AU ABROAD

Parklife 2009 - Birrarung Marr, Melbourne (03.10.09)


Melbourne was blessed with a bright and shiny day to play host to the city’s forth annual Parklife festival, and starting my day at the Air stage was Triple J darlings Art vs. Science who successfully go the already drunk, wayfarer-clad crowd amped up and ready. All of their songs sort of sounded the same, though they were engaging and entertaining nonetheless with, of course, “Flippers” and their most recent single “Parlez-Vous Français?” bringing the energy and a few French mimes out of the crowd, as well as a cover of Basement Jaxx’s “Where’s your Head at?”

Down at the Fire stage was Bertie Blackman, with her ‘electronically motivated’ Sneaker Set, her songs stripped back though still possessing that energy, and a slight brutality in her performance of them that kept you watching and moving around with Bertie as she bounced about the stage. One highlight of the set was her Phil Collins cover, “In the Air Tonight”, everybody singing along with the songstress.

Next up on the same stage was hip hop act the Cool Kids. My knowledge of hip hop is extremely minimal, but the Michigan duo took to the stage pretty much immediately after the set before had finished, and with Mikey Rocks and Chuck Inglish standing on the very edge of the stage they incited a new wave of enthusiasm from the crowd. I have never seen hip hop live before, at least not of this calibre, but they performed with just as much energy and vigour as any other act, it was fun, exciting and had the crowd bouncing.

Over at the Water stage, I caught a portion of Little Boots set. Despite drawing a fair crowd, no one was really dancing and her electric pop songs got lost in the big space, sort of petered out and faded leaving them sounding boring and uninspired.

Next up was Lady Sovereign, who isn’t exactly my cup of tea, but with her personality being a great part of her performance she was fun to watch, this tiny-framed girl stomp around on the stage with so much bravado. She has an ego on herm that’s for sure, but knows how to work an audience and had everyone hooked on every Cockney-accented word she spat out.

Back at the Air stage was MSTRKRFT, one of the acts I was most excited to catch. Though, it appeared vowels weren’t the only things they were lacking. Their set was boring, and due to being on a bigger stage, the music didn’t radiate and all you could hear was a bass-y mess. They still managed to pull a massive crowd of people pushing and shoving trying to see whatever it was Jesse F. Keeler and Al P were doing on stage. The setting for the DJ’ing duo just wasn’t right, with too bigger stage and too early in the day to do them any justice.

I caught the end of Brisbane DJ Sampology, who got the crowd dancing and re-revved up for English electric pop quartet Metronomy. I’ve never been fussed with this bands music, but live they took on a new life. It was loud and had this edge that on record they seem to lack. The foursome were all wearing black, and donning these round lights that would flash in patterns to the beat of the music as they played. Live is definitely were this British pop band shine.

La Roux was up next back at the water stage, and surprisingly had her giant crowd dancing as one moving mass, all excited by her catchy pop numbers. Her set was surprisingly uplifting, and though in a way it sounded as if someone was just playing her record, she had me dancing, and I am in no way a fan of her music. Her single, “Bulletproof” seemed to be what everyone was hanging out for, sending the audience nuts when hearing that opening synthesizer melody.

Next was Crystal Castles, a band I had no interest in, and still maintain to have no interest in. Though the stage probably didn’t work in their favour (as it didn’t for MSTRKRFT), their music just sounded like messy noise, with Alice Glass’ vocals inaudible, though amusing to watch this black-clad, angry woman scream into the microphone with essentially no results to be heard.

Back at the Fire stage was Ballarat’s own Yacht Club DJs, in fine form and going just as mental as they had their (sort of) hometown going. Despite playing most weekends in town, I’ve always missed these guys, and even though the time I finally catch them is on this big, spacious stage, they still created this hype and energy as if playing a tiny club.

The band whose live show everyone seems to have been anticipating was Empire of the Sun, though with no Nick Littlemore, would it work? Mr Luke Steele took to the stage n some weird Star Trek-esque outfit, he and his dancers all donning some heavy-duty head gearing making them look more like the stage production of ‘The Lion King’. I found the Empire of the Sun album was one of the most bring albums of 2008, and live, well it was all that different, but a little bit more exciting, the airy soundscapes had more depth and pace. It was entertaining to watch, the elaborate backdrop a beautiful addition, the slow and atmospheric set not really anything you could dance to.

On returning to the Fire stage, I caught the tail-end of Sydney’s Purple Sneaker DJ’s, who were pretty much the crazy pick-me-up I needed. There was lots of dancing involved to a mix of old and new songs, and from memory Kanye’s infamous MTV award ‘speech’ was dropped in there somewhere too. One member was playing this interesting turntable-guitar contraption, a turntable-tar, if you will? They were exuberant performers, not just a few guys behind a desk, and had everyone ready for the night’s final act.

This is what I had been waiting for all day – New York’s The Rapture! Their up-beat dance-punk tunes were played with this fun attitude that permeated the outdoor venue. Though they haven’t released any new long-players for three years, their songs still sounded fresh and innovative, no one on the days line-up were anywhere near the same calibre as this band! Particular highlights were “Whoo! Alright – Yeah...Uh Huh”, the cowbell sending everyone in a frenzy, and proving the songs anthemic chant wrong, ‘People don't dance no more, they just stand there like this, they cross their arms and stare you down and drink and moan and diss!’ It was an hour of high energy, though the band played effortlessly, making everyone dance seemed to come so natural to them. “No Sex for Ben” was the final sing along, and definitely left the Parklife crowd wanting more.