I am one of the many people in Manchester who lives for those 12 weeks in the winter, when the Warehouse Project takes over Piccadilly and brings some of the finest dance acts to our very own doorstep. So when they announced they’d be putting on a festival in June, I was more than a little enthused and purchased my ticket immediately. However many months of waiting later, the day had finally arrived and I was beyond excited about the thought of donning my wellies and glow sticks for a day of rave.
Anticipation about the event had been building online for a while and it seemed like half of Manchester were attending. It was definitely the place to be seen and tickets flew out like hot cakes. As I donned my flowery playsuit and biker boots, combined with denim shirt, sparkly eyeliner and wayfarers (so pretty much looking like I’d fallen straight out of a Festival Fashion Guide in Look Magazine), I wondered what the day would have in store and revelled at the thought of Manchester’s finest all coming together for the biggest festival the city had ever seen.
And so we made our way to Piccadilly Gardens and along with hundreds of other people, jumped on the bus down to Platt Fields. And then we saw it…at first I thought I was imagining it…surely not? But no, it was real alright – ‘it’ being the longest queue I have ever seen in my life. We got off the bus and followed the snake of people down the road and around the corner…it just went on and on, at one point I literally couldn’t even see where it ended. Thousands upon thousands of festival goers all equally as baffled as to how the organisers had managed to mess up the intake of people so much!
The street was lined with a trail of empty beer cans and every type of spirit bottle imaginable. Everyone there had the same thought – where can I get more alcohol? A mass pilgrimage had began to the nearest off license and there was almost a sense comradary, like we were all in this nightmare of a queue together. We conveniently made friends with the girls in front who had bought us some booze. I could not have felt more like a chav at this point if I’d tried – I was stood on the street with police everywhere, swigging from a bottle of blue wkd in broad daylight. It’s like I’d regressed back to my teenage youth, except back then I didn’t have to queue (or pay!) to drink in the park.
After about 90 minutes we were finally nearing the gate entrance and the thud of Simian Mobile Disco’s ‘I Believe’ reverberated my insides. Ten minutes later we were in. And wow, what a sight. I’ve never seen a higher concentration of hotties in the same place in my life. The last two hours of queuing were all but a distant memory and we quickly made our way to the Big Top Electro tent for some SMD lovin’.
After a good hour of dancing we were all in need of a few beverages and made our way to the bar…or at least as close to it as we could get before hitting the 10 person deep queue. Again with the queuing…it was starting to become a defining feature of the festival. After waiting about 15 minutes and getting to perhaps half way through the queue, we overheard they’d run out of cider and were told to go to one of the other bars on site. Pretty annoyed and even more thirsty, we trekked across the festival site to one of the smaller bars in search of our pint of Brothers.
With our drinks finally in hand, we were able to have a good wander round the site itself and check out the layout and some of the other tents. There were 5 tents in total plus the main stage, a chill out area which included converted bath tubs and sofa’s, an area dedicated to the World Cup with a huge screen for the England v USA game and the standard array of food vendors. I was quite impressed with the scale of the actual site, it was a lot bigger than I’d imagined and fairly well thought out. It did feel like a proper festival and it was almost surreal thinking that in fact, you were actually in the centre of Manchester! The gorgeous weather, combined with the friendly atmosphere and world class music acts kind of made you feel like you were abroad, it was quite strange.
We quickly downed our cider and made our way back to the Big Top for the legend that is Erol Alkan and my god was he good! We ran straight to the front and didn’t stop moving for his entire set. He cranked out a couple of classics putting his own twist on the production and mixed it in with some stuff I’d never heard of before. It was perfectly performed and meticulously crafted, you could tell real thought had gone into every song choice or remix or sync. It was just epic. We emerged from the tent feeling completely disorientated, it was still bright sunshine outside, we had just witnessed one of the best DJ sets we’d seen in a very long time and we were in a park in Manchester. It was amazing.
By this point, we were in need of refuelling and after much deliberation went for some £5 mediocre noodles and caught the last five minutes of Calvin Harris’s set. We then had 30 minutes to kill before Friendly Fires came on the main stage and not being interested in football one bit made our way to the chill out area. There was a small tent with a bar here and some standard DJ’s playing everything from Michael Jackson to Blackstreet. This little tent was a gem of a find, they served actual Jagermeister and there was no queue for the bar! We stayed here for a while dancing and watching 4 guys busting some serious moves to ‘I Want You Back’. Again, this was such an amazing but surreal moment – we’d stumbled across our very own Jackson 4 in the middle of Manchester.
I was pretty excited about seeing Friendly Fires and there was a huge crowd waiting for them to come on. They soon disappeared. We stayed for about 3 songs then left, what a massive disappointment. I don’t know whether it was the EQ or the levels but something wasn’t right, we could barely hear the lead singer and it was coming across as really drab and thin. At least a third of the crowd left and the remaining bunch were definitely deflated. After quickly checking our set listings we ran round to see Fake Blood but to our dismay couldn’t get in the tent! It was surrounded by stewards at all entrances and was absolutely rammed. Everyone had the same idea. So then it was a case of not who we wanted to see, but where we could get in! We ended up catching the last 5 minutes of Kele Okereke’s set in the Now Wave tent and had a little dance to a second-rate version of ‘Flux’. It was half ten at this point and we couldn’t get in to any of the other tents so like thousands of other people just made our way to the bus stop.
Parklife was a great event to bring to Manchester and I really hope it returns next year. There was a brilliant atmosphere on the festival site and Manchester’s most stylish were out in force. I do however, hope that the organisers learn from their mistakes and improve on a few things before it runs again; namely a better entry system, ordering more booze and bar staff and hiring bigger tents (or at least getting an act on the main stage that were actually good live!) I also think it’d be better to start and finish it later next year too so that it goes on through the night – as much as I loved dancing my butt off at 5 in the afternoon I think it would have been even better if we were able to dance into the wee small hours! But all in all, an excellent first attempt for the several promoters involved, a definite success. Bring on Parklife 2011!