Parklife Cape Town – a test run to see if the city loves the festival enough to bring it down regularly – was mostly a light-hearted event, reminiscent of teenage infatuation. Just outside the mighty Cape Town Stadium, the young and hip gathered on the green fields of the cricket club for some valuable intake of local and international music as well as gourmet festival food.
The Plastics, introduced as the quintessential Cape Town band, fitted the profile well. Their puppy-love, high-school heartbreak indie pop enhanced the feeling of innocent fun and excitement. As they finished their set and politely thanked everyone, the crowd confirmed their appreciation by asking for more. PH Fat – also a popular mothercity act – were a bit more frisky. Joined by JungFreud and Mr.Sakitumi, the band’s ‘front-rapper’, Smooth Mike, ran the show with his unbound charisma as he clowned across the stage to droning beats. Being the rebel of the class, JungFreud said she didn’t know the words to the radio edit of ‘If He Can’t Dance’ when Mike expressed concern about all the children present. Nonetheless, they pulled off a more delicate version of the cool-as-ice, ghetto-attitude song.
American Authors brought the vibe back to carefree playfulness. With lines such as “things are going to get better” from popular hit ‘Believer’, their positivity was interspersed with dramatic drumming and power-rock guitar chords. The friendly, feel-good sound typical of many indie pop bands was mirrored by lead vocalist Zachary Barnett’s sweet words in-between songs. He made it very clear how happy they were to be invited to sunny and scenic South Africa – a contrast to their home turf in Brooklyn, US. Not afraid to interact with the audience, he climbed over the barricades to encourage everyone to sing along to their dynamic pop tunes.
Next up was Jeremy Loops – a local festival regular who is also known to get everyone involved. Although he often masters a lot of his set alone, this time he shared it with a bunch of musicians, including Mr. Sakitumi as well as regular collaborators Jamie Faull on sax and rapper Motheo Moleko. He kept everyone dreaming of paradise with classic crowd-pleasers ‘Mission to the Sun’ and ‘Down South’ but also performed new tunes from his 2014 album Trading Change. It was a good-fun, jazz-hued hip hop meets ‘modern folk’ medley.
As the sun went down, so did the dreamy optimism. Modest Mouse – the most anticipated act of the night – changed the mood with their feisty, this-is-how-it-is confidence. Lead vocalist Isaac Brock fiercely pelted through his spot-on, grown-up but off-the-wall indie tunes while backed by a multi-dexterous band. Fully aware of their adeptness, Brock told the audience he knew they were here because his band is awesome. Being one of the few artists who can get away with arrogance, this didn’t cause much contempt. Rather, an increasingly boozed-up audience rocked out to old favourites such as ‘Ocean Breathes Salty’ as well as new introductions from their recent album after seven years, Strangers to Ourselves.
Do we want Parklife back next year? If the organisers bring quality bands to our shores – something that was praised a lot by performers and festival attendees – then that’s a definite yes. Although the gimmicks didn’t differ much from any other city festival, it’s certainly worth attending for the fusion of local and international music. Whether South African acts can compete with the world is certainly no longer up for debate.
Parklife took place at the Greenpoint cricket grounds, Cape Town, on 2 May 2015. See photos of the event.