Parklife Review 2017

After the month we’ve had, particularly in Manchester, it’s hard not to frame this year’s Parklife in relation to the Manchester Arena. That’s not to say this is a bleak review. Quite the opposite. The crowd’s unflinching capacity for a great time was matched by heartfelt tributes by the artists, and the organisers, and the ravers themselves. It didn’t affect the festival but you could sense its presence, almost out of sight, but not like the many dark clouds that shrouded the festival in a near constant state of shite weather. Love overcomes terror was the message.

Another external force that you could taste here and there, now and then, was a buoyancy that I’ve felt around me since the General Election, or more significantly, since Jeremy Corbyn managed to really whip up the young and youth culture and give it a platform to rise to prominence. There’s a real buzz, a real hope and a real voice that has been given to a whole generation that it hasn’t had in my lifetime and it looks certain that we are entering an era that will be defined by its young people. And by solidarity.

The grime movement seemed to be a vocal supporter of Jeremy Corbyn in the recent General Election and it was represented en masse on the stages of this year’s Parklife. A genre itself buoyed by a new wave of devotees that found a resonance in the energy and frustration and defiance of something the UK can really call its own. It’s so big now guys like Stormzy are doing adverts for Man United, the most valuable football team in the world. That’s why I was hyped to see the alpha and the omega, the grime I fell in love with as teenager that has now once again found relevance and forced itself further than it’s ever been. A man at the top of the current crop of made men like Stormzy, and the godfather of it all, Eskiboy himself. With artist careers that stretched back to the ‘70s, there was always going to be those different generations of artists represented, and intergenerational divides are a thing in 2017, but Parklife offered a musical experience that seemed to show a way to bridge that gap.

I’m not sure that necessarily had that effect on the crowd though. As I said earlier, this was a much younger crowd than I had seen before. Twenty years ago we didn’t really have much going on in terms of festivals, now they’re non-stop. I came of age at a time when it was just starting to take off. I’ve been to festivals all around the world. But the majority of mine in those days were camping festivals, self-contained, on-site festivals. Festivals where for five days you didn’t leave and got to know every little area. You knew what time to hit the showers, you found the best place for chicken and chips, you knew where to get cigs and where to get cash. But since then we’ve seen the rise of the one-dayer.

Parklife have been keen over the years to stress it’s a ‘weekender’ but really it’s just two one-dayers back-to-back. They sell tickets for individual days. Part of the reason for that is to mitigate for the loss of food, drink and merchandise sales for those who have weekend passes but don’t make it to the second day. That’s a problem. There’s no commitment. From what I saw (though I have no figures to back it) the majority of people there were either from, or based, in Manchester and the surrounding area (though there were still plenty who weren’t). People could turn up when they wanted, leave when they wanted and if they couldn’t be arsed or were incapable of the basic functions required to get there, could just sack off the Sunday altogether. No one really committed to it, and you could feel it. Lots of fun no doubt, great music unquestionably, positive people in abundance, but no real vibe.

The weather didn’t help. It was miserable and demoralising from the get-go. I went once when it was sunny and thought Heaton Park was the perfect setting for a festival. It still is, but part of the magic was that it combined a festival, with the age-old English pastime of just chilling in the park on a nice day. Snap back to Parklife 17. People were huddled in ponchos on the bank that overlooks the Temple/Ram jam stage, cowering under shelter, rubbing their hands between their thighs, wading in wellies. That said there was still plenty of movement visible in the canopy above the thousands strapped to every stage, especially when the black clouds turned grey and the acts were in full swing.

On the Saturday Anderson .Paak gave an energetic headline performance of most of Malibu, with no coke (disclaimer: unconfirmed), in the Sounds of the Near Future tent on Saturday. Rodigan got the bare ‘signal’ from the gathered crowds. It was great to see Damian Marley thrash his body-length dreads chanting More Justice and Welcome to Jamrock if only his amped up rendition of Could You Be Loved was under blue skies. Wiley disappointed. He just played vocal versions of his most commercial tracks and basically just ad-libbed over the top. I still loved seeing him, and the crowd loved it and he had them in chorus. Better be careful what I say though considering his Twitter moves the next day. BBK were good. Jme – a key torchbearer for Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign – did Don’t @ Me, Frisco was decent, you don’t necessarily hold your breath in anticipation of Jammer but Skepta was hype. We had to leave early because we decided to approach this festival professionally, with a professional plan and professional attitude. Unfortunately that meant limiting time with each act and tear-arsing it around the back of the festival in buggies to a stage on the opposite side of the Park. I’m not sure that approach is really suited to my review technique. That’s not me.

What I did get to see from that was how large an operation the festival was. How much work went on behind the scenes. How many police and paramedics and security and artist liaisons and press escorts and engineers that were on hand, often invisible, to put together an event like that. It really was an enormous project. Credit to all of them because it couldn’t really have been better organised and executed. Particular shout out to the press team. That’s testament to the size of the brand now. Parklife really has come far in almost a decade since the early days of Mad Ferret. We had the Mayor deliver a tribute to the 22 people who died in the bomb, and the emergency services of the city in front of a packed Parklife Stage and there was a genuinely emotional minute of noise in memory of 22 people, many of them children, who went to a concert, to hear music, and be a part of a live performance, who never came home that night, and that was heard during that celebration. That was the moment I was most aware at how young some of the faces were there. And then I realised it was because the 1975 were on next. I couldn’t tell you anything about their performance. I honestly had never heard of them before seeing them on the line-up and also because by then we were already hightailing it down a mudpath in a petrol golf caddy to see BBK.

Shoutout to Paul Taylor, who has taken the amazing photos.  They’d gone the extra mile with the tents this year. Not just big top carnival style ones, oh no. Palm House (like the one in Kew Gardens) was a huge conservatory with white walls and what looked like real-life palm trees, though being from Manchester I’m not familiar with such exotica. I didn’t get there in time for Moodymann, though I got to see Jasper James later on at Soup Kitchen in town. All eyes were on the Feel My Bicep line-up on the Sunday, I only caught glimpses regrettably. The Hangar was another mammoth arena shaped like a place you might store jumbo jets when you’re not using them. Again I didn’t get to spend much time in there but I was passing though during what were the unmistakeable, trashy sounds of Eric Prydz, to bear witness to some absolutely out of this world, other-worldly, outta sight, light green laser beams flying about in every direction.

The food was mostly shit, I thought, and comms was as ever impossible. The search policy, though understandably strict following recent events, seemed a little ineffective seeing as though on both days I was fruitlessly searched at the whim of a sniffer dog that couldn’t do anything to prevent some of the jaws I saw getting about the place.

Disappointed I didn’t get to see J Hus and or Carl Cox. I did however see someone who I wasn’t particularly keen on seeing, mostly because I have a selective dislike for hype. Funny how these things can influence how we approach music. Need to cut that out really, this probably helped. Run the Jewels I’m talking about by the way. They were actually sick. Their music went off, they were gassed, the crowd were gassed. I guess part of it is that some artists really are made for the main stage. When you have a lot of energy in your music, and your performances are animated and interactive, you just can’t squeeze that into Spotify. So big shout out to them. It reminded me of UK soundsystem culture, even had an essence of the early 2000’s Wiley that I had looked forward so much to seeing.

I closed out the whole thing with a performance that I consider my favourite. In previous years this has been someone like Moodymann, or Loco Dice, Optimo, or Scuba, or Patrick Topping, or Nina Kravitz, or even Dizzee Rascal at one festival for the lols. This year it was nothing of the sort. It was the last sound of Parklife 17 to echo around north Manchester. It was Frank Ocean. Thousands descended, in the darkness, on the Parklife Stage. On both days the sky was black way before the sun went down. The crowds squeezed as far back as the flashing lights of the ferris wheel and the high, spinning ride. Tension grew in the silence. Frank Ocean was running late. Pockets of ‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn’ chants drifted in the chilly wind. And then something happened. It wasn’t immediately clear what was going on.

The main stage was filled with two huge screens that mostly didn’t struggle with keeping on top of aspect ratio, orientation and displaying info that was presumably not meant for the public eye. I’m not gonna lie, it was pretty confusing. I heard Frank’s voice and I could see a part of his head on one of the screens. Then it became apparent he was performing, not from the stage itself, but from a little satellite stage opposite the stage. He introduced himself with a humbling softness, both carefree and charming. He maintained this throughout. The crowd felt a little flat but in his own way he dominated the next forty or so minutes.

It was a huge open park, it was open air, it was dark and cold, breezy with patches of drizzle, but he made it intimate. His stage lit up like a tiny island in the sea of people. Lights twinkled in the distance like candle-light. He built the energy with the ebb and flow of the playlist he kept referring to, even if the transitions involved him skipping the track on a player, awkwardly almost exposing the illusion. His performance was sometimes clumsy. Goofy even. A couple stop-starts, issues with his headphones, with his mic, visibly alone, at times marooned. But when he sang Chanel, when he sang Nikes, when he sang Ivy, when he finally sang Thinking Bout You, with 70-odd thousand people around him failing to hit those angelic notes that lift the chorus, he had still managed to carve out a real connection with the audience. A bond that went above and beyond the hectic hustle and bustle of earlier in the weekend, when energy levels were still cruising and the frantic thrashing through mud from stage to stage.

Frank Ocean’s deeply personal lyrics, stripped back melodies, his live guitarists and his voice brought peace to Parklife. It ended when he finished.

lloyd w

photos: IG – @thisispaultaylor

 

Parklife 2015 Review

On June 6 and 7, 80,000 people descended on Heaton Park for Parklife 2015, indulging in headline sets from Disclosure on Saturday and Rudimental on Sunday, while Hudson Mohawke, Todd Terje, Jamie XX and the weekend’s highlight, FKA twigs, had Summer Festival Guide darting from stage to stage.

SATURDAY 

Saturday belongs to Jamie XX. Throughout a perfectly-crafted set, 'Girl', 'Gosh' and 'Sleep Sound', along with the soon-to-be defining track of the summer festival season, 'Loud Places', and older percussive house gem 'Far Nearer' pack the Now Wave tent – one overexcited reveler climbing the tent's rigging, becoming barely visible, to an eruption of cheers as he carefully eases back down.

Earlier, in the Big Top, Everything Everything – dressed in matching red suits – belt through new material, their current single 'Regret' achieving anthemic status.

Disclosure's graduation to main stage headliners comes with a plethora of new material from their imminent second album, 'Caracal', along with a host of upcoming vocal talents. 'White Noise', 'F For you' and 'You & Me' gain as incredible a response as expected, but it's Guy and Howard’s newest creations which stand out, as the Lawrence brothers tease, "Parklife, we've got some surprises for you". Lion Babe's leading lady Jillian Hervey – with the longest legs and wildest hair SFG HAs ever seen – comes first, her R&B-orientated vocals perfectly complimenting the slinky synths of an as-yet-unnamed track as she struts across the stage in arm-length silver gloves and nearly knee-high black boots. London-based future R&B vocalist Nao soon follows, her vocals and onstage presence similar to Aluna Francis, before Kwabs’ soulful tones command the crowd from a raised platform throughout two untitled tracks. The arrival of American jazz legend Gregory Porter for an on-point rendition of current single and collab ‘Holding On’ mesmerises the mainly young crowd with his unparalleled ability to hold a note, fusing two musical worlds seamlessly. After a brief stage leave, ‘Help Me Lose My Mind’ and ‘Latch’ – the latter is dedicated to Sam Smith who’s just recovered from vocal surgery – sees friends on shoulders in a moment of hysteria.

Bidding farewell for the evening, the flocks of thousands head for the shuttle bus appropriately chanting the lyrics to Blur's ‘Parklife’.

SUNDAY 

As SFG arrive on Sunday, Ella Eyre is playing to a massive crowd to the main stage despite her early afternoon set placement, launching herself across the stage in a leopard print leotard, belting out 'Deeper' and 'If I Go' along her energetic way.

Later, Labrinth arrives – suit and shades on – blasting through his synth-heavy chart hits 'Earthquake', 'Pass Out' and Sigma-collaboration 'Higher', the latter emptying everyone's lungs.

Meanwhile, in an equally busy Resident Advisor tent, Jimmy Edgar and Machinedrum – together they're known as J.E.T.S – pump out thumping techno as green inflatable aliens and neon balloons are slung around in the air; Ben UFO's back-to-back set with Pearson Sound continuing the bass-heavy electronic onslaught.

Oliver Dollar's back-to-back with Jesse Rose proves an early evening highlight, opting for Dirtybird's booty-house with Claude VonStroke's 'Make A Cake', assuring an up-tempo energy from the off.

Over at the MK Area 10 stage, Ben Pearce – of 'What I Might Do' fame – drops a housier edit of Take That's 'Relight My Fire', completely unexpectedly.

Later, in the Big Top, James Bay proves himself as having the potential to command the main stage in a year’s time; 'Let It Go' and 'Best Fake Smile's infectious chorus inducing a sense of euphoria.

US-based Sango, sporting a Manchester City sports jacket, opens the Kaytranada stage on Sunday with hip-hop and trap-influenced bubbling synths and bass beats in a tucked away Greek coliseum-like vicinity; even the security guards are bouncing along as they make their way through the crowd amidst a sparse edit of Skepta's ‘That's Not Me’ and a Cashmere Cat-sounding remix of Drake's ‘Through The 6’.

Chet Faker, sporting a topknot for the occasion, packs the Sounds of the Near Future stage with his synth-laden sound. Alone at first, he intricately and passionately delivers electronic instrumentals, before he’s joined by a guitarist and drummer. Encouraging us to "use those muscles" before ‘No Diggity’, a sea of phones are hoisted to record the cover, as everyone’s vocal muscles flex while singing along to ‘Drop The Game’.

Bristol duo Blonde meanwhile pack the Drop The Mustard stage with their summery house anthems ‘Foolish’, ‘All Cried Out' and ‘I Loved You’ as part of a new live show, wheeling out guest vocalists – expect them to be as big as Disclosure this time next year.

Todd Terje, with his live band The Olsens, who alternate between saxophone, flute, bongo drum, guitar and keyboard, build into their funky set with zooming laser synths, though it does take a while for the crowd to warm to the sounds. ‘Delorean Dynamite’ and set closer ‘Inspector Norse’ soon get them moving though, as the funky bass line kicks in; one Terje fan who’s celebrating a birthday screams “this is the best day of my life” while his friend, clearly intoxicated, jokes, “is this Lady GaGa?”

Jungle's well-deserved transition to the main stage sees them play to a massive crowd, the summery weather perfect for their almost 70s sound as the seven-piece perform their biggest hits, ‘Julia’ and ‘The Heat’ just as the sun beams down.  

Back in the Sounds of the Near Future tent, Hudson Mohawke walks onstage with a new live set up, bringing out Redinho on keyboards and Two Door Cinema Club’s Ben Thomas on drums. Drawing on material from his new album ‘Lantern’ and his and Lunice’s collaborative project, TNGHT’s biggest hits, intense bass and red strobes match the maximalist electronica of ‘Acrylics’ and ‘Higher Ground’, sending the crowd into mass hysteria.

An hour later, FKA twigs, visible only through a cloud of smoke, leaves thousands in awe, as her hauntingly ethereal performance remains compelling from start to finish. Easily the largest crowd of the day, there’s a ritualistic sense to her set as she flows through her debut album ‘LP1’ and new material from her imminent third EP, ‘Melissa’. With an incredible vocal from the off, twigs, dressed in double denim with her hair to one side, is joined by a three-piece band who delicately tap their synth pads respectively, producing the intense, almost apocalyptic trip-hop beats of ‘Water Me’, ‘Number’ and ‘Papi Pacify’. How she was once only Jessie J's backing dancer is unbelievable for her unique talent as a vocalist, dancer and performer. Effortlessly charismatic, the entire crowd’s eyes are transfixed on her throughout the hour set as she reaches vocal notes you didn't know existed, all whilst popping her body around the stage. Removing the denim jacket to show off her toned body in a stripped white top, her enigmatic presence is made even more likeable when she speaks, sweetly and humbly. "It’s great to be back in England,” she delights, “I just got back a week ago.” Closing with a faultless rendition of ‘Two Weeks’ and then ‘How’s That’, it’s evident that the summer festival season belongs to FKA Twigs.

Parklife tickets running low & VIP options revealed

After the unprecedented success of their 2015 edition – which is set to welcome Disclosure, Rudimental, Ben Howard, Nas, George Ezra, Fatboy Slim, Grace Jones, Wu-Tang Clan, Caribou, Metronomy, Mark Ronson and Jessie Ware – standard weekend tickets for Parklife Festival have now completely sold out with only limited Sunday tickets and VIP options now available.

Uniquely combining an incredible selection of chart-topping live acts, DJs and home grown talents, the festival also boasts an exclusive VIP village that offers revellers an array of luxury benefits including a dedicated fast entrance, viewing platforms, chill out and seating areas, exclusive merchandise and a complimentary programme for all VIP ticket holders – as well as a delectable street food village curated by highly revered Manchester promoters Friday Food Fight that also offers street cocktail bars, a craft ale bar from local brewers and a frozen margarita shack.

 

As one of the cities best-loved culinary events, the award-winning street food crew will bring their unique combination of street food, DJs and atmosphere to the Parklife VIP village for those looking for a truly indulgent festival experience.

 

Chris Legh, owner of Friday Food Fight explains:

"We've known the guys at Parklife for a couple of years and loved going to the festival, so you can imagine how excited we were when they asked us to get involved. We will be bringing some of the best of FRIDAY FOOD FIGHTS restaurant's and street food heroes to Heaton Park on the 6th & 7th June. Expect everything from Lobster Rolls, to the freshest Viet Street Food, can’t wait!"

 

With a variety of prized vendors such as Viet Shack – winners at the Manchester Food & Drink Awards – Almost Famous and London’s Burger & Lobster all contributing, the VIP village will also feature a series of special DJ sets from the artist playing across the festival in order to make it a truly unmissable festival experience.

 

As ticket levels continue to drop, be sure to act fast to secure your spot at Parklife Festival 2015.

Disclosure, Rudimental, Grace Jones and Fatboy Slim announced for Parklife Festival 2015!

Parklife Festival have announced the line-up for their hotly-anticipated 2015 edition on Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th June at Manchester’s Heaton Park. Showcasing an incredible selection of the best chart-topping live acts and world leading DJs, confirmed acts include Disclosure, Ben Howard, Rudimental, Nas, George Ezra, Fatboy Slim, Grace Jones, Wu-Tang Clan, Caribou, Metronomy, Mark Ronson and Jessie Ware – all of whom will cater to over 140,000 music fans across the two days.

Two of the UK's hottest dance acts, Disclosure and Rudimental, will head up the festival line-up, which will also feature one of the UK’s biggest dance music exports in Fatboy Slim. A rare performance from iconic singer and model Grace Jones is also confirmed –famed for her pioneering artistry that constantly blurs the line between performance and art.

Hip-hop royalty Nas will be performing tracks from his seminal album Illmatic at this year’s festival – as well as Wu-Tang Clan & The Roots, plus young claimant to the throne Earl Sweatshirt also featuring. James Bay – named Critics Choice 2015 by the Brit Awards panel – is also amongst the first live artists announced and will be joined by Ben Howard and George Ezra, alongside leftfield popstars Metronomy and Jungle.

Legendary electronic music pioneer Richie Hawtin will also be heading to Manchester alongside Hot Creations label head Jamie Jones, Radio 1 tastemaker Annie Mac and chart topper Duke Dumont (playing live) to spearhead a stellar DJ line-up across the two days. With appearances from the likes of Nicolas Jaar, Seth Troxler, Maya Jane Coles, Eats Everything and Hannah Wants – plus rising stars Lapsley, Novelist and Blonde – already confirmed, Parklife’s 2015 DJ program is shaping up to be it’s most varied and expansive to date.

The eclectic nature of this year’s line up is only bolstered by the number of artist-curated arenas across the weekend. Soulection affiliated superstar Kaytranada has added his own personal touch to Parklife this year by curating his own Kaytranada and Friends stage. The same honour has also been bestowed to drum & bass veteran Andy C as he presents his label RAM, as well as MK bringing his Area 10 brand to Heaton Park. Reggae, Dub and Dancehall royalty David Rodigan will also be further cementing his legendary status in the UK by bringing his world-renowned Ram Jam party to The Temple arena – the largest of the festival’s stages. This very special Super Ram Jam comes complete with an all-star line up, including Nas performing his seminal ‘Illmatic’ album in full.

Having launched back in 2010, Parklife is curated by the same set of promoters behind Manchester’s game-changing series The Warehouse Project, who have adapted the festival year on year to make it one of the UK’s most significant music events – all set in the iconic surroundings of Heaton Park.

Now five years since the festival’s launch, Parklife also remains one of the best value festivals in the UK – with weekend tickets at just £89.50 and day tickets at £54.50. Festival goers also have the opportunity to purchase VIP packages priced at £145 for a weekend ticket and £85 per day – which unlocks a range of luxury offerings such as fast access to the festival, a private viewing platform over the temple stage and exclusive areas from a host of national club brands.

With 10,000 pre-registration tickets selling out in minutes and the next wave of tickets set for release on Friday 13th February 2015, Parklife’s fifth anniversary is on course to deliver their best year yet.

The full line up is below:
LIVE
DISCLOSURE * RUDIMENTAL
BEN HOWARD * GEORGE EZRA * NAS performs ILLMATIC
MARK RONSON * FATBOY SLIM* GRACE JONES * WU TANG CLAN
CARIBOU * METRONOMY * JESSIE WARE * JAMES BLAKE
THE ROOTS * JAMES BAY * FKA TWIGS * JUNGLE * LABRINTH
DUKE DUMONT * JAMIE XX * NICOLAS JAAR * MODESELEKTOR
EVERYTHING EVERYTHING * HUDSON MOHAWKE * KAYTRANADA
TODD TERJE & THE OLSENS * MAC DEMARCO * CHET FAKER
TEN WALLS * TIGA* ACTION BRONSON * EARL SWEATSHIRT * BAAUER*
HERCULES & LOVE AFFAIR * JESS GLYNNE * FUSE ODG * VIC MENSA * LAPSLEY * TALABOMAN * GHOSTPOET * TENSNAKE * ELLA EYRE * HENRIK SCHWARZ * MADLIB * RONI SIZE REPRAZENT * CRAZY P * BURAKA SOM SISTEMA* *TOURIST* JIMMY NAPES * BOB MOSES * J.E.T.S*
* SEVEN DAVIS JR * BLONDE * NOVELIST* BADBADNOTGOOD * DUB PHIZIX & STRATEGY * OUTFIT * TOM MISCH * KIKO BUN * BECKY HILL * KAREN HARDING * SANGO * TEI SHI * BERNARD & EDITH

DJ
RICHIE HAWTIN * ANNIE MAC * JAMIE JONES * MK * ANDY C
SETH TROXLER b2b EATS EVERYTHING * MAYA JANE COLES * TALE OF US * THE MARTINEZ BROTHERS * DIXON * SASHA b2b JORIS VOORN
HANNAH WANTS * DUSKY * ADAM BEYER * JULIO BASHMORE
JACKMASTER * HOT SINCE 82 * DAVID RODIGAN * OLIVER HELDENS
HEIDI * SKREAM * GEORGE FITZGERALD * JOY ORBISON * WILKINSON
BEN UFO & PEARSON SOUND * OLIVER DOLLAR & JESSE ROSE * BENJI B
DANIEL AVERY * RICHY AHMED * CATZ 'N’ DOGZ * PAUL WOOLFORD * DJ EZ * SHADOW CHILD * PATRICK TOPPING * WAZE & ODYSSEY * JOHN TALABOT & AXEL BOMAN * BICEP * BTRAITS * MADLIB dj * DJ EZ * JUSTIN MARTIN * JIMMY EDGAR & MACHINEDRUM * MIDLAND * CRAIG CHARLES
ROUTE 94 * BRODINSKI * BEN PEARCE * BONDAX * RANDALL vs DILLINJA
FRIEND WITHIN * CHRIS LORENZO * JONAS RATHSMAN * SPECIAL REQUEST * HORSE MEAT DISCO * JAGUAR SKILLS * JOSH BUTLER * WOOKIE & DJ Q * FCL * CALYX & TEEBEE * RENE LAVICE * SG LEWIS* VENUM SOUND *LOADSTAR * KRYSKO * GREG LORD * WORK IT * NOW WAVE DJs * RICH REASON * JUICY * WORK IT * ZUTEKH DJS * PIRATE COPY * NORTH BASE * JONNY DUB * SIAN BENNETT * NIC BAIRD * LEMMY ASHTON * NICOLA BEAR * HACKETT * PETE ZORBA * DANCE LADY DANCE * WILL ORCHARD * ED NORRIS
& many more still to be announced…

Parklife Weekender Review 2014

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!

Photos by Paul Taylor

Peace, The Midnight Beast, Real Estate and Courtney Barnett all announced for Dot to Dot Festival 2014

The first wave of announcements for citywide music extravaganza Dot to Dot Festival have been made, and include inde-rock headliners Peace, parody group The Midnight Beast and Aussie singer/songwriter Courtney Barnett.

In addition are surf rockers Real Estate, Paris' very own We Were Evergreen, along with another exciting Brit group Wolf Alice. Grunge rockers Darlia will be another highlight, as will the soulful singing of Kyla La Grange,who adds yet another festival appearance to her schedule. Fyfe, Norma Jean Martine and Young Kato make up the best of the rest.

Peace's return to the festival will be of particular interest to Dot to Dot veterans, as their 2012 performance set them on the way to the stardom they're currently acheiving. Last year's debut release 'In Love', saw them garnered with praise from the likes of the NME, and they used summer festival appearances and a winter UK tour to further showcase their abilities. Now in 2014, they're back, with album number two being recorded as we speak!

With a couple of TV series' and over 64 million YouTube views under their belts, Midnight Beast will also be taking to the Dot to Dot stage, adding a bit of humour to proceedings. Look out for Courtney Barnett too, a frank and honest songwriter who isn't afraid to sing what she feels, the Australian is gaining a lot of attention.

Dot to Dot 2014 takes place over three consecutive days in Manchester on Friday, May 23, Bristol, Saturday May 24, before ending in Nottingham on Sunday, May 25, at various venues scattered throughout the city, with over 14 hours of music to keep punters entertained.

The likes of the XX, Mumford & Sons, Florence + the Machine and Foals have all featured at past festivals, which aim to showcase the talent of the future in initimate venues for bargain prices.

With tickets set at a bargain £20 (plus £2 booking fees), the Best Metropolitan Festival of 2013, as handed out by the UK Festival Awards, looks to be yet another success in its ninth year of running.

Full Line-Up: 

Peace will headline, plus The Midnight Beast, Real Estate, We Were Evergreen, Wolf Alice, Courtney Barnett, Fyfe, Darlia, Kyla La Grange, Barbarossa, Betty Who, Caveman, Frank Hamilton, Norma Jean Martine, Gavin James, George Barnett, Horse Thief, Lapland, Laura Welsh, LSA, Marika Hackman, Mt Royal, Sean McGowan, Sivu, St Paul and The Broken Bones, Sundara Karma, We The Wild, Wonder Villains, and Young Kato, with more to be announced.