Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Probably the greatest asset of a festival is its creation of organized chaos, given that managing swathes of hedonistic festivalgoers is no easy feat. This ability to ensure the safety of its attendees whilst certifying they have the best possible time, listening to the best possible music, is something that Parklife has surely proved very adept in. Indeed, the festival this year was so impeccably organized that even the sun made a prolonged appearance, in Manchester of all places.
Aside from Parklife’s array of musical pleasures, the festival’s offering of delectable street food, surprisingly great facilities, and fairground attractions were all sure hits. Moreover, prior concerns of music tents quickly reaching capacity were easily dispelled, and ensuring you were a few minutes early to any performance virtually guaranteed a great spot. Perhaps the only negative of Parklife’s presentation was the muted and fluctuating sound on the main stage, especially prevalent throughout Disclosure’s headline slot. However, it was clear the organizers were keen to right this wrong with the clear audio on the following day with even Jessie Ware’s hushed vocals pounding around Heaton Park.
As a whole, this desire to please combined with the artist-curated line-ups definitely fostered a sense of community that reflected the festival’s intended ethos. There was a complete absence of jostling in queues, or in tents, and I personally saw no trouble whatsoever, something that critics are keen to tar Parklife with.
The shared enjoyment in being a part of baying crowd, euphoric in their demanding and receiving of the best in a plethora of musical genres is an experience that is hard to surpass. However, to simply speak about the festival’s success in broad terms would do it a disservice, so here are a few specific highlights we enjoyed:
Guitar-driven music is more than just a gimmick or a novelty at a festival like Parklife; it’s a representation of the broad scope of musical genres employed to please the crowds. On Saturday Mac Demarco’s crowd-pleasing was definitely in full swing, his energetic and hilarious part-goofy part-repugnant (in the best way) mannerisms energized an already fervent crowd.
After greeting “London, Manchester” Mac and Co. bizarrely unleashed a variety of Shrek quotes, revealed what hotel and room they were staying in and asked the crowd for the ‘Beckhams’ and ‘Queen Lizzie’ to appear. Firing off a passionate best-of set from ‘Salad Days’ and ‘2’ followed by a largely failed crowd dive it was clear they were having just as much fun as we were.
Vice writer Clive Martin once referred to ‘Au Seve’ as the ‘Smells like teen spirit’ of the house revival. But, Julio is clearly not pretending to be Kurt Cobain, although some would argue that he delivers a similar ecstasy, especially in the record's famously direct bassline. Julio instead offered a great tribal-infected set at ‘The Temple’ stage, gaining one of the festival’s biggest crowds for a daytime slot as his swerving beats certainly induced a festival atmosphere of playfulness and elation.
Upon entering the ‘Drop The Mustard’ stage on Sunday, weary from the night’s previous gratifications, I was disappointed to walk straight to the front of an empty tent. Surely Manchester’s dance music Godfather deserved better, or had everyone just seen it all before? Well it was fair to say he soon got the grateful reception he deserved. A frenzied display, aided by the help of his new live show drew in the crowds, and five minutes later it was clear to see the masses had come to their senses. By the time the anthem ‘Neighborhood’s’ first chords had played Zed was in full flow, much to the appreciation of a now full tent, honoring one of the greatest contributors to Manchester’s continually thriving music scene.
If Zed Bias had revived the crowd then the bassline champions would surely send them into overdrive. A typically manic set by Wookie & DJ Q displayed their almost ‘ADHD’ approach to mixing, with complex but swift changeovers making the crowd (and us) lose our bleary eyes and hungover heads.
The first time on Sunday that I had actually seen Waze & Odyssey was in Manchester Piccadilly station as I overheard them bickering on the escalator behind, “If I had listened to you we would still be on that train!”. Struggling to find the taxi rank to take them to a festival they were playing in just a few hours would perhaps cast doubt on the capability of the unit’s abilities. Yet, the meteoric success of the house duo has been clearly chartered and it was evident they are capable of performing on the world’s biggest stages. Rosé wine in hand, they smashed through a blistering set, a highlight being Patrick Topping’s ‘Voicemail’, hardly a sing along anthem but one that the ardent fans screeched in rapture, a telling indicator of their knack for timing and momentum.
Atop of the hill called the ‘G-Stage’ Dusky’s hard hitting tech-house was a real treat. Pumping hi-hats and booming basslines are hardly unique in a festival like Parklife, but it was clear that Dusky’s set was uniquely passionate and precise. As ‘Careless’ played and the sun set with the final rays creeping into the tent it was clear that they are something different live.
Hearing the entirety of Nas’ opus ‘Illmatic’ would surely excite even the most casual of hip-hop fans. The genre-defining album was definitely conveyed in the most emphatic of manners as Nas illustrated his continuing contemporary relevance with an artistic set. The rare opportunity to witness a master at work was met with the most thunderous of appreciation as Nas superbly took us back to Queensbridge in 1994.
It is perhaps fitting that Jamie XX, one of the most eclectic artists in recent years, releasing an equally extensive critically acclaimed album, would be playing at Heaton Park. After a similarly rolling set from Nicholas Jaar at the ‘Now Wave’ stage, Jamie XX, records in hand, was sure to rejoice with the awe-filled crowd. Yet his set, including a decidedly great big room edit of Room 5’s ‘Make Luv’, was hardly full of crowd-pleasers, but that was clearly never his intention. Instead the sometimes-nervous London-based producer assuredly sent the crowd to dizzying new heights, even greater than the now widely documented stage climber.
The triumphant final track of his set, ‘Loud Places’, disclosed the paradoxical smallness and giganticness of the producer’s success. Playing a song describing the pained notion of being desperately alone to an adoring crowd certainly held more than a hint of irony. If he asks “Didn’t I take you to, higher places you can’t reach without me?” Jamie surely knows the response, he and Parklife did, let’s just hope the festival does stick around.
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