Parklife Festival 2016
Heaton Park, Manchester
Already a week before Parklife 2016 it seemed like it would be a classic year of downpours and dramas, with an unofficial camping site cancelled just days before the event, leaving many revellers with nowhere to stay during the two day event, which sold out in record time this year. But as I arrived at the Heaton Park site, festival goers seemed in good spirits and the crowd was lively for a strong set from Stormzy upon on the main stage. Most of the other grime acts performing this year were relegated to the 1Xtra stage, which took a while to trudge to, with the mud getting deeper as the rain continued to pour on a day of unrelenting bad weather. Once there, I hedged my bets and decided to stay put, watching Lady Leshurr, Preditah and Section Boyz in succession, with Lady Leshurr giving the best performance of the three, with a high energy set and some lively dancers in tow, which got the damp crowd moving, especially during Queen’s Speech 4. Later on Kano delivered an outstanding performance, finishing with a high-octane rendition of P’s and Q’s. Not wanting to miss Ice Cube, I hotfooted it back to the main stage to get there just in time for a solid delivery of his best-known hits, but the rain was starting to get to me. Stopping off for a ride on the Ferris wheel, I finished my day by finally getting some shelter in the Now Wave tent, where Kaytranada got the weary ravers really going, with what surprised me as my favourite set of the extremely wet Saturday.
(Stormzy holding it down on the Parklife main stage - Photo: Danny North)
Upon arriving on Sunday I headed for some grub in the VIP area and caught myself rather enjoying the brass band covers of Beyoncé and Michael Jackson, which came courtesy of Twisted Tubes. Some in attendance even went as far as begging the band to play on past their set time as they danced in what was a much tamer drizzle than what we’d been up against the previous day. Back in the main arena, I caught a smidgen of Julio Bashmore’s set, where the brimming tent coupled with my hangover made me abandon ship and head up to The Temple, where I watched the crowd go wild for Diplo as he veered between different genres. From here I caught a little bit of the legend that is Mr David Rodigan, however, I couldn’t stay for too long as I was getting excited for what I was expecting to be the highlight of my weekend, Skepta performing all the new tracks from Konnichiwa.
(Skepta performing tracks from new album Konnichiwa - Photo: Gobinder Jhitta)
Unfortunately, as the tired looking MC entered the stage, his eyes covered with sunglasses, it soon became apparent this wouldn’t be anywhere near his best performance. Nevertheless, the crowd went mental when DJ Maximum dropped the instrumental for That’s Not Me and we were all soon reciting every lyric. With Skepta bringing out Frisco and Jammer half way through, the energy levels were rising, and the MC himself seemed to have got his second wind, starting to move around the stage as he delivered some tracks from his back catalogue, including my favourite Same S**t Different Day. After encouraging a mosh pit, it came as a bit of a shock when his set began to draw to a close, with the MC warning he’d soon be cut off. Telling the crowd he’d perform what he “came here to do”, the opening bars of Shutdown got everyone going wild again. What seemed like the last track of the performance, was followed with the familiar sound of the Queens of the Stone Age sample, which heralded new banger Man as Skepta’s new show climax.
(Gimme Some More, Busta Rhymes on The Temple stage - Photo: Andrew Whitton)
Back at The Temple, I watched as Busta Rhymes playfully chided the crowd for not singing along loudly enough on his duet with Mariah Carey, Baby Give It To Me. By now but it had started to rain again, and the audience was beginning to look a little tired. Still, they finally summoned some energy and the singalong gained a little gusto.
In the spirit of keeping things moving, I made my way to The Colonnade to catch my friend’s favourite Floating Points, and the crowd here seemed in much better spirits, so we stayed until it was time to head for Jamie xx, who was headlining the Sounds of the near future stage. Getting a good spot in the middle, we were privy to the impressive lightshow which accompanies Jamie’s In Colour inspired sets, with the DJ playing a selection of tracks, including Gosh, a standout for me, while You’ve Got the Love got one of the biggest cheers. Jamie, a veteran of Parklife and indeed it’s sister the Warehouse Project, knew how to impress the Manc crowd, finishing his set with Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart - an almost perfect conclusion. But Parklife wouldn’t be Parklife without a little chaos, and as one keen festival goer climbed a pylon, the music came to a stop. A few moments later order was restored and Jamie continued with the last track as bright white light washed over the tent, elevating the atmosphere to one of euphoric bliss.
(Jamie XX closing the Sounds Of The Near Future Stage - Photo: Giles Smith)
Words by Kamila Rymajdo
Main photos courtesy of Gobinder Jhitta