This year, Parklife was a bit of a bizarre experience. In an attempt to become a “green” event, it was the first time a recycling surcharge and station was introduced. So on top of paying an extra dollar for an already heavily price inflated drink, not only did you have to watch out that people didn’t swipe your tipple, you had to watch out that they didn’t take the can it came it as well. Needless to say, I didn’t see a single cent back from this scheme. The moment I popped my drink down on any surface, it magically disappeared. Saves hiring busboys and clean up crew I suppose but I was a bit miffed that I was financing someone else’s good time.
It was also the first time I’d seen so many women fully clothed at a festival. This probably had a lot to do with the unusual chill factor in Perth at this time of year and the prospect of being drenched in the looming rain. The drowned rat underage stripper has never been a good look.
The most significant first? That Parklife, Australia’s most musically tangential and forward thinking festival, may have strayed somewhat into the commercial arena with its dub heavy lineup.
Uber-talented local boy Sam Perry kicked off the festivities in The Cave with his unique brand of effect step. He worked his voice, pedals and bassline and had the crowd falling in love with the hauntingly memorable Cannonball. This is one kid that is going to go far!
A stroll over to Atoll saw New Zealand born songbird Kimbra serenade the Parklife audience with some jazz infused theatrical pop. The quirkiness and whimsy of Kimbra’s soul pop definitely had the crowd entertained but Kimbra’s talent lies in being cognizant of the need to inject modernity into her music to keep things fresh and fun as many of her tracks do reference past eras and sounds.
After a few hours of musical diversity, the dubstep onslaught began. Parklife punters were eased into it with Katy B, the softer, more commercial face of dub. Her performance was as well received as the sunshine that broke through the clouds and the crowd happily grooved to her remix of Inner City’s Good Life, which then segued into Show Me Love, another beloved classic.
Then dub got serious the moment Flux Pavilion took the stage back at The Cave. Hard and heavy beats assaulted the crowd and we couldn’t get enough of it. The masses were united as the lyrics to The Freestyler’s Cracks were sung/screamed out joyfully, and as the ground was trampled in synchronicity by hundreds of dancing feet to Flux Pavilion’s massive hit Bass Cannon -Parklife was one.
Joker and MC Nomad kept up the mad momentum with their own grime infused dub. Pumping out huge track after huge track, from Benga’s production I Warned Ya to Magnetic Man’s I Need Air, Joker’s set was dubstep heaven. It was class performance that showcased the light and shade that can be brought to an often misunderstood genre.
Diplo found it quite difficult to compete with the big dubstep acts, as did many of the other Parklife artists. From the Garden Bar vantage point, it was clear that The Cave was packed out leaving the other areas looking quite sparse. However, this didn’t stop the Mississippi boy from banging it out until he hit his stride. Bass music mixed with dub, house and electro, Diplo’s set knew no genre boundaries and eventuated into an extremely danceable and enjoyable set. Crowds began to slowly gravitate towards the main stage until Diplo (the brainchild behind Major Lazar) dropped Pon de Floor, which then had everyone running to Sahara. Beastie Boy’s Intergalactic was a surprisingly fun inclusion and Diplo kept the energy and vibe up right up until his last track, the phenomenal Subfocus hit Hold On.
It was quite ironic that Gossip’s Beth Ditto, the second last act of the evening, opened her performance with the lyrics of Missy Elliot’s Work It, as Missy was the second last act on the very same stage at last year’s Parklife. Dressed in a tight black sequined dress, Ms Ditto rocked it out giving some audience members some much needed dub relief. She was on top form, her voice soaring across Wellington Square. Damn girl!
Dub was not willing to relinquish its hold on the Parklife punters just yet though. Competing for the crowd’s attention was 2010’s best dubstep act Nero at dubstep HQ The Cave. Nero bludgeoned the hordes with their grinding, wobbling and distorted beats only to have them beg for more. Once you were in The Cave for Nero’s performance, there was no escape.
The same stampede that saw many fall at Future Music Festival last year when Pendulum took the stage was almost replicated in the rush to get from The Cave to Kakadu for Magnetic Man. The jostling for the best position to see the world’s first dubstep super group was fierce. Believe me, I copped more than a few knocks to the head and elbows to the ribs. Every single war wound was worth it when the boys kicked off their set with their own Karma Crazy (Alright, What Happened, Everything Cool vocal). The night just kept getting crazier when they dropped tracks from their album including Fire, Getting Nowhere and I Need Air. No one could complain of a lack of audience interaction either with both Benga and Skream leaping off the stage for a bit of crowdsurfing, nor when they brought up a slew of festival hotties onto the stage for their final track. Completely sated with the dying dubstep beats still ringing in my ears, I trudged to the exit ecstatic at having experienced Magnetic Man live.
Though many joked that it could have been renamed Dublife this year, Parklife really did deliver on all musical fronts. So much so, I’m already looking forward to next year’s line up.