Parklife @ Sidney Myer Bowl, Melbourne (24/09/11)

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“This is about as fun as stabbing myself in the cock,” were the apt words of one man waiting in the excruciatingly painful, three hour-long, media line to get into Melbourne Parklife 2011. Arriving in a reasonably timely fashion just prior to 2pm, it wasn’t until 5 o’clock that I finally graced the other side of the Sidney Myer Bowl’s mighty fence.

“You only just got in here?” one concerned friend asked me, “I’ve already thrown up!” Yes, a lot can happen in three hours – the number of acts I missed in that time reads like a series of steady blows: Kimbra, Tensnake, Little Dragon, Adrian Lux, Katy B and Death From Above 1979 all proving just a few metres too far out of reach. This may just be a trauma that will stay with me for life.

Luckily, once inside the sprawling line-up of dance, electro, dubstep and indie acts had set the day in full swing. After a quick stop at the energised Spanish-electro newcomers Crystal Fighters, it was over to Flux Pavilion at the intimate The Cave stage. Dropping dubstep powerhouses like I Can’t Stop, man-behind-the-monkier Josh Steele hosted a standout set, fostering a collective sway from the crowd which one audience member christened “the Mexican dub-step wave”.

Next up was Santigold, whose visual performance alone was worth a visit. Between a two-piece horse costume, a pair of exceptionally dressed, synchronised and amusing back-up dancers and the 20-odd members of the crowd brought up on stage to join her, the eminently cool singer’s performance had no shortage of spectacle. And with raucous audience response to tunes like L.E.S Artistes and Creator, Santigold also proved that the long wait for her still-upcoming second album has not depreciated her fan base.

Towards the electro side of the lineup, rave-makers Digitalism played an enjoyable set let down only by some of the more lacklustre tracks of their second album. At the Atoll stage, The Streets gave (gasp!) their last ever Melbourne show, Mike Skinner interacting with the crowd in true cockney fashion, encouraging crowd surfers and enquiring about a possibly-arrested Diplo (apparently, he tried to steal a flamingo statue the night before). Nero, too, proved solid and one of the busiest and more overcrowded sets of the day, dropping crowd favourites like Promises, Me & You and even fellow performer Flux Pavillion’s Bass Canon – imitation, evidently, proving the highest form of flattery.

By this point, it was evident that despite not selling out, Parklife had nonetheless reeled in a massive, devoted crowd – the venue brimming with a melting pot of electro and indie types, the vast majority of whom were surprisingly well-behaved. Even the mosh pits seemed deserving of an adjective usually their oxymoron: polite.

Come 8.45pm, the array of different musical tribes represented by Parklife was most evident: the audience treated to a choice between the diverse talents of Magnetic Man, Lykke Li, Simian Mobile Disco and (if one was in the mood for aural-masochism) Duck Sauce. Starting at the Kakadu Stage, Magnetic Man was an obvious highlight of the day for many, lathering the crowd in a flawless medley of dirty, dirty dubstep tracks like I Need Air and Getting Nowhere. A quick sprint away were the much gentler strains of Lykke Li, who ended the day on a majestic Scandinavian high with her second album’s lead single Get Some.

Of course, drink prices were excessive and toilet lines long: proving not even the headliners were immune to the loo-shortage, none other than Lykke Li was forced to relieve herself in the luxury of a bush (backstage though, so that’s a bit classier). But spilt urine aside; the performances, sound quality the audience and the venue on the first stop of the Parklife 2011 tour formed a clear success.

Hopefully, by the time the festival hits the rest of the country, the organisation will too, perform as expected – because no one should ever, ever have to miss Death From Above.

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