Celebrating its fifth anniversary, fast becoming Manchester’s most prolific event Parklife took place over the weekend and we were lucky enough to absorb the action across both days. As 70,000 patrons eagerly pile into the event on Saturday we join the excited masses with their drinks in hand and chants heard through the trams, the fields and the streets. The security has been maximised for 2015 as with every year that Parklife expands in size, it expands in negative press attention following serious issues with alcohol, drugs and violence. I can safely say this year the large majority of patrons were gathered to enjoy the music, the atmosphere and the overall party that Parklife promises its loyal residents.
Despite having a heavy lean towards dance music, we successfully found a mixture of performers across the weekend. Our day begun in the Big Top which promised some of the freshest talents on offer all weekend and Liverpudlian Låpsley had the job of enthusing a curious crowd, although her voice is strong it is not yet well trained enough to captivate and amaze. Despite the shaky beginnings we stayed loyal to the stage as Ghostpoet followed with an accomplished showcase of the new material found on ‘Shedding Skin’. The pace changed dramatically once again for a homecoming set by Everything Everything who appear in matching red bomber jackets and a rousing stage presence. This show was a huge personal highlight to see the crowd dancing to the neo-classic ‘MY KZ UR BF’ whilst also remaining equally responsive to preview tracks from ‘Get to Heaven’ which sounds impossibly good already. ‘Distant Past’ is the band’s latest conquering achievement as this alt-dance banger unites the whole crowd in singalong despite only appearing on the circuit a few months ago.
Wu-Tang Clan cruelly lost a huge percentage of their crowd due to a sharp and bitterly cold rain shower yet the appeal of this group is still relatively lost on me as their whole live performance seems to centre around them repeatedly chanting ‘Wu’ and ‘Tang’ and very little else. Saturday evening was all about the very finest in British alt-dance with Jamie xx, Mark Ronson and James Blake each delivering phenomenal sets to packed out ambient tents. Jamie was riding high on the overwhelming response to his debut release as the likes of ‘Good Times’ and ‘Loud Places’ ring out through the tent and beckon in the beginning of something incredibly special. Blake returns to a far more somber formula which has seen him rise rapidly through the throws of the festival circuit and tonight he entrances the larey punters with an incomparable haunt and creates the first goosebumps of the weekend that were not due to the icy winds.
Sunday begins on a slower note as we file into the gates once again to a thankfully warmer Heaton Park. Australian electronica musician Chet Faker proves that 3pm is no the perfect time for a dance as he remains in constant motion whilst playing crowd favourites including ‘Gold’ and ‘Drop The Game’. He is a refreshingly exciting electro artist who manages to tread the line between expertly mixing and enthusing a crowd all at once.
It was time to head to the main stage for two artists known for bending the conventions of soul with startlingly successful outcomes. Firstly it was London collective Jungle who may have been elevated to the largest stage a little prematurely as a noticeable majority seemed completely oblivious to their impressive debut release and offered very unenthused reaction to almost every track apart from ‘Busy Earnin” despite ‘Lucky I Got What I Want’ being one of the best performances of the entire weekend. The crowd were far more onside with the likeable songstress Jessie Ware who has sensational stage presence and natural demeanour with her audiences. Running through a large chunk of tracks taken from 2014 LP ‘Tough Love’ she demonstrates the way in which to hold your vocal when addressing a 10,000 strong crowd on the likes of ‘Champagne Kisses’ and ‘You & I Forever’. The momentous singalong to ‘Say You Love Me’ leaves Jessie visibly moved and is whole heartedly deserved to such an earnest, charming and credible British talent.
To another British female singer who is on an entirely different spectrum from Ware and perhaps every other performing artist of the weekend, Tahliah Barnett otherwise known as the enigmatic FKA Twigs. This was a live operation unlike any other as the petite performer stands in a ritual circle created by her hand selected musicians as they recreate the fractured tones of ‘LP1’ along with previous tracks. The crowd roars in delight and amazement throughout as Twigs contorts her body through ‘Video Girl’ ‘Papi Pacify’ and the meditative ‘Pendulum’. This is a show that combines art and music to alarmingly prosperous effect as Tahliah brings the show to a demonic crescendo with ‘Glass & Patron’ and ‘Two Weeks’. Dan Snaith follows after a triumphant headline show at London’s Field Day with a show designed for the intelligent dance lover as he plays the likes of ‘Silver’ ‘Our Love’ and ‘Can’t Do Without You’ from his phenomenally good 2014 album.
There is no doubt Parklife’s strength lies in its sheer diversity of performer and its ability to secure acts to create envy amongst the heavy hitters such as Bestival and Reading & Leeds. There is undoubtedly a need to expand the venue to further make use of the space in Heaton Park as there is a feeling of complete over saturation as you meander between stages which are placed far too close together. A feeling of clarity is also needed when addressing booking and marketing as a hefty proportion of acts had dance leanings to their music if not entirely which leaves performers such as Ben Howard and Metronomy with tents of half capacity filled with the curious and the downright ignorant. In terms of sheer event development and fanbase loyalty, it will be truly exciting to see exactly where Parklife stands upon celebrating its 10th anniversary.