PARKLIFE 2017 REVIEW

Written by Andrew Barr (@weeandreww)

Still on a high after Ariana Grande’s One Love Manchester benefit concert, Manchester hosted its next big music event on the 10th and 11th of June when Parklife Festival took over the city’s Heaton Park. The weekend luckily went ahead without any incidents and everywhere inside the festival grounds seemed to radiate a party atmosphere. Further to this, Parklife boasted an incredible lineup, including Frank Ocean himself as the Sunday night headliner (and he actually turned up!)

I travelled to Manchester from Glasgow for Parklife and, if I’m honest, probably spent more time at a huge pyramid in the middle of the festival than at any stage, and drank far too much spiced rum than it takes to be anywhere near objective, but I’ll scramble together a few mini-reviews of acts at the festival.

Chaka Khan

Chaka-Khan

One of the stranger names to appear on the lineup actually proved to be a personal highlight of the festival. Appearing on the main stage in mid-afternoon on Saturday, Khan was joined by a huge live band including backing singers, and ended her set with one of the biggest singalongs of the weekend: the double-header of undisputed anthems I’m Every Woman and Ain’t Nobody.

 

Two Door Cinema Club

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Appearing on Saturday’s main stage before headliners The 1975, the Irish indie trio’s set was aided by the day’s nicest weather, as the rain cleared up and some early evening sun descended on Heaton Park during the band’s slot.

The setlist further warmed the crowd up, with Two Door Cinema Club almost shunning their newest album Gameshow completely, with a set mainly comprised of acclaimed debut Tourist History. It’s easy to see why as their debut is a perfect festival album, with tracks like I Can Talk and What You Know which feel as if they were written with this atmosphere in mind.

The 1975

 1975

Parklife saw one of the last shows on The 1975’s seemingly never-ending tour in support of their second album, I Like It Whenyou know the title, as well as their first ever festival headlining slot. How would the Manchester 4-piece rise to the occasion? By doing exactly what they’ve done the entire tour. The set opened as the second album campaign did with the sugary Love Me, and the tempo barely dropped throughout, as the band’s short discography boasts an incredible amount of brilliant pop songs.

The headline billing never seemed to affect the band, and definitely not lead singer Matt Healy, who took his top off after 3 songs and quipped “is he a rockstar? Does he just think he’s a rockstar? Is he too fucking hot? Who the fuck knows?”. The 1975 remain polarising, largely due to Healy’s persona, but with tracks as good as The Sound, soon it’ll be near impossible to deny them.

Stormzy

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Sunday at Parklife was absolutely full of clashes, which left us with some heart-wrenching decisions to make. One of the day’s toughest decisions meant we could only see the first half of Stormzy’s set, so missed out on some of his biggest hitters. However, the Sounds of the Near Future tent was completely packed for the entirety of the London MCs set, with even the back of the tent bouncing to every beat. Stormzy rallied the crowd with ease, repeatedly asking for his “energy crew” as he played tracks from his debut Gang Signs and Prayers as well as older tracks. Before we left, we got to see the roof almost blow off the tent for new single Cold and tracks like Shut Up and Big For Your Boots undoubtedly had the place on its knees.

Frank Ocean
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While leaving Stormzy was heartbreaking, I never even contemplated watching the end of his set, as we left to see Frank Ocean on the main stage. Actually, as it transpired, we could have seen the end of Stormzy as Ocean didn’t appear until 40 mins later than his scheduled slot for only his second performance since 2014.

When he appeared, Ocean walked to the end of a walkway emblazoned with scribbles of his song titles and lyrics in a Brad Pitt t-shirt, no doubt in reference to a GQ article where Pitt lavished praise on the R&B enigma. After Pretty Sweet was played over the intercom, Ocean properly opened his set with Solo from 2016’s Blonde. However, he restarted this track 3 times, mumbling “uh, sorry” in between attempts, and appeared visibly nervous in this rare live performance.

After Ocean finally finished Solo, he launched into Chanel, which he played twice as he “liked that one” and from that point, visibly grew in confidence and grew into his performance. It was a set-list clearly curated for diehards rather than casual fans, as Thinkin Bout You was the only track from 2012’s Channel Orange that Ocean played, with the set-list dominated by Blonde and Endless, as well as the Blonded Radiosingles.

Unsurprisingly with this set-list, the reaction to the set was mixed, with many blasting Ocean for being over-indulgent and pretentious for a festival headline slot. However, you cannot blame him, as Blonde tracks like Nikes and Nights rank among Ocean’s very best tracks, and when a small band join him on stage for the ethereal Self Control, there is no doubt that Ocean is among this generation’s finest musical talents.


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Thoughts On: UK Festivals 2016

Could a lack of variety result in 2016 being the weakest year for UK music festivals?

It’s that time of the year again. The time where myself and hundreds of thousands of music fans pay close attention to multiple music festival’s twitter feeds to see who will be playing this summer. There’s nothing that can really compare to it; the rumoured line ups, everyone throwing in who they think deserves to be headlining and wading through half an hour of Radio 1 to hear the host reveal a handful of new acts: for music fans, this is essentially Christmas.

However, this year seems to have provoked a different reaction than usual and worryingly enough it seems to have happened in a year that has already been plagued by some worrying news regarding live music. We’re only three months into 2016 and there’s already been word about small venues in the UK being under threat which is a major concern to anyone with an interest in music. Now, not only do we have that to take into consideration but we now have our biggest music festivals in the UK facing a bit of a crisis.

This crisis is highly subjective and comes in two parts, the first being the state of festival sites. Unfortunately to address this I’ll have to take shots at the very first festival I attended and that is T In The Park. The state of T in 2015 shocked me at first as the move to Strathallan Castle came with it an amazing new setting and potential to further enhance certain elements of the festival, allowing the organisers to breathe some new life into it.

However, multiple outlets reported that this wasn’t the case and I found this out personally. Friends of mine who have been attending the festival for years complained about the security or the lack thereof with multiple people reporting the high number of violent incidents occurring at last year’s event. Before you point out the obvious, yes, I know violence at a music festival isn’t anything unusual since you’re bound to get that with the drugs and alcohol going about but when people are having to leave a festival due to the fear of their own safety then something has to be done.

While the quality of T In The Park’s site may be oddly specific to that festival alone and organisers have since said they have addressed this for 2016, the quality of the lineups this year are something that, while not worth having a breakdown over, are worth criticising. To do this, we’ll focus on three of the biggest UK festivals as in previous years they have displayed their ability to be diverse and satisfying. We’ll start with Glastonbury who have announced two headliners so far and the moment I saw both, I had to let out a sigh: Muse and Coldplay.

While I’m always the first to jump in defence of Coldplay for being the music world’s punchline, is this what we really want from Glastonbury; two bands that hit their peak around a decade ago? The rumours of Adele being the final headliner has me even more concerned as anyone who has ever looked at a Glasto lineup knows they usually stand out as being different and, dare I say it, controversial. Kanye, love him or hate him, resulted in a massive debate about hip hop at festivals and was the most talked about festival performance of last year without a doubt. Even before then there was Metallica the previous year who were their first metal headliner : do we really want to see a festival known for pushing itself out of its comfort zone go with the 3 of the safest choices imaginable?

Festivals

In addition to that, the number of female acts at some of these UK festivals is laughable. I’m not going to go into some huge rambling, feminist-esque rant about the patriarchy being behind it all or that it is sexist but just look at the T In The Park lineup: the original announcement contained 4 acts out of 41 that feature a woman in it. 4. You can count all of those acts on one hand.

“It’s not that deep” some people have tweeted and for the most part, they’re probably right. The fact there’s so few female acts on the lineup isn’t down to choice but most likely ignorance as there’s so many to choose from that I’m astounded that the number is so little: Grimes, Courtney Barnett, Halsey, Lana Del Rey, Wolf Alice, Little Mix (I didn’t say they were all going to be good) came into my head within just a few seconds of thinking. If a nineteen year old with a blog can name more female acts in that space of time than there is on a festival lineup then something is seriously wrong.

Let’s end on a bit of a positive note and have a look at the Reading and Leeds lineup which, while it’s not perfect, is a tremendous improvement of what else is on offer. Not only is there more female acts on the Friday than there is on the entire T lineup alone but we seem to have a better representation of music nowadays as well as the past. Boy Better Know  are waving the flag for grime which was rudely missed out at the Brits while we get Red Hot Chili Peppers displaying the rock music many will have grown up with. Meanwhile, Biffy Clyro and Foals will be displaying the state of rock music nowadays which, if you’ve been paying attention, is face melting, juggernaut sized anthems that will have everyone in attendance going absolutely awol.

Not to mention Two Door Cinema Club making a return and my personal highlight of Modern Baseball, Basement and State Champs kick starting the Sunday, Reading + Leeds seems to be getting a lot of undeserved flack when really, once you’ve looked past a few of bland acts like The Courteeners and Imagine Dragons, it’s the best the UK is offering this year. A festival that, regardless if you despise it or love it, is showing a great range of acts that will be sure to result in a great weekend.

A step in the right direction.

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