Festival Review: Parklife 2019
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After an hour-long coach journey, a Subway breakfast and copious caffeine consumption we were in Manchester, in the boggy depths of Heaton Park. Despite being one headliner down, and a stone heavier with rain, we were in high spirits for the day ahead.
Image: Loyle Carner by Charity Swales
We kick off day one in The Palm House with Detroit legend Moodymann, who delivers a combination of high-energy house cuts and funky-disco grooves with effortless flair. The artificial woodland of The Palm House is the most aesthetically ambitious stage of the festival, nurturing the growing spirits of increasingly ecstatic ravers.
Saturday's curation for The Sounds Of The Near Future stage was impressive, and as a result, this is where we spent most of the day. First up we caught Yaeji whose blend of house and live delivery of bilingual pop is both strange and endearing. British Grime artist Slowthai was next up, providing one of the most high-octane sets of the weekend. Delivering cuts from his debut Nothing Great About Britain, the rapper provided an hour of unity for disillusioned youth.
Earl Sweatshirt followed immediately after. Switching between his older material and tracks from his latest album Some Rap Songs, it's point-blank why he's one of the most respected rappers in the game. However, the crowd were the worst of the day, as many people had clearly come early to grab a front-row space for Fredo and chatted loudly throughout the set.
We then returned to the Sounds Of The Near Future Stage to catch Loyle Carner. His set was one of the highlights of the day as he rolled out tracks from his first two albums with flair and panache. "What the f*cks up with this catwalk?" Carner chortles, as he launches into 'Angel'. He's the boy next door, it's hard for you not to love him.
Dipping down into the depths of The Valley a pulsating laser show and remixes of dance classics pull you into DJ duo Disclosure's set. Their euphoric beats and friendly chat pull in one of the biggest crowds of the day. Sam Smith collaboration 'Latch' is coupled with fireworks, a peaking sunset and bodies propelled skyward.
Sunday looked a very heavily electronic-based day for us, with The Palm House putting on a particularly impressive line-up. But first, it was time for the lovably eccentric Kero Kero Bonito, who you probably know from that one song that was on all the Shibe memes ("How many shrimps do you have to eat?”). They put on a fun show that got the small but enthusiastic crowd going, as lead singer Sarah danced around with a plush pink flamingo.
We then headed to The Palm House for the afternoon. First, we were 'Catching Feelings' with Australian DJ Mall Grab, who delivered an infectious blend of techno, house and even the odd pop song. His sets are always high energy, mixing in classics such as the Sugarhill Gang's 'Apache (Jump On It)'. Immediately following was Beck doppelganger Daniel Avery, who delivered a textured and thumping techno set, reaching zenith with a mix of The Prodigy’s 'No Good (Start The Dance)'. Hamburg's Helena Hauff proved why she is the reigning queen of dark-wave techno, creating a dark and intense atmosphere. Chain-smoking cigarettes, she propels the crowd into a peak of 150BPM with her blend of techno and acid.
Next up were The Streets on the main stage. “Parklife are you a seven or an eight? Well, we’re going to get to ten!” Mike Skinner yelled as he worked through a discography of Original Pirate Material. 'Dry Your Eyes Mate' provides one of the most heartwarming singalongs of the festival, as techno-lads with wonky jaws throw each other into embraces.
After an attempt to withstand the anxiety-inducing crowd at Bicep’s Palm House DJ set, we decided to head to Solange at the Sounds Of The Near Future stage. Her set was a liberating, emotional celebration of female and black empowerment. Armed with dancers and a gospel choir, it was the best production of the weekend, and more worthy of a headliner slot than the equivalent of magnolia paint, George Ezra.
Though the Parklife crowds fluctuated between genuine music lovers and Instagram warriors, the curation and production were insanely well put together and it’s a wonder that the sound systems held up through such destructive weather conditions. If you were looking for a weekend of debauchery and world-class acts this was the festival for you. You just had to make sure to bring your rain mac.