Parklife @ Centennial Park, Sydney (30/09/2012)

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The hideously dreary sky and infrequent showers that had cursed Parklife the past few years were nowhere to be seen on Sunday, the day instead offering plenty of glorious sun and a breeze so perfect in temperature and timing that it almost seemed deliberate. Come 12pm the party was on – and despite the feeling that the entire NSW police force was on site, the vibe was cruisey and the brand spanking new venue that was Centennial Park painted the perfect picture of a spring festival.

As the punters streamed through the gates in a consistently heavy flow, the early afternoon was dominated by the much-hyped successful duo Chiddy Bang, who picked up where Rizzle Kicks left off. The pair drew the majority to the Sahara stage with their hip-hop call-and-response chant throughout the entire set, opening with their killer single Breakfast.

Our first stroll into the tented Kakadu stage was warranted to catch the hype of one of the leading lights in the rising global dubstep movement and one third of Magnetic Man, Croydon innovator Benga. I’d be lying if I said we didn’t enjoy that his set somewhat resembled the vibe of an authentic UK nightclub with live MCing, high-energy bass sick drops getting the crowd pumped all based around my two laptops and stage mixer with Ableton. His entire set received a raucous reception with the help of his vocalist.

Over at the Atoll stage another Englishman, godfather of grime Wiley was busy winning over new fans with his signatory hip-hop/electro/grimesque sound. Sparking several crowd dance-offs during Wearing My Rolex, which had the festival in full force by sunset, made his set was worth a watch on that basis alone. Back at the Kakadu stage we got a glimpse of Hackney-bred Labrinth’s set whilst he was belting out other people’s songs like no other, mixing it up with his own tracks like Express Yourself- a combo that didn’t fail the jam-packed crowd, now spilling out of the tented stage.

As the night fell so did the temperature, and the Sahara stage was swamped for Nero’s live set and, perhaps, the need for body heat. But this soon led to irritation and frustration as the UK dubstep behemoths were twenty minutes late. Predictably, all was forgiven when they appeared and hit hard with their brutal opener Doomsday that had the audience bounce back with aplomb. Although Nero’s bass lines were difficult to fault, the sound quality of the open-air stage was definitely lacking and as we all began to look at each other asking “Can you hear that”?, left wondering whether this was the reason behind Nero’s tardiness.

But all was not lost as the combined set featured the appearance of vocalist Alana Watson with the definite highlight watching her belt out Promises as the pleased crowd clapped in sync and screamed along, it was a shame to only see her occasionally make an appearance before finishing off their set with newbie Must Be The Feeling and Crush On You.

Justice continued to please the now dance connoisseurs at the Sahara stage with their full hour DJ Set. Delivering an array of French banger goods including their killer classic D.A.N.C.E and dirty electro pop including Armand Van Helden’s NYC Beat to keep the crowd bouncing in sync. Despite having technicians throughout their entire set in the background setting up for the The Presets who followed, they had a cool light show as a backdrop and set a healthy yardstick for the act that followed.

Due to the inevitable clashing of timetables we were only able to catch a glimpse of the magic that was Passion Pit’s confetti-filled superb set. But the energy that we saw in that short period was something that was unparalleled throughout the day, with the American boys balancing out their two albums well, picking out the crowd favourites including Sleepyhead and Little Secrets, which sent the female portion of the audience into a squealing delight (myself included).

As headliners The Presets launched into their set with Kicking And Screaming and Talk Like That and Julian Hamilton proclaimed “It’s good to be back” – it was then the crowd realised how much we had missed them. The stage was now littered with multiple screens, projecting close ups of the boys and switching to a variety of trippy graphic animations. As Hamilton was up front on dual keyboards and Kim Moyes was raised up on a red and white kit featuring a face on the skin of the kick drum, the atmosphere was highly charged, with the crowd engrossed in an hour-long set of other classics including This Boy’s In Love and oldie Are You The One?

Their new material from album Pacifica also proved just as great and exciting live including Ghosts, A.O and Youth In Trouble, with the chorus response from the crowd being once again deafening, something which both Kim and Julian could only smile about watching over their local fan-base. However, the real excitement came when the band made the transition into their electronic anthem My People. Accompanied by some intense strobe lights and leaving the entire crowd in an absolute frenzy, distilling a visual and aural assault. Proving that they can come back after four-years of releasing a record and still managed to captivate their fans and take them on a musical journey to end their day.

All in all the day exceeded many expectations, even in terms of weather alone. The new venue seemed to also have paid off as the simple layout and short distances between stages made it easier to spot those lost buddies, but still not entirely possible due to the lack of phone reception that still seems to be an irritating problem. Despite the forever inevitable timetable clashes of a festival of this size, this year saw a well-conceived lineup of urban sensibilities as well as indie and dub-pop kings, artists who all did their bit to please the highly diverse crowd.

7/10 stars

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