Parklife 2017 was all it was cracked up to be. It was sunny at times, cloudy at most, and often full on pissed it down. The toilets were a disgrace. It seemed you were either queueing up to do your annual shit, or to ram an unidentifiable substance up your nose that you bought from a man that you swore “could’ve been Noel Gallagher”. The music, much like any festival, was the event’s saving grace. You had the choice to drag yourself and your 7 bags of MDMA to a stage where you could kind of dance, but more put one hand in the air in the shape of a very small gun and gently thrust your torso towards the DJ, or you could stand in a very large area of pure mud whilst watching some of the best music you may only ever see once.
After walking past a girl, hands brought up to her chest like a dinosaur, shouting ‘egg!’ at the floor, Chaka Khan was calling. I didn’t ever think that me and two of my mates, at midday, would be singing at the top of our lungs “I’m every woman”, though it turned out to be very magical. The wait over the weekend for Frank Ocean threw up some interesting occurrences. Not to mention me having to turn to my friend and say, “Dylan, it’s 2pm on a Sunday afternoon, please please stop crying whilst watching Jess Glynne”. There were lots of places I would rather have been.
Frank Ocean was the Machu Picchu of the weekend; a very hard pilgrimage through a tiring 2 days to finally see and hear the myth that was changing the art game. All weekend there was talk of him dropping out, and I pictured him sitting in LAX thinking whether or not he should board the flight. At 9:30pm on Sunday thousands of people stared intently at the walkway protruding into the crowd. 30 minutes later, and even bigger crowd were still gazing at the screens on the stage which read:
576 x 972
Everyone was waiting eagerly to see if the man who hadn’t performed since 2014 would walk down that runway to the set up of speakers and lights to satisfy the needs of the awaiting wide-eyes. But he did, and it was nothing but incredible.
As expected, he didn’t play ‘Slide’ or ‘Lost’, I guessed it was because he didn’t want the commercial songs to define his image or his new-coming performance. Starting with ‘Solo’, he then re-started with ‘Solo’, and each time the crowd sang along with their eyes fixated on him and his t-shirt boasting Brad Pitt. ‘Chanel’ was the highlight of the performance, and it was performed so effortlessly. Straight after, he walked back over to the controls where he had been selecting the backing tracks and started to play ‘Chanel’ again, and said “sorry, sorry, I wanna do this one again. I like this one”. Shortly after, he performed ‘Biking’ and elevated the passion in the last few seconds of the song to an unanticipated level. Jumping and running down the walkway shouting the last few lyrics, left everyone either watching in awe, or watching through the camera of any social media they scrambled to open.
Photographers were prohibited from the pit around the walkway, and it was patrolled by just 2 gentle looking men that could probably kill you. Every time Frank Ocean walked slightly out of sight everyone would turn their heads to face the colossal screens on the stage. One camera arose and turned following Ocean’s face and movements to give extraordinary shots of him singing and against a backdrop of thousands of people. One camera man was constantly treading around and on the stage with an old-look camcorder trying to find the best shots of Ocean and the setting. On the screen this gave the effect of unedited vintage filming, you know the one; your mate probably has an app that he uses to create it and then post it on Instagram but everyone knows it’s just an app and you’re at your mum’s house. The small set up of equipment and Ocean’s musicians all sat in a tight circle, being filmed by one man with a camcorder made it look like everyone was watching Frank Ocean in a studio, running through his favourite songs just for fun.
Every now and then, Frank Ocean would take off his headphones and say, “I’m sorry I can’t hear you guys through these”, smile, and then put them back on. It felt like he was alone on stage, and often forgot that there was a whole festival of people watching him. Maybe this was a coping method for a man who clearly finds something about performing live difficult. Either way it created a sense that the audience was detached from the performance, but so close to him at the same time. For just over an hour, it felt like thousands and thousands of people were all cramped inside Frank Ocean’s bedroom silently watching him sing to himself, and it was nothing but incredible.