By Sarah Taylor
BBC Radio 6 Music Festival graced Stretford’s Victoria Warehouse for what will be the first of many weekends to come, as the event permanently relocates to Manchester – pretty fitting for a city with such a rich and well-documented musical history.
After impressive performances from the likes of Loyle Carner and Christine & the Queens the previous two nights, it was down to Arlo Parks and The Big Moon to close the weekend with a bang.
The Big Moon, an all-female four-piece rock band, gave a masterclass in festival performances, pulling out all the stops as they played to some 3,500 punters. Three albums in, The Big Moon have only gotten better. The set was mainly composed of tracks from recent release Here is Everything (2022), which details frontwoman Juliette Jackson’s feelings about motherhood as she welcomed a child in 2021.
Jackson, joined by Soph Nathan and Celia Archer, performed a stunning acapella introduction to ‘Formidable’, one of two songs performed from the band’s stellar Mercury-nominated 2017 debut Love in the 4th Dimension.
During ‘Bonfire’, Jules climbs down from the stage, reaching out to audience members, sharing the mic, and holding hands. At one point she crouches down on the floor before jumping up again in its explosive chorus. It’s a testament to the group’s versatility, from the rockier cuts to the gentler ballads.
It’s a shame the crowd didn’t get quite as stuck into the heavier numbers as hoped. But then again, this was a 6 Music crowd. To be honest, it was quite refreshing to have personal space when I moved down from the balcony to the floor, rather than being jostled about as per.
The band looked completely at ease on stage, as they transitioned smoothly from song to song, with Jules regularly speaking to the crowd. Several times throughout the set the band members swap instruments, showcasing their multi-instrumental talents. During ‘Barcelona’, Jules and Celia take to their flutes, inflecting the performance with a little folk.
They welcome Manchester’s SHE Choir, a nice way of linking things back to the city, for the slower ‘Satellites’ and ‘2 Lines’, and finish with their signature song ‘Your Light’. A slick set from a criminally underrated band.
I first saw Arlo perform for a small crowd at Liverpool’s now defunct Arts Club in 2021. Her growth as an artist and performer since is striking. She seems much more comfortable interacting with her audience – not cocky, but not so shy and introverted as she once was. Like the sunflowers that once adorned her stage, her career is in bloom.
This is the first time Parks has headlined a festival. She thanks BBC Radio 6 and her increasing fanbase for their continued support, before ploughing into hit ‘Caroline’, which sparks the first huge sing-along moment of the evening.
Parks’ music often feels diaristic, as she invites the listener into her head, revealing her inner-most thoughts and feelings, intertwining the personal and poetic. Like any truly great artist, she can capture the complexity of the human experience and execute it with a simple hook and melody. Its this sense of simplicity – easy-going beats and hushed vocals – combined with relatable lyricism that has won over so many listeners.
Debut single ‘Colours’ along with tracks like ‘Hurt’ and ‘Too Good’ from her Mercury Prize-winning record Collapsed in Sunbeams (2021) demonstrate this perfectly. She introduces the latter track as her most upbeat offering – ‘Now’s the time to boogie, Manchester!’ Her new material picks up where her last album left off. Latest single ‘Impurities’ gets its live debut tonight, meanwhile, the lead single ‘Softly’ is the set-closer.
She reaches for a notebook, reading out her poem ‘A Note for Arthur Russell’, which, like the rest of her work, is vivid and thoughtful. During the melancholic ‘Black Dog’ she welcomes Romy Madley Croft of The xx to duet. It’s a beautiful union that will delight the previous generation of indie teens as much as it will the present. Later, Fontaines D.C. drummer Tom Coll joins her band to play ‘Sophie’ in the encore.
Arlo Parks’ appeal is transcendent. The 6 Music dads nod in time while her younger fans turn to each other, embracing or expressing their love for certain tracks. As she continues to cover topics of young (queer) love and mental health, its evident that her music means a great deal to these fans.
Watch Arlo Parks’ set on BBC iPlayer or listen on BBC Sounds.
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