Manchester’s Parklife festival exists in an alternative dimension where EDM doesn’t exist. You won’t find any cake throwing DJs or the latest celebrity selectors throwing down beats in any of its arenas. What it does offer though, is a festival full to the brim with the latest cutting-edge DJs, producers and bands, which have made it there on merit, and merit alone. Meticulously programmed from start to finish, the festival offers something a bit different — something with a little bit more substance.
We rock up to the site at 2pm, hoping the early stampede has given way for a quicker entry. Unfortunately, security is tight and we have to wait our turn to get our wristband and go through the usual checks. Once on site we’re treated to something quite unusual for a Manchester festival: no rain. Our first port of call is the second main stage hosted by The Warehouse Project, where Julio Bashmore is taking the crowd through a rainbow of varying styles of house, from shuffling tribal rhythms to more flamboyant cuts of French house, which is the perfect accompaniment to his latest single, ‘Holding On’. A cheer goes off midway through his set but it’s not for a track, instead the sun is breaking through the clouds and the crowd reacts immediately with a roar of excitement.
As we soak up some of the vitamin D, we head to MK's Area 10 stage to catch Tensnake perform to a packed crowd. Tensnake doesn’t waste anytime getting the party started as the German producer opens with his remix of London Grammar’s ‘Hey Now’ before moving onto his new single, ‘The Walking’. One punter is so into it he begins to climb a tree to show-off his appreciation, before security quickly quashes the idea. Tensnake treats the crowd to Jonas Rathsman’s remix of Sam Smith’s ‘Like I Can’, before hitting the crowd with Green Velvet and Harvard Bass’ ‘Lazer Beams’, and then ‘Blue Monday’, a track that’s been played more times in this fair city than one can count.
We catch our breath and head to the Resident Advisor tent to watch Siriusmo and Modeselektor’s new live show Siriusmodselektor. The place is packed as the trio perform a variety of their tracks, flipping between Modeselektor's more outlandish electro to Siriusmo’s playful cuts including ‘Good Idea’, before the zany German finishes with ‘Feromonikon’, sending the arena into shape-throwing hysterics.
Next up, Tiga's performing live for the first time alongside long-time collaborator Jori Hulkkonen. Dressed in all in white, the Canadian house and techno don is rattling through a range of his recent tracks including ‘Bugatti’ and ‘Let’s Go Dancing’ before introducing ‘Sunglasses At Night’ as a “modern classic”. While some of his cuts are on the older side (his debut album ‘Sexor’ came out in 2006) they’ve all been given a new lick of paint as Tiga sings the vocals live with a husky delivery and Jori Hulkkonen handles the drums.
With two hours to go we have a choice to make: Disclosure or Richie Hawtin. We decide to head toward the main stage to see the Lawrence brothers perform their new live show, glancing across the stage we see hotly tipped female vocalist Lion Babe performing her new collaboration ‘Hourglass’. The track sounds good, but the sound levels aren’t great. Instead, we perform a swift 180 and hit the Resident Advisor tent for the last hour of Hawtin’s set, standing next to the right speaker soaking up all the thudding vibrations we can handle before the 11pm finish.
As day two dawns we're feeling a little worse for ware. As we walk down Bury Road back to the festival entrance, the devastation from the night before is on show for all to see; broken bottles glistening in the sunshine, laughing gas canisters strewn across the road, and empty beer cans piling up at the various bus stops.
First port of call is a disco pick-me-up from Todd Terje in the Sounds of The Near Future tent. The Norwegian disco demigod kicks off his live set with ‘Strandbar’ before moving into ‘Delorean Dynamite’, but it seems as if everyone is just waiting for the finale: ‘Inspector Norse’. And Todd doesn’t disappoint, lifting everyone’s spirits with just the first few bars of the melody. From then on the crowd is going wild, humming the melody back to him, as some of the punters begin to take their shoes off to serenade the Norwegian disco producer.
We then move onto the main stage, to catch 67-year-old diva Grace Jones. The former bond girl is warming up the crowd in the early evening sunshine, but it’s not the music that’s getting the crowd going, instead most people are fixated on Jones’ wardrobe changes as her outfits become more and more outlandish. At one point Jones breaks into her Jamaican accent asking the crowd, “Who’s smoking the reefa?” She doesn’t pull a huge crowd but those who are there are enjoying the stage theatrics and the ridiculously over-the-top costumes, which sees the 67-year-old donning everything from an ornate golden face mask to white body paint in the style of a skeleton.
With just over four hours to go we begin to the pick up the pace, and head toward the G-stage, where Dusky are performing to a capacity tent. Sadly, the G-stage is a little disappointing if we’re honest. It’s styled as a elongated igloo, though the sound is muddy and not particularly loud, which is a real shame as we’re quite excited to see Sasha and Joris Voorn go back-to-back later on. Dusky, though, are churning out techno bomb after techno bomb, with their new single ‘Jilted’ getting the biggest reception.
We decide to move to the Bugged Out tent to see the queen of jackin’ house Heidi, who is taking no prisoners with her set of upfront house and techno. Bugged Out is arguably the best tent of the day; the sound is pulverizing, and the tent is constantly full from start to finish. Our final port of call is the main stage to see Rudimental’s headline set and the D&B collective don’t disappoint, declaring the festival as “The best festival in the world”. The group delivers a rip-roaring show giving the up-for-it crowd a slew of festival moments along the way, including ‘Feel The Love’, before leaving the stage declaring, “This is the best day of our lives.”
Overall, Parklife is a resounding success. We don't see any trouble at all throughout the two days, which is a far cry from last year, when the festival was marred with the death of Robert Hart, who was viciously attacked at the festival trying to protect his girlfriend. Queues for toilets, drinks and other amenities are swift, and on the whole the event staff are friendly and helpful throughout the two-days. Roll on next year!
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