Parklife Weekender 2014 festival review

'Parklife is finally flexing its muscles'

Photographer: Shirlaine ForrestDaniel Pratley on 09 June 2014

Parklife, now in its sophomore year at the Heaton Park site, is finally flexing its muscles. The sold out two day festival with over 60,000 revellers, 8 stages and more than 150 artists shows just how far the Warehouse Project Team have come since those early cattle-shed days at the Boddingtons Warehouse site. To say they’ve cracked it would be wrong, but Parklife is definitely directed towards the right-side of a wrong setting.

And that setting is the glorious pastures of Heaton Park – north Manchester’s high capacity, almost inaccessible capital of debauchery. For a few days a year, this beautiful setting is dismantled by high-profile gigs and festivals; demolishing the city’s antiquated transport system along with it. The site is barely four miles from the town centre, but no matter how many busses/trams/taxi’s you need, you’re looking at a two hour round trip.

This year when the weatherman said rain, he didn’t lie. The site may have been raised like a Coachella mirage but by doors open-time the masses are greeted by that heady celebration of shit and mud that we all love to drag our body parts through.

The line-up this year is typically dance centric as you’d expect from the Warehouse team, but also manages the odd nod to other (mostly) welcome genres, including the hip-hop (Snoop, ASAP Rocky, Public Enemy) and the Radio 1 shite machine (Sam Smith & Clean Bandit).

Notably missing a little this year are the sharper indie crossover bands, like The Horrors and King Krule, instead we get the sound of Bastille, who deliver the anaesthetised appetiser to Foals’ growing ambition. It’s not to say this isn’t a welcome rest-bite from the squelch hungry tub-thumping, it’s just not quite the trailblazing armoury we’ve come to expect from the Warehouse team.

Saturday sees an awkward start to proceedings, the laid back ethereal groves of Becky Hill (6) and loose funk of George Ezra (7) fail to ignite the main stage and it’s not till Foxes (6) take control that the festival finally get its bearings. Allen’s energetic brand of dance-pop, shakes Manchester from its damp mud shackles and releases those natural/ingested euphoric compounds. Chromeo (8) then delivers the sucker-punch; the deftness of his 80’s freakiness is inspirational, in a Prince meets les Rhythm Digital kind of way. Not to be outdone by the camp playfulness of Chromeo, ASAP Rocky (8) delivers his characteristic Dalek sonics peppered with the obligatory offensiveness.

It’s a far cry from the sterilised shtick of Rudimental (8) who are exhausting on all levels. Boundless in energy, the slick silkiness of the performance is the momentum the Parklife crowd needs. After the chaos of Rudimental, that sedentary Snoop Dogg/Lion (7) forces his feral way onstage. Money Supermarket aside, snoop always offered a comic parody to the Gangsta swagger, and if it wasn’t for his ratty little attitude, he’d have soothed more than scared.  Tonight he’s soothing, his horizontal drawl harks to the bygone days when the ‘Doggfather’ ruled the roost, a benign character sent by Dre to capitalise on the thug life culture. Kicking off with ‘Here Comes the King’ straight into ‘I’m fly’ from the 213, it’s an eclectic set-list of oldies and newies, with the crowd pleasing ‘Jump Around’ thrown in for good measure, a near perfect way to end a buoyant day.

We open Sunday’s proceedings with the natty attired East India Youth (8), who is unfortunately cut short by power failure. The solo dandy shape of Doyle (suited and booted), casts a vulnerable shadow over his gospel inspired Krautrock and manages to hook those brave enough to venture from the main stage.

Which is more than we can say for Clean Bandit (3), who are infinitely less alluring. Suggesting their bubblegum string-led dance was/is/will be anything more than a flimsy whim isn’t going to curry favour with this crowd, who lap up the turd revival like dogs. Which unfortunately leaves Warpaint (7) battling Clean Bandit’s left-overs. A mass of disgruntled teenagers left clinging to the barrier do little more than nod, until ‘Undertow’ rears its fusty face and the crowd suddenly perk up; realising there’s some substance in the dissonance. But unfortunately Warpaint are little more than teen mouthwash for Sam Smith (7) who delivers a powerful clout of pop dynamics, furnishing his set with the Monkeys' ‘Do I Wanna Know’ in his own imitable cruise ship style.

Foals (9), the nations turnkey solution to the dance/indie crossover are in fine form. The militant arm of Yannis has elevated Foals to the top slot, and whilst the mass appeal of latest tracks like ‘Inhaler’ and ‘My Number’ seal their live prowess tonight, it’s the energy of the older ‘Balloons’ and ‘Hummer’, that provide the clincher.

So as we bid Parklife farewell for another year, and wrestle with the light-weight travel system, we can all rest assured with the Warehouse team that next year Parklife will come back bigger and better.


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