A rainbow of dancing ponchos brightened darkened skies as Parklife descended on Melbourne, writes Jane Metlikovec.
Drizzle morphed into driving rain as the first beats rang out over Sidney Myer Music Bowl, signaling the start of a sodden, water-soaked Saturday.
But there wasn’t a dampened spirit in sight as 18,000 punters took in some of the world’s best dance acts for a day of arm-waving electro, seat-standing dubstep and foot-stomping drum and bass.
NSW hip hop act Hermitude had the early afternoon crowd shaking off raindrops to local hit “Speak of the Devil”, quickly proving themselves a worthwhile addition to the Sahara main stage bill as thousands jumped on their seats and yelled “dance, dance, dance, dance!”
Over on the Atoll stage, South African-born, NYC-based synth popster Jean-Philip Grobler launched into his sunset-dipped sounds under the moniker St Lucia.
Transporting fans from the downpour into a world of warm beaches, cold beers and chillout beats, St Lucia instantly pulled an impressive crowd, only to let them go just as quickly.
A computer glitch led to the backing band restarting a song three times as the laptop failed at every attempt at a chorus.
“Warning. Never make music with laptops,” Grobler intoned into the microphone, clearly frustrated by the recurring technical troubles. Once, and he would have been forgiven, but to begin the same song three times left some fans searching for a little more professionalism elsewhere.
For those who stayed, they were treated to an impressive finale of “September” – a fantastic spring song.
Looking like she had escaped a genie bottle in a desert far away, UK singer/songwriter Charlotte Aitchison, AKA Charli XCX, surprised with an energy-filled set.
She pounced about the stage, swaying her bare midriff and impressing with her falsetto on single “Nuclear Seasons”. An emphatic performance from the 20-year-old, made even more striking by the fact she hasn’t even released her debut album yet.
US sample rappers Chiddy Bang had the main stage seat-stomping again with hit “Ray Charles”, and were a fitting prequel to major drawcard Plan B.
The UK artist unsurprisingly pulled the biggest crowd of the afternoon, laying down tracks “Stay Too Long” and “Ill Manners” with crowd yelling along with lyrics “Oi! I said Oi! What you looking at, you little rich boy!” Biggest hit “Lost My Way” was another crowd pleaser.
Back at Atoll, UK hip hopster Wiley sent arms above heads with hit “Wearing My Rolex” and an impressive cover of “Never Be Your Woman”.
Sunset was the perfect time for drum/bass/dubstep colossus Nero to take to the Sahara, the duo dwarfed by their Daft Punk-esque speaker stack tower, and hidden behind wrap-sunglasses and white lights.
“Me and You” and the “Crush On You” remix were early crowd pleasers before vocalist Alana Watson jumped on for their closer “Promises” – unrivalled as the biggest hit of the day.
The thumping Nero set couldn’t be matched by US indie pop group Passion Pit over on Atoll, who unfortunately were something of an anticlimax. It wasn’t their fault, just too hard an act to follow. Still, the crowd sang along to tunes from popular 2009 album Manners, with catchy “Reeling” the highlight.
French boys Justice DJs primed fans for the Parklife finale, with a mash-up of their hit song “We Are Your Friends” rounding out a solid dance set and paving the way for local electro duo The Presets.
The biggest dance act this country has seen made their long-awaited return to the festival stage, launching with “Kicking and Screaming”, before rolling through fellow Apocalypso hits “This Boy’s In Love”, “Talk Like That”, and “If I Know You”.
Fans from the early days jumped along to 2005 breakthrough hit “Are You the One?”. New single “Ghosts” from current album Pacifica earned an equally rousing reception, with the entire music bowl jumping for closing tune “My People”.
Parklife. Fabulous festival. Get involved.