Parklife - now in its sixth year under the current moniker - is brought to Manchester by the same people behind the Warehouse Project, but even a cursory glance at the Heaton Park event's particulars should be enough to give that away on their own.

The lineups have consistently brought together a head-turning number of the world's finest dance and hip-hop acts, with a liberal enough sprinkling of indie rock to broaden its appeal beyond its core audience. Both the club and the festival have adopted uncompromising advertising campaigns that have ranged from the admirably bolshy - posters for the forthcoming Warehouse season simply scream "FOR TWELVE WEEKS THIS CITY IS OURS" - to the clumsily inconsiderate: last year, Parklife's organisers advertised after-parties with mass texts purporting to be from 'Mum', and were fined £70,000 after complaints from bereaved recipients.

Parklife, like its longer-running older brother, commands unwavering devotion and genuine derision in equal measure; the fact that it seems to get bigger, with the lineups more expansive, by the year suggests that the former camp might be winning out. They've been collaborating with local promoters extraordinaire Now Wave from pretty much the get-go, and their stage throws up a couple of the genuine highlights on the Saturday. Bernard + Edith open proceedings in the tent just a week after dropping debut record Jem on Bella Union; it's an album that, stylistically, fluctuates pretty wildly, with the only constant the dark, Lynchian atmosphere that runs through the songs. They bring the tracks to life in impressively sparse fashion, too; with only Nick Delap's army of synths for backing, Greta Carroll's voice - which swings between vulnerable and menacing - takes centre stage.

The stage's standout set comes courtesy of an act considerably less local; Canada's Mac DeMarco. He's an interesting character; suggestions from detractors that the blaze of press attention he's enjoyed over the last couple of years is grossly disproportionate to the simplicity of his music have been besides the point. DeMarco is an absolute character, and they're in short supply in the alternative music world at the minute. In fact, as today's set proves, it's the contradiction between his goofball personality and the oddly affecting nature of his songs that make him such an intriguing proposition. When I interviewed him last year, I couldn't help but feel he might have painted himself into a corner; his live shows had become habitually raucous, whisky-fuelled affairs that used ridiculous covers to pad out his burgeoning back catalogue (an infamous 'highlight' was a frankly dystopian take on U2's 'Beautiful Day', reeled off in the nude with a drumstick up his arse.) It seemed unreasonable for him to keep this up as the rooms got bigger and bigger, perhaps explaining the flatness of last year's gig across town at The Ritz. Today's hour-long slot, though, suggests he's settled into playing to sizeable crowds: the interaction's as silly as ever (he and his band scream at the audience for a couple of minutes before telling them, "thanks very much, that's a new song called 'Twitter Profile'), but the songs sound genuinely powerful in places too - 'Brother' becomes a soulful affair, whilst 'Cooking Up Something Good' and 'Freaking Out the Neighbourhood' incite mass singalongs before the obligatory crowdsurf on extended closer 'Still Together.'

Over on the main stage, Wu-Tang Clan are the pick of the day - if, of course, you can call them that. As usual, they're missing several key players; the 20th anniversary shows of a couple of summers ago, which had all eight surviving members plus Cappadonna and Streetlife on stage together, are beginning to feel like a trick of the memory. Today, Cappa's here again, accompanied by five of the core lineup - Ghostface, GZA, U-God, Inspectah Deck and Masta Killa. Raekwon and Method Man are both on their own tours in the States, with RZA's absence likely down to his commitments in Hollywood. In fairness, they deal with this reasonably well, focusing as much as possible on material that they can still perform uncut: 'Winter Warz', from Ghost's '96 classic Ironman, is a standout, with Cappadonna's seemingly never-ending verse - one of the great individual moments in the Wu-Tang catalogue - delivered flawlessly. Masta Killa's 'One Blood Under W', from 1999's maligned The W LP, is another highlight, but the problem is that most of this festival crowd aren't here for the deep cuts - they want the classics, and the Clan are ill-equipped to deliver. What's strange is that, with the Chef's verse on 'Triumph' excepted, the others aren't willing to fill in for the no-shows - surely somebody else could fire through Rae's verse on 'C.R.E.A.M.', for instance? Instead, they simply skip it and shorten the song, making the Method Man-less 'Gravel Pit' a farcical, blink-and-you'll-miss-it turn. On top of that, without two of the group's biggest personalities, things feel awkward, and stilted - Meth is their one true showman, and without him and RZA, there's no true conduit for the audience's energy. Masta Killa tries his best, but isn't a born entertainer like those two - the set's uneven at best as a result, and you wonder quite how, after twenty-two years, they've never been pulled up under the Trade Descriptions Act for these 'Wu-Tang' live appearances.

The festival's bookers pulled off a couple of real coups with the lineup this year: on the Saturday, The Roots had been set to play what would have been a surprising overseas date, given their commitments on The Tonight Show in the States, but they were quietly removed from the poster shortly beforehand without explanation. Sunday's special guest does turn up then, and how: who else - who else? - but Grace Jones could take the stage in a golden skull mask and leave it after hula-hooping for the entirety of a seven-minute version of 'Slave to the Rhythm'? There are no valid points of comparison for this woman - she is a true original. Her set is a veritable carnival of costume changes (six of them - that's one every eight-and-a-half minutes), male pole dancers (really) and a neat selection from Jones' arsenal of classic pop songs. 'Nightclubbing' and an irresistible 'Pull Up to the Bumper' go down a storm, but 'My Jamaican Guy' flags up her reggae credentials and her take on Roxy Music's 'Love Is the Drug' puts the original in the shade. You can't help but hope she might one day put out what would be only her second new record since 1989, but Jones has never, ever played by anybody's rules but her own. She is, as today's performance hammers home, perhaps pop's greatest maverick.

One of the genre's new shining lights, meanwhile, brings the sun with her for her third appearance at Parklife. Jessie Ware is a perfect fit for this early evening set and - after it was released, totally unsuitably, in October last year - Tough Love is surely nailed-on, belatedly, for pop record of the summer. There's so much intelligence to the tracks on there - from the sultry synthpop of 'Champagne Kisses' to the unabashed soul of 'Say You Love Me' - that they overshadow the big-hitting likes of 'Wildest Moments'. Ware's a charming, witty performer with familial ties to Manchester - she seems to genuinely love it here - and it's hard to envision any better setting than this for her to run through songs from a record that sounds like a modern reinterpretation of Sade's Lovers Rock.

As the sun sets over the second stage, one of hip-hop's real icons is addressing the crowd. "That concludes my debut album, Illmatic." Except that it doesn't; ironically enough, he's managed to miss out 'Memory Lane', for reasons unexplained. Still, bar an understandably brief take on 'Life's a Bitch' (AZ handled the bulk of the vocal duty on record), everything else is present and correct, and infused with a vigour that belies the fact that Nas has been playing these songs for two decades. The tracks themselves haven't aged, of course - they never will, either - and there can't realistically be a single hip-hop head in what is a huge crowd who doesn't get goosebumps when those eerie samples that dominate 'Represent' and 'One Love' begin to drift over the crowd. He only gets an hour, so doesn't have much time to squeeze more in beyond Illmatic - even so, we still get 'If I Ruled the World', 'Got Yourself a Gun' and 'Hate Me Now', but nothing he can pull out late on is ever going to top an (almost) complete run-through the greatest hip-hop record of all time.

The size of the crowd for Nas' set - as well as those for the likes of Wu-Tang, Action Bronson and Earl Sweatshirt across the weekend - serve as proof that Parklife has captured the imagination of Manchester's hip-hop fans as well as the dance community. With a healthy complement of pop and indie rock, too, Parklife again brought a terrifically diverse lineup to Heaton Park; after being dogged by controversy last year, this weekend had the music doing the talking. Long may it continue.

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