Yellow weather warnings and thunderstorms didn’t deter the Parklife audience today, as it seemed even more people entered the park on Sunday. Although we were treated to a sunny start while the likes of Hannah Laing, JPEGMAFIA, and Flo warmed up the early festival-goers.
This didn’t last long, though, because as Mella Dee was coming towards the end of her set, a message came over the tannoy at The Valley stage announcing that all music was to be stopped as they prepared for the upcoming thunderstorms. Everyone was advised to move three metres away from all large structures as shining sunlight was replaced by heavy clouds.
Torrential rain arrived in a matter of minutes, and a “full show stop” was put in force. This didn’t dampen the spirits of the loyal fans of Parklife, though, and people could be heard laughing in disbelief as the rain battered us all as one. The second a tiny bit of sun shone through the clouds, everyone cheered and laughed in an atmosphere that was unmatched.
Everyone headed to the Parklife stage around five in the evening, only to be greeted by an anonymous Parklife employee. Said employee was entertaining themselves and everyone in the crowd with the official message on the big screen while we all waited for the festival to kick back into gear.
The crowd cheers as the “<3” sign pops up on the screen, and the typist calls “MCR!” alongside the message “Thank you for waiting. The storm is passing. We are making preparations to restart the show.” This wholesome interaction went on for around twenty minutes, up until the long-awaited arrival of Becky Hill.
Hot off her residency in Ibiza, Becky Hill breaks into ‘Crazy What Love Can Do’ and gets everyone dancing immediately. She introduces her backing dancers straight away, who all wear matching silver outfits. Then she brings Ibiza to Heaton Park as ‘Afterglow’ gets everyone hyped up, and she’s joined on stage by her brass and string band.
She announced, “I’m gonna give you a double drop because I f***ing love drum and bass,” and she certainly delivers as the crowd goes crazy. She also gives a massive shoutout to the LGBTQ community as she explains that we wouldn’t have dance and disco without them, which is met with a massive cheer. For her last song, ‘Remember’, Becky gets off the stage and walks right along the barriers at the front of the crowd before climbing up the barriers and singing directly next to her fans, leaving the audience on a massive high.
Wu-Tang Clan t-shirts can be spotted everywhere, as their popularity is evident at Parklife this year. The group were given a grand introduction, and walked on stage with a full band ready to perform the many hits that they have under their belt.
RZA comes out first to hype everyone up before introducing GZA, Inspectah Deck, Ghostface, Masta Killa, and U-God. They announce that they took a break from their tour just to perform at Parklife this year, and they don’t disappoint with hits like ‘Clan In Da Front’ and ‘C.R.E.A.M.’
Nas takes over for the second half of their set and performs ‘Get Down’, ‘Represent,’ and ‘Hate Me Now’. Despite the change in artists on stage, the audience never stops and shows Nas the same love they showed Wu-Tang Clan before we are treated to a final joint performance of the two artists in the form of The Beatles’ ‘Come Together’.
A statement on the big screen reads, ‘There is nothing that terrifies a man more than when a woman appears completely deranged,’ setting the scene for Self-Esteem’s entrance to the Parklife stage. Every step she takes is supported by her talented dancers, who also double as her backing singers, and they all match in black and white, while Rebecca Lucy Taylor herself wears her signature oversized blazer. Self Esteem’s performance verges on hypnotic as they perform ‘F***ing Wizardry’ and ‘The 345’, as well as her new track ‘Mother’, before dancing off the stage in a conga line to ‘It’s My Life’.
Crowds linger around the mainstage ahead of The 1975’s set, but meanwhile, flames shoot out across the top of The Hangar as the heavy bass of Solardo’s set can be heard across the park.
The 1975 close the main stage, and Matt Healy greets the audience by announcing “We’re The 1975 from Wilmslow, Cheshire”. The crowd immediately cheers as one as they see his white lab coat come into view, followed by his hip flask as he takes a seat in his famous living room set-up that accompanies him on stage.
Known for his signature facial expressions and peculiar antics, Healy danced and gyrated about the stage, putting the crowd in a trance as they danced and sang along. ‘Oh Caroline’ slows down the tempo and gets everyone swaying. But this doesn’t last long, as it’s the first five notes of ‘It’s Not Living If It’s Not With You’ that result in a scream from the crowd as they sing at the tops of their lungs. Healy says it’s nice to be home, and by the reaction from Parklife, it is definitely clear to see that Manchester is just as happy he’s back.
While The 1975 take over the main stage, The Prodigy have packed out The Valley with an impressive display of pyrotechnics. A far cry from The 1975’s alternative style of music, The Prodigy’s rave and electronic rock music creates giant mosh pits that can be seen from the hills, encouraged by the band, of course. They kicked off their set with ‘Breathe’ and other famous songs, including ‘Voodoo People’ and ‘Omen’. But emotion washed over the crowd as the band paid tribute to late frontman Keith Flint as his silhouette was outlined in green lasers during ‘Firestarter’, with the band saying “Rest in peace, my brother” as they jumped into ‘No Good For Me. The band continues with their rave as they headline The Valley in honour of Keith.
Rounding off Parklife at the Eat Your Own Ears stage were Anderson Paak and Knxwledge, also known as the American music superduo NxWorries. Anderson, who walks out on stage in an iconic fluffy hat bigger than his head, a velvet blazer, and shades, Known mostly for his collaborations with Bruno Mars, he astounds the crowd with hits that are impossible not to dance to. He shows off his skills as a rapper to the point that the crowd can be heard gasping and cheering in appreciation during their track ‘Get Bigger’. Anderson takes a short break, and Knxwledge gets his chance to shine before surprising us with a different take on ‘Wonderwall,” which gets a mixed reaction from the crowd, but everyone sings along nonetheless
When Anderson returns, he has donned a pink suit and is followed by a conga line of women who help him out during ‘Link Up’. He points to each of the women, and they all take turns stepping forward to dance with him before returning to their spots on the stage. Once the song is over, he sings the women off stage, and we are treated to yet another surprise guest… None other than Dizzee Rascal! ‘Fix Up, Look Sharp’ blasts in the tent as everyone screams and hurries to get their phones out as he performs side by side with Anderson and Knxwledge.
Dizzee hypes up the crowd like no other and challenges each side of the tent to be louder than the other as everyone jumps, bouncing their hands in the air for a performance nobody in the crowd will ever forget any time soon.
A weekend full of good vibes, even better music, and more surprise guests than you can count on two hands, Parklife 2023 was definitely one to beat, and it didn’t show any sign of slowing down in its 13th year. Now we can’t wait to see what next year brings.
Check out our Parklife Festival 2023 Day 1 review here.