Music Reviews

Festival Review: Parklife Festival

Last month, Manchester’s Heaton Park hosted a fantastic selection of national and international acts who played to thousands of festivalgoers against the backdrop of rain, mud and plenty of glitter. Across both days of the weekend, three things were certain: there was no let up in the rain, festivalgoers’ enthusiasm or the choice of artists to see.

With six main stages spread across the park plus a VIP stage, the sellout weekend allowed dance and electro music lovers to experience a whole array of live acts and DJ sets. As well as the range of music, there was an array of food stalls covering everything from the classic burger and chips to Mediterranean wraps to tandoori chicken. Even after the food the festival boasted a Ferris wheel so you could sit back and take in the whole park in its muddy, musical glory.

“The rising grime star encouraged the young crowd to dance and “skank””

Having burst from grime onto the wider UK music scene, Stormzy was a hot name on this year’s lineup. He played Saturday’s main stage to thousands of both old and new fans who eagerly rapped along to his instantly recognisable tracks including ‘Shut Up’. The rising grime star encouraged the young crowd to dance and “skank”. “We’re gonna give energy”, he said, after praising his fellow grime rappers for bringing the genre into the mainstream.

Saturday’s other grime/rap acts including Lady Leshurr, Preditah and Section Boyz were on the Radio 1 Xtra stage which were well worth the walk, although it meant that festivalgoers had to trudge through the, in places quite deep, mud. Kano too gave a high tempo performance, not letting the relentless rain get in the way of his or the crowd’s dancing and finishing on a pumped up version of ‘P’s and Q’s’.

“The inimitable Ellie Rowsell kept the audience captivated with the powerful combination of her delicate lyrics and passionate guitar strumming”

For indie music fans, the MTA arena was the place to be as Circa Waves, followed by Wolf Alice, performed and benefited from the intimacy of a tent setting. Circa Waves’ front man Kieran Shudall ended the band’s set on their best-known track ‘T-shirt Weather’ while encouraging the t-shirt wearing, glitter-faced crowd to let loose and mosh. Similarly, Wolf Alice got the (now drier) crowd moving and played many songs off their debut album ‘My Love is Cool’ including ‘Fluffy’ and ‘Bros’, and finished with the Grammy-nominated ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’. The inimitable Ellie Rowsell kept the audience captivated with the powerful combination of her delicate lyrics and passionate guitar strumming for the duration of the set.

Bastille similarly benefited from the closeness of performing in a tent, as Dan Smith bounded into the audience and climbed partway up the tent’s scaffolding, all the while singing both old songs such as ‘Flaws’ and a few new ones including ‘The Currents’. The band also performed their intimate TLC cover of ‘No Scrubs’ (‘No Angels’), using only white spotlights to add to the ambience, getting the whole crowd swaying in time with the music and holding out their hands in the Bastille sign.

One of the unmistakable hits of the weekend was the Elrow tent which, despite being one of the smallest tents, was absolutely heaving with people keen to see and be a part of the confetti cannons, inflatable animals and stilt-walkers, to name a little of what was going on inside. The whole arena was covered in foliage and, if you couldn’t squeeze your way in, there was a giant inflatable gorilla and hippo on a moving mechanism on the tent’s outside. The Elrow tent was a colourful sensory experience combining carnival sights with techno and electro beats to create a brilliant party atmosphere.

My Saturday Parklife experience ended on the fringes of an unbelievably packed and muddy MTA tent, watching Chase and Status whose unmistakeable visual effects combined with their usual strong electronic rhythms created an all-round spectacular performance.

“Following Jess [Glynne] on the main stage was arguably the biggest name in Grime, Skepta”

Once the music finished, 70,000 revellers headed towards queues for coaches for the trip back to Manchester city centre, from where some whose partying wasn’t over yet headed for the many Afterlife events dotted in venues around the city, while others headed home for a shower and outfit change in preparation for the Sunday.

The easing up of the rain combined with weekend ticket holders’ familiarity with Heaton Park’s layout meant that Sunday stepped it up a gear. In the early afternoon, Wilkinson could be heard playing ‘Too Close’, ‘Half Light’ and ‘Take You Higher’ from the bar queue, while Jess Glynne had everyone singing along to her infectious melodies ‘Rather Be’ and ‘My Love’ from the main stage. Following Jess on the main stage was arguably the biggest name in Grime, Skepta, whose 40-minute long set started with ‘That’s Not Me’ and then moved into what the BBK frontman called “old school Skepta tracks”. The crowd was undeniably pumped to see Skepta, whose lyrics were spat back at him with the same tenacity that he delivered and mosh pit circles grew and got rowdier as the set went on.

Parklife’s Sounds of the Near Future tent hosted Flume as its penultimate act on Sunday night and the man reached and exceeded all expectations, delivering what was personally my favourite set of the whole weekend. With fantastic visuals and the captivating sounds of ‘Never Be Like You’ and his remix of Lorde’s ‘Tennis Courts’, Flume created an almost ethereal atmosphere, holding everyone in the palm of his electronic music producing hands.

Jamie xx finished the spectacular weekend off with a wonderful set, playing his distinctly dreamy house tracks such as ‘Gosh’, ‘Girl’ and ‘Loud Places’ accompanied by a stellar display of lights. His remixes were also well received as the first beats of ‘You’ve Got The Love’ were welcomed with huge cheers from the mesmerised crowd. The finale, an awesome remix of Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ was tremendous and, despite the music being briefly halted by one fan climbing a pylon, the crowd was bathed in heavenly white lights and ended the festival overwhelmed with a sense of bliss that comes only from knowing that they witnessed something magnificent.

Over the course of two days, the Mancunian green was overcome by 140,000 people, eclectic outfit choices and innumerable hours of live music from all genres and cities, and was without question a resoundingly successful festival weekend.

Here’s the full line up:


Nikou Asgari

Images courtesy of Parklife Festival

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