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Parklife festival highlights Manchester's buzzing music scene

The mud, the rain…nothing could suppress the spirit of Parklife and its host city Manchester.

The sold-out festival was ram-packed, but there was never a time where I felt uncomfortable, in fact it was welcoming. The sheer variety of musical genres present at Parklife meant that there was something for everyone. Although most attendees were between the ages of 17 and 23, I realised there is no one type of person that goes to Parklife. From glittery face paint, to tank tops, to dungarees and trackybums. The diversity of festival goers truly reflected the selection of music, with an array of grime and funky house, indie rock and soul and so much more.

As we know, not long before Parklife 2017, Manchester had to deal with the tragedy of the Ariana Grande Concert Terrorist attack. However, it seemed the city, and all of those visiting, had come together despite the disaster. Manchester was absolutely buzzing. Walking around the city to Heaton Park, ‘I love Manchester’ signs were plastered on every bus, storefront and taxi. Although there was a strong police presence, it was a comforting one; officers were bantering with festival goers, wishing us safe journeys, and in some cases cutting shapes to the music. Manchester was on top form, and seemed to be the perfect host city for such a vibrant music festival.

Aside from the swathes of mud and sprinkles of rain, Parklife was visually exciting. The lighting, sound, and picture quality was second to none. The graphics, animations and lighting designs in The Hanger, a stage which hosted predominantly DJ sets, made it hard to leave! The main stage was lit and filmed well, especially for headline acts (the large screens either side of the main stage were such great quality that no matter where you were you had a good view).

On Sunday night, Frank Ocean took to the stage (he was a little late, but we’ll allow it). He took the visual elements of his performance to another level. Coming out on a long runway, Ocean stood surrounded by what looked like a makeshift music studio; keyboard on the floor, with a couple of friends playing bass and guitar. His entire set was recorded and projected as if filmed on a retro camcorder, as different stage screens faded in and out. His performance has been the subject of a lot of criticism, but in my view (although he started a few songs twice) it was beautiful to see him highlight his amazing talents in such an intimate way.

After a great performance by Two Door Cinema Club the previous night, there was a tribute to the victims of the Manchester attacks, where screens either side of the main stage played tribute videos of artists sending their love. After, there was a speech by the mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, who welcomed emergency service workers on stage and instead of holding a minute’s silence there was a minute of lots and lots of noise in remembrance. The 1975 then began their set, exemplifying how to really get a crowd going. Also, I must mention the madness that took place when The 1975 slowed down their set with an unfamiliar track, which swiftly morphed into the funky house drop of the Shadow Child remix of ‘Robbers’. Absolutely genius. They knew how wavy their crowd would be, and they knew exactly what they needed.

Some of the highlights at Parklife were without a doubt Jess Glynne, Nao, and Chaka Khan. Jess Glynne and her incredibly funky band created new gospel and jazz inspired arrangements of her biggest hits, encouraging the entire crowd to ‘get low’. Having taken to the ‘Sounds of the Future’ stage last year, Nao returned on the Parklife main stage and gathered a large crowd, clearly full of some diehard fans. The alternative R&B singer describes her music as ‘Wonky Funk’, and for us, her intense electronic production with overly funky rhythms hit HARD. If you don’t know, get to know! And of course, the Queen of Funk, Chaka Khan. Although she seemed to be a rouge addition to the line-up of the festival, I was so glad to see her bringing in an audience of all predominantly young people. Her vocals did not quiver once, she was (of course) an absolute legend. She closed her set with ‘I’m Every Woman’ and ‘Ain’t Nobody’.

Parklife is unique because of its range of genres and styles. Aside from the big names at the main stage, stages such as ‘Sounds of the Future’ gave us performances from the likes of Stormzy, Anderson .Paak, Tom Misch, Loyal Carner, Bonsai, Little Dragon, and many more quirky and exciting fast rising artists. I look forward to seeing the line-up for 2018, and am sure we’ll see some of these artists on the main stage. Parklife is a music festival that I would strongly recommend heading to - any music lover will be spoilt for choice in such a buzzing city.

Photo Credits: Matt Wallace, Sandy Jones

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