Live Review: Parklife 2017

Mud, music and mayhem – Parklife was here and everything we wanted it to be. 80,000 people descended on Heaton Park for the seventh year in a row as the Manchester weekender hosted one of the most exciting lineups of the UK festival season.

 

Photo credit: Olivia Williams © Olivia Williams / Fanatic 2017

 

What makes Parklife stand out as a festival is not just the myriad of music genres it caters for but the degree to which it excels at each of them. It’s the first thing you notice walking into the festival; each stage is massive. That’s because for whatever reason you’re here, whether it’s the hip-hop, electronic or pop – you’ll be left feeling more than fulfilled.

 

Photo credit: Carolina Faruolo © Carolina Faruolo / Fanatic 2017

 

The weekend began with an air of apprehension given the terrorist attack of less than a month prior. But it became clear fairly soon that no radicals would stop the weekend’s raving as the country’s youth came together to once again unite through music.

We kicked off Saturday hard and fast because you know, it’s Parklife. It was 3pm and The Hangar was already bouncing. Hannah Wants followed by Oliver Heldens was the just the medicine we needed to get the weekend off to a bang(er). In the same vein, we were soon sampling Fatima Yamiha at the brilliantly themed Palm House tent, this greenhouse of groove was a must visit for any serious dance music fans.

Next up we ventured to a lesser-known corner of the festival to the Ape & Metropolis DnB tent to see Dub Phizix & Strategy, followed by Hype & DJ Hazard (I did say we weren’t planning on messing about). This is where you saw the side of Parklife everyone talks about, it was 6pm but you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the early hours of the morning – this was DnB at its finest.

 

Photo credit: Olivia Williams © Olivia Williams / Fanatic 2017

 

Before the headline slot, the festival hosted a touching tribute to the victims of the Manchester attacks and the national services that worked that night. Festival directors Sacha Lord and Jon Drape led the moment alongside mayor Andy Burnham whose message of love over hate resulted in the packed crowd chanting “Manchester! Manchester!”.

Closing the doors on Saturday was the show that stole the festival, Anderson .Paak and The Free Nationals. This man is quite a talent. In a performance that brought all the punch of hip-hop but the groove of soul/funk music,  it was a supreme spectacle. Ending with an extended version of ‘Luf You’, any fan of .Paak was left speechless, aside from perhaps the ability to yell ‘Yes Lawd!’ at the top of their lungs.

 

Photo credit: Jenna Foxton © Jenna Foxton / Fanatic 2017

 

We approached Sunday with less vigour than the previous day, for obvious reasons. We headed straight over to the Sounds of the Near Future stage as it played home to a lineup that was nothing short of incredible (Tom Misch, Loyle Carner, Mura Masa, Sampha, Flying Lotus, Stormzy). Tom Misch and Loyle Carner are a well-known pairing and the young south London boys did themselves proud. Their jazz-based hip-hop charm went down a treat in Manchester, but we’ll let Barney Arist’s entrance onstage let you see everything you need to know.

Next up we caught Danny Brown followed by Mura Masa. This is where the weekend really came into its own as these are two acts we would gladly pay good money to see solo. These well-established performers delivered energetic sets that flawlessly lived up to their name.

As sunset fell on the festival, it was time for the headliners to take to the stage. RTJ hyped up a ready crowd with their full-on brand of hip-hop. As the crowd chanted the lines of the politically apt ‘Lie, Cheat, Steal’, defiant echoes of ‘RTJ’ rung across the festival site like a statement against injustice.

 

Photo credit: Jenna Foxton © Jenna Foxton / Fanatic 2017

 

All that was left once this was over was the man of the hour, Frank Ocean. His performance in Denmark only two days before has been his first in three years. All other festival appearances had been cancelled due to production difficulties.

So it goes without saying, hesitation was in the air. And it was reflected in how he opened; 30 minutes late and to a range of first-song issues, we all felt nervous. Yet, in time he recovered and relief swept across the crowd. He performed a laid-back setlist in a studio-like set up atop a gangway that extended into the middle of the crowd. The intimacy was magical.

 

Photo credit: Andrew Whitton © Andrew Whitton / Fanatic 2017

 

The defining moment came as he sung ‘Future Free’. Spinning across the windswept stage he calmly let out the humble words:

“Now I’m making 400, 600, 800K momma

To stand on my feet momma

Play these songs, it’s therapy momma

They paying me momma

I should be paying them

I should be paying y’all honest to God.”

 

Yes, he delayed his performance; yes, he restarted songs; and yes, he didn’t play every sing-a-long hit. But what he gave us was what plenty of artists never do, and that was honesty. Let’s celebrate him for it.

 

 

 

Words by Tom McGivan

Header image credit: Andrew Whitton © Andrew Whitton / Fanatic 2017