From Piccadilly station, across the city centre, and over to Fallowfield, a buzz of anticipation spread across town, as Manchester geared up for the return of Parklife Festival. Only in its second year, Parklife has a growing reputation for a party that you won’t soon forget. If waking up in a soggy sleeping bag isn’t your style, then this urban festival offers the best of both worlds; a weekend crammed with great music, without the pain of figuring out how to set up a tent. Relatively small, with only seven venues over two days, Parklife does all it can to pack as much as possible into that short time. From the relentless beats of the Chibuku tent on Saturday, to the best sounds coming out of Manchester in the Now Wave venue on Sunday, not to mention, the massive acts lighting up the main stage; Parklife may look small, but it’s one big weekend.
Following the crowds pouring into the park on Saturday afternoon, we were welcomed by Everything Everything, giving it their all up on the main stage, to an already pumped up crowd. As we explored the rest of the park, walking past the Chibuku tent, whose heavy bass already had the place packed out, we came across the secret garden; fabric art installations by Donna Jevens and the Elephant collective, as well as bath tubs to sit in and watch as spoken word acts, and buskers perform on their own stage. This slightly surreal, dreamscape installation was alive with people enjoying a rest from the unyielding party that continued on just around the corner. If that wasn’t already enough to spark our curiosity, past the spoken word, circus acts and tunnels of love, we came across the Truly Treemendous Treehouse Stage, which housed silent disco DJ’s in a tree, as well as a dance floor and some giant vegetable seating for everyone else to enjoy.
Back to the main stage, and Beardyman had replaced Everything Everything, enchanting crowds with his almost unbelievable beat boxing skills, cross over to the Now Wave tent to catch Jamie XX start off his set, and as the audience throw themselves into the rhythms, it was hard to believe that it was only six o’clock. Katy B’s clear vocals cut across the park, and drew the crowd back to watch her perform tracks like Broken Record and Perfect Stranger, with a completely different feel to her recorded work. Live band, coupled with a small brass section gave the set a more soulful feel than her latest album allowed for.
With the sun setting over the festival main stage, and the carnival atmosphere continuing, before we knew it, debut festival headliners Two Door Cinema Club, began their electrifying set. Playing tracks from their album, Tourist History, as well as new materiel with an infectious beat, they left the crowd screaming for more. As the throng poured out of the park and into numerous after parties, we were left to wonder, how could tomorrow top a night like this?
Day two broke with the sun rising over the city, but soon gave way to a more traditional UK festival climate. The rain transformed green grass pathways into mud planes, and we rejoiced as mudslides and wrestling commenced and the multitude turned from an array of colour to slimy brown. It was inevitable really, and nothing was going to get in the way of a great line up for day two.
In the Juicy tent, rammed all the way to the entrance, one of our Parklife highlights was Riot Jazz, a ten piece brass band, who pumped out a combination of punchy jazz, hip-hop, and funk beats, in true style. Making it impossible for anyone to be standing still, as tune after high energy tune blasted out in ecstasy before the rain drenched audience. The energy was astounding and just as we thought the crowd couldn’t dance any longer Broke n English took over to prove us wrong. Torn between staying to watch the set, and catching Labrinth’s debut festival appearance, we pulled ourselves away to head to the main stage, but before making it there, we crossed paths with a samba band and crowds dancing behind them.
The rain had stopped, but the mud was rising with Labrinth’s opening song to his first ever festival crowd. And after a bass heavy set from Skream & Benga, two thirds of legendary magnetic man, the air was heavy with anticipation as the crowds waited expectantly for day two main stage headliners, Chase & Status. With pounding rhythms, and heavy bass, soaring melodies, and awesome visuals, not one person was standing still as the main stage lit up for the final act of the year. And though sweat poured down their mud caked faces, the audience were swept away by a performance that kept getting better. Before leaving we popped into Now Wave to find a crowd of dancers falling in love with the crushed harmonies, and catchy melodies of Mystery Jets. And as our tired legs left Platt Field Park for the final time, we couldn’t help but think that Parklife, will only keep getting better.