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Live Review: Parklife 2013

Parklife Festival, haven’t you grown. I remember when you were just a wee festival newbie, situated in the heartland of Manchester’s student community, where for £25 your average cool cat could lose themselves in some Fake Blood, a Friendly Fire or get acquainted with some Magnetic Men. But Parklife, we’re not in Kansas anymore are we…

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to present to you Parklife Festival 2.0. Bigger then ever and expanding faster than European waistlines, the Manchester fest has been untimely ripped from the birth ground of Platt Fields to be reborn in the 600 acre, hallowed Heaton Park – 4 miles north of the city – resulting in a two-day mega party that takes no prisoners. The increase in size was long overdue, and the line up boasted a similarly heavy weight gain – from pop princess Rita Ora to indie old boys The Maccabees, Parklife really is having its cake and eating it all up.

The new location undoubtedly improved the festival: everything felt a bit more, relaxed. Once the 40-minute journey from the city was completed, and Heaton was filled, little could go wrong. The bigger site led to smaller queues, more spaced-out stages and, overall, a better sound quality. Saturday was kicked off in a blaze of glorious sunshine and a healthy dose of Derrick Carter; the Chicago house heavyweight playing out a satisfying mix of hip-hop-infused house with a few poppier productions thrown in for good measure. The highlight of the day, however, came from John Talabot whose intelligent, ambient set was unfortunately rather lost on the ever-so-slightly anxious crowd – waiting for one man and one man only: Baauer. Yes, I have witnessed thousands of students lose their marbles to ‘Harlem Shake’ and what a shake that was. Baauer, a tad pretentious rocking the towel-over-my-head look (I mean, it was sunny, but it was still Manchester), played out a trap-a-licious set with more RL Grime and Hudson Mohawke than you could shake a stick at. The people loved it, and I think he loved it too (under his be-towelled head). Other highlights included Plan B, whose full band and backing singers filled the main stage to the rafters, and Four Tet who was clearly getting much satisfaction from seeing his very large balloons float over the hundreds of Mancunian heads in attendance (it’s really a sight to behold).

Sunday, similarly bathed in a heavenly douse of sunshine, began with the curious timetabling of Boddika, whose incredible techno-tinged house felt supremely out of place at 3pm. However, nothing stopped the crowd going wild to his perfect ‘Soul What’ remix, summed up perfectly by one particular fan as, “it’s the drums man, those drums, it’s just those drums man” – couldn’t have put it better myself. The Sunday also saw a hefty dose of hip-hop on the bill, much more than in previous years. Quite possibly due to the fact that the bigger location allowed for all walks of life to party together – and party they did. Joey Bada$$‘s set exhibited a completely unprecedented reaction from the crowd with nearly 300 people crashing the stage. Meanwhile, Jurassic 5 played out what can only be described as a perfect main stage show – slick as hell and absolutely flawless, the crowd were joined in arms as the first broken-down chords of ‘Concrete Streets’ rang out over Heaton Park’s sun soaked guests. The festival’s grand finale, however, was slightly less euphoric with indie old boys The Horrors, who have successfully shaken off the shackles of ‘Count In Fives’, presenting the crowd with a more psych-rock infused sound to end the festival on a wave of scuzzing guitars and twinkling up-notes. Other possible options were in the package of chart-topper Example (if you like jumping lots, he’s your guy) or that well known Hudson Mowhawke and Lunice side project TNGHT, in which a hefty quantity of students took pure joy in trapping themselves into a frenzy.

All in all, Parklife 2013 was a cracking festival. Is it still the ‘Parklife’ we know and love? Not really. It’s quite clear that Parklife has graduated, holding its own against the big boys of Creamfields and Global Gathering – and if you ask me, it’s only a matter of time before we’ll all be camping together at Heaton Park. So, congratulations Parklife, you’ve hit the big time (but try not to forget your humble beginnings…)

- Liz Ward

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