It’s that time of year again, when Manchester is flooded with a sea of sparkling faces and an array of coloured wellies as thousands of people march briskly to Heaton Park for the city's infamous Parklife festival.
The line-up was glowing but sadly the sky was grey, welcoming festival goers with some classic Manchester drizzle. People’s spirits refused to be dampened however, as the grins remained firmly in place. Parklife has grown so considerably over the past few years that Mancunians are joined by music lovers from across the country, all there to witness the world’s finest DJs and fresh acts who bring the city to life all weekend with a joyous mixture of sounds.
The popularity of this diverse festival, which offers hip hop, house, indie rock and techno to name a few, means queuing is inevitable and once you finally make it inside the sheer size is initially quite overwhelming. We took a brief wander around the fascinating site which, as well as the various stages, had fairground rides, delicious food and funky clothes shops. It was like a weird and wonderful little city in itself.
The elrow stage was particularly impressive; running with a wild western theme, there was a giant blow up snake and a hanging assortment of guns and cacti. Canons shot swarms of red confetti as the crowd got down to some big names like Solardo and Skream, both experts at working delicious drops. The former were in effervescent form, playing crowd favourites like their ridiculously popular track 'Tribesman' as well as groovy remixes of club classics like Inner City’s 'Good Life'.
The Hangar was a huge tent near the centre of the festival, perfect for the miserable weather as it was indoors and could fit a fair few dancing festival goers in comfortably. This hosted some nostalgic DJ legends like Pete Tong and Fatboy Slim on the first day, and combined soul-shaking bass with darting laser visuals.
Fatboy Slim even interrupted his heavy house set with an emotional rendition of Oasis’ Don’t Look Back in Anger which the crowd sang along to, arms outstretched with pride. Manchester, as ever, delivers on the emotion and refuses to be cowed by its recent tragic history - a theme which would show up even more later in the day.
The stand out stage for us was the Palm House, which boasted a mouth-wateringly impressive selection of world-class DJs, from Moodymann to Jasper James to Bicep, across the two days. It was a mostly transparent tent that managed to capture euphoric holiday vibes within it. Palm Trees clung to the roof, along with glittering disco balls and a cube of light crowning the decks.
Hunee truly commanded the arena, expertly weaving wonderfully funky rhythms with heavy drops, to create both a soulful and energised set and keep the crowd enraptured throughout. The Black Madonna followed, demanding that we remain in that tent when her remix of Taxi’s 'Let the Sunshine in' was met, miraculously, with a brief break in the clouds. The packed out tent responded with elated cheers and whistles, as the beat kept on growing. Definitely a highlight.
We then made our way to the Main Stage where indie rock band Two Door Cinema Club were playing their brilliant song 'What You Know' as the sun set. People skipped around in the mud, singing along with gleeful abandon. It’s one of those songs made for festivals, upbeat and oozing positivity. A record that everyone seems to know the words to without quite knowing why.
After that we saw Anderson .Paak who’s sensual songs were pouring out of the Sounds of the Near Future stage where he demonstrated his musical capability, even jumping onto the drum set to play whilst he sang. His stage presence was electric and his songs, a mixture of old and last year’s Malibu album, made a nice change from the sometimes overbearing thumping bass that consumed most of the festival.
Before Saturday headliners The 1975 took over the main stage, hoards gathered to see what the special surprise was that had been promised by organisers. Led on by Manchester City Councillor Pat Karney, they launched into a 15-minute tribute, alongside former Lord Mayor of the City, Carl Austin-Behan.
He expressed his Mancunian pride and love for those affected by the incident as well, with his successor Andy Burnham continuing the accolades that resulted in the crowd chanting “Manchester! Manchester!”. The 1975's lead singer Matt Healy was then welcomed to the stage, urging the crowd to host a ‘minute of noise’ rather than silence. It felt right to have paid tribute in such a way at an event which is so proudly Manchester-based and driven.
We finished the Saturday with none other than Jackmaster, an undeniably talented DJ who managed to create the perfect blend of bass and tantalising techno that left the crowd begging for more. More world class DJs frequented the Warehouse Project stage as well, with Seth Troxler playing a glorious remix of everyone’s clubbing favourite; Crystal Waters' 'Gypsy Woman'. Even the huge speakers barely able to drown out the crowds own chanting of the infamous lyrics.
The Sunday was an equally as impressive offering, with the swooping canopy of the Studio 161 stage utilised by a litany of groove experts. They included Joe Goddard, who played a beautiful live rendition of his cover of 'Music Is The Answer', dressed in a bold patterned suit, treating the crowd to some tracks from his new album Electric Lines. Throughout the day that epic outdoor arena also saw the likes of Crazy P wow audiences with Danielle Moore's purring vocals and the band's delectable disco grooves.
The Temple stage, which has become a staple of Parklife's impressive production set up, came to life at dusk when the huge rust-coloured structure burst into different colours, spouting flames. Andy C and MC Tonn Piper unleashed mind-bending drum n bass tracks, whilst paying tribute to the 22 people who died in the attacks with a repeated verse during the set. Whilst the reminder of
Whilst the reminder of tragedy was always nearby, so too was that glorious spirit to power on. It’s always warming to see a sea of smiles, and it’s particularly poignant in this magnificent city following recent events, the overwhelming unity helping to make this event worthwhile despite the gloomy weather.
Festivals are a celebration of sounds, offering an area to lose your inhibitions and immerse yourself in music far away from the burdens of the outside world. It’s also the only place where it is acceptable to drink from 11am wearing just a bra, wellies and a waterproof with your face coated in glitter - whatever your gender.
Parklife encompasses everything that a festival should be; it’s dirty, with many a drunken muddy tumble, but it’s worth it for the unbeatable atmosphere and the incredible acts. A wet weekend of pure, unadulterated fun.