This weekend saw Victoria Park host the Lovebox Festival for the eighth year. Originally founded by Groove Armada, it was once predominantly a dance festival but over the years has morphed into a more eclectic mix of dance, rock and pop. The festival boasts a good few stages and tents with a range of different acts performing. It certainly feels more low-key and less commercial than other London festivals like Wireless, lacking the massive headliners they attract and opting for a steady flow of up and coming acts, DJ sets and popular, but not necessarily ‘of the moment’ headliners.
It would be fair to say that the theme for (the rather grey) Saturday was soul, with Kwabs and John Newman both playing smooth sets to a slightly sparse, but enraptured crowd in the afternoon and D’Angelo and Plan B set to headline. In between, electro-pop two-piece and act of the moment AlunaGeorge (Aluna and George, obvs) took to the main stage, showcasing hits from upcoming album Body Music. Aluna owned the stage, with her sugary sweet vocals, jerky dance moves and bang-on style. The duo played a clean, simple set, playing the crowd pleasing Disclosure hit White Noise, throwing in a Montell Jordan cover and closing on hit Your Drums, Your Love.
Next up, Netsky brought drum and bass to the main stage, playing a live set and attracting an energetic crowd who were warming up for the evening. Elsewhere in the festival, the smaller tents were also hotting up, DJ Yoda played to a packed out crowd in Russian Standard Vodka Arena and the Lovebox Soundsystem Tent was taken over by Supa Dupa Fly, who host one of the best nineties and noughties R&B and Hip Hop nights in London.
Back to the main stage, D’Angelo got us back on the soul train (sorry) with a smooth but funk-heavy performance, followed by Plan B, the Hackney born rapper and singer. If you didn’t know, Plan B also acts in films and stuff – and he definitely isn’t shy about it. His set opened with 20th Century Fox Style fanfare and continued with clips on the screens behind him as he played. Slightly arrogant perhaps, but there’s no doubt that he is talented, showcasing his soulful vocals within a tight set. A slightly lacklustre end to Saturday night, an evening which is, at most festivals, reserved strictly for big names and the hottest acts.
Sunday, a different day and a different vibe. The festival had been essentially chopped in half, the mainstage of the two previous nights was no more and the whole area surrounding it had been closed off for a VIP section. A new ‘main’ stage had been erected at the other side of the venue, decidedly smaller and without any big screens. Whether this was the plan all along or if it was the result of poor ticket sales is unclear but the result was nice, a more intimate and chilled atmosphere, perfect for the scorching weather. The crowd seemed to have also changed, while Saturday seemed to be all about the young folk getting wasted and showing a LOT of bum cheek (ladies, seriously, please stop wearing these bum flashing hot pants, and Topshop, please stop selling them), Sunday seemed to attract, on the whole, a slightly more mature and mellow crowd.
New York dream-pop/dark wave duo MS MR took over the main stage in the afternoon, performing a set of dreamy tracks from recently released debut album Secondhand Rapture. Expect big things from this band, they put on a fantastic performance, starting out with a small but strong crowd of fans but drawing in passers by with husky vocals from Lizzy (MS) and chilly beats from Max (MR).
Over in the Big Top tent, another duo, Canadian synth pop band Purity Ring played a rousing set accompanied by their trademark light show. Vocalist Megan James put on a kooky and aloof performance, showcasing her hypnotic voice but unfortunately being drowned out by the heavy bass at times.
Back at the main stage, festival favourite Kelis kept the crowd waiting for her arrival, but it was well worth it when she appeared in a fluorescent, glittery dress, proclaiming the colourful flags and ribbons that surrounded the stage were put up ‘just for her’. She greeted the crowd warmly and gave a heads up that her set would be a mixture of old and new tracks. Her performance turned out to be a true highlight of the festival, kicking off with hits 4th July and Bounce. She went on to perform new songs in between mash ups of her biggest tunes (Caught Out There, Millionaire, Trick Me, Baby I Got Your Money) and sampling songs by other artists from Labyrinth to Cyndi Lauper. She finished off her set to a thrilled crowd with Milkshake and a goose-bump inducing rendition of Acapella. She gave a polished, professionally produced but fun filled performance, reminding us all of her true superstar status.
After the axing of So Solid Crew from the line-up a few days before the festival (according to an irked Harvey – a fellow performer was unhappy with sharing a stage with them, ouch), there was yet more controversy plaguing the weekend. Much anticipated act Lil Kim was set to perform Sunday night on the main stage but was cancelled after turning up half an hour late and allegedly not being satisfied with the downsized stage. Let’s just hope she wasn’t the act that vetoed the Crew – awkward.
The show must go on, and the festival was rounded off with an electro-pop vibe with synthpop Manchester band Hurts taking over main stage followed by Sunday headliner Goldfrapp.
On the whole, Lovebox could be described as at best, eclectic and at worst, confused. Saturday and Sunday certainly felt like two different events and may show that, even though it favours creative and theatrical aesthetics; Glasto it ain’t, and like a few of the ‘day ticket’ London festivals it may be designed for choosing and attending only one day rather than making a weekend of it.