Parklife @ Kippax Lake, Sydney (02/10/2011)

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It’s impossible to review a festival as big as Parklife. There are too many acts at too many stages that covers too much ground. Beyond that, there’s the ailing memory, the drinking, the cold, the diminishing eyesight. This is not a concise version of what happened on Sunday. It’s a (somewhat haphazard) reconstruction of a long day running round Kippax Lake. Bear with me…

Despite the hideously dreary sky and the infrequent showers, people were out in force. Even though it was a gloomy and overcast day, short-shorts and singlets were still favoured outfits. Cunningly, they covered by a thin veneer of emergency rain poncho, as if that ups core temperature by five degrees.

Other than underdressing and over-policing, Parklife is about the tunes. There was plenty. Over the years Parklife has diversified its acts. This has garnered criticism from some, but this year, the blend was nigh-on perfect.

Early in the day, Gold Fields had a nice party vibe going on. The five-piece had a small but attentive crowd, and drew more in with the drop of Underworld’s Born Slippy. Over at the Sahara stage Yacht Club DJs got busy on the decks, mixing everything from Run DMC to Queen to The Ramones to Regurgitator and even the theme from 80s super dude, Roger Ramjet.

With the tone at Sahara set, Vance and Micah from The Aston Shuffle kept pace. They kept the crowd in line with their big beats, synths and vocoder. The background graphics were just about as loud as the set and unlike a couple of years ago, they didn’t have any technical difficulties. The set was solid, with I Wanna See You definitely making an impact.

Death From Above 1979. Need I say any more?! It’s two guys making a lot of glorious rock/punk/dance noise. They were late to get started, the crowd tried to spur them into action by starting a chant. Once all the audio checks were up to scratch, they hammered out Turn It Out before going on to play pretty much everything from their album. For such an amazing act, the crowd was middling. This left plenty of room on the floor to thrash around and, between tracks, listen to Jesse Keeler tell anecdotes about shoe throwing and the merits of not doing it.

Adrian Lux had a bigger stage and a bigger crowd (but not a bigger noise). His tunes were on the pop side of things and were obviously enjoyed by everyone there to see him. For a skinny white boy, he had solid sounds and put them to work on the muddy crowd. He just belted out Can’t Sleep before I headed off, half pleased/half not to miss out on (I’m pretty sure it would’ve been) the finale of Teenage Crime.

Example was enthralling. I don’t remember much about the set, other than the bond that he and I formed. He was staring right at me, the whole time, even with his sunnies on. I swear. The man is fast and articulate and dreamy. Plus, he managed to get the sun to come out from behind the stupid grey clouds, just as he was spitting out Stay Awake. Now that’s skill.

Back at the Sahara stage, Santigold didn’t disappoint. Not only is she one cool chick, she can sing like a Valkyrie, has kick-arse dancers who double as back up singers and isn’t afraid to bring out the old two-guys-in-a-horse costume, you know, while there’s a costume change afoot. She played some new songs, but for me it was Creator and L.E.S Artistes that packed the most punch. And Santi telling everyone how much she loves seeing people sing along to songs they don’t know. God knows there were many of us.

Diplo is hyped. He’s a big deal. He’s got a reputation. He totally lived up to it. The man can DJ. He may get caught up producing, or making cartoons (Major Lazer on Adult Swim), or collaborating with pretty much anyone, or being a philanthropist or businessman, but before all that he was a DJ. He certainly hasn’t lost it. He got the crowd in a frenzy from both behind and in front of the decks (wearing an inflatable pool toy) before dropping Kanye’s All of the Lights. He took it down tempo with The Police’s Roxanne. He brought it up with some Brazilian funk. And as I was wandering off, he busted out The Beastie Boys Intergalactic. Sigh.

Now the memory gets fuzzy…

Feed Me was dark and deep and somewhere in between house, dubstep and DnB. Nero didn’t hold my attention, so I made for MSTRKRFT. These dudes were the surprise highlight of the day. Their mix of Cassius’ I Love You So took over from Breakaway and somewhere in there, Heartbreaker was mixed in and went off the chain. MSTRKRFT was just right. The right act at the right time. Their downfall was the crap sound at the end of their set. It just faded out. I’m positive there was an epic finale to be had and I feel bereaved to not experience it. Bummer.

More so was Magnetic Man. Beset by the Kakadu stage’s technical difficulties, these three lads never got off the ground. Where you need to feel the bass right up in your lungs, all that was received was a teensy reverberation in the eardrum. A lot of the high end was missing, but more disappointingly the huge, tangible bass was too. The boys tried hard to keep the crowd there, reminding everyone to make some noise and “Fuck off! Magnetic!” but that late and that cold in the day, it wasn’t enough.

The final stop was Simian Mobile Disco and their techy-bee-hivey Cave Stage. What they did to Hustler was pure inspiration. Once it was well in the mix, they broke it down bit by bit, added in some deep dubstep and then just left the crowd hanging. When the drop finally came, it was all there with mad highs and techy up-tempo breaks.

Parklife was a mixed bag, with crap weather and some moments of crap sound. But alongside that, Parklife is about having a bunch of mates together for a day of stupendous local and international acts. It takes perseverance and a lot of energy to see it all, but in the end (even when you’re walking home in the rain at 3am) it’s kinda worth it.

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