As the legendary Bob Marley put it, ”Sun is shining, the weather is sweet; make you wanna move your dancing feet…” - nothing could describe Parklife in Adelaide better. Traipsing through the Botanic Gardens on a Sunday were hundreds of punters keen for a dance along to tunes provided by over 35 national and international acts and as I’d find out as the day continued on, the artists were just as keen to get in on the party as we were.
I arrived just as Sydney man-of-the-moment Flume was wrapping up his set; the DJ pulled a great crowd early on and seemed to be getting through his set with relative ease, quite the feat considering he’d been famously thrown into a pillar at the Oxford Art Factory in Sydney by a bouncer only days before. Still, with his arm trussed up in a sling, the DJ managed to provide some great early beats to kick the day off and the crowd did well in showing their appreciation.
Meandering over to Sahara, I arrive early enough to get a comfy spot for Hermitude. Safe to say, the duo’s fans are insane – for an early afternoon slot, the Blue Mountains act pulled a great amount of people who didn’t break in focusing their energies in throwing their bodies back and forth along to their infectious beats. The hip-hop act have drawn much deserved acclaim for their HyperParadise album, and it’s clear that they’ve created a well-oiled live show to accompany the throbbing yet sophisticated music which is featured on the record.
My schedule of bands-to-see today wasn’t as full as last year’s; to be quite honest, the line-up this year only really offered a handful of acts that really caught my eye. On the upside, I found myself wandering about the site, getting earfuls of acts I’d never even heard of previously, St. Lucia being one of them. Nestled in on the Atoll stage, the New York/Johannesburg artist put on one of my favourite sets of the day. This man and his live band are made to be performing at this sort of festival; their melodic indie synth-rock stylings matched the chilled-out party vibe of Parklife and it was slightly disappointing to see that they hadn’t drawn a bigger crowd. Songs like “September” and “All Eyes On You” prove that St. Lucia is more than your run-of-the-mill Pitchfork darling, bringing an extra level of depth and texture to their songs which undoubtedly will have won over many a Parklife-goer who happened to swing past the Atoll stage earlier in the day (not to mention the fact that they’re extremely good looking, it’d be hard not to stop).
The next band I was able to catch and enjoy was everyone’s favourite MGMT-samplers, Chiddy Bang. The Philly boys are fun – to give a nutshell description. They had a great rapport going with the crowd, from Chiddy’s improvised freestyling, through to Xaphoon’s banter and entertaining dance moves. The ladies in the front row loved each moment when the duo would acknowledge their presence and mass crowd responses ensued when songs like “Ray Charles”, “Mind Your Manners” and of course, “Opposite of Adults" were dropped, respectively.
A change of pace came with the onset of Plan B’s set. Heralded by a fantastic beatbox artist who wowed everyone before the man himself made his entrance, Plan B caused a shitload of chaos as he brought his Ill Manors record to life on stage. I missed his cover of Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose”, but for the most part, I was impressed with the Brit’s versatility as a performer. Much like The Streets did at Parklife last year, Plan B and his band played off each other the entire way through the set, shoving and rapping into each other’s faces as if it was a playful battle to be demonstrated for the crowd. From where I was stood in the photographer’s pit, watching Plan B’s face burn a deep red with concentration and the sweat fling off it as he worked his way through “Ill Manors”, “Falling Down” and “Stay Too Long” was powerful and he was buzzing off the crowd’s enthusiastic yells of “Oi! I said ‘oi’!”. Plan B was an act who, if you asked me last year, I wouldn’t have picked to have enjoyed, but today he proved to be quite entertaining.
Chairlift had a considerable crowd gathered for them over at Atoll; the synth-poppers, last seen in town on the Laneway Festival tour are quirky but have some insanely infectious tunes which are hard not to tap your foot to. Caroline Polachek was on form – for such a waif-like figure, she really knows how to deliver some penetrating vocals, all the while cutting some serious shapes on stage. The more indie proportion of the Parklife crowd channelled their best stilted moves as Chairlift delivered some excellent renditions of “Sidewalk Safari”, “Frigid Spring” and “Amanaemonesia”, all of which was very entertaining to watch.
Switching things up following Chairlift is British rapper Wiley and his crew. Again, his set came at a point of my timetable where I had time to kill, so I didn’t really have any expectations of his set. I remained slightly confused as to what I was watching for the most part, as his set was dominated by the appearances of guest vocalists; although it was fun to watch other Parklife artists getting into it side stage (or in Caroline Polachek’s case, onstage), it seemed like nothing really stood out. A highlight did come in a cover of Blur’s “Parklife” (boom boom), where Wiley did some impressive rhymes over the seminal Brit-pop hit. It was Wiley’s current hit “Heatwave” that seemed to resonate most with the masses however, causing bodies to wind and grind both on and off stage.
Tame Impala were one of the bands who I’d pencilled in specifically for today’s festival, however I missed half their set because I was interviewing The Presets instead (go on, tell me I need to stop whinging). I did manage to catch the Perth psych-rockers really hitting their stride and luckily for me, was able to catch the epic all-in performance of “Half Full Glass of Wine”, which featured members of Chairlift, Passion Pit and anyone else who wanted in, prompting a huge response from the crowd. I’d never really appreciated how talented the band was as a bunch of live musicians, but seeing some of the extended solos and especially the some Lonerism material performed live, my respect for Kevin Parker and co went up tenfold.
One of the more anticipated sets of the night went to Boston’s Passion Pit. With lead singer Michael Angelakos’ battles with mental health leading to multiple shows in the US being cancelled earlier in the year, I feared that this tour would be called off as well. Thankfully, Angelakos seemed to be well enough tonight when he and the band emerged on to the Atoll stage to epic screams. Their album Gossamer remains one of my favourites of the year and it was great to see the record get a decent run in the set tonight. One thing that has always struck me about Passion Pit is the amount of energy they bring to a live show, especially in Angelakos’ trademark vocals – the range that man has is phenomenal. “It’s Not My Fault I’m Happy”, “Carried Away” and “Gossamer” were highlights from the new batch of material, whilst the double whammy of “Sleepyhead” and “Little Secrets” resulted in confetti and streamer cannons showering an already deliriously happy crowd to close the set. Once again in the photo pit, I found myself dancing like a loon with members of staff who’d stolen away to check the set out, tangled up in red and yellow streamers without a care. Most definitely one of the best sets of the entire festival.
Dragging myself back to Sahara, the temperature had dropped considerably, but the mood had not. French producers Justice were winding up their DJ set, smoking away like the aloof and casual music men they are. I’d seen them DJ at Summadayze last year and wasn’t blown away, but arriving on the tail end of their set tonight, they provided some good tunes to get me keen for The Presets.
Pacifica has proved to be yet another huge record for the Sydney duo – after spending four or so years out of the spotlight, The Presets have shown an impeccable return to form with the follow up to Apocalypso. Tonight marked the first time I’d seen them in three years and after interviewing them a few hours before, it was safe to say that I was incredibly keen. Their set list was balanced and with their epic light show and the ridiculous force behind their live performances (Kim Moyes on drums is something to be beheld), The Presets reminded the crowd why they remain at the top of the ladder in terms of popular Australian dance music. Julian Hamilton’s vocals on “Promises”, “A.O.” and “This Boy’s In Love” were as electric as the sounds he produced, while it was freakish to witness the cultish crowd response throughout “Ghosts”. “Youth In Trouble” was a highlight, bringing a moment of irony as multiple girls found themselves being yanked over the barrier in festival-induced messes, while it was the undeniable call-to-arms anthem “My People” which brought everyone to a frenzied climax – what better way to end a festival with these guys?
Sure, this year’s Parklife didn’t have me rushing from stage to stage in attempts to not miss out on every single class act on the bill, but the change in layout (the main stages moved closer together) gave for easier access. Apart from a few bands who I knew would bring the goods, I found myself surprised by the amount of great artists I wandered past through the day who I still can’t remember having heard of before – as a music festival enthusiast, this is one thing I enjoy above most other aspects of the event.