Friday and Saturday
Lovebox, the festival created and curated by Groove Armada, celebrated it’s tenth anniversary this year, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Having attended the same festival this time last year, I was eager to take the trip down to the capital and hope to relive some of the best memories I have of festival life all over again.
Lovebox, unlike the more traditional festivals that span an entire weekend, isn’t an event where you take your tent and sleeping bag. It is very much an urban affair, even if it is housed in the frankly picturesque Victoria Park in East London; this only added to the charm, however, as checking out the more traditional night-time hangouts with your fellow festival junkies certainly has it’s benefits.
As most of these things usually begin, the show kicked off on Friday, and got right into the swing of things. The Big Top, hosted this time round by Rinse 106.8FM, was just what was needed for a high energy start. Ms Dynamite, who seems to be at a high percentage of festivals I attend, and yet somehow remained an artist I hadn’t seen, treated the crowd to a nunber of her distinctive garage style MC-esque vocals, and followed immediately by RedLight, drove home the late nineties stylings, and although the audience was still warming up, the track selection proved to be a great ice-breaker for us. However, we couldn’t hang around for long; with a line up of this calibre, we had to get around fast or miss it. Next up, on the main stage was the French DJ Madeon. He bought his trademark twin Ableton Launchpad set-up, and he certainly used it to his utmost ability. Considering how young Madeon is (only 18), he commanded the stage, had the crowd jumping and provided some intense electronic tunes, mixed seemlessly with a huge number of remixes. You could tell he had put great care and attention into his playlist, and was undeniably one of the highlights of the Friday.
Soon we made our way to the Stockade tent where 2 Bears were pleasing a much smaller crowd with their minimalist tracklist (although I feel that Joe Goddard was thinking more about the Hot Chip headline set he was to perform mere hours later). Paired with the flamboyant stage performances form what I can only describe as a cross between ballet and a serious spandex pile-up, 2 Bears proved to be an eccentric break from most of the other artists performing.
Next stop was to the Digital Soundboy Outdoor Stage, bringing flashbacks of seeing Filthy Dukes at the same stage last year (to an incredibly disappointing crowd of about 20 people, especially considering how much I was looking forward to seeing them. Anyway, back to this year), and first up was Shy FX & Stamina MC. They provided a good number of tracks, but at this point, I was more filled with anticipation at who was next on the line-up: Rusko. It’s safe to say I’m a big fan of the Leeds-born DJ, having seen him a number of times before, and he remains one of the most energetic live performers in memory,so I couldn’t resist seeing his Dubstep laced catalogue performed to us on what was turning into a cool, clear evening. So we waited. And waited. And waited. And then Sub Focus turned up. Initially perplexed, it transpired that Rusko hadn’t made it. This was obviously very disappointing, but I didn’t stay down for long. After a brief trip to check out Jaguar Skills, the sampling genius, usually found on megamixes on Radio 1, we went back to check out Sub Focus.
Any dismay that I had from missing Rusko immediately evaporated after 5 minutes of watching Sub Focus and his astounding light show. The visual effects, twinned with his constantly dizzying Drum and Bass had the crowd in a frenzy, myself included. Finishing the set with the House themed ‘Could This Be Real‘ justified why so many had joined us at the Outdoor Stage, rounding of a superb performance. It was a great way to end the first night; full of energy and ready for more of the same on Saturday.
Having woken up with a touch of hangover in the morning, we made a slightly later start of Saturday, turning up to catch the back end of Maverick Sabre’s set on the main stage. From what we heard, it was a chilled vibe with elements of brass interspersed onto his records, which was a nice shift in pace to ease us back into the swing of things.
That ‘ease’ didn’t exactly last long though. Next, onto arguably one of my favourite record labels hosting the Big Top: Hospitality. I remember them hosting the same place last year, and they remained a highlight for me, and this year was no exception. Catching Danny Byrd and MC Risky (who, although unaware previously of Risky, will now be someone I’ll keep an eye on, because he was absolutely brilliant) was a good way to kick things off, and a good indicator on the kind of talent that was to come from one of the country’s best collective of Drum and Bass DJs. However, there was, once more, one major act coming up that I couldn’t go home without seeing in their entirity.
After checking out a small segment from S.P.Y & Lowqui at Hospitality, we swiftly made our way over early in preparation for Groove Armada. Playing an exclusive show to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Lovebox, Groove Armada proved to be one of, if not the best, show of the weekend. Accompanied by guest singers and live trombone sections, they played a huge selection of instantly recognisable tracks including ‘Song 4 Mutya‘, ‘Get Down’ and the crowd pleasing ‘I See You Baby‘, as well as managing to throw in a couple that weren’t there own (including The Source and Candi Staton – You Got the Love‘). They closed their set with ‘Superstylin‘, arguably their most recognisable and best song, which had the several thousand other people surrounding me jumping up and down in succinct unison. It was a truly amazing show that will certainly last in my memory, and I’m positive I’m not the only person thinking that after this weekend.
There was little that could realistically follow a show like that, but we soldiered on regardless. Back to Hospitality it was then, to catch High Contrast (one of my personal favourite producers), with Dynamite MC providing the lyrics. At this point, the veterans of the Big Top were at their absolute peak, and the energy kept going into the act to follow. After nipping over to check some of Friendly Fires, and seeing what was a slightly underwhelming and docile crowd (which is no reflection on the quality of music, with ‘Kiss of Life‘ performed with great aplomb), we swiftly returned to catch the last act of the night in Camo & Krooked.
Being a big fan of theirs, this was one I was not going to miss. The Big Top by this stage was overflowing with people; no mean feat when you consider the size of the stage itself. The set, which included ‘Sweet Shop‘, ‘All Fall Down‘ and, my personal favourite, ‘Make the Call‘ blended seemlessly together and kept the crowd staying even after the artists had left the stage to show their appreciation, which was entirely deserved.
Although I didn’t attend the Sunday of the weekend, I was left in awe of some of the acts I had seen. Yes, there were indeed some disappointments, but that couldn’t upset what was an otherwise spectacular festival. Groove Armada was a major highlight, and I cannot recommend them enough if you ever get a chance to see their live show, and it was a good chance to see the progress of some emerging bands, as well as revisiting some old favourites. Bring on Lovebox 2013.