With headliner Cardi B pulling out to recover from cosmetic surgery, and a weekend (June 8 - June 9) that saw festival-goers waterboarded by rain, the odds weren’t in Parklife's favour. But laughing in the face of adversity, the predictably raucous Manchester weekender pulled it out of the bag as mud-fer-it revellers went berserk to a line-up heaving with talent. Here’s what happened.
Parklife – the UK’s largest metropolitan music festival – saw 80,000 frenzied festival-goers descend upon Manchester’s Heaton Park for a bumper two-day line up of music across nine stages.
DJ Annie Mac had soggy hedonists at the Blade Runner-inspired Valley stage bouncing like bad cheques to a banging set on Saturday afternoon.
The London rapper rabble-roused with a megaphone during her outstanding early-doors Saturday Parklife stage turn, which showcased tracks from this year’s acclaimed ‘GREY Area’ album.
Slowthai made great use of the catwalk erected for Christine and the Queens, prowling up and down it with rabid intent. Transforming the Sounds of the Near Future tent into a jacuzzi of flailing limbs, the Brexit bard played tracks from his debut ‘Nothing Great About Britain’, stripped down to his boxers, incitesd chants of ‘Fuck Theresa May!’ and hauled one fan onstage to fill in for Skepta on ‘Inglorious’. “I want fucking carnage!” he demanded. He gets it.
Celebrating his seminal album ‘Illmatic’ turning 25 this year, Nas demonstrated its enduring influence by dropping cuts such as ‘NY State of Mind’, ‘Life’s a Bitch’ and ‘It Ain’t Hard To Tell’. Rocking double denim, the rap royal effortlessly stoked a party atmosphere, with an hour-long set that peaked with ‘One Mic’.
Performing against a backdrop looked like he was Airbnb-ing in Castle Grayskull, Streatham rapper Dave ignited the moshpits with a high-energy set that included ‘100Ms’ and ‘Location’.
Showing the crowd his bandaged ankle, he says: ‘I’m sorry if you see me limping. There’s now way I’d cancel I’d cancel on you guys. I’d do this show on crutches if I had to.” A pointed dig at the missing megastar?
Headlining the Sounds of the Near Future stage, Chris(tine) and the Queens offer a full dazzling arena pop production to an intimate crowd that made her performance feel even more life-affirming. "This show is extra special because I can actually see your faces,” she said as she led her dancers through inventive choreography to the funky likes of ‘Comme si’ and ‘Tilted’. “You can call me Chris now,” she added, referring to the alter-ego she’s adopted for the 2018 album of the same name. “We don’t have time for ‘-tine and the Queens. These are urgent times!”
“You guys just make me want to be naked and vulnerable,” she exclaimed, before marshalling a spine-tingling acoustic sing-a-long of David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’.
“Manchester, if you feel good tonight, make some noise! We’re going to get into some Late Night Feelings,” battle-cried Mark Ronson, before dropping his Lykke Li collab of the same name. Newly promoted to Saturday night headliner status following Cardi B’s last-minute cancellation, he paid tribute to her by dropping ‘Bodak Yellow’ into his DJ set of his armour-clad pop hits including sad-banger 'Nothing Breaks But A Heart'.
Pop powerhouse Mabel unleashed her velvet lungs and chart-seeking missiles like ‘Fine Line’ and ‘Ring Ring’ onto the main stage on Sunday afternoon – and enlisted
Not3s for a run-through of their slinky collab ‘My Lover’. Culminating with the Kojo Funds-assisted ‘Finders Keepers’, she turns a boggy field into a sweaty dance party.
Stockport’s mighty Blossoms were welcomed by billowing purple smoke as flares were let off in the crowd. As a guitar band incongruity on a line-up dominated by beats, Tom Ogden and co inspired cacophonous sing-a-longs to the bulletproof likes of ‘There’s A Reason Why (I Never Returned Your Calls)’ and ‘Charlemegne’. C'mon – Blossoms at a festival in Manchester is an easier sell than picnic baskets to Yogi Bear.
The soul smoothster took to the Parklife stage early Sunday afternoon to air songs from last year’s ‘Village’ album.
“Manchester make some fucking noise!” demanded Stefflon Don as she brought brash, technicolour bravado to a heaving, appreciate Valley stage. Who are they to argue?
The Don marshalled her silver-clad dancers through a set that began with ‘Lil Bitch, and culminates in the US Top 10-gatecrashing ‘Hurtin’ Me’.
“Parklife, I gave you the sun!” beamed Mike Skinner as the rains stopped. “It cost me a lot of money to buy that sun!”. The lad-laureate celebrated The Streets' first UK festival performance in eight years by showering the crowd in champagne, bantering and tearing through a setlist that leaned heavily on his game-changing 2002 debut ‘Original Pirate Material’ and 2004 follow-up ‘A Grand Don’t Come For Free’.
After the cathartic anthem ‘Dry Your Eyes’, he ramped up the energy by scaling the barrier and crowd surfing to the aural-stag-weekend of ‘Fit But You Know It’.
Going up against The Streets, Mura Masa brought out a retinue of guests, including Slowthai, as the pair embarked on an incendiary run-through of their punk-rap collab ‘Doorman’.
With a face that’s 98 per cent enamel, the ever-smiling George Ezra brought infectious joy to Parklife as he headlined the main stage on Sunday. His set began with an alarm clock and the sampled sound of Radio 1 Breakfast Show DJ Greg James introducing him as “the songs of a beautiful man”, before he launched into opener ‘Don’t Matter Now’.
He likeable set included ‘Barcelona’, ‘Budapest’ and others that don’t begin with the letter B. A fiesta atmosphere reigned during standout moment ‘Hold My Girl’, as the brass section jammed and pyro exploded. “Full disclosure – I completely forgot those fireworks were going to go off, he laughs. “I nearly shat myself!”
A barnstorming ‘Shotgun’ was met by a field of dancing, his performance drawing to a celebratory close.
Over in The Valley, Diplo’s Major Lazer dropped a crowd-pleasing set of remixes, which included tracks from Drake and Travis Scott, creating sensory overload with pyro and ticker tape canons. George Ezra must have crapped his vital bodily organs out.
It's been a blast.