The anticipation can literally be felt bleeding from the masses at the entrance to the festival, and it’s easy to see why: you could be entertained for a day just walking around this festival and soaking up the good vibes bouncing around this field. Speaking of good vibes, I managed to catch up with London based Trojan Soundsystem, the reggae outfit who helped to open up the Main Stage on the Saturday, introducing themselves as Superfour, Jah Buck and Chucky Bantan. Superfour told me “Trojan MC’s we smashin’ it up at Parklife Festival, it’s crazy, really good. The people out there, the sun’s out, it’s good vibes!” With this in mind I asked them do you think there needs to be more reggae vibes at Festivals? BothSuperfour and Jah Buck replied respectively “no doubt, definitely.” Chucky Bantan elaborated, “Absolutely, absolutely, people crave the reggae music, they look to as and they’re reacting. They need these kind of things (Festivals) to get them going, in the right place in the right thing”. Jah Buck further explained the need for reggae in a festival environment “a lot of people don’t realise that reggae music is the heartbeat, and if the heartbeat ain’t at a festival then the festival can’t flex right. Truth”. Wanting to know more about their opinion on Dub and Reggae legend David Rogan having a stage named in his honour this year, Superfour responded with “Rodigan is a veteran, he knows what he’s doing, he knows the thing.” Jah Buck expanded: “David Rodigan is a legend in the business and right around the world, he’s definitely the man in reggae music. So listening to Rodigan and growing up on David Rodigan, his music and stuff like that… he’s a franchise!” Trojan signed out with a message for the readers of Mudkiss “Big up Mudkiss! Big up Parklife!”
This encounter with Trojan basically summed up the experience of the Saturday of Parklife, for the most part it was whatever you wanted to make of it, whether that be a sweaty rave pit or a relaxed day in the sun, kicking back listening to the music and taking in the scenery. Although by the look of it, the majority of people (including me) chose the former. The main stage had a lot to offer if you were serious about experiencing live music, with Rudimental in particular delivering a blistering set and of course Plan B who closed the first day to riotous appreciation from the crowd. Yet my only complaint is that the day was a little House-heavy, with seemingly only the main stage and the Hospitality stage providing an oasis in the flood of House music. In fact, some of the insanity witnessed in the Hospitality tent made my weekend, this stage was going off. Hard. With staples of the liquid drum n bass world such as Fred V & Grafix, Netsky an London Elektricity featuring on the line up, it’s no wonder Hospitality is considered THE label for dnb.
However, it wasn’t just electronic artists on display; a select few bands were deemed worthy to grace the stage at this Festival which is considered the cutting edge of both popular music and upcoming talent. One of which was the Maccabees, whom I managed to catch up with before their set.
On the subject of profound musical experiences, Felix replied his most profound was “The Last Waltz on VHS about 15 years ago” (The Last Waltz being the farewell concert of The Band in 1976). Why? “Amazing suits you wouldn’t be allowed to wear anymore, very good interviews and good bearded wizard keyboard playing.” Wanting to dig deeper into their personal reflections on the direction modern music is taking and their views on playing at a festival that has a heavier focus on electronic music such as this one; Orlando replied with “I think there’s always room for bands, because people still feel romantic about groups, I think there’s something special about bands rather than one person or a DJ. A collective group of people doing something together is a unique thing and that ethic will never really go, it goes in and out of fashion but I don’t think that’ll ever die that idea.”.
While this answered my question, I was looking for a more personalised answer as to where they say they fit in the live arena. Orlando swerved the question “that’s kinda like two questions… (to Felix) you go.” Luckily Felix was on hand with a concise answer: “well look how many festivals there are, look how many people go and see live music that’s not just electronic music. There’s still guitar music, underground guitar music exists as much as it ever did. You still have big guitar bands and I don’t think that ever dies really, you have to adapt and live in the world we live in.” Orlando elaborated on this point “yeah it’s unfortunate maybe that physical music isn’t what it was but it’s still the best job in the world I think.”.
On the subject of being the best job in the world, I inquired as to what is best thing about being a musician aside from obviously being able to play music for fans who love the music you make? Felix was on hand with another pearl of wisdom. “Freedom to do what you want to do, you know? It’s not being constrained, ‘cos there’s so many people in the world that are creative people but through no fault of their own end up working jobs that they don’t want to do with 90% of their life. We’re very lucky people that we don’t have to do that, and we can make stuff.” Orlando’s response was… interesting to say the least. “Best way to describe it is a guy came up to me yesterday and said ‘is it great being in the music industry?’ And I said ‘yeah it’s really good fun, it’s alright’. He said to me ‘I’m thinking about being a DJ but I don’t like music’. I didn’t know what to say to that and it’s kinda like there is that kinda thing of wanting be in something you don’t… I don’t know what the point of that story was but it’s something to do with the kind of thing he (Felix) is trying to explain. “If you’re in love with it, if you enjoy every aspect of it then you can make something out of it, but you’ve got to be in it and enjoy the whole thing.”.
As a final word I asked the pair for some words of encouragement for young bands just starting out. Felix was straight in there, “Being in bands especially is about expression of your specific character, the amazing thing about music is you don’t have to be classically trained, you don’t have to be able to write music, you don’t even need to be able to play very well but as long as you’ve got something interesting and unique to you and you’re enthusiastic about it you can make a life out of that. That’s a very powerful thing that doesn’t exist in many art forms and that’s beautiful I think.”
While the performance from The Maccabees left something to be desired for me personally, the crowd lapped the performance up. Either way their integrity as musicians cannot be faulted, and this interview seemed to be a fitting end to the Saturday. Wise words from seasoned musicians.
Sunday arrived in another fit of sunshine and music, just as intense the previous day. Again the tents that were most rammed throughout the day were the DJ-heavy tents, but then again this was a DJ-heavy festival! So much so that surprisingly even Johhny Marr didn’t pack out his tent, as the rest of the festival were either raving or crashed out on the grass taking the tunes. Yet the man could do no wrong, and his renditions of Smiths tunes were an eye-opener for the younger generation and a nostalgic ferris wheel for those who were alive when The Smiths were in their prime. In fact the Now Wave Tent seemed to represent the cutting edge of underground guitar music, and as a result it was a regular haunt for the Sunday.
Highlights of the Now Wave tent were obviously Johnny Marr, but I was pleasantly surprised by Everything Everything in particular, as their non-conventional pop melodies struck a chord with the audience, definitely one to watch.
The Horrors provided an atmospheric close to the day, with their smoke filled dark stage set, but to be honest I couldn’t fault any band on this stage, but the ones mentioned particularly stood out.
Yet this is not to say that there wasn’t a plethora of talent on display on the other stages. The ‘Ape Parklife Beatdown Stage’ (try saying that fast 10 times) displayed a true variety of dance and bass music, such as dubstep legend Benga to being headlined by drum n bass titan DJ Fresh. Considering no more than three years ago I saw Fresh in Club Academy for £7 in front of a crowd of no more than 70 people, it’s amazing to see how far he has progressed in the business. Worth a mention is Rich Reason, Manchester’s resident DJ who opened the stage. Rich has worked tirelessly over the years to solidify him as a household name in the clubbing scene, and as a result his extremely popular Hit n Run nights are also worth a mention. He and Danny Misell (Head Promoter for Hit n Run) commented to me on both Parklife and electronic music as a whole. “It’s the same (the quality of electronic music) to be honest, there’s loads of shit, but there’s also loads of amazing music. But yeah there’s classic years for example I think 2009 was a classic year, you know James Blake came through and changed the script, there was Skream at his peak in dubstep, amazing dubstep coming through. On the whole it changes, that’s the thing dubstep died and they’re like ‘oh what’s next?’ The question is do you have faith in UK music producers to come up with the goods? They’ve consistently shown that they have for the last 20- 30 years. This festival is a testament to that.”
Rich Reason is definitely set to be a legend in the making, so watch out for him in the future, go attend his nights. Trust me, they’re where it’s at. Speaking of legends, this neatly brings me to what was the highlight of the Sunday for me, David Rodigan’s Ram Jam stage. The stage was a testament to the legacy of the man, who surely it can be agreed was the key player in the rise of roots dub music in Britain and indeed around the world. His set did not disappoint, punctuated with his famous outbursts ‘give me some signal!’. This was the backdrop as afternoon turned to evening, and gave the festival a warm, bassy glow. Despite the overwhelming assault of good feeling emanating from Rodigan’s tent, the main stage had much more to offer on Sunday than on Saturday, offering a much more diverse mix of hip-hop and dance music.
The Jurassic 5 of ‘Concrete Streets’ fame delivered a jumping set, and it was refreshing to see that the old-skool feel of rap is still alive and kicking. The chilling, honest vibes of the Jurassic 5 were juxtaposed with more mainstream artists such as Iggy Azalea, the new face of Madonna's 'Material Girl' clothing range Rita Ora, Wretch 32 and chart busting rapper Example. Not to imply that these artists deserve any less credence than the former, all three delivered electrifying sets that sent the crowd into a deeper frenzy as the night progressed. Wretch 32 especially impressed me, it’s not often that a British rapper can really utilize flow and vocabulary usage with his accent to deliver what was truly an example of how rap can be done right.
As the day came to an end, and the unwashed masses tramped in a fatigued mob to the exits and back to their respective after-parties, the post-festival blues were well and truly setting in. That’s the only problem with weekenders such as Parklife, with the sun and a cool breeze massaging your face, you get the feeling that the festival is going to last forever. But no sooner than it’s begun you’re dragged back into the ‘real’ world. As a general note, I’ve got to admit I wish there would have been slightly more variation in the genre of acts on display, but then again as long as a good laugh is had by all who cares? Parklife, it’s a solid B grade from me.
Review/interviews by Jake Breeze