While Liam Gallagher may have jokingly renamed the festival ‘Parkalife’, the Manchester weekender is far from a guitar-led nostalgia fest. The new generation of Manchester artists had been represented a day earlier with Levelz and the fast-rising IAMDDB, while such was Parklife’s pedigree for pop and grime that one teenager – decked in a Dave ‘Game Over’ T-shirt – could be heard gasping on the phone: “I’m at Liam Gallagher. Somebody’s filled the park with old people!”
“One teenager in a Dave T-shirt could be heard gasping on the phone: ‘I’m at Liam Gallagher. Somebody’s filled the park with old people!'”
Dave’s early-evening Sounds Of The Near Future set crackled with kinetic energy: at one point, the rapper hauls a fan, celebrating his 18th birthday, onstage to spit AJ Tracey’s bars on ‘Thiago Silva’ onstage. With the crowd behind him, it’s a truly impressive moment when he pulls it off.
At 1.25pm, in the same tent, mysterious Antipodeans Confidence Man plant their flag as one of the most joyously fun acts of the weekend. Resembling a millennial Deee-Lite, they’re a day-glo assault of choreographed dance routines – and dance-pop tunes like ‘Boyfriend (Repeat)’ and ‘Better Sit Down Boy’ bang like the cast of Love Island on heat. Before ‘Don’t You Know I’m In A Band’, they don masks of their own faces, and during ‘C.O.O.L Party’, as frontwoman Janet Planet is body-popping and deadpanning winning lyrics like ‘I even went to a party where a guy shoved a lightbulb up his ass and to be honest, this one is the best’, co-frontman Sugar Bones is walking on his hands, and gyrating in tiny hotpants which are more unforgiving than a slighted Morrissey. It’s testament to their party-starting skills that an initially confused audience are deliriously bopping by the end.
How do you follow that? On directly after them, Mabel’s slinky vocals and ‘90s-influenced pop attracts a huge crowd for a 2.15pm slot. Music may be in her DNA – her mother is Neneh Cherry and her dad is Massive Attack producer Cameron McVey – but her set, which begins with ‘Thinking Of You’ and ends with a massive ‘Finders Keepers’ further proves she’s establishing her own legacy. Dropping the new track ‘One Shot’ – a precision-tooled chart-seeking missile – she asks: “Who’s ever been fucked over? This is the cure!”, and later turns up on London rapper Not3s main stage set for their team-up ‘My Lover’ .
While pop fans – topless and covered in glitter – provide a deafening sing-a-long to Sigrid’s ‘Strangers’ while basking in the sun, Chvrches are hit by a biblical downpour. “This is a Rain Dance!” proclaims Martin Doherty as he assumes lead vocals from frontwoman Lauren Mayberry for the track ‘Under The Tide’. Yet it’s credit to their formidable arsenal of songs that they amass a sizeable crowd (still topless, with glitter streaming down them, making them resemble a drag queen’s afterbirth) that defiantly dance their way through a set that opens with ‘Get Out’ and peaks with a glorious ‘The Mother We Share’ and ‘Never Say Die’.
Skepta’s bromance with Liam Gallagher started last year, and the King Of Grime ups the ante by sauntering onstage and singing an a cappella version of ‘Live Forever’ before his set begins proper with ‘Pure Water’. “On your fucking toes! When the next beat drops, let’s go max!” he orders, as a pulverising ‘That’s Not Me’ ignites the mosh-pits. He wheels out a retinue of guest stars including Boy Better Know crew members JME and Frisco as well as rappers Suspect and Jesse James Solomon for a breathless smash-and-grab through his back-catalogue. “Everyone’s asking: where’s the album?,” he says at one point. “Right now, we’re just dropping bangers. It’s bangers after bangers. It’s bangers on bangers.” As if to prove it, the combustible ‘Shutdown’, ‘It Ain’t Safe’ and ‘Man’ prompt some of the most raucous scenes of the weekend. This isn’t his first time at Parklife this weekend, as on Saturday night, he joined A$AP Rocky to perform their recent collaboration ‘Praise The Lord’ – as that track caps Skepta’s blistering set with the main man off stage, sadly Rakim Mayers doesn’t hop onstage to return the favour.