Wednesday, 12 June 2013

REVIEW: Parklife Weekender, Manchester, 8-9th June




Confidence is a preference for the habitual festival goer of what is known as Parklife. Drifting in through the gates of Heaton Park amongst the droves of laddish, sunburnt, beer-swilling, bum-baring guys and gals of Manchester, I had my trepidations about what I was about the witness. Put simply, it felt initially like being dropped in an episode of Geordie Shore – pure sluttily dressed carnage. I’m not really sure when it became socially acceptable to wander round in a pinafore dress with nothing, not even a bra underneath, but I’m guessing it must be the latest trend, because I spotted several of these brave girls before I even got inside. But I digress. Let’s talk about the music shall we?
Delphic by Kevin Lawson (editradio.org)

First up on the mainstage were Manchester’s very own Delphic. Having seen an reviewed them several times before, I’ve always found them a very agreeable and accomplished live act, a perfect happy medium at a festival like Parklife, that flits between indie and dance. They way they segue each song into the next, almost like DJ’s, they are impeccably well rehearsed and draw some synchronized fist pumping with hit single Doubt’s jittery intro.

The Temper Trap by Kevin Lawson (editradio.org)
Delphic warm the crowd up nicely in time for The Temper Trap, who draw a massive yet wholly passive crowd. They only truly liven up when the inevitable outing of Sweet Disposition drops, with one dilated pupilled loon next to me screaming ‘I know this one, it’s off the DFS advert!’ Amateurs.Lead singer Dougy Mandagi postures like the star he is regardless, arms pointing to the cloudless sky, then thrown out to the side, then on the floor as he helps himself down to the audience’s level.If such degree qualifications existed, this man would have a first in stage presence.
Rudimental by Kevin Lawson (editradio.org)
Having missed alunageorge due to announced set time change (I swear this band are trying to evade me on purpose) and with the mainstage running half hour early, I’m left with no alternative but to use my spare time to brave the toilets situation, only to receive casual racist abuse from a heavily intoxicated and ironically fake tanned creature for my efforts. You get em all at festivals don’t you? Luckily, no such ill feeling is in place back at the main stage for Rudimental, who deliver a myriad of hits from their number one album to a sea of happy faces. Tied together by a strong live female vocalist, they are a great festival band, flitting through popular genres with ease and getting a skankathon going en masse for Waiting All Night and Feel The Love.

Jessie Ware by Kevin Lawson (editradio.org)
Jessie Ware keeps the pep up, slinking on stage looking the prettiest I have ever seen her in a beautiful classy red midi skirt – female festival goers, take note.She flirts with her audience, blowing them kisses and wiggling like Betty Boop during 110% and a particularly sultry rendition of Sweet Talk, her doe eyed, old fashioned feminine demeanour slipping for just a second as she dedicates it to Alex Ferguson. She sings in achingly cool, soulful tones throughout, a million times better and more consistently than last summer. In fact, she even looks more comfortable on the stage, no mean feat considering how big said stage is. A delight.

The Maccabees by Kevin Lawson (editradio.org)
With the sun threatening to make it’s nightly departure, the majority of Parklife’s attendees are suitably sozzled and ready for something deeper. The fact that security has to pull a vomiting girl out of the audience before The Maccabees take to the stage speaks volumes. When they do get underway, they are simply magical, despite a bad vocal mix making the first few songs a little quiet. Orlando Weeks, the bands softly spoken frontman is oddly mesmerising to observe, mysteriously murmuring his thanks between each song. But he appears to be having fun, nodding to his band mates as he sings the camaraderie themed Wall Of Arms that becomes the centrepiece of a greatest hits set. Posessing the ability to switch from perky sing-alongs (Can You Give It) to delicate love songs (Forever I’ve Known) to sheer epic festival anthems (Go), they were born for the slot as day turns into night. Reading and Leeds better watch out: these boys are future festival headliners.

There was only ever one band who would define Parklife. Even on the train from Huddersfield to Manchester, one chant was being hummed along the carriages, one lyric audible throughout the hoards trying to get through the opening gates. ‘When a fire starts to burn, bright…’

Disclosure by Kevin Lawson (editradio.org)
The Now Stage is ready for you, Disclosure. The tent is rammed, and Howard bounces nervously on the balls of his feet at the side of the stage, knowing this is probably the biggest gig they have played thus far. Britain is in the thrall of the duos spell, but they open as calmly as possible with F for You, a slinky garage number from their now number one album. It’s not their most recognised song, but people leap around anyway, knowing what’s coming. As it segues into the ubiquitous When A Fire Starts To Burn, a scream goes up and the party unfolds.

Whilst the music they make its necessarily the most captivating to watch live, the music does all the talking. Quirky visuals flicker on a screen behind the duo, and refreshingly for an act of this nature, they play all of their own instruments, even doing a little singing here and there. They’re clearly nervous to begin with, but steadily, there are more ‘how you doing Manchester?’s, more ‘let’s go’s’ and finally, just a huge ‘Parklife!’ as they hit their stride with Stimulation. Jessie Ware beams at the side of the stage like a  proud mother, before legging it out for a run through of Disclosure’s remix of her single Running, and gladly a high octane version of Confess To Me, the next single from Settle if Disclosure have any sense. One album deep, it already runs like an arena show. Parklife, consider yourself well and truly burnt.


King Krule by Kevin Lawson (editradio.org)
Day 2 kicks off noticeably quieter than yesterday: maybe people have been put off by the cooler, heavy
weather. Similarly muggy are the deep tones of King Krule, which ring out across the field before you even reach his stage.With far less technical hitches that his set at Live At Leeds, a rare outing of Portrait in Black and Blue gets one boy pogoing, and several more whipping out their camera phones to catch his unique blend of trip hop and light dubstep on vine. As always it is Baby Blue that is the biggest triumph, hopefully setting the precedent for what could be a very interesting and oddly sensitive record.

Iggy Azalea by Kevin Lawson (editradio.org)
Less subtle is Iggy Azalea, who is peddling the musical equivalent of calling a sex line on the mainstage. Amongst all the ‘gangsta’ gestures, rapping and random swearing, she is a pure popstar, a master of slutty Azealia banks-esque tough-girl pop. No wonder rumour has it the pair want to rip each others weaves out – the similarity is uncanny.

Despite her cartoonishly sexualised appearance, it is an audience of 98% girls who grind along to the dulcet tones of a song about 'twerking', closely followed by one about 'pussy'. It’s ridiculousness almost verges on feminism just be reclaiming misogynistic terms, but making your hype squad of black and mixed race girls shake their asses for a living seems a little too desperate and over-orchestrated. Politics aside, she clearly possesses a strong rap ability and a do-or-die attitude, as presented in her biggest single Work, which gets more than few audience members proclaiming that they too are ‘working on their shit.’ An intelligent businesswoman no doubt, but perhaps Iggy could use her skills for better.

Unfortunately just as thinks are getting interesting, a schedule of bad train times forces us to flee for the exit, missing sets from Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, Everything Everything, Rita Ora and Example. Not impressed.  But nonetheless for £70.00, the Parklife weekender is more than value for money, which might explain it’s popularity. I’m not sure of the actual attendance figures, but Heaton park was rammed throughout the weekend, sometimes uncomfortably so. Perhaps a site expansion or a downsize of tickets is the sensible thing to secure its future.

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