With the AFL grand final replay bound to be keeping a lot of people in front of the telly, no one quite knew how this year’s Melbourne Parklife was going to turn out. However, bathed in a wash of warm, spring sunshine, the worlds of sport and music managed to co-exist quite happily on this first Saturday in October. At the curiously named Atoll stage, the notoriously tricky festival opening slot was taken on by Melbourne band We Are Fans who, despite starting with a modest crowd as the early birds trickled through the gates, managed to pull it off; lashes of seductive electronic disco drawing in the bodies.
Having moved across the river from last year’s Birrarung Marr venue to the tailor made Sidney Myer Music bowl, Parklife had something to prove in this new space and, as the first festival of the season, has set a high standard for the others to follow. The ‘feel good’ line up was weighted to the lighter side of the musical spectrum, which yielded a fun, breezy, yet exhilarating atmosphere. With the evening glow slowly slipping behind the horizon, international young gun Grum was on hand at The Cave stage to provide a fitting sunset soundtrack. Based in Leeds but originally from Falkirk, Scotland, Grum has seen his profile soar over the past year and set the crowd in motion with a seamless trail of disco glazed house and electro. Most known for the casio-tastic hit Heartbeats, Grum’s production talents have been in high demand of late, freaky cock-pop luminary Lady Ga Ga calling him in on remix duties on international smash Bad Romance.
With a nifty little set up that allowed a swift turnaround from the main stage to a little side DJ booth, the crowd at The Cave promptly turned their attentions to Delorean, originally hailing from the Basque region of Spain but now based in the Catalan capital Barcelona. Loud, live and clearly enjoying every minute, this captivating 4-piece picked up the disco baton and ran with it, twisting their way through a set of rousing guitar riffs, floaty synth chords and pacey drums, all accompanied by front man Ekhi Lopetegi’s captivating vocals. Having remixed the likes of Franz Ferdinand and The xx, Dolorean have clearly got themselves a nice little nook, straddling indie, pop and dance scenes without compromising any of them. Whether or not current album Scubiza will bring their Balearic background to the forefront of a more mainstream scene remains to be seen, but you get the impression these guys are in no rush to get where they’re going.
The clock hit eight and anyone that was starting to wane need of only got themselves down the front for Jesse Rose and let the cuddly looking Berlin based DJ do the rest. He might be regretting labelling his sound as ‘fidget house’ a few years back, but lets not dwell on labels – Jess Rose knows exactly how to get a crowd going nuts on the dance floor. The emphasis here is on undoubtedly on the bass, and the energy of Rose’s track selection is unwavering from start to finish. Various influences can be detected throughout his set – little bits of steel band carnival, touch of wobbly electro, even some dnb thrown in there for good measure. Behind Rose for most of his set are other members of the bass house family including Plus One and Bengi G from Jack Beats, AC Slater and Sinden plus an unidentified hype man on the mic who trod carefully on the right side of contribution with sporadic shout outs to keep the energy levels maxing.
After Rose, it was the eagerly anticipate performance of US glitch-hop trio The Glitch Mob. Dance music never really seems to have taken off stateside but members edIT, Boreta and Ooah AKA Ed Ma, Justin Boreta and Josh Mayer, are the exception to the rule, enjoying a strong following in the homeland. They delivered a highly charged set of electronic beats, time-stretched, jittery and triggered tougher than Teflon but so tightly put together it’s nigh on impossible not to be taken by it. The stage composition – the boys symmetrically poised over their futuristic, touch sensitive Lemur control screens – only adding to the power of the performance.
Over on the main stage, dance monoliths Groove Armada performed to a sprawling mass of smiley, happy people stretching up the hill for an epic performance on what is reported to be their last ever tour. Having produced successive musical brilliance since first hit album Vertigo back in 1999, you can’t deny them the right to call it a day, but, as anyone who has witnessed a GA performance over the years will tell you, they truly are up at the top of the tree when it comes to live dance music. As the lanky, silhouetted frame of Andy Cato and his trombone stepped forward through smoke to play the unmistakeable riff of Super Styling for their final tune of the festival, a huge roar reverberated round the roof of the music bowl, mass hysteria ensued. They will be missed.