Parklife @ Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne (06/10/2012)

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Melbourne was extremely jealous of the amazing weather described in Sydney’s Parklife Review. Not only had the sun decided that it didn’t want to hang out with the earlier acts; someone had apparently given comp tickets to the rain. A thin drizzle was present for most of the day.

Whilst the crowd was definitely damp, it didn’t put a dampener on the energy though. Rizzle Kicks were dominating the bowl while Art Department, over on the Kakadu stage, were playing a set full of chilled-out afternoon vibes and tech house. Art Department’s crowd felt more like a fancy upscale bar than a music festival. Everyone was standing around chatting, with a few people up the front dancing. However, towards the end of the set, they cracked out Daft Punk’s Superheroes, bringing the energy up as people flocked to the stage.

The flock was arriving for one of dubstep’s originators: Benga. This was a set that was a lot more hardcore than expected, given how laidback Benga’s sound can be at times. The gritty bass really took off in a festival setting. Benga had apparently injured himself in the gym that morning, describing it as a “crick in his neck”. However, the crowd did exactly what he asked and made up the energy for him – this didn’t stop the MC from freestyling a rap about Benga’s injury though. At this point the sun turned up for the first time all day, heightening the effect of Marlene coming onstage to wrap up the set with Pour Your Love.

It was after Benga that I found out about the recycling initiative: Parklife was offering $1 per piece of recycling handed in. Whilst this definitely made the site cleaner throughout the day, it’s a little annoying having hipsters scurrying around, occupying your knee space and stopping you from dancing.

Also reaping the benefits of the sun Benga brought out was Modestep. This was a set that was equal parts DJ and live band: Tony on the decks would drop a track and then Matt, Nick and Josh (drummer, guitarist and vocals/keyboards respectively) would do their thing on top of it. Their live cover of J Rabbit’s bootleg remix of Satisfaction was pure Modestep: equal parts intense and insane. The crowd was the definition of a riot; every bit as brutal as the music pounding out of the speakers. Closing out with Show Me A Sign and Sunlight, Modestep planted their cross-eyed smiley faced flag into the dubstep scene; claiming it as their own.

Stepping up to challenge Modestep’s claim to the dubstep throne was the almighty duo Nero. The set started while the sun was still up, unfortunately bringing down the effect of their lighting setup. At that stage of the gig, it felt like their set would lack the visual power of their Big Day Out set. Then two things happened: the sun set and the rain started. You would not be blamed for thinking one of Nero’s members had psychic control over the rain. During tracks like Reaching Out and Must Be The Feeling, the rain would get lighter on the breakdowns and then heavier on the drops. On top of this, the way that the lights from Nero’s lighting set up caught the rain was truly a sight to behold. The crowd wound up looking almost like they were in uniform, forming a sea of poncho wearing ghosts. This was, by far, the greatest visual experience of the day and, arguably, one of this year’s definitive gigs.

Also responsible for one of the definitive gigs this year was Justice, back again – this time in DJ mode. The taking apart of Nero’s live show and setting up for The Presets made things look awkward on stage. Compared to their live show, (AKA the greatest gig I’ve ever been to), the lighting show they had set up it felt like it fell a bit short. However, in where the visuals were lacking, the music had it covered. The only force as powerful as insane bass for a reaction is nostalgia and Justice was pumping it out. They hit up the 90s with Move Your Feet before going all the way back to the 70s with T-Rex’s Get It On. Add in their new tracks like Helix and Audio Video Disco and Justice prevailed over Australia; which has to be their second home by now.

Next up was a local band you may have heard of: they’re called The Presets. You could tell that the crowd loved these home-grown heroes; every lyric to every song was mirrored by a loud, chanting crowd. This wasn’t even just to older classics like This Boy’s In Love and Are You the One, but also to newer material like Ghosts and Youth In Trouble. Slightly confusing was the total absence of the “na na na”s in My People; however, it wasn’t anywhere near confusing enough to bring down the energy on one of the biggest dance anthems of all time. By the end of the set, the entire crowd was agreeing with Julian’s sentiment that “it’s been too long” and, just to make sure we got as much Presets as possible, they fired up their low-fi’d visuals and launched into an encore with Push.

As everyone was pushing to get out of the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, the rain unleashed upon the crowd. The torrent coming down was as intense as the day had been and all were thankful that it happened after all the music had stopped. Yet, even though it was darker and wetter and gloomier than it had been all day, everyone walked out with a smile on their face and, for the lucky ones, a poncho on their body.

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