Confidence is a preference for the habitual voyeur of what is known as
Chic and Johnny Marr - Parklife Weekender 2012

Mud and insobriety make uneasy bedfellows. Mere moments into the Parklife site and a man to my left loses his footing and slides, like the Greek Stock Exchange, square onto his tush. Freshly caked in a mud pack of Mancunian sludge, he stands up, dusts himself down and asks the nearest cute girl - in festival uniform of wellies and hotpants - for a hug. She politely declines.

On Saturday morning the gates to both Platt Fields and the heavens open simultaneously. On Twitter, people offer free tickets to anyone who can bring wellies. Anyone who doesn’t is in trouble, including three men dressed as tigers and one girl in heels. But this is how to disco al fresco. As Niles Rodgers puts it: it’s a rainy town with sunny people.

We are built of hardy stuff up north and a little of the brown stuff is not going to hold back an estimated 40,000 crowd, ready to soak up the waves of rain and music at the Warehouse Project’s third festival fandango. Marquees are hosted by a variety of northern nights, from Kaluki and Chibuku in the first field, through to the likes of Metropolis, Ape, Now Wave and Hospitality beyond (although talk of a “hospitality” tent leaves some punters befuddled when looking for nasally-challenged media types, and instead finding the likes of London Elektricity and Danny Byrd playing in front of a massive video wall).

The line-up is chunky, a smorgasbord formed of the finest sonic flavours that this city loves and laps up. This means you can segueway from the upfront electronica of Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs in Clash’s Now Wave tent, through Zane Lowe playing surprisingly barefaced breakbeats in the Metroplex Arena through to suave elegance of Chic, who take to the Main Stage dressed all in white, as though stepping straight from the cloakroom of Studio 54. They turn field into dancefloor as the band rip through Madonna’s ‘Like A Virgin’ and Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’, before local lad Johnny Marr joins the band for ‘Le Freak’. Noah and The Whale and The Flaming Lips are to come but Chic’s ‘Good Times’ sets the tone, as the sun comes out to pagan cheers.

On Sunday Manchester nurses its collective cranial aches and returns to the fray, soothed by the mellifluous interplay of words and beats courtesy of Ghostpoet in the Now Wave arena; lifted by Annie Mac on the Main Stage. Dizzee Rascal and De La Soul close the Main Stage, although The Daisy Age witnessed at Glastonbury 1990 seems to have given way to something heavier, darker.

Wickerman weavings of Fantastic Mr Fox share the festival site with warped robot creations and mangled, vaguely human lifeforms, wearing increasingly creative patterns of mud-based combat camouflage. There’s a skate ramp in the Desperadoes stage; elsewhere, choose from flavoured oxygen shots or ostrich burgers. Christ, there’s even a cocktail bar. There’s something for everyone and perhaps that’s the issue. A great success, Parklife has outgrown the constrictions of Platt Fields and talk next year is of Wythenshawe Park. Let’s hope the Falling Man finds his way there. He never did get his hug.

Words by Simon A. Morrison
Photo by Duncan Elliott

Click here for a photo gallery of Saturday at Parklife Weekender 2012, and here for a Sunday gallery.

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