The rain fell from early Thursday and didn’t seem like stopping as Saturday welcomed the first day of Manchester’s Parklife - a Platts Field Park conquering Northern equivalent of London’s Field Day - which despite bad weather and organisation still managed to be a success; mainly because of the music.
First up was DJ Yoda on the main stage, whose predictability in no way lessened the enjoyment of his mash-up of old school classics, turntablism and party tunes. Over at the Now Wave tent Django Django did a good job of building on a burgeoning reputation with their strain of avant-garde psychedelic pop. Singer and guitarist Vincent Neff is an intriguing figure: a weird of mix and debonair and mad and engaging, and the calming harmonies of ‘Waveforms’ or the bric-a-brac ‘Storm’ revealed the band’s hidden depths.
Chic immediately got people in the party sprit, never mind that their set was almost a carbon copy of the one they played here last year. Consisting of ‘La Freak’, ‘I’m Coming Out’, ‘Good Times’, a slew of classics such as Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’ and an appearance by Johnny Marr on guitar, It was pretty hard to fault.
Busiest audience-pull of the day award on Saturday went to Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs - Orlando Higginbottom plied his retro house at the Now Wave tent as security had to stop people entering - whilst biggest strop of the day belonged to Kelis, who mumbled about the stage after coming on late then stormed off after the promoters cut her sound.
AraabMuzik at the Thrasher tent tore into his MPC2500 sampler, fingers moving at breath-taking speed as he beat out much of his fine debut Electronic Dreams, whereas Noah and the Whale gave a lesson in understatement, ‘Blue Skies’ dissecting heartbreak and ‘L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N’ closing things with aplomb.
The Flaming Lips also played it quietly, reclining into a set in which they spent long passages barely playing a thing, or dancing around maniacally. It was almost boring – a quite lovely ‘Yoshimi’ aside – but mattered little as they eventually break into a closing couplet of ‘Race For The Prize’ and ‘Do You Realise?’ As cannons burst confetti outwards and lights shine out onto the smiles of the crowd below, a truly breath-taking festival moment flowered.
On Sunday the sun shone, though Joy Orbison used the Wax:On Tents dark recesses to run through a set of speed garage bass, his own gurgling ‘Sicko Cell’ and Caribou’s ‘Sun’. Annie Mac meanwhile, shifted over onto the main stage, played a little more lightly. Skrillex aside, her set mainly consisted of party bangers: no less A-Trak’s skilful staccato take on the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s ‘Heads Will Roll’.
Over at the Now Wave tent Gold Panda bashed into a sampler no less dextrously than Araabmuzik did the day before. His songs rely on the silence in between sounds, however, and long swathes of crackle and static chatter used as rhythm and melody. An early ‘You’ is a highlight, its orient inspired fidget pop willing the crowd into hearty cheers.
The sound was much less finely tuned over at the main stage, as De La Soul became another headliner to suffer from a misfiring PA during the weekend. It doesn’t help that they don’t play their best material for a crowd that clearly want to hear it. Erol Alkan, however, did what he knows best, splintering Metronomy’s ‘The Bay’ into a hundred different ideas and adding songs until his woozy electro forms a woven tapestry of warping sounds.
Finally Sunday’s sun started to fade and the fields finally gave up, mud and liquid filled the final few hours as Dizzee on the main stage entertains the last of the moon-eyed revellers and Maya Janes Cle over at the Wax:On tent plays a set so taut you feel it might just snap. It’s a fitting end to a good festival, which with a few improvements might just be great.