The Northern favourite returned in 2015 with a lot to prove, but did it pull it off?
Manchester's Parklife has always focused on bringing out the biggest DJs of the moment while simultaneously featuring a diverse selection of the best live acts a weekend city festival could offer. But with success has come some growing pains. Despite routinely selling out, it has recently suffered from accusations of overcrowding, poor organisation and disruptive crime. I'm sure I'm not alone in wondering whether Parklife might have peaked back when it was held in the much smaller in Platt Fields Park. Has the decision to take the festival to the outer limits of the City resulted in attracting a more aggressive crowd or has it simply become to big an event to handle? Whether the organisers had become victims of their own success, or if they'd simply lost their way, this year was a chance for them to bounce back and return Parklife to the top tier of UK festivals.
It was with this knowledge that me and my mixed group of 1st year tower freshers (although not technically anymore) and seasoned graduates joined 140,000 other ticket holders in heading to Heaton Park in the outer limits of the city, 5 kilometres to be exact. Getting there was relatively easy, hopping on the travel bus early in the afternoon after a short queue in the city centre.
Arriving at the festival it was clear that crowd management had been taken into account by the organisers. Whilst the queue was long for the few of us that arrived early, it moved relatively quickly and within an hour we were in. The late arrivals among us, however, were quick to let us know they were straight through the gates without any hassle and arrived shortly after.
Given the choice of the whole park, we decided to head straight to the Resident Advisor stage and made our way through a crowd largely made up of groups of knee-high sock shufflers taking up far too much room for their own good.
When I arrived the massive tent was already heaving with Ben UFO & Pearson Sound pulling out all the stops. It was impressive to see such a turnout that early on in the day. Their performance was electric and just when you thought you’d figured where they were taking the crowd, they’d switch it up; garage melted into techno before morphing into acid house, confusing and delighting partygoers in equal measure. Jackmaster drove the crowd wild with a set full of energy and upbeat funk and house. A lot of howling, a lot of clapping and a lot of what you would expect from the lively Scottsman.
Soon after Jackmaster we ventured to the Ram Records tent to catch the tail end of Special Request. His set was pumping and had the dancefloor rammed (excuse the pun).
We headed to the main stage to see a rare appearance of hip hop super group Wu Tang Clan but soon realised it wasn’t going to be easy. Unable to move right at the back, there was a significant lack of sound coming from the headline act. The situation didn’t improve and we headed across the park to catch the tail end of Jamie xx and Andy C, before heading back to halls for an old-fashioned crack on.
Sunday was always going to start on a comedown, but fortunately the unexpected warm weather kept the energy levels high and an early set from Dillinja B2B Randall had us running for the gates. The atmosphere on Sunday was much more easy-going and space opened up all around us to chill and grab a drink.
The set of the day went to Joy Orbison B2B George Fitzgerald who knocked out a thumping set of house, techno and amen breaks that had everyone dancing.
As Sunday drew to a close we managed to be right at the front to catch DJ EZ open his festival-ending set. The sun-soaked listeners at the Ram Jam Stage outside were very much up for the fast paced, un-fathomable mixing that the North London native is known for. Things went crazy when he did three single bar cuts into Sunship's edit of “Flowers”, which had everyone reminiscing in the hours that followed. Eventually things wore down and at around 11pm my group and I turned around and headed off to avoid the inevitable bus queue back to Piccadilly.
Overall, Parklife was definitely worth the trip up North and dare I say it, a weekend staying in run-down university halls (which didn’t even have a constant water supply). Musically the festival was absolutely pitch-perfect and the organisers had not lost their way. Even if you are only the slightest bit interested in the DJs or acts on offer, there’s something for everyone.
The festival did have a few sore points though. To state the obvious; the sheer size of the crowd meant getting a drink or using the toilet became a laborious time-consuming task and most of the stages, particularly the main stage, were barely accessible. However, this can just be marked up as one of the unfortunate trade-offs that come from running a huge festival that has to accommodate such a strong and varied underground line-up that predominantly has to appeal to a large scale mainstream audience.
12 Jun 2015