Live Review

Parklife 2013

A heavily dance-tinged line up, a nice helping of chart-topping pop and a scaly underbelly of hip hop.

Manchester’s two day festival Parklife occupies a strange place in the festival roster as an event that people who prefer nightclubs go to. Presented by The Warehouse Project, it’s hardly surprising to see it leading with a heavily dance-tinged line up, a nice helping of chart-topping pop and a scaly underbelly of hip hop. Ambitiously they tried to move the festival to a new venue for this year which no doubt set in motion a few teething problems.

The weekend starts inauspiciously with the majority of opening acts billed incorrectly in the programme. In the programme that had the stages identified incorrectly. That same programme that cost a fair few attendees a fair bit of money. After watching Quadron not be Quadron and the surprising transformation of Danny Brown into AlunaGeorge, it is refreshing to turn up to watch The Temper Trap and actually get to watch The Temper Trap. The epitome of the surprisingly-interesting stadium rock band, Dougy Mandagi’s voice rings out loud through a series of crowd-swaying anthems peaking at set closer ‘Sweet Disposition’.

The crowd swells into the largest audience of the weekend for the bouncing exuberance of Rudimental and that chart-topping flavour runs through into a slick and sultry Jessie Ware set. To this point Saturday hasn’t exactly raced along but a consistent quality is shattered by a completely lacklustre performance from The Maccabees. Sun baked and beer-filled, Parklife fails to warm to the band and it becomes a contest between the performers and the audience as to who can seem more disinterested.

Fortunately if there’s a British chart-topper who can be trusted to energise a crowd it’s the multitalented and altogether thrilling Plan B. Tailor-made for the bassline-loving crowd, he delivers raucous drum and bass as well as a surprisingly guitar-based Rage Against The Machine-style aural assault. With a version of ‘She Said’ so hard and heavy it’d probably pick a fight with another of his song’s protagonists, he sets a rip-roaring pace that doesn’t let up until he leaves the stage with the breathless crescendo of ‘Stay Too Long’, in a set interspersed with clips from his film Ill Manors. While the laddish banter of Plan B is fully in-keeping with the Parklife atmosphere, he delivers it with a wit and intelligence that most of the weekend’s other acts fail to match.

Iggy Azalea brings a fire to the proceedings early on Sunday, with a confident set that even the most established stars would find hard to match, after the rumbling bass of emerging hip hop act Zebra Katz create an early simmer. Rushing to the relatively small HudMo tent, Action Bronson leads a high energy set of old school beats and rhymes, often from the centre of the crowd. With the crowd chanting “Bronson, Bronson” the best atmosphere of the weekend rolls into life when he is joined on stage by one of hip hop’s up and coming stars… A wild Danny Brown appears. The skinny jeans wearing, crazy haired entertainer runs through countless absurd tales of exaggerated drug use and caricature sex obsession. Hilarious, friendly, excitable and humble, Brown easily steals the show as the must-see act of the weekend.

Once bitten by the disappointing indie bug of The Maccabees the day before, the best way to finish is with a low-committal stroll through constant chart-botherers Rita Ora and Example. The latter delivers a characteristically cocky set before setting off a final explosion of rowdiness with the infectious and well-received ‘Changed the Way You Kissed Me’.

Selling itself as the alternative to ‘alternative’ Parklife was always going to find itself in a bizarre context from the conveyor belt of super-club regular DJs to the Nando’s stall. When it hit the right note though it roared into top gear and sated a need for a pounding bassline and slick rhymes.

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