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Tuesday
Jun122012

Parklife Weekender 2012

June has arrived, which can only mean one thing, festival season is here! First up was Parklife Weekender (June 9th-10th), which is one of the UK's only city-based festivals and is set in Platt Fields Park, Manchester. With my sister (Emily Coxhead) living in Manchester, she came along with me to take all the photographs used in this review and provided me with a bed for the weekend, due to the event being a non-camping affair. As far as UK festivals go, Parklife boasts one of the best line-ups of 2012, with legendary headline acts Chic & De La Soul blessing the main stage - I was hoping it wouldn't let me down, and it didn't, not one bit.

With the horrific weather we experienced prior to the weekend (and on Saturday morning), the start time at many of the smaller stages was delayed and some acts were cut from the line-up, but that didn't dampen any spirits and the festival was in full swing not long after midday. We arrived on site at 2pm, which by then had turned into a mud bath; a mud bath full of extremely drunk music fans attempting to plow their way to the nearest bar - this became a huge problem at first with the limited resources that had been forced upon organisers due to the rain, but the way it was dealt with was second to none and meant any problems were efficiently quashed. After getting our drinks we moved into the Kaluki tent near the main entrance - it was relatively quiet and saw Romano Alfieri & Luca Bear playing an uptempo Tech-House set - the perfect way to get our day started and lighten the mood before moving into the main area of the site. The Hospitality Terrace was our first port of call, where the Murkage boys were spinning a bit of everything, including Garage, House, Dubstep & Grime (highlight was 'Bax' by Mosca) - the set up of the terrace was simple, but cool and is one of the better VIP areas out of the festivals I've been to over the past few years; mainly because it was not over sold and gave the people who paid more all the necessary added benefits you need when at a festival. B Traits in the Trasher tent & DJ Hype in the Metroplex Arena were our two next stops, both of which were amazing in their own unique way - the young Canadian DJ/producer brought her refreshing take on Drum & Bass to the table, whilst the D&B Godfather Hype shut down a packed out tent with his old skool Jungle vibe, which sent the place wild whilst the rain once again started to pour outside.

The rain eventually stopped, so we trekked our way over to the Crosstown Rebels tent, not before spending a quick half hour at the Treehouse Silent Disco, which was without doubt one of the funniest moments of the weekend. Spanish-born producer Maceo Plex was about to take to the stage just as we got there - although I've fallen out of love with Crosstown Rebels as of late, Maceo is one of my favourite House producers in the world right now, and he didn't disappoint - his 'Life Index' album was one of the most enjoyable releases of 2011 and his set was Deep House at its very best. By this time it was now 5pm, which meant time for the main attraction - CHIC! Emily took her place in the photo pit, and I decided to watch from further back next to a few older couples who had got a ticket purely to see the Disco pioneers perform. Throughout their 1 hour(+) set they drew on all the iconic classics from 'Chic', 'C'est Chique', 'Risque' and beyond, alongside many other hit singles that frontman Nile Rodgers has been a part of, including tracks such as 'We Are Family' by Sister Sledge, 'Upside Down' by Diana Ross & Madonna's 'Like A Virgin'. Basically, the set list was next level and Nile Rodgers is one of the most important men music has ever seen - many of the younger people in the crowd had no idea about Chic or Nile's extensive discographies, but by the end of their set the whole place was bouncing and singing along to every single track, peaking with Johnny Marr from The Smiths joining them on stage for 'Le Freak' and Nile reciting 'Rappers Delight', from which 'Good Times' was famously sampled. After coming down off such a musical high, everything from there on in was never going to compare - Kelis was very poor, but Zane Lowe played a massive party set and Nero were as spectacular and immaculate as ever. A very long day in the mud meant straight home to bed, ready for Sunday.

Amazingly we awoke to beautiful weather on Sunday, with the sun beating down on Manchester, and making it seem as though we were in a different country to the day before. Tired, but excited, we made our way down to the site at 3pm - first stop was Wax:On to catch the end of Eats Everything, before moving onto the main stage to watch Mistajam send the crowd wild. Having never seen him live, I didn't know what to expect - his mixing was flawless, seamlessly bringing together tracks that had no right to be played back to back, and his radio experience shone through, with the whole field hanging on his every word. Never been a huge fan of DJs who talk during their sets, but the way Jam went about interpolating his vocals into the set brought an added dimension to all the songs and put a massive smile on my face from start to finish. Jessie Ware was up next, a lady who's music has had me hooked for quite some time now - the show was pretty abstract, but her voice was simply enchanting and she worked the crowd perfectly with the help of her live band. I watched the show next to Julio Bashmore, a man who has been behind most of Jessie's best work to date; their new single '110%' in particular was very well received by a small, but packed and appreciative New Wave tent - didn't think it was possible to love her any more than I did - I was wrong. Emily then went to watch Annie Mac on the main stage, whilst I went back to the Wax:On tent to watch Todd Edwards for the first time in my life - his unique style of glitchy vocal Garage/House has made me become somewhat obsessed with his productions over the past decade, and his performance made me respect him even more - genuinely one of the most enjoyable sets I have ever seen at a festival. Before retreating back to the Hospitality area, we made a brief stop at the Metroplex Arena to watch 17-year old starlet Madeon perform a very tight commercial House set, which included a wide array of remixes and all of his own productions that have shot him into the spotlight over the past 12 months - safe to say that this kid has a very bright future ahead of himself.

De La Soul were on the main stage next, whom along with Chic, were the act I was most looking forward to seeing over the weekend. They were late arriving to the stage, which meant their set time was automatically cut short and Maseo had to DJ for much longer than expected, playing hype man for too long and adversely having a negative effect on a clearly frustrated crowd. However, when they finally kicked things off, it was nothing short of incredible - their stage presence was effortlessly warming and they were all clearly very down to earth guys, which made it a crying shame when someone took it upon themselves to throw a bottle in their direction. Dave was clearly unimpressed by this, but the untouchable Hip-Hop trio carried on with the show and reeled off classic after classic, with my personal highlights being 'Oooh', 'A Roller Skating Jam Named "Saturdays"' and 'Me, Myself & I'. Although they were only on stage for 30-40 mins, it was an amazing moment, and they are one of those acts to tick off the "Must See Before You Die" list. We then spent 20 minutes watching Labrinth play a very energetic Pop/Electro-infused set, with the highlight being the reaction to his hit single 'Earthquake', prior to having a quick break on approaching the final furlong. Our last hour was spent flipping between the main stage for Dizzee Rascal and (an overflowing) Metroplex Arena for Gaspard & Xavier, better known as Justice - having seen Dizzee before, I was much more intrigued to see Justice, who's live show has been heavily praised by many and heavily criticised by some. Certain people have said the French duo mime their sets, which is understandable when you see the level of their lighting and the intricate detail within the set itself, but either way, it was a stunning display and an amazing way to end the weekend, before turning around to see the spectacular confetti/firework display on the main stage.

Although there were a few issues with bars, toilets and the chaos leaving the venue, there aren't really any negative comments to make about my first weekend at Parklife. The stewards (on the whole) were very helpful/pleasant, the people were all united by a love for music, there was no trouble whatsoever and the event organisers set up a flawless venue, with an even better line-up. Towards the end of Sunday, Manchester crew North Base stopped the music and made a statement that has stuck with me ever since - "this city has found its own sound, and now has an amazing festival to match". This couldn't be more true. Manchester has been the home of music in the UK for quite some time now, Dance music in particular, and one thing it has lacked is a proper music festival to do itself justice. Parklife thankfully brings together everything postive about the capital of the North - great people, great music and great partying. The best thing is, it can only get better. Bring on 2013!

Photography by Emily Coxhead - see more HERE.

'Parklife In Pictures' coming soon...

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