced by a man and his iPod. And so many folks stumble, under the hot Mancunian sun, to the main stage where Iggy Azalea is performing (for lack of a better word). Emiline Pankhurst would turn in her grave as Azalea slut-drops her way through her repertoire of charmingly entitled hits such as ‘Pu$$y’ and ‘Drop that Shit’ to the ecstasy of the enraptured throngs of desensitized teens. The temple of misogamy seems to have found a new spiritual figurehead, whilst women’s equality has been given a giant ‘fuck you’.
After feeling all angry about the state of the world for a bit, there could only be one cure: Jurassic 5. And they do not disappoint. It has been at least 6 years since J5 have performed in the UK, and they are fully aware of this, claiming that some of the younger fans may not have heard of a couple of their tracks. In this instance, they turn out to be very wrong, with even the youngest amongst the mob singing along to ‘Improvise’ and ‘Concrete Schoolyard’. Supported by Cut Chemists and DJ Nu-Mark, who played an array of turntable crossbreeds, including a two-person giant deck the size of a car – although this was undoubtedly a prop, the showmanship was nevertheless impressive – J5 seize the mantel as the standout act of the weekend, without a shadow of a doubt.
Special kudos must be given too to Action Bronson who, after losing his phone during an athletic and interactive set in the Hudson Mohawke Presents tent, dishes out a cool two-grand in cash to the guy who returns it to him…who must have then been terrified of getting mugged for the rest of the day.
The Big Top tent then sports a duo of dance heroes, in the forms of Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs (TEED, if you’re cool and like acronyms) and Boys Noize. Both are loud, dancey and louder still, which is all that could really be expected, but both lack the showmanship that Justice brought to the same stage a year earlier. Even if TEED did bring a giant glitter cannon.
And with that, the multitudes get on the damned buses again, and wishes Parklife farewell for another year. Whilst the organisation experienced some teething problems, the transition from Platt Fields to Heaton Park was handled as well as could be expected and if the festival can keep delivering such varied and on-trend line-up it will undoubtedly continue to go from strength to strength in the coming years.
Also, Example played for a bit, but there’s no real need to discuss that.