I spent last weekend at Manchester’s Parklife, and I’ve come away with a real love/hate relationship with Heaton Park’s two day festival. I travelled down from Edinburgh on the Friday and was meeting my closest friend from school (shoutout to Diksha, you’ll hear her mentioned a lot in this) and some of her friends from uni, and we were staying in the nicest apartment just a 10 minute walk from Spinningfields. I questioned how we’d even managed to afford it and then remembered that we were cramming 5 people into a one bedroom flat so y’know… thank god for airbeds.
My weekend was already off to a bad start when I realised that I’d forgotten to bring my wellies. WHO FORGETS THEIR WELLIES WHEN THEY KNOW THEY’RE GOING TO A FESTIVAL? Clue: it me. So, I reluctantly chucked on my beloved Vans and prepared myself for their inevitable demise once the weekend was over, and at 1 on the Saturday afternoon we began to head to Heaton Park just outside of Manchester city centre. Let me tell you now, being the designated Mum Friend and getting several drunk teenagers to a festival without getting separated is a harder task than you’d even believe – it took us one uber, a tram journey, 2 and a half hours, and several tantrums about walking, mud, and rain, to actually reach Parklife… bearing in mind our apartment was only a 20 minute drive away from Heaton Park.
Upon our (eventual) arrival everyone was seeking shelter from the rain so we piled into The Palmhouse where Korean DJ Hunee was playing… I quickly realised that this was really Not For Me, so Diksha and I disappeared to catch Chaka Khan on the Parklife Main Stage. Chaka Khan has some undeniable TUNES, though it became apparent from Diksha’s near-constant face like thunder that she’d had better times (I don’t think she actually cracked a smile until George Ezra‘s set at 6.15 on the Parklife Stage). George played an hour long set accompanied by a full band, and definitely began to lift our spirits a little. Surrounded by a crowd singing along to his more popular songs such as Cassy O, Blame It On Me, and Budapest with such immense fervour reminded me exactly why I love festivals. We were also treated to a few new songs from Ezra’s upcoming sophomore album which I’m sure will be an absolute dream – I’ve had Pretty Shining People in particular stuck in my head for days now.
Ireland’s indie favourites Two Door Cinema Club were next on the Parklife Stage, and played one of the best sets of the entire weekend. I’ve seen TDCC a few times now, but only ever at festivals, each time I’m reminded of just how good they are and I always have an insane amount of fun. They opened with Undercover Martyn from their 2010 debut album Tourist History, and followed it with Something Good Can Work. Despite the success of their third album Gameshow released late last year, their setlist was largely made up of Tourist History material though, with crowd favourite What You Know being a particular highlight.
Saturday’s headliners were Manchester natives, and my all time favourites, The 1975. Before their set however, members of Manchester’s emergency services were welcomed on stage alongside Mayor Andy Burnham to pay tribute to the victims of the attack at the Manchester Arena only a few weeks prior, and to honour the continuous hard work and bravery shown by the city’s emergency services. Andy Burnham asked the large crowd to ‘stick together – always choose hope over fear and terror, and always choose love over hate’, before then asking The 1975 to join him on stage. Frontman Matty Healy decided that they didn’t want a moment of silence, not at a music festival, and instead asked for a moment of noise – ‘as these people leave the stage in celebration of what they’ve done, let’s have a minute of going fucking mental’.
The empty stage was then brought to life by the familiar pink glow, and the unadulterated pop narcissism of Love Me, the lead single from their 2016 sophomore album I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It. I have seen The 1975 countless times, and I can honestly say that their performance at Parklife was probably the best set I have ever seen from them. Matty’s audience interaction could not be flawed, the setlist was undoubtedly strong, and they even threw in a very unexpected Robbers remix. They closed the night with the anthemic The Sound and I left Heaton Park with the biggest smile on my face that night… Until I discovered that we would have to walk the four and a half miles back to our apartment.
Aching from the day before, I was certain Parklife had beaten me. I was very close to just not going and instead staying in bed, BUT, there was no sign of rain and with Frank Ocean as the Sunday headliner I knew deep down that I’d regret doing so. We headed in late afternoon again, and arrived just in time to catch the last few songs of London’s Sampha on the Sounds of the Near Future Stage. That man has the most stunning voice, and No-one Knows Me Like The Piano is arguably even more heartbreaking live.
Next on the Sounds of the Near Future Stage was 21 year old Guernsey-born DJ Mura Masa, who opened his insaaaaane set with the widely popular Love$ick. Looking back, his set was even more impressive when you consider that he hasn’t even released his debut album yet. Having already worked with some big names (ASAP Rocky, Charli XCX, and Shura), I have no doubts that Mura Masa has some incredible things coming his way this year.
Our group then split, with some of us heading to Eric Prydz in The Hangar, and myself and Diksha watching a little bit of Run The Jewels on the Parklife stage, before re-grouping for the unmissable Stormzy, who was headlining the Sounds of the Near Future Stage. The huge tent was packed, with the crowd spilling out into the festival grounds. No other artist I saw that weekend performed with as much energy as Stormzy did, and in all my years of gig-going I have never been in a crowd like that before in my life and FUCK, it was fun. Setlist highlights included Big For Your Boots, Cigarettes And Cush, and Shut Up from his incredibly successful debut album Gang Signs and Prayer released earlier this year. We were also treated to Stormzy’s remix of Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You, which they performed together at this year’s BRIT Awards.
After Stormzy‘s set, it seemed like everyone was headed to the Parklife stage. Obviously. It was almost time for Frank Ocean’s main stage headline set and it appeared everyone had their doubts about whether or not he’d actually turn up. This wasn’t helped by the fact that when he came on stage, he did so FORTY minutes later than he was supposed to. I’d be mad, but he’s Frank Ocean, he could break my actual legs and I’d probably say thank you. I noticed many people leaving during his set, mumbling something about how ‘boring’ he was – but if you were expecting something high energy from Frank then you came to the wrong place. I personally could not have been more content, my only real complaint would be about the SEVERE lack of Channel Orange material on his setlist. I can’t help thinking how incredible Lost would have been live. Whilst it was clear that he was nervous, I can honestly say that an artist that phenomenal has zero reason to be. I’m certain my life peaked that night, I’ve seen real life Frank Ocean and I am fully convinced things can only get worse from here. That is of course unless someone is willing to take me to see Kanye any time soon…
In hindsight, Parklife wasn’t all that bad, but it’s very very easy for me to say that retrospectively. Yes I moaned a lot, and yes I was cold and wet for most of the weekend, and yes I am very glad to be home, but I’d almost definitely go back again next year. And if there is one thing I’ve learnt this weekend it’s that I will never forget my wellies ever again. x