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Parklife SA – The Gourmet Experience

Parklife SA prides itself as a gourmet food and music festival. According to the Oxford Dictionary the word gourmet is defined as “a connoisseur of good food; a person with a discerning palate”. So in other words Parklife invites lovers of good food and good music to the esteemed day festival. I like the sound of that. As did thousands of other “connoisseurs” who braced the blazing sun in Johannesburg for this (sold out!) fifth annual event at Marks Park.

Parklife starts so damn early. So for late sleepers or weekend workers (like me) who arrived early afternoon, basically half the fun was already missed. If the chats from passerby are to be trusted, Majozi, Desmond & The Tutus and Josh Wantie were an amazing start to the day. It probably makes sort of sense that the organisers want all the crazy folk out the grounds early evening instead of midnight, but let’s face it: the party only really starts after the sun says goodbye.

I ventured into the festival grounds along with hundreds of other latecomers to the sounds of Just Jinjer filling my ears. After getting my festival wristband, I dashed to the Park Stage to get a better look and listen to this iconic band. They put on one heck of a show – years of stage experience (locally as well as internationally), clearly counts in their favour. The band held the audience in the palm of their hand with golden oldies (“Sugarman”, “Shallow Waters” and “What He Means”), as well as brand-new material from the “Everything Since Then” album. Ard and his fellow band members created a rock show feel to the day and rock ‘n roll hands were everywhere to be seen in the crowd.

Al Bairre was their usual entertaining and energetic self, but because of the overcrowded bar area (which felt more like a sauna) I only caught the last glimpse of the wild Cape Town band. What I saw and heard sounded very jovial. I’m glad to see that they have embarked and will be embarking on many missions abroad this year. It’s high time the world gets to experience this unique musical treat.

We raced over back to the Park stage to see the festival headliner, Jasmine Thompson. Although a rather peculiar choice to headline the fest, this 15-year old singer from London was a hit with the crowd. And don’t let her age fool you! Jasmine is a vocal force to be reckoned with and her tonality is extremely mature for her age. Unfortunately her young years shun through when she tried to make small talk with the crowd in between songs. However, hits like “Adore”, “Ain’t Nobody”, “Fast Car” (the Tracy Chapman classic) and of course the mega dance smasher, “Sun Goes Down” kept the crowd entertained and fixated on the young beauty. With time and the right song choices going forward, Jasmine might well be a name we’ll be hearing for a long time to come.

The electropop singer-songwriter, James Hersey, all the way from Austria, entertained without blowing minds. His set comprising of songs from his “Clarity” album simply came and went. Perhaps his style didn’t fit the festival’s vibe, but it didn’t look like anyone was raving. Many started making their way to the other stage to go and check out the sensational Jeremy Loops. I’m so glad that Jeremy’s international career has taken off by storm and that local fans finally realise what a musical powerhouse he is. He kept the crowd mesmerized and awestruck with every passing song and showed off his diverse musicality. His ease on stage has also developed in leaps and bounds since he started out.

GOODLUCK’s live set is always fantastic and they didn’t disappoint at Parklife. Their energy is contagious, with every member bringing an important element to their live showcase. The disco style neon lights were a cool addition to their show and their latest single, “Thinking About You” (a cover from London Beat’s 90’s hit) was extremely well received, although only being released shortly before Parklife. The real showstoppers, however, were Mi Casa. These guys can simply not put a foot wrong and were a great choice to end off the day’s festivities. Song after song, the crowd was chanting along. J’Something’s stage personality is electrifying and his massive speech before “Chocolat” was the cherry on the (chocolate) cake.

The idea of having two main stages which alternated between live music acts, as well as an electronic stage for the EDM fans, was cleverly implemented. The lack of shade remained a big concern and perhaps the organisers should better take into account Jozi’s hot month of April when planning next year’s event. The food area was set out really wonderfully and boasted with a wide variety (think curries, burgers, Chinese, vetkoek and everything in between), but unfortunately the long queues left many people missing out on the music. The alcohol suppliers totally under catered – I mean, how does many types of drinks simply run out by 2pm already? Either the suppliers didn’t calculate cleverly or they didn’t know that Jo’burgers are a thirsty bunch. Having only one bar area, was also a big negative for the fest. Better planning for next year is a must, if Parklike wants to attract as many people as this year.

Apart from the few improvements that can be made going forward, Parklife has definitely grown to be a not-to-be-missed event of the Jozi calendar. See you there in 2017!

Photos: Stanley June

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