The Parklife Weekender is a festival that caters to all tastes, featuring the best of the best DJs and acts over a wide-range of genres. Although dance-centric, it also has indie bands (Foals and Warpaint), hip-hop (Snoop Dogg and A$AP Rocky) as well as pop favorites (Bastille and Clean Bandit), leaving attendees absolutely spoilt for choice. What promised to be a miserable washout with the forecasted rain was entirely subverted into a joyous weekend of sunlit revelry as over 60,000 people danced gleefully in the mud.
Despite the huge influx of people in Manchester it is extremely easy to get from the city centre to the festival site at Heaton Park, with regular buses and trams. However, apparently there were some organisational nightmares as many people had to wait in long queues in the pouring rain only to be turned away due to a problem with the e-tickets, but once inside everything was forgotten, and undeterred by the rain, the audience was more than happy welly-dancing. Then sun even came out in the afternoon, creating the perfect setting to enjoy acts.
The most difficult part of the weekend was choosing who to see with the stress of knowing so many excellent shows were going on all at once, and the second most challenging part was wading through the mud from tent to tent once you’d finally decided, but it was always guaranteed to be an endeavor well worth it. Although, on the huge site of Heaton Park, with 8 tents and over 150 acts, the layout is set out so it is relatively easy to hop from tent to tent and try and catch as many acts as possible.
The Saturday line up was more dance orientated featuring stellar DJs and dance acts, both the excellent Cyril Hahn and Chromeo put on a great show in the Now Wave tent, the latter’s campy 80’s dance music raising spirits of all those covered in mud just as the sun came out. Other highlights of the day included the ever-charming Bipolar Sunshine who brought the festival vibe with him, the summery Maribou State, and an intense set from Rudimental on the Main stage who drew in the dancers playing hit after hit, despite a brief powercut which made their return even more energetic. Jamie Jones was an excellent end to the first day of the festival at the Warehouse Presents stage. The Saturday Headliner of was Snoop Dogg, who entertained a crowd of thousands with his sneering cover of ‘I Love Rock n’ Roll’. The entire day had a brilliant atmosphere, and not even nearly losing a shoe to the mud could have ruined a truly wonderful day of dancing.
What makes Parklife stand out from so many festivals is the fact it isn’t camping, meaning if you haven’t danced your feet off by then, after a crowded but quick tram ride you can get back to the city centre where you pop back to your hotel, wash off the mud, and carry on the party as the clubs in town host a series of Afterlife shows hosted by the best DJs of the festival. The major party was at the Albert Hall where headline acts Jamie Jones and Lee Foss made sure people were dancing til the early hours of the morning, but there are plenty to pick from and I found it a great way to explore the city at night.
Starting all over again on Sunday, the main stage featured some class acts, Clean Bandit were a personal highlight bringing their unique sound, and were clearly having such a great time on stage that it was infectious, creating a tangible surge of happiness through the massive crowd. They were followed by the ultra-cool Warpaint, whose mellow performance allowed for some respite after all the intense dancing. Other main stage acts were Sam Smith, London Grammar, who although lovely, failed to keep my attention and instead Jamie XX in the Sounds of the Near Future tent picked up the vibe again with an excellent set. Although Disclosure were ending the night on the Disclosure presents Wildlife stage, which seems like a fitting ending to a dance weekend, with the crowd so huge the set felt slightly disconnected, and returning to Foals’ intense and surprisingly intimate set (the crowd was the smallest I had seen at the Main stage all weekend) seemed like the right thing to do, and they did not disappoint. Spanish Sahara is always beautiful live, and the band played a mix from all their albums and played with a ferocity that captured the intensity of the weekend perfectly.
For anyone considering going next year, I would suggest the VIP tickets are definitely worth the extra £40, (standard tickets are £80, VIP are £120) as you get to skip the long queues upon arrival, have sectioned off VIP areas, which although are hardly glamorous, have separate bars and toilets which definitely have their perks.
Although Southampton may seem like a daunting distance from Manchester, it is well worth the travel and easy enough on the train, and I would recommend running off to Parklife as the perfect way to celebrate the end of exams to anyone, just as long as they enjoy a good welly-dance.