Monday, June 9, 2014

Parklife, Manchester 8th June 2014 8/10

This is Parklife's second year in Heaton Park, and on Sunday the weather was characteristically Mancunian, heavy showers punctuating moments of sunshine. My musical preferences left me to opt out of the first day: judging by the mud a thunderstorm had left behind, this may have been a fortuitous decision. The organisers kept ticket prices low, which is commendable but left the festival feeling crowded, with few spaces to relax. There were also reports of long queues and logical issues on the first day. By Sunday, it appeared to be running smoothly and the enthusiasm of the youthful crowd compensated for any practical hardships. Here are my highlights.

1) London Grammar 9/10
This set was dominated by Hannah Reid's powerful, rich voice. The performances emphasised rhythm, as the crowd danced, at times seemingly inspired by the extensive ecosystem of remixes of their material. The highlight was the mesmerizing Nightcall, a Kaplinsky cover from the Drive soundtrack with string backing, The entire set was emotionally intense, and I found it a magical experience from the front rail. The fact the set was devoid of gimmicks or extrovert antics on stage, relying purely on the power of music.

2) Warpaint 9/10
This was the most imaginative, engaging music of the day, yet the crowd were slightly bemused, many of those at the front seemingly waiting for Sam Smith to appear in the next set. Perhaps Warpaint would have been better placed on a secondary stage, yet despite the chatter around me I still managed to get drawn into the mysterious, hypnotic atmosphere they create.

3) SBTRKT 7.5/10
I'd previously seen SBTRKT at Reading Festival in 2012 and this performance couldn't match the atmosphere of that occasion. The raw edginess felt smoothed, despite visual interest from modern tribal masks and a giant inflatable monster on stage; they appear to have embrace mainstream EDM at the expense of quirkiness.

4) Foals 7.5/10
Parklife reflects the current dominance of dnace, and the thin crowd on the main stage for Foals could lead to anxiety about the future for guitar bands. Yet the early inclusion of Olympic Airways raised morale and they produced an assured performance, even if these indie favourites are a band that doesn't truly move me.

5) Sam Smith 7.5/10
Like Lorde at Coachella, Sam Smith created huge anticipation and excitement amongst the crowd. His stage presence is shared with the New Zealander, but despite winning the prestigious BBC Sound of 2014 poll, the Disclosure collaborator's music is simply not to my taste. I was underwhelmed with his recently released album In The Lonely Hour, and the live experience failed to win me over.

6) Clean Bandit 6/10
The British band's integration of classical and dance sounds somewhat insincere, but their command of the huge crowd surprised me, and the upbeat simplicity of their music was apt outdoors in the early afternoon sunshine.

7) East India Youth
Alas a power failure deprived me of the opportunity to see more than a few minutes of the British producer William Doyle, but I was left with the curiosity to seek out more.

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