Kele, Four Tet, Steve Mason, Errors, We Have Band - Review: Parklife Festival
Chris Stanley 23/06/2010
Parklife Festival 12th June Plat Fields Park, Manchester.
Manchester has had it's fair share of festivals that resonate within the mind and soul, we've had Move and D - Percussion both combined the Madchester spirit and the constant awareness of the city's fluctuating creativity. They're both gone and have been sometime but we love a good old festival, even better when its raining then we all feel proper mancunian so what a disappointment to wake up to a glorious sunshine on festival morning?
Parklife is upon us you can tell by the confused and wondering drunks ten miles away from the main festival site all asking when Andy C is on, but that's not the point, there is music in tents and over priced cider with flags signalling that the season has begun. I'm excited, the musical spread laid out for us is bubbling with its eagerness to share its bleeps, wails and samples if you happen to have a net to hand (then you've missed butterfly/Pokemon festival last weekend) you could have captured the excitement.
But enough rambling, on arrival after being searched more thoroughly then boarding a plane its time to hit the bar and wonder around Parklife's grounds, which are small which is brilliant for running from stage to stage, try doing that at Glastonbury. I end up at the Now Wave stage in time for the tail end of Egyptian Hip Hop Manchester's new potential big band however my tardiness means I only catch a mere glimpse of their Robert Smith-esque wonderings but as glimpses into the future go, could be worse.
Another quick adventure round the festival site finds seats made from bathroom appliances which is just the sort of joyous oddity I expect at a festival and rushing back to the Now Wave stage We Have Band have been barely on the stage five minutes and people are moving like it isn't half two in the afternoon, more like ten thirty at night. You've got to love the obvious joy and enthusiasm this band radiates you can see the bright green glow bounce of every audience member as they bop and grind over the stage.
Keen on sticking with my somewhat limited tradition of staying on the Now Wave stage I eagerly await what could be the newbie festivals highlight. Errors take the stage with cool plastered smiles which are shared by an eager mid afternoon audience. I've never really been a fan of instrumental bands but with every bleep, squeal and fuzzing rhythm the more I like and although there is less instruments to be seen in favour of decks and laptops at this field gathering their combination of nasty noises intertwined with lighter segments make them stand amongst the other bands and DJ's.
Next up on the agenda is a quick manoeuvre through the hoards of paralytic teenagers and clouds of various smokes to the Big Top to catch Simian Mobile Disco's DJ set and unfortunately cattle market can barely describe the penguin like way people are dancing however no one cares apart me which is good. Their combination of bleeps, squeals and beats maybe lost on this bearded individual but I'm a one man minority, this tent encapsulates what this festival is all about, booze and dancing.
Amongst all this noise and fast paced partying a peculiar music presence takes the form of Steve Mason ex Beta Band vocalist/guitarist playing tracks from his current solo career. Leading his band with acoustic guitar in hand isn't exactly foreign festival territory but here in the blazing drum n bass sunshine it is. Which is a shame, people are filing into the tent unaware that all the timings are 20 minutes behind and Four Tet is not on yet. Playing music in the various styles of modern singer songwriters however I found the mental comparison to Richard Ashcroft's solo outings difficult to shake, maybe at a festival like Green Man he'd go down a storm but here his music seems lost and out of place.
All these decks and laptops has completely gotten me in the mood for Four Tet back at the Now Wave stage and I'm not the only one, a buzzing audience mass around the stage egged on by the sound system blaring out Battles. However despite the abundance of anticipation I'm heavily let down by his lack of variety and can be come repetitive but when he pushes the rhythm and beat forwards there are shining moments of brilliance.
Making a solid musical decision separates the men from the boys or the undecided from the decided and at the moment I was somewhere in between vague confusion and determined indecision as to whether to risk wading through the swamp of football and testosterone in search of food I then realise I have no interest in either.
I'm only pumped and ready for Friendly Fires who approach the stage which the ease you'd expect of a band at their level and there lies the problem with their set its clean, well performed and they clearly love playing live, even I was engrossed by 'Swimming Pool' but the fire wasn't there. The reality is that this main stage audience wouldn't mind if a blind hobo was hitting himself with a frying pan whilst wailing Solomon's Songs as long as it had some vague beat, hard for Friendly Fires to conquer a mentality like that.
Getting bored I meander over to the Now Wave stage where the fire and electricity can be plucked from the excited darkness of Kele's set, which I'm relieved to find has the intensity you would expect from a closer set. Whether or not Bloc Party will return is still up in air and judging by the various retorts in the press it could be some time before they return but I don't mind as there are sparks of Kele's creativity bursting all around us, smiling he introduces a melody of songs by his home band done with his blend of dance and pop which can really be identified as his own. Despite this treat for Bloc Party fans his solo material is beyond strong and brings out the best in the front mans personality with the crowd beaming and jumping along with him. Not to be beaten by his Bloc melody forthcoming single 'Tenderoni' gets more wails and woops at the same risking the structural integrity of the blacked out stage.
So the end came to the night, I walk away wondering whether ParkLife should have bothered booking such an array of talented and diverse artists when they should have just hired the field and put a bar in it as the music has come secondary to getting paralytic. It's s shame as artists who were on early didn't get the audience or atmosphere they deserved but they played with enthusiasm despite this. For its first year its definitely been a success financially but creatively and musically it'll be difficult to keep the variety and array of talent for music lovers as booze lovers won't care less who they are seeing and listening to.