PARKLIFE FESTIVAL – REVIEW

Parklife 2013 was certainly the biggest, most colourful and most exciting yet. With the move from the inner city Platt Fields Park, to the out-of-town Heaton Park, a venue that has played to host to both Oasis and The Stone Roses in recent years, the extra space and lack of serious sound limitation saw an explosion in quality. The weather gods also looked down kindly, gifting two days of perfect weather, which only added to the good vibes. Aside from a world-class line-up of artists over the weekend, the mammoth size of the park allowed for a multitude of walk about acts, not really seen in the festival’s previous incarnation; from American Football to cheerleaders, a Chinese Dragon style canopy procession to inflatable Sumo wrestling and of course, a giant ferris wheel, the whole site felt alive. If Parklife can keep up this kind of pace in the years to come, it’ll surely cement itself in the position of one of Manchester’s chief cultural institutions.

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As we’ve already mentioned, the line-up for this year’s event was truly world-class, with eight stages each day, showcasing everything from local underground musicians, to some of the biggest names in the business, there was simply too much on offer to give a full account in this article. Instead, the JAM team have decided to cherry pick our favorites and highlights from the whole shebang and serve them up for you here. If you were there then get ready for some nostalgia, if not then let this be a lesson to you!

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Crazy P are like a whirlwind on stage; even after 15 years on the scene and playing to a sparse crowd, in an early afternoon slot, they acted as though they were headlining their own world tour. The main stage was a perfect home for them as their vocalist and focal point Danielle Moore is apparently part dervish. Playing dirty disco beats with art-house pop melodies and soulful vocals, it is literally impossible not to dance to these guys; especially when the sun is shining. This is loud, brash yet eloquent music for stomping to on a summer’s day.

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The UK has long been the home to a number of utterly amazing live dance bands. Names like Slamboree, the now defunct Kieretsu and the mighty Dub Pistols all spring to mind but now, Rudimental are taking this into the charts. Genre terrorists, mixing up Drum’N’Bass with elements of Soul, Rock and even Jazz, although with a more mainstream (perhaps just more accessible) sound than many of their contemporaries, what they lack in innovation they make up for in pure energy. Judging by the production values of their video for ‘Not Giving In’, a tune that had everyone in earshot up on their feet, the record companies seem to believe in them and based on this performance and their album going to No. 1, they should! Tearing up the main stage with a set of quality vocalists, and a band that lay down phat horns, shredding guitar and huge, live production beats and bass, Rudimental owned it up there. Definitely one to watch.

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Foreign Beggars are one of the most respected names UK Hip-Hop. Having recently collaborated with the likes of Skrillex and Noisia they aren’t afraid to push boundaries either, fusing Grime, Rap and D’n’B into a instantly recognisable and eclectic sound. The conscious lyricism of tunes like ‘Frosted Perspeks’ also makes a welcome change to the usual ‘guns, bitches and bling’ mainstream. Their showing on the Metropolis Stage was certainly no disappointment; commanding the stage they had the audience eating out of their hand from start to finish. It’s clear to see how much gigging artists have done when you see a set this smooth, utterly relaxed but also intense, feeding off each other’s energy, as well as that of the crowd, they just looked like they were having fun. One of the best of their kind on the UK scene.

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Staying with Hip-Hop for a moment, Broke ‘N’ English, Manchester’s No.1 outfit in this regard, obviously loved playing the home crowd. Probably the biggest players in underground UK Hip-Hop outside of London or Bristol for over a decade and with successful solo careers (Strategy’s collaboration with Dub Phizix last year, produced ‘Marka’, one of the biggest tunes to come out of the North for quite some time), these guys know how to work it. Tracks like ‘This Is Our Life’ and ‘Manchester Shit’ had the whole tent jumping, with down to earth, deceptively intricate lyrics, spinning poetry from the everyday, combined with incredibly well produced, at times beautiful breaks. “‘Ear yar yo, get it up, get it, get it, get it up! ‘Ear yar yo, get it up, get it, get it, get it up!”

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Jessie Ware was simply stunning. That’s basically all that needs to be said. Her voice manages to intone all of the melancholic beauty contained in lyrics about the complexities of emotional longing, in songs such as ‘Wildest Moments’ or ‘If You’re Never Gona Move’, whilst her on-stage mannerisms, reminiscent of the knowing yet restrained sensuality of a 50’s pin-up icon, seems to have made her a sex symbol to young people of all genders, judging by the wild screaming from down by the barrier. Ms. Ware’s vocals, ranging from breathy and sultry to soaring, would stand up on their own, even if it wasn’t for her spellbinding presence; at once in total command and completely humble. A thinking person’s pop-star of the highest order, hopefully we’ll see her again soon, where she belongs: gracing the most prestigious of stages.

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Until you’ve seen a 300lb, redneck looking dude spit lyrics about women and coke, whilst having jumped the barriers, to instigate a moving pit, of which he is the centre, for an entire track, not three tracks into a set… then to be quite frank, you haven’t seen a show! Not sure what to expect of Action Bronson, given a healthy distain for materialist rap, tracks with titles like ‘Strictly For My Jeeps’ didn’t exactly inspire hope, HOWEVER, after watching some of his videos, containing all of the wry, tongue-in-cheek imagery of an American Die Antwoord crossed with a male Brook Candy, he is enthralling. On top of this, on stage Action Bronson is a man possessed and for a large man, he moves like shit off a stick. Intense, uncompromisingly hedonist and just plain fun, everybody secretly wishes they could bellow lines like “I’m a hero in my hometown baby, so stop talking and just go down baby!” and carry it off; sadly very few of us ever will. JAM fucking loves Action Bronson.

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Rita Ora was probably the biggest surprise of the weekend. Although her vocal talent has never been in any doubt, having only heard her on record, we would never have expected the fire she brought to her performance or the quality of her stage show. Combining high-end VJ projections with well choreographed performers, taking the form of futuristic, smoke cannon toting warriors for one song and overall clad, street dancers in another, the planning and effort that had gone into the aesthetics of her set was plain to see. Aside from the glitz and glamour, Rita Ora herself was awe inspiring; self assuredly stalking the stage, comparisons to Rhianna, perhaps even M.I.A., wouldn’t be far from the mark.

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As with Morello and De La Rocha or Iha and Corgan, you could argue that without Johnny Marr, Morrissey would never had the guitar to back his poetry and as such, musical history would be very different, almost certainly poorer, for it. Decades on, Marr is still everything you want him to be, ever the surly man from Salford, his opening gambit: “Well, you may be a quieter bunch but you’re better looking than my normal crowd.” Kicking it straight off with the Smiths’ classic ‘Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before’, then tearing through a few of his better known solo songs ‘The Messenger’ and ‘Upstarts’. A musical legend in his own right and an indelible part of Manchester’s musical heritage, when you hear an entire tent bellowing back the words to ‘Take Me Out’ and ‘This Charming Man’, you’re reminded that just as much as Morrissey, or Gallagher or Brown, Johnny Marr owns this city.

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Eighteen years after their first single and fifteen since the release of their debut album, Jurassic 5 remain one of the finest live acts that  we on the JAM team, have ever had the pleasure to review. In fact to ‘review’ such titans seems a blasphemy, like assessing the quality of a Coppola screenplay or judging God’s aesthetic choices in the pattern of a butterfly’s wing. Just shut up, they’re awesome! The buzz surrounding Jurassic 5’s reunion tour (the first news since their initial split in 2007) which began at Coachella back in April, has been huge and on the strength of their show at Parklife, it bloody should be. Playing all the favorites, ‘What’s Golden’, ‘Quality Control’ and oh sweet Jesus ‘Concrete Schoolyard’, getting to watch such a display of musical prowess on a warm summer’s evening was simply sublime, encapsulating everything that makes a UK festival great. Even pushing into their forties, Jurassic 5 have the energy of men several decades younger, taking crowd interaction seriously, whether it’s having ten thousand people raise their fist for the chorus of ‘Freedom’ or mime getting onto a motorcycle or even Akil jumping into the front of the audience for high-fives and hugs. The lyrical ability is still their in truck fulls as, aside from everything, these guys have some of the sickest tunes in Hip-Hop and always will do. Long live J5!

Unfortunately, you will have to wait until next year for another dose of Parklife. If you can’t wait that long, remember that there are still tonnes of festivals to go this summer, the season is in nappies yet! The good people from The Warehouse Project will be bringing you plenty of top quality music come the autumn also, so ears to the ground for that. JAM had an absolute blast this time around and if you couldn’t be there, then just make sure you get your shit together for next time. As for us, we’ll be doing the rounds this summer and look forward to seeing you all in the mud.

Words & Images: Benjamin Paul

Additional Images: Chris Little

http://benjaminpaulphotography.4ormat.com/

http://www.chrislittlephotography.co.uk/

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