Melbourne Parklife: Rain, Rizzle, Robyn

Ebe Cassidy braved the rain for SYS in order to check out the host of fine acts at Parklife, as it made its merry way to Melbourne:

The weather was so appallingly bad, it could reasonably be conceived as an act of divine retribution. What did we do to deserve such cruel and unusual punishment as an outdoor, day-long festival in the driving wind and pouring rain? I would suggest an inability to accurately connect the weather with choice of attire; the Sidney Myer Music Bowl was densely populated with girls’ purple shivering legs, faces dribbling mascara, guys manfully sporting singlets and goose bumps and everyone desperately clutching their plastic rain ponchos. Here’s looking at you, Melbourne.

Perhaps three quarters of ticketholders had woken up, looked out the window and thought, a. ‘Tell me this isn’t happening’, b. ‘I’m not leaving home until it stops raining’ and/or, c. ‘Drinking to keep warm is probably a sensible option, best start getting my beer coat on.’ Whatever the reason, the early afternoon was quiet.

The first act we saw was Flume playing to a small but clearly devoted crowd on the Atoll stage. Sydney native Harley Streten’s dreamy electronica was gorgeous, one could go so far as to say, ‘like a ray of sunshine’, but you wouldn’t. Except in this case, the sun did actually start shining whilst he was playing Sleepless. It was an early highlight.

Hermitude were up next on the main stage and wandered on decked out in iPad necklaces on fat gold chains. Hit, Speak of the Devil drew people running from all directions to hear and definitely more than one person was dancing so hard they took spectacular dives off the rain slicked seats. By about 2pm the rain had died down enough for people to start forgetting how wet their socks were. Rizzle Kicks on the main stage were in hilarious form despite, in their own words, Melbourne being ‘fucking freezing’. The English hip-hop duo and their band – including a trumpeter – looked like they were having a particularly good time, teasing the front row with bum dances (which later made reappearance in support of Labyrinth’s Earthquake), playing a skanked out version the James Bond theme, generally loving life. Unfortunately for Chiddy Bang they were up next and, when the snippet of Kimbra played during set-up is more satisfying, you know you’re in trouble.

Walking out of the bowl and back up the hill, we were just in time to catch the end of Charlie XCX. On a stage covered in garbage bag streamers and plastic roses, the diminutive Charlie, propped on platforms thicker than three bricks, was captivating, her beautiful wailing voice drifting across a small sea of heads topped with soft clouds of frizzed hair, through the rest of the Music Bowl.

After the brief interlude on the top of the hill it was back down into the bowl, now packed with wet bodies starting to steam, the sun had come back out just in time for Plan B. Starting off with hit She Said, Ben Drew (left) and his incredibly tight band set an extraordinarily high bar for the rest of the set which they reached without a stretch. Joined on stage by terrifying beatboxer, Faith SFX, things got progressively more intense as the crowd were treated to tracks from new release Ill Manors, culminating in a dub-step, beat-boxed version of Seal’s Kiss From a Rose.

During a 5’oclock lull in proceedings, when the rain started back up and miserable punters started clutching tins of rum and ginger beer like life-rafts in an arctic ocean, we decided to take a stroll to the aptly named Madam Siks’s Junk stage. The tiny bamboo DJ tent, perched on the perimeter of the Music Bowl was surrounded by a collection of drunk people, lost on their way to the main stage. Whilst everyone did seem to be enjoying themselves, making friends, dancing expressively, there were a lot of perplexed looks being thrown at the DJ, everything was a bit confusing….wasn’t the stage supposed to be bigger..? When would Passion Pit be starting?? Back away…slowly.

Back at the Atoll stage, Tame Impala were taking their chances with frostbite, discarding their shoes and playing barefoot. Whilst no one could decipher an actual lyric, the general mood was very pleasant. Night had fallen by the time Nero’s stage set – a stack of amps and speakers the size of a small house – was unveiled. As the British dub-steppers unleashed chest reverberations on the gathered masses, the rain once again started pouring, but by this stage no one seemed to notice. When singer Alana Watson appeared as a small blond speck in front of the ominous black cube for Promises, the rain, the huge waves of sound and the sweep of white neon lights over the swaying crowd were a hypnotic combination.

After a bitingly cool set from French DJ’s Justice, came the biggest question of the day and night, Robyn or The Presets? Having decided on the former we hiked to the top of the hill, dodging the milling faces racked by doubt and indecision, ‘up the hill or down? The Presets or Robyn, Presets or Robyn????’

Robyn (pictured, right) as it turned out, was an excellent decision. She was without a doubt the highlight of the festival and, judging by the waves of pure adoration rolling through the crowd and crashing at her feet, we weren’t the only ones who thought so. Flanked by a band dressed in matching lab coats, the Swedish singer exploded onto the stage and didn’t let up for second of her almost hour long set, she was completely mesmerising. To the familiar sounds of We Dance to the Beat, CobraStyle and every other Robyn song you know you love, the tiny blond rode a bass drum, licked fingers, and generally ripped shit up. If Robyn’s set left anyone confused about her music, it was only to question songs like Dancing on My Own because her performance made one thing clear, there is no way Robyn would ever have trouble luring dance partners into a dark corner.

Words by Ebe Cassidy. Pictures by Ebe Cassidy and Aengus Cassidy. You can see more pics on our Facebook page.