Parklife Fesitval main stage - lights and lasers across the heads of crowd

Parklife crowd high five silhouette in tent

Parklife Festival 2013
Heaton Park, Manchester
8-9 June 2013

Last weekend saw Heaton Park turned into party central as thousands of excited revellers converged at Manchester’s very own Parklife festival…and it didn’t rain, not even once.

Yes, the sun remembered to put its hat on and granted Manchester’s finest a great big ‘hip-hip-hip-hooray’ of a weekend. That in itself was rather magical, as many a Mancunian will attest.

The magic didn’t stop there though; Parklife is a mightily well organised feat of creative and passionate minds whose energy and focus deliver something rather sincere and special. Testament to that fact was the absolutely lovely vibe amongst the crowd, whether at the main stage, in the tents or simply ambling around soaking up the general proceedings, it felt good to be there; it felt comfortable, fun, friendly and safe.

Before I went, I wondered how exactly they planned to fit seven tents and a main stage in that particular field where all large events are held. I was impressed! Not only had ample space been allocated for the above, the Parklife team had excelled themselves and planted, so to speak, a tree house DJ booth there, an extra stage, curious little huts with curious little goings on inside, fairground rides, stalls, arts installations and more besides, yet it didn’t seem cluttered.

It was perfect with loads going on but you weren’t at any point left feeling like you were lost in a human traffic jam. There was also a separate area to the main arena space called ‘The VIP Garden’. For a few extra pounds on the normal ticket price you could upgrade to freely visit here to enjoy less crowded bars and food outlets, nicer loos with less queues and have a bit of a chill out, sat away from the main hub for a while. It had its own musical backdrop provided by various up and coming DJs in a designated booth too. We used this area to plan out our days and get what we wanted quicker.

And of course there was music, lots of it everywhere for the whole two days, as you would expect. The choice and range of styles was, to say the least, extensive. At times this left us wanting to have our cake and eat it, but because the cake had so many flavours we occasionally had to wander around just eating bits here and there as opposed to sitting down and having a whole slice in one go, if you know what I mean?

Our first highlight on Saturday came in the Mancunian form of Delphic. The main stage crowd was a straggly one initially, as the tents had already tempted a fair number of dancing party heads that way. However, by the time Delphic had finished they’d amassed a full audience with their upbeat and melodic ace-ness. The set comprised mainly of tracks from the first album which worked so well outdoors in the sunshine. Delphic looked at home on that stage and sounded great, we were so glad we didn’t miss them as they set the tone perfectly for our festival adventures.

Next we decided to investigate what all this Baauer business is about. The ,3500 capacity tent was absolutely packed out so operating on a one in, one out policy. We were very pleased with ourselves when we got in, that feeling lasted approximately ten seconds. The music was bouncing, the revellers loving it and I was thinking, “This is great!” Then the next thing I know, I had a bottle of cider tipped all over me, got pulled away from my friend by busy crowd movement, I found her again, became a human turnstile and then something rather traumatising happened: random strangers started ‘singing’ “Whoop Whoop” down my ears. That was enough for me, this was a total battering of the senses so we left. I was quite bewildered when we got out of there. I felt I should go back in to experience this ‘Harlem Shake’ thing (I’m proud to announce that I’ve never heard or seen it), but a 16-year-old warned me “You’ll get hurt if you go back in there” so I took her wise Harlem Shake-aware words and scarpered off to a calmer ‘whoop’ free environment.

My friend, Charlotte, wanted to see Rudimental at the main stage; I didn’t think I’d be a fan but was pleasantly surprised. They put me in mind of a souped up Gnarls Barkley at times and they really got the crowd going; there was singing, dancing, getting up on shoulders, the festival works if you like. I’d see them again, based on that very performance and the fact that I’m still earwormed by, and have felt the need to download, their hit song ‘Feel the Love (feat. John Newman)’.

A lovely thing about this whole festival is the fact that the artists seem to really enjoy themselves too. At the end of Rudimental’s set one of them shouted out, “Alright, this is the best fucking festival I’ve been to.” then we heard, “By far the best fucking festival on this earth.” I’d say that particular Rudimental man was having a pretty good time and was pleased with their positive impact on audience as we were indeed having a ball.

Danny Byrd had his tent packed out in a bass-heavy, woodpecker-nodding dance frenzied manner. We loved that and will be carefully watching out to attend any repeat appearances in deepest darkest Mancunia. When a fast-paced, dupstep style remix of Faithless’ Can’t Get No Sleep came on I decided that I am definitely a bass floozy, it’s the musical sky where I do lots of my grinning.

Next up was Netsky who I’d been waiting for all day and we’d secured ourselves a good space to bounce. I gave a thought to the military men who had stood in the park before us, long ago, and I danced in their honour. When Detonate came on, I Tiggered off in my little Parklife rocket for a minute, it’s such a brilliant song. I did think afterwards though, that I may prefer him recorded as opposed to live. The jury’s out on that one for now.

We managed to catch the last song from Madeon which was a remix of Pendulum’s ‘The Island’ so he got a big, one track thumbs up from me. He’s on the Creamfields to-do list so he hopefully won’t clash with The Prodigy or Knife Party.

Ferris wheel by night at Parklife Festival 2013

After a bit of mooching about and a ride on The Big Wheel, (which was an excellent vantage point to catch the Parklife sunset), we found ourselves stood in front of Plan B. I fell a little bit in love with his mind some time ago, whether it be his music or ventures into film world, I admire his talent and how perceptive, honest and modest he is. To see him perform took nothing from him, it was really good to hear those hits live, they seemed more edgy and gritty. He told us that David Cameron has broken Britain and that we were beautiful. His hit with Chase & Status, ‘End Credits’ got the biggest bounce which was so much fun to be a part of.

There were loads of Parklife official after parties set up for both the Saturday and Sunday nights with some great DJs in various city centre venues but we sensibly took the short trek home to bed option. ‘There’s only so much revelling a reveller can do before unravelling’, was the general motto that we abided by, thankfully.

So Sunday came along and we re-joined the Parklife Posse. We were a bit tired to be truthful, happy to be there but struggling to boing about as much as we had on Saturday. Finding it difficult to settle on a specific tent or outdoor area (and Savages had unfortunately had to cancel their appearance), we eventually turned up to see Todd Terje. It was here we discovered that any acts on this day were going to have to really engross us to make a boiling hot, crowded tent worth our while…we trooped on though!

It was at the point of melting under a big fuck off plastic tent that I was channelling ice-pops for all I was worth. When Simian Mobile Disco emerged, we fastened our seat belts in our Parklife rockets and off we went with our smiles abounding. Any thoughts of flagging left us now and normal bouncing manoeuvres had been resumed.  It was digital bass heaven in a hellish hot so I temporarily renamed them Simian Mobile Sauna Disco. It was a great sauna disco though! These gods of electronica kept teasing with 10,000 Horses but I’m sure they didn’t play it, but Sleep Deprivation definitely got its due outing and my ear hearts were happy, bloody hot, but happy.

Then we hot footed it over to see a man named Johnny Marr. He plays guitar. I’ve never gotten over the fact that The Smiths split up the very week after I’d become obsessed and fallen completely in love with them. How very typical. I’d bought the vinyl and my Hatful of Hollow t-shirt, acquired a Morrissey style cardi from my Grandad, become a vegetarian and basically pledged my life-long allegiance to them. Anyway, Johnny was brilliant at Parklife. This tent (Now Wave) boasted the main portion of the festival’s indie acts and the fact that dance music was the main weekend vibe was evident by its half empty space. I think we were all happy and wise enough to accept this as the way of things though.

His set was one delivered with style and a humble confidence befitting of a Godlike genius really. Comfortable on stage with the odd bit of banter, (“You’re a bit quiet but you’re good looking”) he delivered some tracks from his solo album but the best received ones were, of course The Smiths classics. Bigmouth Strikes Again was followed by There Is a Light That Never Goes Out, and we, the karaoke audience, hands in the air, loved every word, every note, everything. “Well done, you lot.” he praised us and then slipped into How Soon is Now, helped by us, his faithful backing choir.

There was a group of young’uns in front of me, dancing away with each other in a circle like they were at some giddy party. They were really buzzing with it all and I enjoyed watching them getting so much from my beloved songs from the days when I was their age. Marr wore a great ’70’s style blue velvet jacket which took me back to when I was little and my dad used to wear one pretty much the same. Very cool. When his set ended, he said, “God bless you, Manchester.” Johnny Marr, with that guitar, you f’kin star.

So, then the evening gets complicated. I wanted to see Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs but a very crowded tent and hunger really scuppered our stamina for that so he’s back on my to-do list, unfortunately. The end of the festival was drawing in and the all too familiar bugger of headline act gig clashes was bearing down on us. It was time to get frantic so we decided to split our three want-to-see acts. My heart took us to see The Horrors: they sounded their usual potent, atmospheric and dense, fabulous selves but we caught them during the slower songs and we desperately needed help to go the extra awake and still moving mile, so we set off to see DJ Fresh, he’s where my legs wanted to be. We couldn’t help but dance again in there, he had the right happy party thing going on but we’d seen him before and time was doing that Countdown program ticking clock thing, arghhh.

We still had a slice of Example cake to sample so we buggered off back out to catch him. His set was a visual feast of lights, lasers and smoke which set the sky ablaze with wonder and had the main stage crowd bouncing in the midst of a massive, euphoric celebration and general all round cool as, top as, ace as aces, great time. He wouldn’t usually be my first choice of ‘who to catch live’ but I was compromising and enlightening myself on the greedy cake trail. After seeing him though, this is what I have to say: ISN’T DANCING IN FIELDS BRILLIANT! We liked it.

People wearing face paint and hats at Parklife Festival 2013

Finally, one thing I simply must convey: the toilet situation. There were of course the traditional portaloos on site but the Parklife team pick up another gold star here because they booked a bloody brilliant company called VIPee’s to set up their eco-friendly, luxury toilet facilities there too. The lure of an aesthetically pleasing, checked and cleaned after every use toilet had me handing over a tenner for a VIPee wristband. It was honestly one of the best festival decisions I’ve ever made. The staff were really friendly, (hiya Tracy!), and we didn’t queue for more than a minute or go without loo roll at any point. Not one visit to a traditional portaloo was made by us all weekend and this complete lack of portaloo-mares made a massive difference to our experience of the festival. I implore anyone to do the same given the chance, seriously, I mean it. In fact, if I ever have to go to a festival or large outdoor event again and they’re not there, I’m going to be upset. (I was pleading with them to go to Creamfields). Book them. Use them. Just trust me on this one.

Parklife 2013, in my opinion has been a resounding success. The team effort behind it had all bases covered and I loved it, really, really loved it. I’d definitely go again and hope that anyone reading this who loves to smile, have fun, adventure and bounce to music, whether you know the tunes or not, will come out to play next time. I now have a few new artists on my music ‘like’ list, maybe this time next year you will too.

Thank you, Parklife that was superb! (Except for the ‘whoop whoop’ scenario in the Baauer tent, that bit was just weird).

All words by Sonj. You can read more from her on Louder Than War here.

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