Parklife @ Wellington Square, Perth (01/10/2012)

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As with every year, there was a tremendous amount of hype and anticipation leading up to the start of Parklife in 2012. For what’s a relatively small scale event in the scheme of things, you’ve got to ask: is this attention warranted? Well, for myself and another 15,000 regular punters it certainly was. Between the start of the summer it signals and the quality acts that it tends to attract, Parklife certainly has plenty going for it.

The simple fact is that the best way to celebrate Perth’s first rays of proper sunlight is with your friends, at the park, listening to music with an icy cold beverage in hand. The special added bonus with Parklife is that for one day you have a couple thousand friends around you and top class international artists playing their latest and greatest – what could be better?

The true beauty of Parklife however, is in the selection of artists and multitude of genres. To say that the event is less ‘mainstream’ would likely cause a stir, however I would say that at the very least the artist selection hits a particular niche target audience. This year’s line-up was no different, from the bass heavyweights of Benga, Nero and Rusko, to the likes of Justice, The Presets and Robyn. This year’s festival, while severely lacking on overall depth of field when compared to last years, still managed to pull through by combining the raw talents of a select few truly phenomenal artists.

Walking through the gate at 3:30pm I strolled over to the forgiving shade of the Kakadu tent, arriving just in time to see Benga set up his live gear. For those of whom who don’t know Benga, here’s a snippet of information for you: the Croydon-native has been producing what we now know as the ‘dubstep’ sound since he was 15, he first jumped onto the scene back in 2002 and since then has worked with pretty much anyone that’s anyone. Given that many herald him as the father of dubstep, the crowd’s anticipation for his set was tantalizing.

The first 15 minutes of Benga’s set could only be described as an unleashing of earth shattering bass briefly punctuated by rhythmic chords and select sample. The crowd’s only response to this earthly energy was with their own, arms flailed far and wide and bottles were thrown high into the air. Benga was on a roll and so after this 15 minute mark, picked up the microphone and announced that he was going to do something a little different – this decision unfortunately proved fatal.

It proved fatal simply because while Benga ‘setup’ for whatever he wanted to do the crowd was bathed in silence, and as this silence continued the crowds energy similarly dropped. If Benga was a band then maybe 10 minutes worth of silence could have been tolerated, but in this day and age when a DJ gets on stage we as a crowd expect non-stop music. In the end as the music returned the crowd managed to find a little bit of the energy that was lost, but I couldn’t help but think that the silence was a killer blow to what could have been an extraordinary set.

Next up was Modestep and as the drum kits and guitars were rolled out onto the stage, some people in the crowd were probably wondering if they were in the right tent. Modestep’s unique setup does call for some attention, their music can be unanimously defined as drop infused hard hitting dubstep, and so seeing a live band setup would be slightly perturbing. Nevertheless this uniqueness in no way detracted from the initial start to their set.

Opening with a mash-up between Levels and Bennasi’s old schooler hit Satisfaction; there was certainly enough nostalgia to get the crowd’s juices flowing. After a round of very long band like introductions, where each member provided their own solo piece, Modestep got back on their game with a heavily remixed version of To The Stars. Playing with an epic backdrop of cosmic visualisations I felt that this was definitely the peak point of their set with my only little gripe being that I wished the visualisations were synced with the tempo of the music.

In order to continue my hunt for bass thumping action it was time to jump over to the Sahara stage in order to witness the magnificence that is Nero. Nero, of course, were also featured in last year’s Parklife line-up – however back then it was a single man team due to various traveling complications, and so with the pair together again the excitement rippling through the crowd was breathtaking. Lighting up the stage, Nero hit the decks with such force that the crowd needed a brief second to recover before they went insane.

As with almost all festivals the large open stages tend to lack volume early during the day and while Nero’s bass reverberations could be heard, they couldn’t be felt. Surprisingly enough I think the sound crew noticed, as when Nero fired up their brilliant track Innocence there was a noticeable increase in volume that was undoubtedly embraced by the crowd through a ferocious spate of headbanging. All in all, Nero delivered a very energetic set, however for this energy to be fully embraced I believe they either need to either play in the large bass thumping tent arenas or work out some other way for that sub rhythm to reach the audience.

Following Nero I jettisoned off yet again to the Kakadu arena as my thirst for earth shattering soul-destroying rhythms had not yet been quenched. I mentally and physically prepared myself for the pure unadulterated brilliance that was to come: DJ Fresh. His live setup, while very similar to Modestep’s in regards to providing a live performance, just seemed to work that much better. Featuring his past and present hits Fresh’s performance was well…fresh! With tight rhythmic basslines and energy infested D&B breaks I was very happy with the set as a whole.

Next up? Rusko...and all I can really say is holy shit. I have never seen or felt a crowd respond so willingly to an artist, Rusko’s energy was verging on insanity and the crowd went to right to that point with him. Chucking a whole pile of new releases at the crowd, Rusko’s skill and prowess as not only a producer but also a DJ really showed through in his track selection. Finishing with an amazing double remix of Everyday, the crowd was stunned when they realised that the set was over, I for one could have continued for hours.

Parklife yet again delivered on its promise of summer madness and fun, even though it lacked a considerable amount of mid-level artists when compared to last year, it still makes it to the top of my list of festivals. For those punters yet to have the show roll through their city and love their bass then I cannot stress enough how awesome Rusko’s set will be.

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