Monday, June 8, 2015

Parklife, Manchester, 6th June 2015 8/10

I have mixed feelings about Parklife: it’s my local festival, and perhaps the most significant date in Manchester’s music calendar, attracting crowds of 80,000. Yet it’s been beset with organisational issues in the past. The state of the toilets this year reminded me it’s not always the most comfortable experience, though the selection of food, whilst still overpriced, seemed to have improved. Entry searches were noticeably more rigorous following last year’s murder, and thankfully it appears to have passed without incident in 2015. Chronic delays on entry were resolved too, only for the exit to be utterly chaotic and protracted, owing to a failure to separate cars and pedestrians. Most importantly, the sound was inconsistent, lacking presence further back on the main stage and surprisingly weak on the second (indoor stage), though it was fine on the Now Wave stage where I spent most of my day. The budget also failed to stretch to screens on anything but the main stage despite the size; in comparison to Primavera the facilities were sorely lacking, and it is for this reason I bought only a day ticket. Yet, its greatest strength is surely the sheer youthful enthusiasm of the crowd, which is invigorating, and the line-up this year was the strongest to date.

1) Ghostpoet 9/10

London based Obaro Ejimiwe is keen to emphasise that he's not a rapper, and as if to prove the point, electric guitar played a prominent role in his set, alongside a female vocalist and keyboard player. Showcasing his recent third album Shedding Skin, this was a confidence performance, with much dancing on stage. Obaro also came down onto the barrier to sing. For its imaginative song writing and sense of teamwork, the highlight of my day; Ghostpoet should not be missed live.

2) Jamie xx 8/10

I was a little disappointed that this was a DJ rather than live set, but the atmosphere was incredible, drawing greater enthusiasm from the vast crowd than anyone else I saw. The reaction made the audience at Primavera appear genteel, and there was a triumphant moment early on when someone scaled the tent's rigging and the crowd cheered. A recent article compared Jamie xx's position to Sam Smith's in soul music: dance connoisseurs consider him to be overly populist. Yet, the cheers at the end of the set when he played tribute to his outstanding new album In Colour will remain in my memory.

3) James Blake 8/10

I'd seen James Blake only a week earlier at Primavera, but from the front of a smaller, indoor stage he had greater impact. The bass was almost overwhelming, and even the rendition of Retrograde emphasised visceral impact over the tenderness evident on disc. Yet, he was warm in his comments about the reception he receives in Manchester, and he encapsulated the atmosphere of night, being far more to my taste than the main stage headliners Disclosure.

4) Nicholas Jaar 7.5/10

Another DJ set, Jaar felt almost like an alchemist, conjuring up atmospheric soundscapes in a cloud of dry ice. Backlit at all times, it was visually simple: Parklife lacks the budget of Coachella's Sahara tent with its spectacular light shows and enormous screens covering the ceiling. Yet, at a time when there's controversy about the dominance of EDM at festivals, this proved it can be emotionally affecting, not just simply powerful and showy.

5) Lapsley 7/10

I was incredibly taken with the young Liverpudlian in April in a small railway arch venue, and this set confirmed my love for her music. The set started tentatively, not aided by severe sound bleed from surrounding acts and the less them optimal PA system on the Big Top Stage. Yet, her delivery gained in confidence as the set progressed, and, unlike me, didn't seem to be distracted by the constant shouts of 'Holly' from the crowd during quiet passages in the music. There's perhaps too much subtlety in this act for it to be experienced optimally on a large stage at a boisterous festival, but I'm excited to see how Lapsley progresses towards her début album release.

6) Mac Demarco 6/10
The crowd loved the Canadians' antics which included humour, nonchalant smoking on stage, and crowd surfing at the end of the set. Yet, the jangle pop didn't really engage with me emotionally, and despite the seemingly universally positive reviews for their set, I found the presentation off-putting and juvenile.

1 comment:

  1. Parklife is my favorite festival. I always attend this fest with my friends. You know we will be visiting NYC to attend a similar festival on Christmas night. This event will be organized at one of the prettiest venues NYC.