Temperamental wet weather didn’t dampen the spirits of 70,000 festival goers at last weekend’s sold-out Parklife Festival, which now in its fourth year, saw Snoop Dogg, A$AP Rocky, Disclosure and Sam Smith prove to be essential highlights.
Arriving at around 1pm, SFG headed straight to the Hospitality tent for some early afternoon drum & bass with flashing strobes, courtesy of Logistics and later, Camo & Krooked.
Heading to the main stage for Kiesza, who is accompanied by two male dancers, her 90’s influenced choreography and funk tracks prove an early treat. Giant In My Heart fuses disco and funk perfectly, before the Canadian ex-navy recruit takes to the piano for a stripped down cover of Haddaway’s, What Is Love, showcasing her powerful vocal range. Ending with number one track, Hideaway, she lifts everyone’s spirits despite the grey clouds looming up above. Catchy “ooh’s” and “ahh’s” and house-y beats provide the first sing-a-long of the weekend (with many more to come), before the track is mixed into Gorgon City’s deep-house edit. Now recording her debut album, expect another catchy chart-bothering track to go viral in the coming months.
Spending around 20 minutes struggling to find the Colonnade presents: Drop the Mustard stage, where the majority of the main house draws performed, SFG caught some of Hot Natured’s, Lee Foss’ Ibiza-cum-Manchester house set at the hilltop Kaluki stage. Eventually, finding the Greek coliseum-like Colonnade stage, SFG caught house duo Waze & Odyssey’s set, including their now infamous house remix of R Kelly’s timeless classic, Bump & Grind as well as a remix of Robin S’, Show Me Love. Later at the Colonnade, it was Route 94’s turn on the decks. Performing a mostly obscure but impressive house set, with the exception of Defected Records releases, Fly 4 Life and Tell You Why, the young London-based producer drew a large crowd, with one fan feeling the need to scale a tree, receiving a smile from the producer and applause from the audience below. But it was number one house crossover hit, My Love, which saw everyone take out their iPhone’s to record the sing-a-long moment before 94 imminently takes his sound to Ibiza for the summer.
Pacing back to the opposite end of the site, to the Red Bull Academy Presents stage, Gold Panda’s hotly-anticipated set proved essential for the eyes and ears. Synth-led electronics impressed the large crowd during cutting-edge debut album offerings, Vanilla Sky, Snow & Taxis and early track Marriage before a chopped up reinvention of fan favorite, You, with its pitch-shifted vocals circling around the tent.
Back at the main stage, Grammy –winner, Foxes, attracted a large crowd with tracks from her debut album Glorious, including Youth and recent single, Let Go For Tonight, while another Hot Natured label-mate, Richy Ahmed, continued the Amnesia Ibiza-ready house vibe with 808 hi-hats and drum machines aplenty during his mid-afternoon Kaluki stage set.
Later, the sun shined while Radio One DJ Annie Mac drew the biggest crowd so far with a house orientated set including Ten Walls’ new track, Walking With Elephants and Gorgon City’s collaboration with Laura Welsh, Here For You as well as Second Citys’ I Wanna Feel which rocketed to number one two weeks ago. Later, before Sigma’s, Nobody To Love, she tells the crowd to, “grab your friend, boyfriend, or a total stranger”. Its sets like these, demonstrating which tunes to play to get thousands of people dancing, which stand testament to why she is such a hot DJ commodity.
Rudimental, who, trumpets included, perform album tracks, Spoons and Baby, show a softer side to the Black Butter Records collective. Dedicating Not Givin’ In, to his son, DJ Locksmith pulls on the crowds heartstrings before the drum & bass beats kick in, but are soon cut off due to a technical problem. It’s all back to normal though after the crowd chant “Rudimental, Rudimental, Rudimental” to give them the support to carry on, which they do oh so professionally, continuing with album tracks, Free, and later, Feel The Love.
It’s A$AP Rocky however, who delivers the best and most charismatic performance of the weekend, as a more than deserving replacement to Kendrick Lamar, who cancelled his slot. Weed promotion, referring to women as “hoes” and a whole lot of swearing, but what else would you expect from song’s titled, Hella Hoes and Fuckin’ Problems which are performed with a fifteen-man-strong A$AP Mob watching him from the side of the stage. Bassier and rowdier than on record, Palace and Wassup take the Now Wave tent to Rocky’s hometown, Harlem, New York City. “Put your hands up if you smoke fucking weed ‘cos that’s what I stand for”, demands Rocky, real name Rakim Mayers, before Purple Swag where he toys with the crowd saying, “are you people ready to get turnt up or what?” New A$AP Mob track, Hella Hoes, results in a mosh pit before taking it to a “whole new mother fucking level” during Skrillex-produced Wild For The Night and Lana Del Rey-featuring Hands On The Wheel. Thanking the audience for getting him so far, he exclaims, “I can’t wait to get on them rides tonight” before a quick run through of his part in final track, Fuckin’ Problems. If you ever get the chance to see A$AP Rocky live, TAKE IT. You won’t be disappointed.
Weaving back into the middle of the main stage crowd for Saturday headliner, SFG didn’t know what to expect from the legendary Snoop Dogg’s headline set. “Who’s getting blazed in the house tonight?” asks Snoop’s DJ during a ten minute prelude to the iconic rapper coming onstage. Dressed in a USA stars and stripes jumper and yellow shades, Snoop stalks the stage with everyone taking his picture. He dedicates Supa Dupa Fly to “all the girls in the house” before rapping his part on Justin Timberlake collaboration, Signs, and his brief part on Katy Perry’s, California Girls. The only thing he could be blamed for, is looking relatively bored and indifferent, but it is Snoop Dogg after all, why should he be bothered?
Ending the night back at Kaluki in Marc Kinchen provided early evening house, in his number one remix of Storm Queens, Look Right Through, which is quickly followed by his Medicine remix of Shadow Child's, Friday and his edit of Hot Natured’s, Reverse Skydiving.
Sunday would prove to be better weather on the whole, aside from one insane downpour during Warpaint’s set which saw everyone flock to the nearest tent.
Opening the Disclosure Presents: Wildlife stage, Kanye West-collaborator Pusha T, performed tracks from his acclaimed debut album, My Name Is My Name as well as his part on the aforementioned Kanye hit, Mercy. Stalking the stage, which looks like brown lego bricks stacked high, Pusha runs through the trap beats of King Push and Nostalgia. Promising a new album in the not-so-distant-future, he continues with Numbers on the Board, seeing arms in the air pulling back and forward – an impressive debut at Parklife for the hotly-tipped ex-Clipse rapper.
Next up, are classical-cum-electronic Cambridge graduates Clean Bandit, who remained at the top of the charts for a month earlier this year with their single Rather Be. An early afternoon set time doesn’t seem to affect the eager crowd, growing by the minute. Arriving onstage to classical music alongside two guest vocalists, the quartet open with older track, A&E, before Dust Clears, with Jack Patterson leading the vocals over a synth-y beat. Tracks from their debut album New Eyes soon follow. Up Again, begins as a hand-swaying, blissed-out production before drum beats and classical chords intrude, culminating in a full on drum and bass climax while Come Over hears cellist Grace Chatto’s sweet vocals soar over a Caribbean, almost reggae beat. Mid-set, it’s clear that new single Extraordinary could become their second number one judging from the crowd’s reaction. Heart on Fire, featuring vocals from Elizabeth Troy is dedicated to “all the garage heads” before the lyrics of Mozart’s House ask, “so you think electronic music is boring?” Following this genre-crossing set, they’ve proved that that their sound is far from boring. Nightingale is then mixed into Gorgon City’s deep-house edit before feel-good festival anthem, Rather Be, which stayed at number one for a month, ends their set with the crowd on each other’s shoulders singing along word perfect.
Unexpected pop star Sam Smith, arrives for his 5pm slot to screams of excitement. Opening with Nirvana, he shows his powerful voice off straight away before Disclosure collaboration Together, complete with Chic-esque funky bass guitar lines. Leave Your Lover slows the set to a mellower, emotional halt, with some female fans starting to tear up, before further winning them over by telling the crowd that Manchester is his favorite place. Before new track, Restart, Smith informs the audience that he’s filming the music video right now, and of course everyone is more than happy to clap and sing-a-long for it. An unexpected cover of Arctic Monkey’s track, Do I Wanna Know breaks up the set with a unique take on the indie hit. Money On My Mind and Lay Me Down follow with emotional lyrics, while the heavens fittingly starting to open, before ending with recent number one single, Stay With Me. It’s obvious that Smith is providing the definitive sound of 2014, after his vocal talent was first discovered by the mainstream on another Disclosure collaboration, Latch, which is given a flawless acoustic rendition.
Later, over in the Heidi Presents: The Jackathon tent, Hot Since 82 brings deep house and techno beats to a sweaty strobe light flashing tent, delivering arguably the best bass orientated set of the weekend.
Over in the Sounds of the Near Future tent, SBTRKT gives an astonishing live
set. Opener, Pharaos, gets the packed tent going before the masked man says, "It's so good to be back. It's been like two years since we've been here.” New lasers and synths track Temporary View, which went up on Soundcloud just two days ago, receives a great reaction as a taster of what to expect from the impending second album. Debut album tracks, Never Ever, Trials of the Past and Wildfire follow with tribal drum beats and feature Drake-collaborating, Sampha’s recorded vocals and Little Dragon’s in the latter, which echo around the at-capacity tent.
Pacing back to the Wildlife stage to catch headliners Disclosure, it was shockingly easy for SFG to get near the front – probably because Oxford indie-types, Foals, were headlining over on the main stage. The wunderkind production duo of house revivalists, Guy and Howard, open with synth led F For You featuring on record vocals courtesy of Mary J Blige. Preacher lyrics and simplistic house beats follow in When a Fire Starts to Burn and newer Friend Within collaboration, The Mechanism, with the background screens showing the duo playing in real time while Guy picks up the bass guitar to play the funky chords in the former, while pyrotechnics shoot from the top of the stage. Checking with the crowd that they are okay to play some older material, they bounce into older E.P tracks, Boiling, Tenderly and Flow before inviting guest vocalist, Sasha Keable, onstage during album track Voices and later Sam Smith to join them for the song which started it all off, Latch.
It’s only in its fourth year, but soon enough Blur’s iconic single won’t be the only thing which comes to mind when thinking of Parklife. Providing a great line up, the organisers delivered great variety at an affordable price, SFG cannot wait until next year!