Parklife 2011 - Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne (24.09.11)

Parklife 2011 really was a thing of beauty. It came complete with perfect weather, a great line-up, good crowd and short drink queues. The organisers have found the perfect setting for the festival at Sidney Myer Music Bowl in the heart of Melbourne. In such lush surroundings it’s easy to forget that the CBD is only a quick stroll along the Yarra away. And so the scene was set for another cracking round of cutting edge electronic and indie vibes.

You know it’s going to be a good day when it starts with a mind blowing set from the gorgeous Kimbra. The affable songstress was pitch perfect in delivering all the big cuts from Vows, her freshly released debut record. Latest single "Good Intent" was well received as was "Settle Down". The epic close to "Plain Gold Ring" (a Nina Simone cover) was spine tingling with Kimbra’s vocal talents on full display. "Cameo Lover" received the biggest reaction as the eager crowd danced and raised their hands in a sign of approval.

Next up was a trip to the Cave stage to see Tensnake do his thing. The German DJ delighted the growing audience by dropping some choice remixes in with his own hits such as "Coma Cat" and "Something About You". Cool as a cucumber, Tensnake built the crowd up and knocked them down repeatedly and the look on his face suggested he was having the time of his life.

On the way to see Death From Above 1979 play, this writer had the pleasure of a brief chat with Rhys Radical from RedBerryPlum. The RBP collective opened the festival at midday, which admittedly was a little too early for this reviewer. But having caught the band a couple of times in recent months they are certainly ones to watch. We can thank Rhys for the cover art on Kimbra’s Vows LP.

Those in attendance for DFA 1979's set witnessed the group’s first shows since they split in 2006. And man, the crowd acted like they’d been waiting patiently for five years for this show as dudes were losing their shit throughout. As soon as Sebastien Grainger and Jesse F Keeler cranked into the opening track full beer cans went flying, booze was being sprayed in every direction and, for the first and only time it happened all day, crowd surfers emerged riding a wave of fellow thrash-metal fans. The punk-noise kings dropped a number of tracks from their only full-length release You're A Woman, I'm A Machine. Given this record was released in 2004, let’s hope some new material emerges from these reunion shows.

Katy B provided the first glimpse of the main stage action for the day. Arriving at the end of the set, radio bangers such as "Lights On" and "Katy On A Mission" had the amphitheatre up and grooving along to the beats.

Sticking to the main stage, Mylo quickly emerged on the decks and dropped a rather pedestrian DJ set. In fact, it was the only let down of the day. The DJ dropped big chart hits such as "Rolling In The Deep" by Adele and "When Doves Cry" by Prince, which received a decent reaction from the smallish crowd. It wasn’t until "Drop The Pressure" closed the set that the place came to life but oddly enough Mylo was on stage rolling a cigarette as the beat dropped. This reviewer can’t speak for the rest of the people watching but isn’t the DJ supposed to pump up the crowd and look like he gives a shit?

Now someone who gives a shit is the always lovely Santigold. Arriving on stage with backup dancers dressed as cheerleaders, the high energy set was banging from the jump and was all the better for a full live band. Dropping "LES Artistes" second in your set is a good way to get the audience’s attention. Santigold did a superb job of mixing the frantic and chilled elements of a set relying heavily on 2008’s eponymous debut record, Santigold. Most recent single "Go" was huge so let’s hope the new album hits the streets soon.

The Cave stage was one of the better on the day. It felt like Parklife’s hidden backyard and was home to a bass heavy set from Joker and MC Nomad. The dubstep pioneers played an eardrum shattering set of bangers that had those watching jumping around like they were listening to House of Pain.

One of the true highlights of the day was the German electro-pop duo Digitalism. The band’s sound was hard hitting thanks to a live drummer and appropriately drew a massive flock of people. Opening tracks "Idealistic" and "Forrest Gump" had the audience eating out of the palms of their hands. Lead vocalist Jens Moelle held it down during an energetic display during "I Want I Want". Whilst the best visual effects of the day occurred during "Two Hearts" with 3D hearts and skulls mesmerising the thousands watching on.

Time was split between The Streets and Gossip as the night neared its end. Everyone loves a good music festival but everyone hates the inevitable clash of bands!

Mike Skinner and The Streets were in awesome form with Skinner dressed in black and involving the crowd with friendly banter throughout the set. "OMG" from 2011’s Computers and Blues was up early and hit the mark live. The Streets’ old and the new tracks blended perfectly as "Fit But You Know It" caused raptures and "Going Through Hell" held it down just as well. In fact, the latter drew a response from a female punter that must have brought a smile to Skinner’s face – the extended flashing of two of the better fake boobies anyone is likely to see this summer! Backed up by full live band, The Streets’ back catalogue came to life in what is being reported as the band’s last ever shows. But then again John Farnham has retired 15 times so maybe this isn’t the end.

Being in the media pit for Gossip’s set was breath taking and really allowed one to get a sense of the true presence of the larger-than-life Beth Ditto. Ditto stated this was the band’s first gig in nine months but you wouldn’t have known it. Dressed in a snug fitting black dress covered in gold crosses, the bare footed icon ripped through opening number "Vertical Rhythm" without losing a beat. The band dropped "Standing In The Way Control" early in the set and blew the Sidney Myer Music Bowl apart – epic stuff! Ditto’s facetious nature was on full display as the out-lesbian introduced "Men In Love" by stating “This is for all the faggots and the dykes”. The band played a killer set including "Four Letter Word" and a cover of Dolly Parton’s classic "Jolene" before closing with crowd pleaser "Heavy Cross".

Closing out Parklife 2011 on the various stages were Lykke Li, Duck Sauce, Magnetic Man and Simian Mobile Disco. A hard choice had to be made and the honours went to Scandinavian beauty Lykke Li. The reasons being Lykke Li’s recently released second record, Wounded Rhymes, is pretty rad and it also helped to be hanging out with a few of her die-hard fans. Lykke looked stunning in a black gauzy gown and dropped a crowd pleasing set including the likes of "I Follow Rivers", "Youth Knows No Pain", "Rich Kids Blues", "Dance, Dance, Dance" and "Sadness Is A Blessing". She finished the night with "Get Some" and everyone singing “I’m your prostitute, you gon’ get some” in unison.

In the end, Lykke Li was the right decision and closed out an amazingly well run day. A big up to the organisers as Parklife continues to be the perfect precursor to the summer months ahead.