The lead-up to this year’s Parklife Weekender came with much trepidation, and not just over what to wear (high-waisted and dangerously short shorts, “obvs”). The move to Heaton Park from a venue much nearer Manchester’s festival-ready student population was a curious one, no doubt intended to minimise disruption to the regular flow of the city.
Officially the event was a success, but I wonder who else left frustrated by some fundamental oversights. Happy or naïve, we arrive at the park mid-afternoon on a picture perfect Saturday. Ambling amid flowered fields and deliciously shady groves, you can’t shake the feeling of summer – least of all when it’s shaking you; a heavy bassline through the trees.
We miss Aussie boys The Temper Trap, on too early. It’s the same story for Alunageorge. You’d be annoyed if you forked out for a programme since the printed set-times have changed. There’s probably a good explanation, and en masse no one seems bothered, but it’s a blow for fans negotiating crowds in pursuit of their favourite acts.
Jessie Ware lends her sexy breed of soul to the main stage, dedicating ‘Sweet Talk’ to the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson: “Sir Alex, I love you!” she coos. People groove along to the summery track but conversations carry on. Over at Sounds of the Near Future (for the uninitiated, that’s another stage name), Baauer throws a towel over his head to soak up the sweat. Or shut out the lights. He’s allowed since he nails his set.
Despite massive headliners, the draw card of the new venue is a host of carnival attractions that have sprung up for the weekend. The ferris wheel, log flume and bungee jump are daunting, and at £20 a pop are out of this reporter’s meagre budget. We’re suckered in by the dodgem cars instead, & at only £4 the saving warrants another trip to the bar. A shout out here to all the bartenders we encountered, and not just in the lush VIP section. In absence of the friendly volunteers of say Glastonbury, they acted as a much-needed, vibrant face of the festival.
Londoners Gorgeous George make for an irreverent change in pace. Playing the smallest stage in the festival, we figure this is Parklife’s equivalent of the reggae tent. You know, the spot people seem to end up when everything else is winding down. It’s surprising and fresh. The very look of the band cuts through the day’s niggling sameness. The lead singer has that proper cockney edge, sporting an unlikely Adidas jumper.
Ever seen a trumpeter in skinny jeans? That’s not a euphemism either. Just, well, have you? It’s all very fun. The frontman asks that any booze (or worse) that wants sharing be passed to the front. When we leave we wish we’d stayed, or left much earlier. Getting out is a shambles. We’re told to follow the crowd and the rest is guess work. Fearing more of this, I’m less enthusiastic come round two on Sunday.
We race to catch festival royalty Mark Ronson in some kind of DJ battle with equally big-time A-Trak. A note to festival organisers – please, pick a name for each stage and stick with it? Sure, it’s a stand-alone festival on both days. Yes, you’ll be raking it in with sponsors. But it’s sunny, and we’re drinking. Don’t be difficult.
Under the Big Top, British duo Simian Mobile Disco are making something of a comeback. Theirs is an energetic, rhythmic set, competing against the alluring bass of the nearby Red Bull sponsored DJs. Yet again, we’re stuck at the edge of a tent trying desperately to be involved. We keep at it for a while, then allow ourselves a break to sit with burgers in the fading sun.
Everything Everything is sadly undersubscribed, possibly due to competition over at the Warehouse Project tent. I’ve seen them before, and as the action seems elsewhere we move on quickly. It’s not their fault. It’s TEED for the win you see, and after throwing ourselves about to ‘Household Goods’ we’re satisfied with the weekend’s efforts.
I won’t go running back to Parklife next year, but with a little bit of love and the right attitude it could certainly be more.