Parklife Festival 2012
Platt Fields Park

Around this time three weeks ago, I sat in the front room of my house, huddled up in the corner, nursing a horrific hangover, which was made all-the-more worse by the mass of beers cans, mud, old food, random clothes and god-knows-what-else hiding every existing inch of carpet. There’d been the best part of 30 people crammed into our 6 person home for the weekend – and this was the result. My home had gotten to look hauntingly familiar to something from the TV programme “How clean is your house?”; somehow even the walls were caked in mud. Tiptoeing between the rubble and smashed glass I considered whether it had been worth it. Had it been worth welcoming almost thirty people into the house for the entire weekend to attend the event Parklife 2012? Even the faint smell of vomit wafting its way from the upstairs bathroom didn’t change my mind. This had been a fantastic weekend.

Now, admittedly, living in squalor for 48-hours wasn’t exactly how we’d planned the weekend to go, but the festival itself had made it entirely worth it. This wasn’t just my opinion either. Those who had been forced to sleep on the sofa or find some floor space in one of our rooms still deemed it to be a phenomenal couple of nights, and some visiting friends from Australia and the USA had considered their long trips across the pond to have been journeys well worth making. With our house being based right around the corner from Platt Fields Park, we had no trouble getting to the festival itself, and the queue time was quick and painless. There were more than enough security and police keeping an eye on everyone, and the friendly and reasonable stewards patting you down upon entry thanked everyone for co-operating and wished them a good time at the event. Admittedly, Parklife is a much smaller event than some of the others I’d been to, such as V-Festival and Leeds Festival – it’s non-camping for starters. But there was a particular vibe and sense of security here that I didn’t quite get with the bigger festivals. Inevitably our large gang dispersed into smaller segments over the weekend as everyone went to see the acts that appealed to them, occasionally stumbling across one another in a sweaty wild-eyed tent later on.

After being temporarily delayed whilst one of our more daring friends attempted to talk his way into bringing in a bottle of whisky, we veered left into the Kaluki Tent and our Parklife experience began. As an avid house music fan, I was pretty spoilt for choice in terms of who to go and see, as the line-up was spectacular for this genre of music. For those who aren’t particularly into electronic music, some of these names/terms may seem somewhat alien, but even I didn’t know who Romano & Luca Bear were when I entered the first tent of the weekend. They turned out to be solidly good DJs, playing some high tempo stuff to get the crowd in full swing. There was a smooth transition as Pete Zorba jumped onto the decks and cranked things up another notch, and by this time they had given us a strong sense of what to expect from the rest of the festival and put us in a happy, dancing mood. It was over to the Crosstown Rebels tent next where I was to spend a large chunk of my day, being spoilt by this excellent line-up from the giant label. Danny Daze was in full swing by the time we’d arrived at the tent and he gave a flavour of the Madchester days by belting out a remix of New Order’s “Blue Monday” to end his set. Clive Henry took over and provided some superb vibes as the tent really began to hit its stride, before Maceo Plex came on and acted as one of the highlights of the weekend. He’d been doing big things for the last 18 months and seeing him perform live really was a treat.

The absence of Azealia Banks had been announced weeks beforehand, as she’d cancelled many of her festival appearances in order to work on her new album. For her loyal fans this must’ve been a disappointment, but by no means a disaster. Annie Mac was shifted to the main stage to compensate and I foolishly held out little hope given the Radio 1 DJ’s inconsistent sets in the past. On this occasion she played an excellent blend of chart and pop with a bit of a ‘house’ kick to it, drawing an impressive crowd and delivering a great set. Azealia’s hit track “212” echoed around the festival throughout the weekend too, meaning that Banks wasn’t missed too much.

The pleasant surprise of the weekend came in the form of Zane Lowe. With the Kiwi being a textbook radio 1 DJ, I expected your standard chart-filled crowd-pleasing set that would tick along nicely but never really take off at all. However, Zane went way beyond my expectations. His ability to get the crowd going was incredible, if anyone else had been screaming at me to “Get the f*** up!” I’d probably have rolled my eyes, but instead I found myself going crazy. His mixing was superb, his track choice was consistently explosive with little room for breath, and his overall performance was excellent. I’d go out of my way to see him again; no matter what your taste in music he really has the ability to create a superb festival atmosphere. Sweaty and overexcited, I travelled over to the Chibuku Tent to catch some of Fake Blood, which did nothing to lower my heart rate as his fast-paced, drum-dominated anthems had me jumping around all over again. After a screaming along to “I Think I Like It”, I decided it was time for food, water and a sit down. But, being reluctant to waste my time on consuming essential needs for the body, it wasn’t long before I was up on my feet again. At that point, raving definitely seemed more important.

Sunday immediately got off to a flyer with Joy Orbison lighting up the Wax:On Tent with an exciting set; playing a great blend of future garge, deep house, and a few of his own tracks. Some of my friends caught a glimpse of De La Soul before the hip-hop trio scooted off after only half an hour playing. Despite my friends’ disappointment it has to be recognised that the rap gang had been announced as special guests only, so a huge set was never going to be on the cards. They concluded that it had been a short but sweet performance from De La Soul, and there were very few disappointments during the weekend. One of these came on the Sunday – Madeon had been creating some excellent remixes on the dance scene recently and although the programme had a 2 hour set lined up for him, he played just 30 minutes before scuttling off. This meant that the colossal Metroplex Arena was engulfed in a buzz of confused questions and puzzled looks whilst the stage remained empty for an hour and a half. Giving up, we decided to move to the other side of the park. Everyone else must’ve had this idea as a crush ensued on the bridge that linked the two main sections of the festival. Security decided to close it off temporarily whilst things calmed down, which meant that we were stuck on one particular side of Platt Fields for an hour. This proved to be a blessing in disguise as we wandered back to the Metroplex arena to see Erol Alkan climbing onto the decks 5 or 10 minutes early, and immediately snapping the crowd out of their confusion. He delivered an awesome set that eased from groovy feel-good house into hard screeching electro, and even managed to encourage the crowd to all ‘get low’ whilst he took a cheeky snap – a picture that’s definitely worth having a look at. The other disappointment was Nero on Saturday evening. Despite having an impressive-looking futuristic set with bass speakers like cannons, they never really hit the spot. They took a while to get into the best part of their set, and their mixing consisted of an irritating humming, whirring bassline between tracks. This seemed to unsettle the enormous crowd, and I spent the majority of my time being pushed from side to side as people shifted around the tent. I soon got tired and squeezed my way out to return to the Crosstown Rebels Tent, where I watched a hypnotic set from Damian Lazarus. It was the perfect way to end a tiring Saturday, with some blissful deep house music that everyone could sway and sing along to.Back to the Sunday, and a taste of Bristol came in the form of drum and bass from a worn-out looking Danny Byrd. MC Risky needn’t have had to try and get the crowd going as Byrd’s track choice had everyone bouncing around to each beat. Bristol also came in the form of deep house – Julio Bashmore giving a funky 45 minutes in the Wax:On Tent before the USA got their turn to impress. Detroit’s very own Claude VonStroke, the bonkers nice-guy renowned in the world of house music for delivering big deep bass tunes delivered a zany set that pulled in a great crowd. He even managed to throw on some Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg which saw the crowd scream in delight. It’s hard to imagine many other house DJ’s doing that. A stylishly dressed Maya Jane Coles closed Parklife with a typically enthralling set, packed with entrancing melodies, wicked drops, and a constant bass and synth that had a sea of heads bobbing for 90 minutes. MJC is worth looking up; an extremely talented young DJ with a gift for house music.

As mentioned previously, there were far too many acts for me to go and see and I was somewhat spoilt for choice. Justice and Crystal Castles drew huge crowds for their fiery sets and did not disappoint. The Flaming Lips unorthodox performance was in full force as they travelled across the crowd in transparent balls, and the festival-mad Dizzee Rascal’s south London accent rattling across the main stage was always a lot of fun. Noah and the Whale, albeit a seemingly odd choice for the festival, had their strong fan base swaying along, whilst the likes of Sub Focus, Shy FX, High Contrast, Gold Panda, Redlight and Goldie wore out those even with the greatest stamina. It was a fantastic weekend filled with talent, and a fitting tribute to its Platt Fields Park location that will sadly change next year. Not a bad way to say goodbye though eh?