This weekend marked Parklife’s 10th year in the green expanses of Manchester’s Heaton Park. Once again it boasted one of the most impressive varieties of contemporary music, spread across more than 10 different stages. All supposable stereotypes of a British music festival were satisfied; sporadic showers, muddy fields and hordes of people too oblivious (intoxicated?) to care – somewhat of a holy trinity at this point.
Setting the pace for the weekend on the main Parklife stage was Little Simz, who took to the stage to share a passionate performance coupled with nostalgic backstories and a sense of sincerity to match. Sounds of the Near Future was a more unorthodox stage setup, with a sort of peninsular runway protruding from the stage and separating the crowds. This provided a perfect setting for slowthai, who utilised his charisma and commanding stage presence to almost conduct the crowd in mosh pits of orchestral symmetry.
The Valley stage sat at the foot of a hill, which watching people attempt to walk up and down in heavy rain was entertaining enough. As Nas emerged for his evening set, the seemingly relentless rain was put on hold for nothing short of a perfect set. Backed by DJ Green Lantern’s impressive mixing, the Queens native flowed tirelessly through a medley of classics from his seminal debut ‘Illmatic’, only slowing the pace right at the end for a segue into ‘One Mic’, proclaiming his desire to inspire all those in the crowd reaching to achieve great things. Followed swiftly by Kaytranda, the Valley quickly turned into an Eden of electronic dance music. Supplemented by vivid visuals, the set was a visceral experience, as thousands of people ignored the conditions to burst into frenzy over Kaytra’s infectious ear worms.
Meanwhile over at the Temple, which boasted an impressive stage décor slightly reminiscent of boomtown, Drum & Bass titans Chase & Status pumped out back to back bangers from their recent album “RTRN II JUNGLE”. Spasmodic sound issues were easy to overlook, and if anything just accumulated greater anticipation for the following drop, serving as an involuntary reload.
Sunday is regularly dubbed the Lord’s day, and despite not having a religious affinity, the clouds parting for Parklife’s second day did feel like a god send. Mike Skinner even remarked later that he “paid god for the sun” during his set with The Streets. Leicester based five-piece ‘Easy Life’ complemented this sunshine with a short but sweet set of jazz-infused pop grooves, closing with famed single ‘Nightmares’.
Pusha T took over the Sounds of the Near Future tent, who has indisputably reached a career pinnacle with the release of his 2018 album “Daytona”. His set, much like Daytona, was as compact as it was packed with quality and had everybody in the crowd moving like they were his biggest fan. Octavian is currently solidifying his position as a force to be reckoned with in British underground music, and his captivating performance supported this notion.
As inevitable spells of rain returned, The Hangar tent seemed an apt place of retreat. Even if people were packed in there uncomfortably, the vibrant light show accompanying the DJ set was enough to persuade a short stay. The crowds of teens lost in cathartic release was an appropriate testament to the nature of Parklife.
With an overwhelming bill of artists and an impressive sound-system which effectively compartmentalises the sound from each stage, Parklife promises nothing short of a great weekend. The ability to bounce between stages very easily and be catching continuous sets from impressive names is a blessing. In an time where festivals are essentially a coming of age, Parklife provides that and then some, all without the often perilous experience of British camping.