A post-exams tradition for many students, 80,000 festival-goers trekked to Heaton Park, Manchester to attend Parklife 2019. Despite the seemingly non-stop rain, spirits were still high, the Smirnoff ices flying as the weekend saw performances by a variety of DJs and musicians such as George Ezra, Mark Ronson, Annie Mac, The Streets and Christine and the Queens. Here are the highlights:
A DJ favourite for the festival, Annie Mac once again took to the Valley Stage to get the crowd dancing with a variety of chart, EDM and disco hits. Following on from DJ Koze, who ended his set with his club-favourite remix of Lapsley’s ‘Operator’, Mac was able to maintain high spirits through her mix of danceable tunes such as Strike’s ‘U Sure Do’ and 2018 chart-topper ‘Panic Room’ by Au/Ra and CamelPhat. Dropping Loleatta Holloway’s disco classic ‘Love Sensation’ before ending with one of last year’s biggest songs, ‘One Kiss’ by Dua Lipa, Mac provided a strong start for Saturday evening, as, despite the mud, most festival-goers stuck it out for the entirety of her almost 2-hour set.
Soon after Annie Mac’s high energy set, Brit nominated musician Loyle Carner took to the Sounds of the Near Future stage to provide some soothing Hip Hop tracks that were engaging nonetheless. Opening with ‘Ice Water’ from his album Not Waving, But Drowning that was released earlier this year, it was instantly clear that Parklife was Carner’s crowd; the SotNF tent filled up immediately, with almost every audience member mouthing every single word. As well as rousing the crowd with hit ‘Ain’t Nothing Changed’ from his debut album, Carner also showed off his various collaborations with other fresh UK talent, performing ‘Loose Ends’ (originally featuring Jorja Smith), as well as ‘Angels’ (originally featuring Tom Misch), much to the joy of the crowd. Carner not only performed every word with conviction but consistently engaged with the crowd, creating a warm, relaxed atmosphere as he joked around with them. The perfect act to smoothly usher in the night, Loyle Carner at Parklife was hard not to like.
Christine and The Queens
French singer Heloise Adelaide Letissier, known as Christine and the Queens, provided the closing act for Saturday on the Sounds of the Near Future stage. Perhaps due to the schedule clash with Mark Ronson, who was bumped up to the main stage likely due to Cardi B’s cancellation, the crowd was unexpectedly thin, however Letissier did not let this dissuade her. Now referring to herself as ‘Chris’ (the title of her most recent album) because, as she later explains to the crowd, “We don’t have time for ‘-tine and the Queens; these are urgent times!”, Letissier immediately jumped into action to perform ‘Comme si’ as her opening number. Backed by a small troupe of dancers, Letissier hit the stage with a balance of characteristic toughness and visible enjoyment, feeding off the energy of her dancers as they performed a west-side story-esque routine (how she managed to have chemistry with every single one of them is beyond me). The entire production value of Letissier’s set was extremely high as she not only hit every note but every move, with full out dance routines to songs like Janet Jackson’s ‘Nasty’ and Travis Scott’s ‘Sicko Mode’ interspersed amongst renditions of her own hits such ‘Girlfriend’ and ‘5 Dollars’. Whilst this was highly enjoyable to watch, Letissier also proved that she could command the stage by herself, temporarily getting rid of her troupe and pausing the pyrotechnics to perform ‘iT’ under a lone spotlight, grappling with her own identity to confidently declare ‘I’m a man now’. The entire show seemed to be about self-exploration and expression, not only for Christine and the Queens but for her audience also, Letissier shouting ‘Here, you can be anything you want to be’ before launching into a stripped back rendition of David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’. Indeed, whilst Letissier proved that she could have easily filled the main stage had she had the chance, the smaller crowd provided a sense of intimacy and subsequent security, creating a thoroughly needed safe-space. Whilst perhaps not the expected Parklife lineup choice, Christine and the Queens proved herself to be one of the best acts of the entire weekend.
Whilst the weather on Sunday was somehow even worse than the day before, a large crowd was still in attendance to watch synthpop kings Blossoms perform. Originally from Stockport, Parklife provided a sort of homecoming for the band, and indeed there was sense of year 11 nostalgia in the air as they opened with ‘At Most A Kiss’ from their debut album. That’s not to say that Blossoms are stuck in the past; indeed their festival set proved otherwise, the blasting synth of ‘Cool Like You’ from their newer album of the same name instantly getting the crowd jumping. Despite the worsening rain, the audience numbers seemingly continued to grow; with the crowd erupting as hit ‘Charlemagne’ finally played, it was clear that Blossoms provided a much needed indie-pop antidote to the grim weather.
As the rain showed no sign of stopping, seemingly everyone at Parklife crammed into the Sounds of the Near Future tent to listen to London soul collective Jungle. With their smooth funk riffs and danceable beats, it was not surprising that Jungle drew the crowd they did, immediately getting the tent jumping with the fast-paced percussion of their opening number ‘Smile’. Fluidly transitioning from the electric intensity of tracks such as ‘The Heat’ from their debut album to the more relaxed groove of songs like ‘Casio’ before arriving at the eagerly awaited ‘Busy Earnin’, the 7-piece group performed with infectious energy and enthusiasm, maintaining their reputation as tenacious live performers.
His fourth time at Parklife and riding off the success of his newest album Staying at Tamara’s, George Ezra provided the closing act for the main stage on Sunday. Despite coming on late, the audience didn’t seem to care, erupting into cheers and screams as Ezra begun with ‘Don’t Matter Now’, the blasting trumpet and trombone of his expansive band rousing the muddy (and probably very tired) crowd. As Ezra went on to play the more heartfelt hits ‘Barcelona’ and ‘Pretty Shining People’, a sense of closeness and sentimentality was created; indeed, with the stage designed like a traditional interior with fake windows, a large patterned rug and colour changing lampshades, you felt at home with Ezra as he interspersed his performances with various (albeit very Gap-yah) anecdotes about life on the road. Heavily contrasting that of last year’s closing act Skepta, Ezra’s performance demonstrated that as much as Parklife is known for its high-intensity party energy, mellow folk-pop also does the job, the entire crowd chanting the words of ‘Shotgun’ as the festival drew to a close.