Platt Fields, Manchester | June 9th + 10th
Manchester’s Parklife couldn’t be timed better. With 20,000 students all finishing exams, semesters and overdrafts, what better way to see off your nearest and dearest with a festival of peak-time madness that draws on almost every strand of popular music rearing it’s head at the moment. It was also wet. It’s always fucking wet. Crack unearthed a festival extremely high on fun, young in age, high in foundation and low in pretension. It was a great weekend. Oh yeah, and Crack had a stage there too. Yeah we did.
And that stage is exactly where we headed early on Saturday to catch our former feature star Martyn deliver a live special that had been programmed a few hours too early for our liking. Despite a far too sparse crowd, he delivered the wonderful heady intelligent crossover sound that made Ghost People such a hit this year. Daedalus’s Archimedes live show was a glitchy beaty treat to follow, and kept our attention locked throughout. Highlight of the stage came in the form of Hessle Audio’s back-to-back set from Pearson Sound and Ben UFO, who brought a real English feel to proceedings with a set that drew heavily from their extensive catalogue but retained a distinctly housey feel.Araab Muzik showed us exactly what we wanted with his MPC tapping madness and the whole thing was rounded off in typical fashion with a set of diverse, commercial and knowledgeable proportions from Jackmaster whose continued claim to be the ultimate party DJ on the planet gathered even more extensive weight. We came we saw and we were pretty bloody chuffed to be honest. The Crack Stage was a banger.
But there were seven other stages to explore on the Saturday. First stop, The Main Stage for a bit of Chic. Dressed in glimmering white, their wonderful back catalogue was a visible spirit rouser in the rain. Tearing through classics such as Le Freak, I Want Your Love andEverybody Dance, you couldn’t help but be enamoured.
The Crosstown Rebels tent played host to the on-trend house sounds of Maceo Plex, Art Department et al, but of all these super-cool house chaps the one that continually impresses is the boss – Damian Lazarus. His sets, while drawing on the trendy house staple, ducked into other areas of the spectrum, especially an awesome outing for Ame’s seminal minimal techno classic Rej, which we could hear played out on a Fischer Price keyboard and still go ape for.
Crystal Castles, Tom Vek and Friends did the damage on the amazing Now Wave Stage as we braved the shit weather to get back to our student digs. That’s the only way to go in Fallowfield.
On a logistical note, the crush that ensued while traversing the gates between fields was a negative aspect. In trying to get 40,000 people around a site there should have been more thought put in to how to cross the stream by the park than trying to pile them through a tiny little bridge. It resulted in crushes of dangerous proportions. A small complaint.
So Crack woke up in a hall of residence. Not doing anything dodgy mind, but after hitting an after-party in student land we thought it would be the only polite thing to do.
The line-up on Sunday at Parklife, specifically on the Now Wave Stage, was perhaps the finest single stage we’ve seen at any festival this summer. So much so it meant we were in serious danger of missing almost everything else at the festival. And who could blame us. We arrived in time for The Field’s live organic techno hypnosis to send us into a mid-afternoon trance before one of the most criminally underrated bands in the country provided us with the gig of the weekend.
Playing to an initially tiny crowd, which grew into a much more appropriate number before the end of the gig, the musicianship on display from Oklahoma’s Other Lives is utterly all encompassing. Halfway through the gig, one of Crack’s main men commented that the band were boasting an arsenal of at least 30 instruments. We voted their second album the fourth best album of last year, and this performance was a full vindication of Tamer Animals’ lofty charting. Beautiful strings, harmonies, rises and falls, their textures and subtleties amount to orchestral effect. Unique, sincere and grand on the eye, witnessing Other Lives in a live setting makes you wonder how many painstaking hours must have gone into crafting something with so many individual parts. Mesmeric.
After that level of intimacy, Jessie Ware (on her one woman mission to completely dominate this issue) was exactly what was needed, the reaction of the weekend being solely reserved for the wonderful 110%. So following Miss Ware, how do Ghostpoet, Gold Panda, Factory Floor and The Rapture sound? We literally needed to be dragged out.
And dragged we were to the Wax:On stage, to check out our favourite beaming San Franciscan and Crack’s vote for the most reliable DJ on the planet, Claude VonStroke. After partying with Claude and Julio Bashmore, we decided Soul Clap and Wolf + Lamb was probably the best way to polish things off. Working between their signature strand of blissed-out house and featuring a number of tracks from their lauded DJ-Kicks compilation, it was a pitch-perfect way to finish the weekend. If any group of DJs in the world make cooler music or look like they are having more fun doing it, we’d like to hang out with them. It was a vibe completely represented by Soul Clap’s Eli bouncing around the decks while The Wolf + Lamb guys did their thing. It was definitely the sweatiest, sexiest place to end the weekend.
Parklife has outgrown its Platts Field site and will return next year, apparently even bigger. It is quickly becoming one of the UK’s premier festivals, and with a great attitude and a line-up with something to suit everyone, it’s easy to see why. A must for 2013.
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Words: Thomas Frost