Like most things in my life I took a complete u turn last-minute in my decision to attend the North’s ever expanding Parklife festival; the game changer for me was finding out only 2 weeks before the 11th and 12th June festival that Radio 1Xta were bringing the gritty to the already grisly North with a plethora of Grime artists featuring on their stage. One hurried glance at the line up and seeing Grime don Skepta was performing turned me into Gollum, eager to get my hands on “the precious one” and grab a ticket ASAP before the inevitable ‘Sold out’ signs started to pop up. To my disappointment standard weekend tickets – gone, standard one day tickets – dun kno, but a quick scroll n slide down skiddles’ price list confirmed there were still weekend V.I.P tickets up for grabs, were the likes of Skepta, Stormzy, Ice cube, Busta Rhymes and many more worth paying the £40 extra for V.I.P? – Hell to the yes and I’d get to piddle in poshness and avoid the putrid stench of the portaloos – BONUS!
Having written off Park life Festivals of past as an indie based affair and being put off by reports of violence and loss of life I was surprised to find myself giddily wheeling Betty (My leopard skin suitcase) across Manchester’s coach station to be picked up by my friend to stay with her in Bolton for the weekend (back to front seeing as the festival itself was located at Heaton Park, Manchester, but one must present themselves where the party is in progress) With the gal gang assembled early doors and shots lined up before midday on Saturday like a squad of soldiers ready to intoxicate and inebriate the four of us we were ready to roll. Whilst queueing to gain access to the festival it struck me how vigorous security checks were on the guys, due to the fact the violent incidents which threatened to see the festival shutdown permanently had involved men. While the men got a full body pat, searched and scanned with metal detectors, women were only subjected to a glance into their handbags and were not asked to remove its contents.
Having successfully smuggled in two Capri suns full of vodka as chicken fillets in our décolletage (makes for a great boost girls as well as a way to avoid paying the extortionate prices of the alcohol being served on the grounds) we went in search of a vodka chaser before taking in any of the acts. With the four of us clutching an assortment of Fanta, coke and slushy’s to chase the spirits away we intended to stroll over to my mecca – the 1 Xtra stage but we were stopped dead in our tracks by a rumbling B-line which seemed to settle under our feet and rise to our chests. As we looked on we saw hordes of people rushing to the MTA tent and the words Rude Kid flashed up on-screen and with that I was off like an athlete in the Olympics! Rude kid had the tent bouncing, we’d been at the festival less than an hour and were already shacking out until we were out of breath and his set was just what we needed to start the festival off as we meant to go on. When the ‘One take’ instrumental dropped there was not one person in the tent stood still and by the time Ghetts came out to lend his energetic vocals and infectious stage presence the crowd was on a next level madness. Once Rude kid’s set was Dun know already I found myself muttering between sips of potent vodka / Fanta “Please don’t go rudey stay with us play more fiyyaa” by this point it was safe to say we were all on our way to being suitably sloshed.
Next up at the MTA stage was Bugzy Malone who put in a solid performance and his passion was ever-present, his set felt lower key in comparison to the previous set which I attribute to the fact Bugzy has meaningful and deeply personal lyrics in his back catalogue which require you as the listener to stop and reflect rather than leap about. Bugzy Malone did Manchester proud as one of the few northern artists on the line up. Having had time to catch our breaths during Bugzy Malone’s set (we didn’t get involved in his ‘Mosh pit’), we were ready to move on to see the comeback king Craig David. We slushed through the mud only to realise Craig David was also playing at the MTA stage and there was no need to move in the first place! Making our way back to where we had begun feeling like complete muppets Craig David’s set was in full swing but having lost our place we were now on the perimeters of the tent getting rained on. Once we forced our way inside, Craig David not only dropped his classics ‘Fill me in’, ‘7 Days’ and ‘Rewind’ he also dropped a hectic DJ set which is worthy of touring in its own right to Ayla Napa or Ibiza proving yet again that he is a man of many talents. His mixing was flawless, high energy and current.
By the time we left the MTA tents banging bass lines it was looking like swamp thing outside and we were trying to stay steady on our feet in our heavy wellies to avoid taking a mud bath as we carefully manoeuvred around the slushy piles of mud created by the constant rain that showed no signs of letting up. As we approached the main stage where Stormzy was performing ‘Wicked Skengman.’ Decked out in a black Adidas track suit his stage presence was strong but unfortunately the sound on his set was not. From where we were stood in the middle of the crowd, poor sound had reduced Stormzy to a few decibel’s above a whisper and we found ourselves straining to hear what he was saying. Luckily his tunes are so well-known and catchy that by the time the opening bars of ‘Shut up’ floated over to us we were able to pick up the ‘Functions on the low’ instrumental to be able to la la la la la la with the melody as Stormzy led the crowd in a mass sing along to the instrumental, as the crowd sang along the love Stormzy received from the crowd was immense and it was clear he was basking in his much deserved moment of glory.
Stormzy passed the baton to those little poppets ‘Years & years’ who surprised me (being a Grime head and all) with a very upbeat and crowd pleasing performance, their pop friendly feel good vibes set the tone for the fun and happiness a festival is supposed to bring to its attendees. Bouncing around like a grownup Jedward, lead singer Olly takes the trophy for most colours incorporated into one outfit as the colours on his jeans and top seemed to swirl into one giant travelling rainbow (or maybe that was the alcohol tightening its grip) songs ‘Desire’ and ‘King’ had the crowd singing to their heart’s content.
With the skies dimming as it approached early evening over Heaton park the main man took to the main stage, the great West coast warrior and Compton king that is – Ice Cube. ICE CUBE leaving his sunshine state in the good ol’ U.S of A to perform in our rainy city on our tiny island! I couldn’t believe it! The four of us stood and stared in awe for a while as Ice Cube ran through his hits including ‘Amerikkka’s Most Wanted’ and ‘It was a good day’ it was as though we were watching a hologram as we had all listened to Ice cube’s music in the early 90s and with the film ‘Straight outta Compton’ bringing the golden era of hip hop to the forefront of everyone’s minds recently it made his inclusion on the line up all the more special. The man in black had ‘Westside’ emblazoned on his baseball style jersey and I couldn’t help but think – this guy traded verses with Eazy E and Dr. Dre and also saw Tupac on the come up etc. this was a living legend from one of THE greatest Hip hop collectives of all time and I was lucky enough to see him perform in my home city during my lifetime – It doesn’t get much better than that!
More than half way through Ice cube’s set my friend and I thought we could get the other two girls to leave to get in a ‘Rari work out’ with our gym instructor Lethal Bizzle but one look at their stunned faces looking up at Ice cube and a quick scan of the size of the park soon made us realise we’d be separated with the seas of mud acting as a gulf between us making it impossible to find each other again so we watched King Cube until the end of his set and made our way to the 1Xtra for the first time that day (not in my plans at all) to see our final act of the night K-A. By the time we got to the 1Xtra stage I was engulfed in the waves of vodka I’d consumed throughout the day courtesy of my temporary chicken fillets aka Capri suns concealed expertly in the chesticle department, yes I was well and truly WAVED. Once we’d nestled into position at the 1Xtra stage which was conveniently placed near the parks’ exit the grungy guitar licks of ‘Hail’ rang out from the stage which sounded electrifying in a festival setting. By the time Kano performed ‘New Banger’, ‘3 wheel ups’ and ‘Garage Skank’ I’d acquired a “Dance Partner” from London by the name of Kadeem (Big ups man like Kadeem) who thought we were auditioning for the starring roles in a ‘Dirty dancing’ remake. A super skank out ensued between my friends and his friends which eventually morphed into a muddy mosh pit which was the perfect end to a day of madness, mayhem and mud baths! After Kano performed a spine chilling rendition of ‘This is England’ which added a whole new element to the song hearing it live and with fellow English men and women stood around me I felt a sense of pride and certainty as my wellies sunk into another muddy ditch that – ‘This IS England’ and come rain or shine, sun or mud we know how to put on a festival and have fun under any circumstances. Our host the city of Manchester did us proud.
As we all slumped in the back seat of our taxi falling asleep on each other’s shoulders croaking the songs we’d heard throughout the day with voices that were soon to be lost, our feet throbbing and begging for a sea salt soak in a bowl of warm water one of the group piped up “Oh FFS we’ve got to do this all over again tomorrow” …………
Regrets of day 1: Not seeing Grime greats – Lady Leshurr, Novelist, Lethal Bizzle and Logan Sama