Fresh form a 2 hour train journey, I arrived into Piccadilly station central Manchester, it didn’t seem like a year since I was here for last years Parklife Weekender, like the first time I had visited. This was to be a new experience again, as Parklife has now shifted home across the city, this year it was being held in Heaton Park. With 2 tram stations and an on site bus station being created specifically to cope with the mass in flux this seemed a great move for the ever growing festival.
The tram got us to the gates of Heaton park within 20 minutes from the city centre, there where many people wondering which way to go as it was not best signed, and there were very few stewards to ask for directions, and those that were there were not very clued up on which way to send people for box office collections, and so on. After being sent the wrong way by a couple of stewards we finally found the box office and got into the festival.
For all the hassle outside the arena, it felt more than worth it once inside the metal walls, Parklife had designed one of the finest arena lay outs I had come across, with some very impressive fairground attractions such as a gigantic ferris wheel from which you could see the whole skyscape of Manchester, to a log flume, they had really put in a lot of effort to make sure people where impressed!
The main stage was down in a little dip with a steady incline all the way to the middle of the arena where the Ferris wheel was then most of the other tented stages were the other side of a small ridge, which all meant there was little to no sound bleed problems at all.
After a good wonder around and a mighty scrum to get a drink at the bar (45 minutes) we caught the last track on the main stage from Quadron which automatically made me scornful of the poor service speed at the bar, as they were very catchy, and very summery and I am gutted I didn't catch more of them. There was not a cloud to be seen in the sky, perfect weather to sit and watch Crazy P, I can see them going from strength to strength this summer with quite a casual electric disco sound, rising quickly off the back of the mega hype Daft Punk have brought to the scene this summer. I'm not sure they would have been quite so enjoyable at last year's event swamped in mud. Today though, they really hit the spot.
There were some great support DJs supplying a great summer time hip hop playlist in between the acts the atmosphere was high. Next to step up on to the main stage were Delphic, bringing there harmony rich alternative indie sound to the Manchester sunshine. The crowd really warmed to there sublime sound, drawing more and more people to the main stage. Following on were The Temper Trap, with their sweet summer sound. They provided a sublime set, the crowd mainly all sat down relaxing in the sun waiting for one song, and when it came about 15,000 rose to their feet, 'Sweet Disposition' supplied what was to be one of the sing along moments of the day! A sea of swaying arms and people on shoulders, it was a real moment to savour.
Rudimental had the unenviable task of following The Temper Trap, and they more than rose to the challenge . The band have seen a meteoric rise, including a number 1 album to their name already this summer. There had been a steady influx of people toward the main stage all day with the sun beckoning people out from the tented stages as and this migration hit its peak as Rudimental's arrival neared. By the time they took to the stage it was shoulder to shoulder across the whole field, the ground rumbled as they took the stage, with a full brass section providing a very sharp sound, and a great P.A set up, the ground shook with there deep bass lines for the whole 50 minute set, culminating in a huge rendition of 'Feel The Love', sending the crowd crazy.
Having spent all day in the blazing sun watching the main stage, I decided to take a look for some food. I found a stall called Camp Cooks, providing a mixture of foods from gourmet burgers to rice dishes, all served by a team of men in dresses with rather fine make up and hair!!! Very delicious and very good value, with great banter whilst you were being served.
Fed I went to catch a set by Danny Byrd in the Hospitality Tent. A frantic drum and bass heavy set had the tent rammed front to back, with huge repeater sound systems on all of the tents support pillars. The sound was immense wherever you were, and I must say, I was impressed by the sound quality on every stage.
From hard drum and bass, I went to see Madeon playing in the Drop The Mustard tent, which was the opposite end of the festival, approximately a 5 minute walk. It was down in a bowl over the ridge which served to naturally form a totally different experience, with people strewn all over the grass, enjoying the sound bellowing out from the tent. I fought my way inside to take in some of the accompanying visuals, it was well worth the scrum, with a superb surround sound style system, you were totally immersed, with a light show to rival many headliners and tunes to back it up. Every time I see Madeon he seems step his game up, it is surely just a matter of time until he is headlining major festivals.
But today's headliner was Plan B, I ventured back to the main stage to see how he faired. Last time I saw Plan B was at Glastonbury 2 years ago and he bored me rigid with his turgid interpretation on 'Soul music' but credit where it is due, he was immense. His newer material a step back towards his earlier grime roots, with an excellent mix of visuals on the many video screens adorning his stage set up, sourced from his film Ill Manors, to compliment the tracks he served up a great set, delivering some real reworkings of some of his more familiar hits which I really enjoyed. Having seen half of his set, I moved on to end my weekend in the Sounds Of The Near Future arena with a live set from Disclosure, with all the sides open on the tent to accommodate the sheer amount of people wanting to see the boom act of the moment performing a live percussion set, the Lawrence brothers, whose album 'Settle' debuted at number 1 gave the crowd everything they had, with the massive 'White Noise' an obvious highlight.
Before leaving for the tram station back to my hotel in the city centre I decided to take a ride on the giant big wheel, over looking Plan B playing his last few tracks, with a breath taking view of the night time cityscape of Manchester it was a perfect way to end the day.
Unfortunately the poor stewarding outside the festival was to rear its head again, with the queue for the tram running up to 3 hours for some unfortunate people who had been sent the wrong way with bad directions, with the size of Heaton park, maybe camping might be the way forward?
All in all the site change had really improved the atmosphere and experience at The Parklife Weekender, with a little more preparation and training of the stewards with the correct info outside the festival, it could really join the biggest names in the festival calendar.
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