Arts

Parklife Review: Life In The Park 2012

In typical Adelaide fashion, the weather did a 180 for what was a near-perfect day of sun and sound for Parklife Festival at the Botanic Gardens. It was a curiously less extravagant affair for Parklife, which has drawn big names like Missy Elliott, Groove Armada, Gossip, Goldfrapp, Empire of the Sun, Santigold, and Peaches in recent years. Heavy hitting alterna-pop, dance and indie artists took a backseat for the up-and-comers who dominated the Parklife stages. You know, the kinds of new artists that are really big on the Internet and Tumblr right now? Enter Charli XCX, Parachute Youth, St. Lucia, Labrinth, Bondi Hipsters, with big names Passion Pit, The Presets, Robyn, Rusko and Justice giving some mainstream cred to the day.

My major Parklife gripe – no maps or set times. When the tickets get ever so slightly more pricy each year, printing maps with set times and artists should be a given. I guess festival promoters wanted everyone to download (and use) the Parklife smartphone app, but when phone reception and precious battery life is scarce, I’ll be asking for my flimsy piece of paper. Besides, at Future Music I was able to shield my face from the sun with a nicely sized map. See?

No one could argue with the ambitious and diverse line up the day gave us. The focus on new artists over the same festival stalwarts (yes you, Stereosonic) was beyond refreshing. Even if the acts weren’t as polished or well-known to draw large crowds as some of the previous year’s big names. Hit and miss? Sure, but change is always good.

After gushing over local electropop duo Parachute Youth, one man band (though joined onstage with an actual band) St Lucia kept the beats crisp and the synths buzzing. Performing to a criminally tiny crowd to begin with, more and more festival goers flocked to Atoll to get their dream pop quota for the day.

Charli XCX looked just like Marina & The Diamond’s Marina Diamandis’ younger sister, and sounded like it too. That’s a compliment of the tallest order from me. Meshing her gothic fashion with glimmering dance pop, she worked her way through unreleased tracks before moving onto her You’re The One EP; tracks ‘Stay Away’ and ‘Nuclear Seasons’ drawing loud cheers and some frenetic dancing.

Local DJs Tink, She Can DJ winner Leah Mencel and Stubanga, brought some Adelaide flavour to the Madam Sings Junk DJ tent. Sydney’s Bondi Hipsters followed, keeping the small but dedicated crowd entertained by some genius mashups, including Khia’s ‘My Neck, My Back’ with choice cuts from the Pokemon anime soundtrack. I did hear Gangnam Style too at one point; that was a given, clearly.

US electro rock oufit Chairlift, who I admittedly never listened to before Parklife, were spellbinding. Fantastic new discovery for the day? Check. With a set heavy on tracks from their sophomore album Something, this was one hipster phenom I could get on board with. If festival goers didn’t know much of Chairlift’s work, they probably recognized former iPod Nano theme ‘Bruises’. Meanwhile at Kakadu, Tinie Tempah cohort Labrinth was telling the Adelaide crowd we were the best he’d seen on the Parklife tour. You bet we’re chuffed!

Not to let my disdain of dubstep get in the way, but can we please not have the main stage at Parklife turn into a big wall of sound by 5pm? The oversaturation of dubstep and wobbly basslines at the Sahara stage was a sorry sight; ditto the surprisingly large crowd bopping back and forth (you can’t really call it dancing, can you?) Nero may have drawn a huge crowd but their CD playing skills cleverly disguised as deck spins left much to be desired. To think Madonna handpicked Nero to warm up crowds on her MDNA Tour; I hope their Adelaide set was a once-off, ‘cause the Queen of Pop don’t stand for that sh**.

Leaving a more pleasing aftertaste on the Sahara stage earlier in the day were Plan B (Glam’s photographer’s favourite act of the day) and Wiley, with headliners Justice (showing what a DJ set should sound like) and closers The Presets bringing the noise.

Passion Pit’s latest album Gossamer has fared well in Australia, so it was no surprise their set started off with recent single ‘Take A Walk’. In all his geeky, reserved stage presence, lead singer Michael Angelakos had the crowd eating out of his hand. Pretty impressive given his awkward pacing up and down the stage. Some quirky lighting displays and a streamer cannon here and there made Passion Pit one of the more memorable shows of the day; their clever mix of organic and electronic song textures leaving me just a bit keen to hear more of their work. Don’t hate me for seeing Passion Pit and only knowing a handful of songs.

My last act for the day was perennial favourite – Swedish popette Robyn. Remember when she was meant to headline Stereosonic in 2010 only to pull out and tour the US with Kelis? Well I do. She asked for forgiveness (after accidentally calling us Melbourne, mind you) and slowly but surely I gave in.

More of a trailblazer than she’s given credit for, Robyn’s dance pop and Max Martin co-writes may seem standard on pop radio now, but she was doing them years before the Ke$has, Britneys and Katy Perrys were. Mixing the best of her Body Talk EPs (‘Dancing On My Own’, ‘Don’t F***ing Tell Me What To Do’, ‘Indestructible’, ‘Call Your Girlfriend’) with cuts from her self-titled 2008 album (‘Cobrastyle’, ‘With Every Heartbeat’), Robyn oozed spontaneity in all her awkward but loveable mom-esque dance moves. And to the young leopard print clad guy sobbing during the spoken word bridge of ‘Be Mine’? Cry when you get older.

I know it’s been a successful Parklife when I can 1) Name a new artist I’ve never seen before and now love. 2) See an act I formerly liked and now don’t care for. 3) Check a favourite off my must-see list, and 4) Walk past far too many people on my way to the Botanic Gardens who didn’t quite make it past their pre-drinks. I guess that makes 2012 a winner. And while I hope the dubstep isn’t here to stay, I’ll get used to it if I have to. 5 Parklife Festivals later and I’m in no rush to miss out in 2013.

Special thanks to Fuzzy Touring.
Photos by John Goodridge.

View all the Parklife social photos here.

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