160+ artists flocked to Manchester’s Heaton Park last weekend (June 10-11), including some of music’s biggest names, for Parklife Festival 2017. The city was united in a sense of togetherness and spirit, in the wake of the recent tragic Manchester attacks. It was a spirit reflected in sets from The 1975 and Fatboy Slim, while the likes of Stormzy and Zara Larsson brought a party atmosphere. Here’s the best of what NME saw at Parklife 2017.
Wielding plastic golf clubs, and stoking a party atmosphere, local collective Levelz put on the most riotous set of the weekend, with members MC Chunky and lyricist Skittles racing each other in inflatable dingies, held aloft by the crowd, and killer tunes like ‘Problem’ and ‘Drug Dealer’ offering a unique take on grime.
The 64-year-old Queen of Funk brought good-time disco vibes to a rainy Heaton Park. Opening with ‘Do You Love What You Feel’, she tore through her formidable floorfillers, culminating with ‘I’m Every Woman’ and ‘Ain’t Nobody’, resulting in a field of frugging.
Playing The Hanger stage on Saturday, Fatboy Slim played an a cappella version of ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’, leading to the entire tent deafeningly uniting in a communal version of the Oasis anthem that has turned into a symbol of defiance following the Manchester Arena terror attack.
Before The 1975’s Saturday night headlining set, the band joined Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham, festival organisers and emergency staff who dealt with the aftermath of last month’s terror attack to honour those whose lives were lost. “We didn’t want to do a moment of silence, we wanted to do a moment of noise,” said frontman Matt Healy, urging the crowd to go “fucking mental.”
Stripping his top off to screams, Healy quipped: “He’s taking his top off. Is it because he thinks he’s a rock star? Is it because he is a rock star? Is it because he’s too hot?”
“Parklife, it’s going to go off!” pledged Healy, before the band tear into euphoric set-closer ‘The Sound’. “Manchester that was our best ever show,” he tweets the next day. “You are the greatest city in the world. I am so proud to be one of you.”
Going full Snarklife, Healy delivered a sucker-punch to the Conservatives. Before tearing into the song ‘ ‘Loving Someone’, he railed “Theresa May needs to resign. She needs to stop squatting in Number 10 with a coalition that sounds like an STI. It does – I don’t want DUP.”
Blazing out of the traps with her MNEK-collab ‘Never Forget You’, the Lapp-dance artist body-pops and deploys pop-bangers with ease, culminating in the immortal ‘Lush Life’ – the sixth biggest track of last year, which today justifies its popularity.
“Look, the sun’s come out! exclaims big-lunged Jess Glynne, prior to vocally blasting her way through empowering set-closer ‘Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself’, while wearing a high-waisted glittery trousers that made her look as if she’s being slowly digested by a mirrorball. “A ray of hope!” she adds.
7Run The Jewels
To a disappointingly sparse crowd, Killer Mike and El-P arrive to their now-customary entrance music – Queen’s ‘We Are The Champions’, then rampage through a blistering politically-charged set, thrillingly trading battle-rhymes. As they mix woke with jokes. “We’re from a place that’s very confusing right now – but then your country has shit too,” says El-P, urging the throng to wrest control from the 5 per cent’s “decrepit old hands.” Fittingly, the sermon is followed by ‘Lie, Cheat, Steal’.
Crowds spilled out of the tent into the night air for Stormzy’s Sounds of the Near Future bill-topping set. “I have been waiting for this show for so fucking long”, he declared. “Put your hands in the air if you like grime music!,” he added, before tearing through ‘Cold’, spitting bars like broken teeth.
His first UK show since 2014, hotly-anticipated Frank Ocean arrives onstage 40 minutes late and launches into ‘Solo’, from 2016 album Blonde, before stopping it and starting again three times, while complaining about his headphones. It’s followed by ‘Chanel’ – which (you’ve guessed it) he stops and then re-starts. It’s a divisive performance – die-hard fans are reverential yet more casual festival-goers are put off by the meandering nature of the set.
His shirt is emblazoned with the face of Brad Pitt, an apparent nod to recent comments made by the actor that he’d been listening to Ocean in the wake of his divorce from Angelina Jolie. ”Talk about getting to the raw truth. He’s painfully honest. He’s very, very special,” raved the actor in an interview.
It’s well past 11pm when he performs his closing song ‘Nikes’, apologising “The park has a curfew”. It ends up being one of the night’s most hotly-debated sets, all further fuel to Ocean’s enigma image.