FESTIVAL WRAP UP: Parklife, Manchester UK
It was the first weekend of summer over in the UK and what better way to kick it off then with one of the UK’s biggest and loudest music festivals, Parklife. Relatively new to the festival scene, Parklife was launched by UK party-collective The Warehouse Project back in 2010, taking on its sixth year at Heaton Park just outside of Manchester.
The two-day festival was not only led by the warm sun and green fields, but a lineup that rivals any across the European circuit. Disclosure and Rudimental headed the 2015 roster, followed by the likes of Caribou, FKA Twigs, Jamie XX, Fatboy Slim and Ben Howard. A UK festival and lineup rightfully bias to their own, but welcoming the imports with open arms, seeing Chet Faker, Earl Sweatshirt, Todd Terj and MK amongst others make the trip through.
As an Australian hitting the UK shores, the definition of ‘summer’ most definitely comes with a different result, and while it was mostly all sun and green grass for the two days, a crisp winter breeze kept jumpers on and conveniently, drinks cold. The only major downfall of the weekend, but common for a festival of this scale is that with so many stages and so many acts, it’s inevitable that two or even three of your top picks will clash.
Day #1 Highlights
Walking into the festival it was an exciting buzz of anticipation and expectation to see how the day would matchup to those at home. Like the beginning of any festival, faces are fresh, pre-drinks are in order, punters are hyped (some probably a little too much) and the grounds glistening. Where to begin? The setup is massive, with eight stages ready for the picking, food stalls, clothing markets, and endless bars serving up Australia’s favorite beer export (for a good reason), Foster’s on tap.
The atmosphere was well on point and day #1 looking to be stellar. Day #1 was eased into slowly as the sun teased the crowds creeping in and out of the clouds, making the crisp breeze a little cold for us Aussie contingent. It was an onslaught of DJ sets from Jonas Rathsman, Friend Within and Bondax that helped warm up the Saturday afternoon, before Julio Bashmore’s huge 2012 club hit ‘Au Serve’ had the epic outdoor Warehouse Stage pumping and drinks spilt all over.
Moving around the grounds and finding something new on each corner, we come across by far the coolest (literally and figuratively) stage at Parklife, MK Arena 10. The setup saw a gorgeous green cover trees loom over the mosh-pit that lead up to the stage sitting in front of the Old Town Hall Colonnade – absolutely beautiful. What made it ever better? Just as we strolled through, Ben Pearce handed over the reigns to Tensnake as he slowed things down opening with his remix of London Grammars ‘Hey Now’. As the beat picked up and set moved forward the crowds disco-step was in full swing, with tracks ‘Love Sublime’ and ‘See Right Through’ getting hands in the air and punters climbing to the tree tops. The German house legend closed with a cheeky extended edit of his very own ‘Coma Cat’ and a gleaming goodbye. I’ve been lucky enough to see Tensnake by a pool and in a warehouse party, but this was by far the most memorable…
It was hitting 6pm and by now at most Australian festivals the sun would be going down and strobe lights in full effect – in Manchester, nope. The overcast skies blinded through the tents as daytime stuck around; even better, the sun gleamed through as cheers across the grounds were heard taking in the much-needed vitamin D.
We moved into the Now Wave tent catching the end of Darkside’s Nicolas Jarr, throwing down a translucent deep house sway before the UK’s Jamie XX took to the stage. Records in hand and new album ‘In Colour’ out only last week, the talented producer and 1/3 of group The XX had a heap to put on show, creating a diverse set that could go from electronic, to house, hip-hop and jazz in a minute – proving why he’s in such demand. A flood of tungsten light shone through a haze of smoke with only his silhouette to be seen as Jamie closed with the Romy collaboration, ‘Loud Places’, leaving a plethora of melted hearts and glistening eyes – this guy knows how to hit you right in the feels.
Finally, the sun was setting and it was time to hit the main stage with a sea of thousands ready to get down to Disclosure. Right now there’s probably no name in the UK dance music scene know quite as well as these brothers. The duo act consisting of Guy & Howard Lawrence have been on a heater since day dot, seeing their classy electronic production embraced around the world off the back of their debut album, ‘Settle’. Returning to the Parklife stage for the second year running, the Brit brothers brought an onslaught of new music in tow, including the most recent single ‘Holding On’ and club hit ‘Bang That’.
As expected it was the early originals that hit the sweet spot across the crowd, with the locals going all in for ‘When A Fire Starts To Burn’ and ‘White Noise’, while they returned for an encore performance of ‘Help Me Loose My Mind’ and ‘Latch’.
It wasn’t just the music that was on-point, with their stage setup, lighting and visuals keeping the wide-eyed in awe. As the brothers stood behind their individual desks perched well above the Parklife crowd, a huge curved LED wall sat behind filling the stage. A lighting rig then moved above, below and diagonally in time with the music – seriously impressive! Being the first show of this new live setup, I’m sure we can expect to be seeing this production tour the world as they go into album #2, ‘Caracal’, due out September 25th.
Day #2 Highlights
Day two rolled on over as many weary heads passed through the gates set for another massive day of good music, sunshine and a drink or ten. It must be noted that the night before wasn’t all rest and recover, with after parties alight across Manchester city, seeing the likes of Tiga, Ben Pearce and Wu Tang Clan throw down sets early into Sunday morning.
With the clouds cleared and sun well and truly out for the day, Heaton Park was in for a heater seeing actual sweat induced as the music pumped and bodies moved across the fields. It was an all-Aussie reunion as fans packed into the Sounds of the Near Future tent for Chet Faker, opening his set with ‘Cigarettes & Chocolate’, an impressive electronic cut of layered guitar, beats, samples and vocals build to pump the crowd up and prove he’s not just a soul soothing piano/vocalist. Faker then moved through a diverse set joined by a live three piece band, playing hits ‘1998’, ‘Gold’ and finishing with the tender stripped-back version of ‘Talk Is Cheap’.
By the end of his set the tent had filled and positive vibes felt all round, as many Manchester locals discovered their next favorite Aussie.
With such a stellar lineup over the Sunday, it was a mad rush to make it amongst all the favorites catching sets from Route 94, Hot Since 82, Dusky and the ever-so soulful UK group Jungle, brining the perfect mixture of electronic and soul to the Parklife main stage.
As the day moved on it was time to decide which string of headline acts were to be closing Parklife for 2015. Duke Dumont stepped on at 9pm sharp throwing down his house cuts that have made him so popular today, including ‘The Giver’, ‘I Got U’ and ‘Won’t Look Back’, all tunes that were made for a festival atmosphere.
Hustling over to the other side of the grounds, Canadian outfit Caribou opened with a small intro that led into ‘Our Love’, the title track from their most recent 2014 album. While Caribou is solely composed and recorded by general music-extraordinaire Daniel Snaith, in a live setup three others join to make up a rather unique setup and production, all facing inwards to each other as if they are jamming in the garage. The supporting light show was glistening, as beams of white light hit disco balls on the stage reflecting up onto the roof of the tent filling the room as they jammed to the neo-psychedelic track ‘Odessa’, one of Snaith’s earlier originals.
The crowd was happily locked in to every beat, and as the bass heavy vibrations of Rudimental filtered through between songs, only cementing to every punter that they had made the right choice, with the band maintaining an intimate vibe throughout.
Closing the set and two-day festival alike, Snaith and co melded into their biggest hit of late, ‘Can’t Do With Out You’, a repetitive build of airy vocals and light synths, into a sprawling jungle of warm, rich guitar lines and percussions, that finishes on the so fittingly line, “I Couldn’t Do Without You”. The crowd was right in line, singing straight back to band and their friends like it was high-school graduation day. Just when the crowd thought it was all over and band had said goodbye, an encore performance of ‘Sun’ was due, seeing the early departures filter back into the tent for one more memory and one more song to wrap up an epic festival. What a weekend!
Images Courtesy of Parklife Festival