For anyone familiar with Parklife Festival, you’ll be conjuring up images of people sliding down the steep, mud-laden hill to reach The Temple before you’ve even got there. The rain stayed (mostly) away this year, however, and the sun shone down on festival-goers instead – their swinging jaws taking them from stage to stage to see who from over 100 acts tickled their fancy. Now in its fifth year at Heaton Park in June, it’s no surprise that Parklife is religiously crammed full of excitable students celebrating the end of their academic year.
The Saturday lineup was bursting with some of the hottest acts around – including Jamie Jones, Fatboy Slim, Boy Better Know and London Grammar. After arriving (and being sent to several different entrances), we finally got in and decided to explore. Parklife’s ridiculously unique stage designs mean that unlike most festivals, it’s never hard to find which acts you’re looking for. The Sounds of the Near Future stage may have been your standard blue tent, but the huge black metallic legs bursting out of The Warehouse Project stage led to many coining it “the spider”. The Temple on the other hand, home to the the majority of the weekend’s grime, hip-hop and reggae acts, was set up to look like a collection of rusty shipping boxes.
After venturing between various food stalls, we found ourselves in The Hanger – where Dutch DJ Oliver Heldens was midway through a mental set that mixed his most famous songs with some well-known crowd pleasers. The huge, shed-like stage complimented the electro-dance tunes perfectly; the light show, beaming over the thousands of heads, danced along with the beat and reflected off the tall structure, looking incredible.
Post-Heldens, we headed to the Main Stage to catch 00’s favs Two Door Cinema Club and headliners The 1975. Between ‘This Is the Life’ and ‘What You Know’, the former were particularly on fire, filling their slot with banger after after as well as an array of songs from latest album Gameshow. The crowd were loving it – and judging by the joy on the faces of the Irish trio, so were they.
After Two Door Cinema Club exited, screens on either side of the stage lit up with a selection of huge celebrities – including Carl Cox and Bernard Sumner – proclaiming to “stand with Manchester”. The Parklife organisers, the Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham, The 1975’s Matty Healy and the emergency services team who assisted with the Manchester Arena Terror Attack last month all walked out to mass cheers. Both Burnham and Healy gave speeches applauding the hard work of the emergency services, urging the crowd to not let terrorism win, followed by a minute of cheering and clapping for remembrance.
Immediately after, the stage lights went down – and the The 1975 kicked off their set with arguably their most popular number yet, ‘Love Me’. The quartet had their usual set up of rectangle LEDs present, continuing to play material off both studio albums to the setting sun behind the stage. A perfect atmosphere to end the first day of the festival, for sure.
Sunday arrived – and after we dragged our tired bodies out of bed, we headed back for round two of a DJ and hip-hop heavy line-up. We returned to the Sounds of the Near Future stage to catch Loyle Carner, the Crodyon hip-hop artist whose been on everyone’s “must see” lists this year. Bringing on best mate and fellow singer-songwriter Tom Misch to play ‘Damselfly’ was an absolute treat, before Carner thanked the crowd for coming to see him and being part of one of the “biggest audiences” he’s ever played to.
Between watching Kolsch and Mura Masa, we finally decided to head down and end our day at The Temple – a place that rivalled the main stage with masses of bodies drinking, smoking and dancing along to the the abundance of onstage reggae acts. The closing act of the night (and the weekend) was headliner Andy C, who made his way on stage with MC Tonn Piper in tow. Andy C has been described by plenty as “the king of drum and bass” – and during his set, he made it clear why. He played some of the most famous drum and bass songs known to man, leaving the crowd higher than a kite as the festival came to an end. A blinding end to a blinding festival; we can’t wait to do Parklife all over again next year.