After the blistering sunshine last year, I guess it was inevitable that the rain would show its face this year at the Parklife Festival in Manchester. On Saturday it was present for the majority of the day transforming the ground underfoot into an un-desirable toffee like substance while on Sunday it had other places to be for long periods. But by Sunday afternoon the damage had been done and the conditions at the Parklife Festival were the exact opposite to ideal for some acts.
London Grammar on the main stage already felt like a bizarre decision as their minimal stripped back sound barely reached the outer echelons of people trying to make their way from one side to the other of the crowded site. In the wet weather with the grass just about ok to sit on if you were cool with getting a soggy bum their shimmering-intimate vibes never delivered at all, which is a shame as vocalist Hannah Reid was just about pitch perfect.
Another female with her live game on lock is Croydon’s Katy B and after latest album Little Red making substantial waves it’s pleasing that old favourite On A Mission still has the weight and fresh sound to turn the swamp in front of the main stage into a unified jumping ground.
Inside, away from the angry sky water the Red Bull Music Academy tent may as well have been re-titled the Brainfeeder stage as Flying Lotus’ record label roster take over the whole evening after Zomby sends everyone into pandemonium with 40 minutes of Jungle & Rave shenanigans in between comically taking sips of beer from behind his shiny disco-ball mask and blasting the air-horn between tracks. Soon after bassist and all-round smooth guy Thundercat mellows the whole place out and the only thing missing is a camping chair to observe it all from.
Before it gets too comfortable though Captain Murphy aka Steven Ellison aka Flying Lotus lurks onto the stage clad in a military jacket and face covering balaclava mastering the comic book villain look that made him so interesting in the first place. The next half hour or so is an un-adulterated showcase of chaos, that varies from Jazz, to Hip-Hop to Disco and experimental sound-scaping.
Which is a fitting representation of both Captain Murphy’s debut mix-tape Duality and Thundercat’s latest album Apocalypse. Not content with one riotous appearance, tonight’s headliner is Ellison’s first and main endeavour, Flying Lotus. Set up between two curtains with projections being shot onto both, Flylo is barely visible through all the neon and colour burst explosions and this as much of a visual treat as it is an audio one. It’s a set that spans through the scratching of second album Los Angeles, the clock chimes and rumblings of 2011s Cosmogramma and the high end fluttering synths of Until the Quiet Comes. There is even some Queen played in the midst of it all because he ‘f*cking loves Queen.’ If you wandered upon this set by chance and you weren’t a Flying Lotus fan before there is a strong odds-on bet that you will have been after.
Unfortunately Bonobo (Simon Green) takes no leaves out of FLyLo’s book and the multi genre producer brings very little in the way of visual treats and a bare-boned DJ set does surprisingly very little to inspire. After Snoop Dogg closed the Saturday with his blend of Hip-Hop and G-funk, early Sunday afternoon tranquillity is disrupted by Pusha T who has no interest in nursing your hangover and/or come-down and ploughs through belter after belter from debut album My Name Is My Name until the gathering outside the Wildlife stage represents something similar to 8 Mile’s The Shelter rap basement. It also demonstrates that an MC and a DJ can still pack the punches.
SBTRKT live fittingly close the Sounds Of The Near Future stage and despite only having one album under his belt SBTRKT (real name Aaron Jerome) has been a front-runner for everything alternate/electronic for three years now. So much so that new track Temporary View featuring frequent collaborator Sampha had only been online for 48 hours prior to this headline slot yet two thirds of the tent were already acquainted with its hazy chorus. This hour and something set is a rock solid portrayal of what showering in glitter may feel like and as day meets night outside the sun has returned to grace the first half hour or so of Foals shutting down the festival. They play what can only be described as a greatest hits so far success story including 2007s chaotic Hummer which featured in the first series of Skins (Yes you’re that old) and polar opposite sort of lullaby Spanish Sahara.
It’s unmistakably obvious now that Foals have the catalogue to top a festival bill but tonight they have everything, the light show, the stage presence and the determination, later guitarist Jimmy Smith uploaded a photo to Instagram of his blooded guitar as he literally played till his fingers bled. The five-piece end with customary closer Two Steps, Twice and it’s obvious that this isn’t the last time this will be the final song played at the end of a festival.