Parklife is Manchester’s largest and maybe most hedonistic gathering of young people. Curated by the brains behind Warehouse Project, the festival has a special place in the hearts of both Mancunians and people from all over the UK. Previous line ups have included the likes of Major Lazer, Bastile and Snoop Dogg; and this year’s festival was to feature, what can only be described as an absolutely stellar Hip Hop and Grime line-up. Saturday in particular was an all star homage to the south-born London-genre, with Giggs, J-Hus and Boy Better Know all crammed onto the Temple Stage throughout the day.
Parklife’s decoration was very much akin the lavish Bestival, and sported two of the biggest in-tent stages that GIGsoup has ever seen. The Hangar, which hosted a extremely lively and eclectic set from My Nu Leng early in the afternoon was astoundingly massive; it’s name fitting it to a T. The Palm House, equally large in it’s capacity, was decorated with long trailing vines and had a wet, tropical quality to the air inside it. The Palm House in particular was home to a large range of Techno and House DJ’s, including past XOYO resident, The Black Madonna, delivered equal measures of bass and deep groove early in the evening.
In reality however, the crown jewel of the entire weekend was to be the Sounds of the Near Future Stage. Without pomp or flare, the unassuming big-top tent housed some seriously groovy, unique and simply wonderful music throughout the day. Future Bounce afficionardo Fakeear played his trap-influence jams to a small, but very receptive crowd as the AM turned into the PM, and was quickly followed up by Rejjie Snow who levelled the audience with his bass-heavy Atlanta-sound. Mick Jenkins’ followed up on this with a live drum and vocal set that kept the crowd bouncing. Clearly, on Saturday, Parklife’s Hip-Hop population had gathered at the Sounds of The Future Stage. Before headliner Anderson .Paak graced the evening headline slot, the line-up of the small tent went slightly off genre, with the likes of Little Dragon and London Grammar carrying those with a more electronically defined ear through the limited twilight sunshine.
Little Dragon, Photo by Danny North.
A special mention has to go out to the endlessly-changeable weather of the north of the UK. Any stage that didn’t have the good fortune of being undercover became swamp-like, as the rain peatered down steadily throughout the day. Festival-goers who had decided to brave the mud in trainers quickly found that they would be irritreviably destroyed after two days of pulling their feet of the quicksand like mud at the front of all of the outdoor stages. Over the two days, the weather did improve, but the damage to the ground was already firmly done. Punters could be seen caked in astonishing amounts of mud, as they slipped around on the uneaven ground. Spirits seemed to remain firmly high throughout the weekend however; despite the constant drizzle and ruined Adidas. Unfortunately, the swamp that had been created in front of the Temple (grime) stage defeated alot of punters as they waited excitedly to see J-Hus. The mud was so deep that shoes were being literally sucked off people’s feet and alot of the audience simply gave up hope and moved on. Levelz, Photo by Olivia Williams.
Back at the Sounds of the Near Future stage, Anderson .Paak opened his trunk full of funk. Backed by his house band The Free Nationals, he showed off his incredible showmanship to a grooved up crowd. .Paak’s technical drumming ability is astonishing to watch; at points he could be seen casually twrilling his drum stick whilst hammering out some perfect soulful rhythms.
As the day came to a close, punters trooped out into the outskirts of Manchester, in varying shapes of sobriety and consciousness, all ready to do it all again tomorrow.
Anderson .Paak and The Free Nationals, Photo by Jenna Foxton.
A new day of marginally dry weather dawned on the second day of Parklife 2017. Those making their way to the festival from the city itself saw a huge police presence all around the city center. Two rival protests were taking place, and with Manchester’s understandably high security level, it was difficult to see how the festival itself would have any kind of police protection at all. In realtity however, the festival was once again saturated with security, and the process of getting into Parklife was incredibly slow.
The lineup du-jour was simply jam packed; for Hip-Hop heads there were some difficult decisions to be made about certain clashes; however the Sounds of The Near Future Stage once again came through with a amazing run of artists. London’s own downbeat rapster Loyle Carner was followed childhood friend and groove-rider Tom Misch early in the afternoon. The boom bap sounds of Carner’s debut album, ‘Yesterday’s Gone’ shone through with lament and joy in every line he spat. Loyle Carner, Photo by Jenna Foxton
A world away from the South London rapper was Detroit hellraiser Danny Brown, who featured not too far away on The Temple Stage. His oddball, high pitched rap style always manages to inspire hype in those who are usually unwilling to dance. Everytime GIGsoup has had the pleasure of seeing the “hipster rapper” (his words) perform, there has always been pockets of moshing all around the stage.
Straight back over to The Sound of the Near Future Stage was Mura Masa, another homegrown star who has started making waves in America as one of the pioneers of the Oriental Trap sound. The genre features some recognisable Hip-Hop elements but has an upbeat overarching production. The once empty big-top was absolutely packed to the rafters; a fantastic atmosphere to experience music of this kind. Towards the end of his live set, Mura Masa was joined by his longtime collaborator and vocalist Nao, who blended her soulful voice expertly with the instruments around her.
Killer Mike- Run The Jewels, Photo by Jenna Foxton
Alternative Hip-Hop was a prominent feature of Parklife’s menu this year, and one of the most heart-wrenching clashes of the weekend was between Flying Lotus and Run The Jewels, who had bagged a last minute main stage slot before headliner Frank Ocean. Run The Jewels are riding the very large wave of their latest release ‘RTJIII’, and the set promised to be heavily based on this album. The stage was rigged with their signature “pistol and fist” icons, which were decorated to look like the hands of a rotting corpse. For all the morbid and macabre imagery, Run The Jewels are some incredibly happy performers. As they bounced around the stage, the audience got a feel for the love for their sound and for the art of their live performance.
Rappers Killer Mike and El-P delivered a performance of true, unbounded energy. With a vibe more akin to Punk Rock than to rap, the duo had a crowd of thousands right with them the whole way.
The allusive Frank Ocean was the final icing on the cake at Parklife 2017. The singer-songwriter is notoriously ghostly and hasn’t performed live in the UK since 2014. Last year he stormed back into the public consciousness with a weekend of back-to-back releases. His set at Parklife mostly featured tracks of his latest album ‘Blonde’, with a live arrangement of keys, bass and of course, his signature wavering vocal play. His live rendition of ‘Thinking ‘Bout You’’ struck a chord with a crowd mainly comprised of fans, and their voices drowned out Ocean’s own.
The day ended with sunshine and high-spirits. For hip-hop heads, the festival offered a glimpse of some acts that never usually grace the UK stage, with a few examples of extremely high-quality homebred talent. Will we see another round of the same next year? We’ll just have to wait and see.