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FESTIVAL REPORT: Parklife Festival 2023

When: 10th – 11th June 2023
Where: Heaton Park, Manchester, England

Parklife Festival made its grand return to Manchester last weekend, with over 80,000 people having descended onto Heaton Park for two days of live music.

Celebrating its fourteenth year, the festival boasted headliners The 1975 and Aitch, with the latter playing a UK festival headline exclusive. Joining them on the bill were hundreds of artists and DJs – including Rudimental, The Prodigy, Self Esteem and Little Simz.

Following the wealth of positive reviews about last year’s festival and its ongoing reputation for its wonderfully diverse and eclectic line-up that covers multiple genres, we couldn’t wait to cover the Sunday of the festival.

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We started our day with JPEGMAFIA in the Eat Your Our Ears tent. Despite playing so early in the day, the Brooklyn rapper performed an exhilarating set that worked the crowd into a frenzy from the second he launched into ‘Lean Beef Patty’. Renowned for his unique style, JPEGMAFIA demonstrated exactly why he’s the King of DIY production with a set of anthems that included ‘Steppa Pig’, an acapella version of Carly Rae Jepsen ‘Call Me Maybe’ and ‘Fentanyl Tester’.

As people flocked to the Parklife Stage for Confidence Man, the festival was hit with a storm that caused the festival to come to a complete half for about an hour. Though hit with torrential downpour and surrounded by dark clouds, the storm failed to dampen the crowds spirits and they kept the party going with various singalongs, before the sun made a reappearance and it was announced that the festival would be restarted. Nothing stops a Manchester crowd!

Unfortunately, Confidence Man’s set was dropped due to time limitations, which meant that Becky Hill was up next. The singer, songwriter – who rose to prominence after appearing on the Voice – was a vision in silver, kicking off her set with the euphoric ‘Crazy What Love Can Do’ before diving into ‘Gecko’. Hill’s instantly recognisable vocals soared throughout her set as she delivered an utterly joyous set of hits, which was exactly what the soaked crowd needed. Becky has energy to burn and she was joined by a group of talented dancers who had no problem matching her energy. Noting that her set had sadly been cut short due to the time lost, Hill thanked the crowd for being there and didn’t waste a second as she stormed through her set of accessible pop tracks that included ‘Afterglow’, ‘My Heart Goes (La Di La)’, a cover of ‘You’ve Got The Love’ and ‘Wish You Well’. As Hill finished her set with the masterpiece that is ‘Remember’, it was easy to see why David Guetta has previously referred to her as one of the very rare Queens of dance music”.

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A UK festival exclusive came next, in the form of Wu-Tang and NAS. RZA was first to arrive on stage to introduce the acclaimed set before bringing out GZA, Ghostface, Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa and U-God. Joined by a full band, the Wu-Tang Clan offered a history lesson in Hip Hop – truly bringing the ruckus to Heaton Park with tracks including ‘Bring Da Ruckus’ and ‘Clan In Da Front’. After a jam packed set, Wu-Tang departed the stage to make way for NAS, who continue to deliver the hits with tracks including ‘Hate Me Now’, Got Ur Self A Gun, ‘It Ain’t Hard To Tell’ and ‘Get Down’. Before the lengthy set came to an end, RZA returned to the stage to for a cover for ‘Come Together’ by The Beatles – an interesting choice for a Manchester based festival, but a nice nod to the North West nonetheless.

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Currently surfing the wave of success from her Mercury nominated album, Prioritise Pleasure, Rebecca Lucy Taylor (AKA Self Esteem) completed her biggest tour to date earlier this year, which saw her sell out three nights at the Albert Hall. One of the most hardworking artists on the scene, she’s back on the festival circuit with her powerhouse of a band and despite only having 40 minutes, her Parklife set packed one hell of a punch. As the sound of glitching synths and pummeling beats filled the air, Taylor launched into ‘Prioritise Pleasure’, before ‘Fucking Wizardry’ and ‘Moody’. Boasting swelling choruses and empowering choreography, Taylor offers a live experience that is unmatched – and that’s before we we get into her wealth of lyrics that resonate with an endless amount of people. A particular highlight of the set was when Taylor launched into a rapturous new song titled ‘Mother’ that perfectly blended into the blistering ‘How Can I Help You’. The set came to a perfect close with ‘I Do This All The Time’ – a spoken word outpouring that showcases Taylor’s lyrical genius as she explores how complicated it is to just be a human. There’s nobody else doing what Taylor does right now and there’s no doubt about it that the main stage is where she belongs.

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The 1975 from Wilmslow Cheshire – as frontman Matty Healy introduced them – closed the main stage with a perfect blend of classics and tracks from their latest album, Being Funny In A Foreign Language. Kicking off proceedings with the frantic guitar of ‘Give Yourself a try’ before the lyrically adventurous ‘TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME’, it didn’t take long for the band to command the stage, cementing the reputation they’ve built over the last decade as an explosive live band. From sparkling love songs such as ‘Me & You Together Song’, to upbeat tracks such as ‘She’s American’, to tracks of a more downtempo nature like the stunning ‘About You’, each track received an equally rapturous from what appeared to be a crowd of hardcore fans. As he stumbled around the stage in a lab coat, holding a cigarette and swigging from a bottle, you couldn’t help but wonder if Healy’s “tortured artist” persona is in fact that – though based on his emotional speech about having written the iconic ‘Robbers’ after playing a show that nobody attended years ago, it’s more than clear that playing such a large scale hometown show meant the world to him and the rest of the band.

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After another successful year of the largest metropolitan music festival in the UK, we already can’t wait for Parklife Festival 2024 – and for the first time ever, tickets are already on sale here.

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God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.