Parklife @ Wellington Square, Perth
Perth, Parklife’s second stop off on the national circuit, came as a complicated equation. Three parts rain and chill to one part sunshine divided by 30% of men and women who forgot to wear t-shirts, plus metro bogans, and your average pleasant festival go-getter gave a rough estimate of what Parklife was all about – if you had your back to the stage. However, like most festivals, facing the other way round usually has far more benefits and from a musical perspective, Parklife 2011 certainly delivered.
For fans of the local electronic scene in Perth (and by the look of a loyal early crowd flooding in, there certainly seemed to be some) it was difficult to decide which act to see first. However with ‘the chance of a shower or two’ becoming a reality, many people found solace in The Cave, a canvas tent kicked off by local beat-box looper Sam Perry. Perry has a knack of drawing his audience into his dub-hop sounds with procedural explanations; building up songs from scratch using nothing but his voice combined with looping and guitar effects pedals. It’s great to see it all broken down and explained to the crowd because this is where the talent lies. Stand out songs Cannonball, Don’t Shoot the Messenger and a cleverly reworked version of Dub Fx’s Hip Hop with Perry’s own unique syncopated verses on top had a loyal crowd moving.
Sassy songstress Kimbra caused an air of anticipation in the crowd for those who had missed her sold-out show at the Astor a few weeks earlier. For many in the large crowd, their first taste of the singer was sitting in front of a computer and watching a nice little video of her covered in paint singing back and forth with Wally De Backer a.k.a Gotye. Quite obviously, she is much more than a guest appearance in a song and as her flamboyant four-piece backing band kicked things off with the flair dial all the way up, it wasn’t hard to see why she has all eyes and ears pointing her way. The band bounced around with dynamic energy as she graced the stage with confidence and beauty; her pop songs peppered with kooky Motown and rockabilly vibes. The New Zealand singer became an early highlight, whether it was using a looping effect on a second microphone in Settle Down or demonstrating her vocal talents in the rockabilly Good Intent.
In the Cave, Ballarat’s Gold Fields swirled into a percussive opening with electrifying energy as all members flung themselves across the stage, sticks flying. The beat-heavy five-piece yielded a version of indie electro that hit harder live than on record. Crowds flooded in as they dropped a cover of Underworld’s spine tingling Born Slippy and their own Triple J Unearthed hit Treehouse.
As the sun came out to play, Yacht Club DJs commanded the Kakadu stage with quirky mash-ups and fast passed mixes creating a huge early-afternoon backyard party vibe as the golden sun lit up flying beach balls and astronauts danced round the duo. The only downside was the ability to have a quiet conversation over cheekily laid tracks such as Bette Davis Eyes as the stage either suffered from severe noise restrictions or the sound guy didn’t like the 80s!
The main stage (coined Sahara) saw The Naked and Famous steal most festival goers’ attention with Punching in a Dream which elicited vast cheers. For the more discerning listeners, the Atoll stage was being prepared for Little Dragon who also drew in a large crowd, as word had spread since their enchanting performance supporting Gorillaz late last year. Thankfully, away from the evil sound sin that is the Burswood Dome, Little Dragon painted dreamy minimal electronica with crystal clear sound as the intriguing Swedish-Japanese vocalist Yukimi Nagano moved gracefully around the stage occasionally hitting a custom made drum pad that looked more like a lighting rig than anything else. The drummer stood up energetically for a lot of the set banging drum pads like there was no tomorrow. The painted canvas laid over his kit fell off within minutes. My Step from the LP Machine Dreams particularly stood out live with a far better execution than on record.
French SebastiAn, with wonderful tongue-in-cheek arrogance, cigarette in mouth, was perched high on a podium as red and black V for Vendetta themed drapes hung down beside him. The electro house DJ performed a solid set of bouncing tracks, possibly a little too hard and too fast for a three in the afternoon slot, but many people were already well into the effects of their poisons, so it didn’t stop the masses.
On the note of poisons (and hats off to the Parklife promoters for the ingenious idea) a new green scheme had been put into place for the entrepreneurs on site to help keep the day well recycled. Simple concept; ‘Cash for Cans.’ Collect roughly 11 empty cans and find yourself given $11 in tokens to buy your next overpriced beverage of choice (soap on exit provided). Marvellous! There’s nothing quite like going home with a full wallet despite the disapproving glares of bare chested noses held high … bogans muttering words like ‘cheap-skate’ as they tossed away their cans carelessly. Don’t mind if we do, ta! Here’s hoping the scheme paid off financially and will return in future years and greener festivals.
Inside the Atoll tent was the prominent pimple on Parklife’s bottom; poking out of a pair of shorts worn just a bit too high. (True story, cite female at festival clocked with a big red no-no at 4:55pm.) The newly reformed Death From Above 1979 were a unique fit to an otherwise dance-laden bill. Their brash punk sounds drew in a smaller but excitable crowd as confused security guards deliberated over what the hell to do when a circle pit broke out as rockers emerged from the metrosexuality to throttle themselves for a bit. Pity the fool who wandered in to try and break it up! For two musicians, Death From Above 1979 make one hell of a sound, with noise-ridden sound-scapes and harsh guitar twangs over brass beats. The drummer yelled furiously down a microphone, at times giving up on his kit to prance around the stage and then tossing away the mic when he was done. Certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but a heartfelt comeback for those who have been having withdrawals since the band’s split in 2006.
Adrian Lux was pumping out a seamless electro house set on the DJ Heavy stage. Truthfully, everyone there was really waiting for Teenage Crime and when it was dropped into the set it provided the spine tingling moment people were waiting for, the track drew quite a profound reaction. Meanwhile on the main stage Katy B didn’t put a foot wrong with a solid seven-piece lively band with horn section to boot.
Mylo took over the reins to a disappointingly small crowd, but nothing seemed to faze the suave Scottish DJ. Being off the scene since his 2004 release, Destroy Rock & Roll, the tunes obviously went over a lot of the crowd’s head but there were some very passionate and faithful movers really enjoying his fine selection of tunes – and extra space meant everyone could dance more freely. Dropping a range of tracks from New Order to a remix of Lykke Li’s I Follow Rivers, there was tremendous appreciation when he closed with his own number Drop the Pressure.
It only took a glance next door to find out where everyone had gone as Flux Pavillion had the Cave heaving, packed to the brim with one of the hardest, nastiest dubstep sets of the day. (Disclaimer; Nero is absent from this review due to timetable clashes)
Mylo handed the main stage baton to birthday girl Santigold who has stepped up her stage show dramatically since a disappointing performance at Southbound a few years back. Joined by a three piece band and backup dancers, she put on a spectacle that would put Missy Elliot back in her lip-syncing box. Crossing over into dub territory the music was grooving and there was a nice moment when the band encouraged everyone to sing happy birthday for the songstress. Her dancers rubbed up against her amidst the cheering and she proclaimed ‘that’s the best booty sandwich I’ve ever had!’ She then invited a whole load of punters to join her dancing to the fabulous Creator, which commanded the crowd with its hypnotic rhythms. Throw in handstand face-offs from the dancers, an intermission with a horse and a western theme dubbed up on too much tape delay cum costume change and you had yourself one hell of a show.
Digitalism played a strong set amongst glowing tall light poles with of course Pogo stealing everyone’s hearts, but the Atoll stage called as Mike Skinner gave Perth his final foray before putting The Streets project to bed. Bringing across a tight seven-piece band consisting of three vocalists and a range of Rasta-inspired cockney upbeat hip hop dub and drum and bass, this was one of the more unique shows of the day filled with the most character. Skinner’s between song banter was priceless, as he filled the tent with love (or a cheeky tits-out equivalent) and had many a lady flashing in his general direction. After getting the crowd crouching down on all fours to jump back up, he had to ask Perth women to stop showing him their breasts as it was distracting him far too much. But amongst the playfulness was a degree of melancholy amongst the crowd and Blinded by the Lights struck a chord and had a few people sad to see this coming to an end. The song extended into a dubsteppy break that paid homage to Katy B with her track Katy on a Mission mashed into the song by the band. Being a man that encourages a good old shindig, Skinner left the crowd on a high with classic track Fit but you Know it leaving Skinner bouncing around on top of flipped over stage wedges.
Lykke Li was up next on the same stage and provided the most theatrical performance of the evening as the stage erupted with thick smoke as lights dimmed to then blind the audience in dramatic swirls as fabric drapes wafted through the breeze. The six-piece walked on and performed a percussive and near perfect set with two drummers and a high level of musicianship. Lykke Li is a mysterious singer with an angelic voice, floating around the stage and playing amongst the drapes with the odd modest murmur towards her audience. Dance Dance Dance brought out an entertaining kazoo solo and the performance in whole really couldn’t be faulted. That said, everything felt a little too over polished, particularly in contrast to the quirky sincerity Mike Skinner had brought. Everything felt too rehearsed like the band were merely going through the motions, often hidden in thick smoke and lighting effects. Bringing it down to earth with a moment away from rushing lights and smoke, an intimate ballad had Lykke Li strumming some sort of oriental guitar brought back everything that makes her wonderful to listen to on record and was a redeeming feature of the show.
As the night started to fade away and the rain decided to pour once again, it was hard to tell which was a better direction to leave in; towards a giant blow up duck and a whole bunch of people singing along to Duck Sauce’s Barbra Streisand or Magnetic Man’s filthy banging dubstep set with forty odd civilians copping it all on stage. Whilst many come to the first of the festivals to kick off summer spiritually (or otherwise), Parklife always provides the right reasons to come; underneath the tits and bum-pimples, a great and diverse line-up year after year.