Despite the thunderstorm, it was a weekend of glorious sun and great music at Heaton Park
There was baking heat and torrential rain at Parklife this weekend, but although the thunderstorm may have brought things to a brief pause, the music didn’t die. Instead, Manchester partied hard as a roster of the very best acts in dance, electronic, house, pop, hip hop and rap took to the many stages across Heaton Park. Here are our highlights from Parklife 2023.
Tays makes his set time count
He may have just fifteen minutes on the Parklife stage, but the Mancunian rapper makes them count. One of many artists to have launched his career in the pandemic, his stage presence never betrays it. He also gives a sweet shoutout to Aitch – Tays recently supported the Saturday headliner on tour.
Kellie Allen warms things up
The rising electronic star packs the Parklife FM – PIV Takeover tent by just one in the afternoon. Joining us from Ibiza, Allen brings the heat with her, temperatures soaring over the course of her set. Personable and full of character, she gives many festival goers a fantastic first hour.
Pretty Girl combines infectious beats and gorgeous vocals
House music can be emotional, proves the Australian producer and DJ. Pretty Girl has the Valley jumping right into their feels.
Knucks brings the London energy
“Have we got some real ones in the building?” asks Knucks, and the crowd cheers, even though they’re in a field. Booming brass backs his distinctly London rap stylings, with an occasionally surprising lyric snuck in there – there may have been a Breakfast At Tiffany’s reference…
Shygirl gives a shoutout to the ‘freaks’
Unafraid of a microphone moan, Shygirl has been tapped as one of London’s most exciting and outspoken new rappers. She takes to the Parklife stage with confidence and great sense of humour, but be warned – if you’re going to stand and watch her, she’s going to make you make sex noises. “Who’s gonna get nasty with me?” she asks, rhetorically.
Piri dons an inflatable flamingo ring
It’s certainly hot enough to make us feel like we’re on a tropical getaway, and that’s exactly the vibe drum and bass artist Piri is going for, she tells us. After she takes the ring off for a breather, she pauses to announce that “the next one’s a bit of a slow one, we’re gonna slow it down.” Then she grins. “Psych! Of course we’re not slowing it down! It’s a Piri set!”
Sosa has the Temple hypnotized
On the rise in the Liverpool music scene is producer and DJ Sosa, whose breakout single ‘DCFW’ put him on the map in 2019. He takes over the Temple in the afternoon as the sun continues to blaze, drawing in big crowds with his groovy house.
Mimi Webb must be roasting in knitwear
Rising pop star Mimi Webb might not have picked an optimal outfit temperature-wise, but it isn’t slowing her down. Far less green than the last time she took to the festival circuit, Webb was impressive back then, but now she leads the crowd at the Parklife stage through the ups and downs of her love life with the confidence and presence of a veteran. “This song’s about burning a certain ex’s house down,” she says, introducing closer ‘House On Fire.’ A pause. “I wish.”
Raye invites us into her piano bar
“Thank you so much for coming out tonight to the world famous 21st Century Blues,” sounds the intro to both Raye’s album and her live performance. The singer-songwriter plays a triumphant set to the crowd at the Parklife stage, her band decked out in white tuxedos behind her. Read our full review here.
Jyoty gives Skrillex a glowing introduction
The game-changing American artist joins London DJ Jyoty for the last few minutes of her set, the two dueling good-naturedly over the decks. When it’s time to hand over the stage, she waxes lyrical about her mentor, before Skrillex takes over and somehow lives up to her hype.
Peggy Gou packs out the Valley
Chants of “Peggy” echo through the valley as Peggy Gou takes over the set. The South Korean DJ smilingly sings along with the crowd, lighting up the stage with her colourful visuals.
Little Simz reminds Parklife that they’re witnessing “greatness”
She’s not wrong. The rapper gives a dynamic and emotional performance on the Parklife stage, playing songs from her critically acclaimed albums Sometimes I Might Be Introvert and NO THANK YOU. She evens plays a little electric guitar. Read our full review here.
Andy C makes waves at Worried About Henry
The Worried About Henry tent is flooded for Andy C’s set, with host MC Tonn Piper hyping up the crowd. By this point Andy is a Parklife veteran – the energy in the tent gives a pretty clear indicator of why.
Aitch closes out the Parklife stage
“Manchester, where’s my energy crew?” hollers Aitch as he steps out in front of blinding lights. The Mancunian rapper returns home for a triumphant headline performance, with visual effects galore and a fanatically loving crowd at his feet. He even brough special guest AJ Tracey along for the ride.
Meanwhile, Fred Again.. gives the Valley the party of their lives
It was an unforgettable set from the London artist, who flooded the Valley to the point that hundreds were watching his set from the ridge above. Officially he played for 85 minutes, but in the Valley, time stood still.
Hannah Liang throws in some ‘Careless Whisper’
The ever-inventive Scottish DJ has been hustling in Ibiza for a while, gathering supporters of her energetic techno and colourful trance. She also unexpectedly treats the crowd at the Hanger to a bit of sultry saxophone.
JPEGMAFIA sings Carly Rae Jepsen
The American rapper and singer played a raucous set to the crowd at the Eat Your Own Ears stage, mixing things up with an unexpected cover. He delivered a brief, acapella version of ‘Call Me Maybe’ into his autotuned mic, to the delight of the audience.
FLO show us why they’re Rising Stars
The R&B trio are fresh off a BRIT Rising Star win, and that’s exactly the energy they carry to the Parklife stage. With tight harmonies, smooth choreography and sharp lyrics, they’ve won over the crowd long before they get to their hit single ‘Cardboard Box’.
Saoirse puts the Temple in a trance
Electronic music artist Saoirse takes to the Temple in the early afternoon for a genre-spanning set that showcases her broad tastes. She also dons a fantastic tie-dye shirt.
Crystal Millz demonstrates homegrown talent
Just before the rain wreaks havoc, Manchester rapper Crystal Millz takes to the Parklife stage. The next exciting new voice in rap to come out of Manchester, Millz shows a supportive crowd why the city has gained such a reputation for producing great young rappers.
A mystery Parklife employee charms the crowd
With the sudden torrential downpour subsiding, crowds begin to gather at the Parklife stage again. “Thank you for waiting,” reads the screen. “The storm is passing. We are making preparations to restart the show.” After a while, a smiley face appears. When it suddenly turns into an ellipsis, the crowd cheers. It becomes a heart (composed thus: <3). They cheer louder. This carries on for some time.
Becky Hill gets things going again
With the show resumed, dance act Becky Hill throws a party. Her group of dancers and herself all dressed in eclectic silver outfits, she rattles through her biggest hits, commanding even despite the last-minute changes. “I’m gonna give you a double drop,” she promises midway through ‘Afterglow’, “because I f*cking love drum and bass.” Becky Hill marry me, reads a phone screen in the crowd.
Wu-Tang Clan & Nas throw it back to the 90s
With the sun out again and the crowd warmed up – metaphorically and physically – hip hop legends Wu-Tang Clan take to the stage, joined for the second half of their set by Nas. “I want to feel some real 90s energy from y’all!” demands RZA, as the group both praise and prove the unifying power of hip hop.
Self Esteem isn’t afraid to get angry
Self Esteem portrays the spectrum of female rage from barely suppressed irritation to full body fury. But there’s also plenty of light with the shade, with moments of pop so light and joyful it’s almost bubblegum. Her group of dancers back her up in every emotion, as does her keyboardist-stroke-guitar-player. And her drummer, who is “the token male… all bands need one.” Read our full review here.
Nia Archives can’t fit her fans in the Eat Your Own Ears tent
Instead, her listeners spill out of the tent at all sides, dancing over the grass to her joyful brand of jungle. MOBO Award-winning and Rising Star nominated, she’s on a fast ascension. Expect to see her on bigger stages soon enough.
The Prodigy throw the Valley’s final party
The electronic band play a euphoric set in the Valley that involves an unbelievable number of lasers. One of their visuals pays tribute to the late Keith Flint, a touch that keeps the band member present in their massive performance. “Rest in peace, my brother,” are Maxim’s words before the group deliver ‘No Good For Me’.
The 1975 bring it home
The final act on the Parklife stage, the 1975 play a shimmering set of sparkly pop-rock, whilst Matty Healy picks up and puts down flasks, bottles and cigarettes. He tells the crowd that he knows what they’re thinking – “They’re not from f*cking Manchester. Well, we’re literally the best you’ve got.” No one seems to be complaining. Read our full review here.