I have somewhat of a soft spot for Parklife. It could be that it is at the beginning of the festival season. It could also be that the music manages to be both up-to-the-second current and yet comfortably familiar – Goldfrapp and M.I.A being previous highlights. Whatever the case, my soft spot inhibits my reaction to over-priced drinks, queues that make you question civil rights and that at 26, I seem like the token geriatric.
The line up this year was stellar. The popsters had Little Boots and Empire of The Sun, the dance fanatics didn’t know which way to look and since half the crowd was dressed like La Roux, it would be fair to say she was mandatory viewing.
If anything, this was the first event in recent memory where choosing acts caused distress. After making the mistake of spending more time working my way to Mstrkrft than actually seeing them perform, I resolved that I would make sure I caught full shows rather than pushing the boundaries of anxiety trying to be at four stages at once.
The first set I saw in full was Little Boots. I edged my way to the front row and was brimming with excitement to see if the gorgeous Victoria Hesketh’s performance could live up to the hype surrounding her BBC Sound of 2009 win. After a shaky intro (the first two songs were almost vocal free), Hesketh’s energy and girl-next-door approach won the crowd over – Even if that crowd was smaller than predicted. Once audible, her vocals shone on crowd favourites Remedy and New In Town. Mathematics was a surprising highlight, synthesisers throbbing throughout. The best was definitely saved for last though – Stuck on Repeat’s poppy catchiness was pandemic. If anything, the biggest downfall of the performance was that it fell under sunlight.
One Mstrkrft debacle later and I found myself back at the Water Stage to witness La Roux’s first Australian performance. With my expectations higher than her own shrilly voice, it was going to be interesting to see if she could survive the hype. Elly Jackson didn’t just survive it; she was so amazing they could have re-named Parklife as ‘La Roux’s concert with supporting acts.’ Tigerlily kicked off proceedings with the instantly manic crowd bopping along. Quicksand was also an early thrill, while radio hit In For The Kill inspired hands in the air. Though it was all about Bulletproof – A ballsy and pulsating 80s inspired break-up anthem to which the audience chanted every word of the chorus with her. Jackson’s vocals were flawless, the synths pulsated and my only criticism was that I didn’t get to hear the stunning Armour Love or As If By Magic. Best of the day.
Empire of the Sun were under similar pressure. Having never performed live, missing Nick Littlemore and most likely the biggest drawcard for the day, the heat was on. The introduction saw garbage bag dressed dancers reminiscent of Zoolander’s ‘Derelict’ look while Luke Steele was donning his usual bizarre apparel. Unfortunately, the gig didn’t maintain the interest as much as the attire. Steele’s vocals were prominent and hits We Are The People and Walking On A Dream excelled but the energy slowly weakened amongst concert goers. Maybe they started too late? Maybe the Water Stage was better insulated within a tent like last year? Regardless, when I witness a group of girls chanting La Roux’s Bulletproof towards the end of Empire’s gig, it became evident the best of the day had been already been seen.
I also erred by staying for A-Trak – The only people left dancing looked like they could have danced to silence, all others were on their way. I caught a quick glimpse of The Rapture who made it easier for me to see my mistake, the crowd were frenetic and their fusing of different genres was admirable.
Park Life was by no means a perfect day. However, exciting acts, amazing performances, brilliant weather and an astonishingly behaved crowd keep Park Life at the top of the pack. Same time next year?!