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Festival review: Parklife 2018

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An overnight Megabus and four coffees later, I was hit by a wall of hot noise.

Heaton Park was alive with adolescent anticipation; young barely teens adorned in full glitter-face and tiny sequined shorts; lads sharing wide-eyed, wonky gurns while battling against their first proper come up; groups of late 20-somethings with beers in hand assuming they’d walked into a Manchester Uni Freshers party sponsored by Urban Outfitters.

A young girl crashed through the security barriers with her friends in tow, threw up over her heeled sandals, took a swig of what I can only assume was battery acid, and marched into the crowds surrounding Main Stage. It was only 3:45pm but Jessie Ware was playing to a crowd of teens wafting through an entirely different solar system. She adorned the stage with full-voiced rendition of ‘Alone’, dressed head to toe in a deep blue silk dress. Heading confidently into the crowd, she bopped and bounced with the front row to round off a fun-loving headline set.

A short walk away under star-studded blue canopies, Tom Misch attracted waves of euphoric teens with a sexy multi-instrumental jazz-hop set. Funky saxophone tones and twanging guitars mashed up new tracks from his album Geography with classic funk n’ soul beats you’d expect to hear from BBC veteran Craig Charles. It would be rude not to mention Lorde’s epic showcase of tunes from her album Melodrama. She floated across the sun-soaked stage with confidence far beyond her years.

Meanwhile, across the tower-block Valley stage and Bronx-themed Elrow tent, the tinny bass of Jackmaster and Peggy Gou pushed the limits of Parklife’s epic sound system. Behind the Valley sat a small yellow tent packed with long-time drum and bass fans, sipping water and sharing loving gazes as Flava D and Friction drop spine-tingling basslines and warbling remixes of age-old classics. A huge favourite amongst the crowd was Friction’s latest mix of Fat Boy Slim’s ‘Right Here, Right Now’ which saw groups skanking low to the saw-dusted floor.

The biggest crowd of Saturday traipsed through piles of empty cans and abandoned baggies to catch grime veteran Giggs close out the evening. Unified cries carried ‘Lock Doh’ across the entire festival site, while ‘KMT’ from Drake’s More Life ignited any waning fans with an intense fire show and jabbing stage lights.

Day two started off slowly, with dishevelled punters trying desperately to stomach the first pint of the day. Manchester warmly welcomed home-grown four-piece Everything Everything who revived spirits with a loud rendition of their standout anthem ‘Regret’; Chvrches who triumphed under the biblical downpour with bouncing synth-pop anthems ‘Miracle’ and ‘Recover’; and Norwegian prodigy Sigrid who bounced playfully across the Main Stage.

Icarus and J Hus thundered down on the Hangar and Sound of The Near Future stages respectively. Tron-esque visuals and thumping basslines carried Icarus’ perfectly engineered house and techno set, which truly laid the foundations for the sun-soaked afternoon. J Hus adorned his signature fisherman’s hat as crowds bopped happily to his stylish take on Afro-rap. Both artists really pushed the limits of Parklife’s sound systems, which held up impressively across the weekend.

While it may not have been a particularly wholesome affair, Parklife was a welcomed assault on the senses. Excellent production, creative stages and standout performances certainly made it a weekend to remember.  

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