It’s that time of year already, where us girls have to make the impossible choice between calf length or knee-length wellies to slush around in at the various festivals taking place over summer because one thing is certain – it’s bound to rain; c’mon this isn’t Coachella with it’s pretty palm trees and sun-kissed bodies, this is good ol’ Manchester where the big man above plans to deliver puddles galore and mountains of mud for our wet n wild festivals.
I arrived at Parklife looking like Ini Kamoze’s ‘hot stepper’ yanking my trusted wellies from inches of mud. I nestled myself in at the front of the Temple stage to catch the last half of the walking soul system’s set – 1xtra’s Jamz Supernova, who was joined by fierce Croydon MC stush, who flexed her skills to an eager crowd. Jamz parting track was a killer bass remix of Stormzy’s ‘Shut up’. Find out which jams get Jamz jumpin’ in my interview over at UK RnB. Out next week.
President T began his set with a few words of condolences for the victims of the Manchester terror attacks, which was met with appreciative cheers from the crowd; as per usual ‘Kill off killy’ went off and the heavens opened to cool everyone down. As I walked back from my interview with the lovely Jamz supernova I was tired of being on my jack jones and called the girls to get an update on their hair scares so we could throw shapes, when I spotted a flash of aqua blue from the stage – no it wasn’t aqua man (Although I would not be surprised if aquaman took up residence at Parklife with all the rain) it was none other than the saucy lil snack, Stefflon Don sporting a sleek blue wig. Mandem were looking like dinner had arrived and gyaldem were twerking to ’16 shots.’ Steff performed ‘Real ting’ like a boss and her rude gal riddims took a hold and I couldn’t help but have a bop.
Money strolled on stage in his trademark man a wear black (and grey garms) looking bigger of beard than usual and I can only conclude he must have checked the weather forecast a few weeks before he was due to perform at water world aka Manny. With ‘Gunfingers’ being released at the end of last year it was the first time I’d seen him perform the track live since its release and after doing as the track suggests – bussin gun fingers, P.money has added ‘gunfingers’ alongside‘10/10’ as tracks most likely to shut down the rave during his live sets. Grime legend and human Duracell battery Ghetts, stalked out on stage finessing in lemon fresh garms which my eyes agreed with, as he looked like he had an appointment to kill Bill as soon as his set was over; he wins gold for freshest garms of the day, having seen Ghetts’ perform festival favourites ‘Dun know already’ and ‘One take’ many times in different settings, I can now confirm he is THE best live performer within the Grime scene and he’s showing no signs of slowing down. Ghetts did his hybrid, skipping / running man / road man skank moves proving infectious to the 5000+ strong crowd who made muddy mosh pits all over the park which of course didn’t go down well with the girls who had expertly applied glitter and gems makeup. It was another memorable performance by Ghetts but where was rude kid at? He was missed.
‘What the actual FUDGE’ performance of the day was Manchester mad men Levelz who were well..on another level of madness. An MC from the group thought it was the perfect time to climb aboard an inflatable boat, launch himself into the crowd and crowd row (not surf as he was on a boat) As he was passed over a sea of grinning faces who were steering him to the muddy rivers beneath them.. all was going well until a group of people who obviously don’t eat their veg dropped him. Undeterred he got right back on the boat and carried right on crowd surfing …in a boat. There was not one person who wasn’t doubled up in laughter at this sight. As if that were not enough madness for one set a random man who can only be described as the resurrection of swamp thing tried to rush the stage, security stopped him but the lads from Levelz must have admired his boldness as they motioned for security to let him go and let him on stage. Once on stage, the mud soaked random ran across the stage doing ‘Don Cheadle rap hands’ to Levelz edgy beats. An epic moment for him being on stage in front of thousands of people and a memorable moment for us.
Brum producer Preditah hunted us all to ‘Feed (us) to the lions’ and had us all chanting his signature anthem which was a highlight of the day literally and figuratively as the sun showed itself after a day of rain. By the time DJ EZ took us back in time with garage classics ‘Flowers’ and Ms Dynamite and Sticky’s ‘Boo’ my girls had joined me at the temple stage where we all got giddy off the late 90’s vibes. Surprise performance of the day for me was J-hus, as a bona fide ever so slightly bonkers Grime head I didn’t know how I’d take to J-hus mellow sound and low-key afro beats but he performed the tracks ‘Did you see’ and ‘Samantha’ with such enthusiasm I’m now a J-hus fan and will be ‘leaning and bopping’ all over the streets of Manchester from now on. J Hus delivered an uplifting and feel good set which and I couldn’t help but grin at the warm welcome he received after the success of his recent release ‘Common sense’
AJ Tracey and MTP member Big Zuu did not disappoint and I think I almost deafened my new festival friend with my shouts of “Girls go wild in the water..” which was exactly what was going on around me in the now submerged park. Big Zuu and AJ Tracey cracked jokes with each and being members of the same crew meant their styles blended well together. AJ effortlessly shelled on tracks ‘Leave me alone’, ‘spirit Bomb’ and the Zeph Ellis produced banger ‘Naila’ which charged me up to the point of no return. Big Zuu seemed to notice the dwindling energy near the end of their set as he remarked ‘Maybe this one will wake them up, I want to see some energy’ as they went into the frantic ‘The Lane.’ AJ Tracey definitely delivered but by this point the crowd were beginning to get weary to fully appreciate it.
Then the moment had arrived to witness the greaziest, grottiest, cruddiest UK Rap Legend – Giggs. What a moment to see him perform after a 5 year wait. Giggs voice was powerful and demanded your undivided attention, his stage presence seemed to bring with it electricity with the potential to spark raw energy and carnage. Giggs voice alone will hypnotise you into believing you are Frank Ocean from the film ‘American gangster’ as his deep tone entices you to indulge in reckless behaviour. When the ‘Giggs’ assisted ‘KMT’ beat dropped I have never felt such a surge of anticipation as Drake’s lyrics boomed out after dark across the park, the crowd became a low key until THAT line “BATMAN DA NA NA NA NA” I haven’t stopped saying it for 3 days straight by the way and I’d just weened myself off saying it every 10 seconds! With his SN1 chain proudly on display, Giggs seemed to prowl and pounce across the stage, confidently striding from one side to the other teasing and playing with his victims – us. The years of practice Giggs’ has attained was evident due to his uncanny ability to throw his voice to reach the back of the park whilst the tone and pitch of his voice remained the same as when you turn him way up in your headphones or on your speakers, not an easy feat for an artist. Another notable element of Giggs performance was his use of the stage; not content with a corner, his one man presence filled the space as he hopped across the entire stage in a left foot skank to ‘Talkin the hardest’ with crowd being well aware that the correct response to the national anthem is – “Jheeeezzeeeeeeeeeeee” which was another spine tingling moment of audience participation during Giggs’ set. ‘Look what the cat dragged in’ had us old skoolers caught up in our memories and you just knew you were witnessing greatness watching his set. Giggs made us all feel like Scarface’s Tony Montana and mob wives in (fake) fur stoles for 40 manic minutes and we loved him for it.
Lastly the boys who everyone had better know by now – BBK, blessed the temple (stage) where I had stood at the altar of ‘holy grime’ (yeah my legs were feeling bruk up by now) all day long with their big set production full of lasers and atmospheric lighting especially for Skepta’s ‘Man’ for which he was drenched in Scarlett red lighting matching the black and red horizontal stripes on his top. BBK had come to parklife to check if we needed “More girls in here”, judging by the deafening screams when each member of BBK had their moment to shine I’d say the quota was met, as Shorty, Frisco, Jammer and Skepta each took to the stage with solo performances of their signature tracks before performing ‘Detox’ and ‘Shutdown’ together, which had me and my girls whineing up on top of the hill as though the festival had just begun and not about to end. DJ Maxi priest (as I like to call him these days because he blesses so many of BBK’s sets) supplied the riddims and was as always seamless in his mixing. I was gassed to see JME in his distinctive doo rag spittin ‘Man don’t care’ which I expected Giggs to join him for but it wasn’t to be. The visuals for Skepta’s ‘Man’ were unreal, as video footage was played behind DJ Maximum and froze on the now iconic image of Novelist holding a “ Stop killing the mandem” poster a small detail I noted which landed with great impact. It felt special to see BBK members (minus Wiley, whom I was sure was going to be on stage with them as he was performing the next day) perform on home surf and it felt good to have the boys home after their worldwide adventures. Poignantly Skepta asked for a minutes silence to remember the victims lost in the Manchester terror attacks and recent London attacks in a show of solidarity which had strangers hugging, before the group went out on a middle fingers up to authority anthem which also doubles up as a cautionary tale for police! ‘It ain’t safe’ as me and my girls jumped around on top of the hill looking at the immense view of the mighty BBK as our backdrop I felt sudden euphoria as I contemplated buying a ticket at the gate to eat sleep rave repeat on day 2 of Manchester’s renowned party in the park.