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27th July 2015

Festival: Lovebox 2015 – Saturday

Lovebox thrives for another year

Saturday 18th July

Victoria Park, London


Unlucky thirteen? Not for Lovebox. The festival that began in 2002 thrived another year with more fine bookings and the blessing of the Big Smoke’s pollution-enhanced climate. The programme was dominated by hip hop and house flavours, prime listening for a sunny day.

The first track heard upon entry was Jack J’s sublime new Mood Hut release ‘Thirstin’’, played by Joy Orbison and Ben UFO, who were on warmup duty in the BBC Radio 1 tent-cum-bamboo-treehouse stage. The two rotated with steady rhythms, easing the gradually gathering crowd into party mode with more light selections.

Barcelona party people Elrow were making their London debut, but must have felt right at home in the scorching Victoria Park. Horse Meat Disco spun some upbeat selections in their mid-afternoon slot. Unfortunately Jackmaster’s planned appearance failed to materialise, apparently double booking himself with a wedding. A slight downer on the day, and something Lovebox cynically didn’t reveal until the gates had opened.

Deciding to check out what the main stage was saying revealed the answer to be… not a lot. 19-year-old Raury bounced excitedly, darting around the stage with the zip of a Victoria lake gerridae, but his set was marred by sound issues that rendered his vocal talent wasted.

An area where sound certainly isn’t an issue however is the Despacio tent. James Murphy and 2manydjs’ clubbing “experience” lived up to the hype. The space was a complete escape from the outside, with entry through the blackout curtain feeling like crossing into a disco-themed Narnia. The custom designed McIntosh stacks towered at calculated intervals around the two-tone squared dancefloor, complete with huge hanging mirror ball.

Murphy and the Dewaele brothers delighted the floor with funky selections from their tucked away spot, meaning there was a refreshing lack of booth staring. Everyone in the tent was getting down gleefully across the spaced out area, and the sound was perfect wherever you danced. Leaving Despacio had the disorientating effect of leaving a film noir cinema screening into broad daylight as your senses shudder and readjust to the outside world, completing the fantasy experience.

Soul Clap amassed a sizable crowd back at the Radio 1 stage, moving through classic house and disco tracks such as DJ Deeon’s incredible Arthur Russell sampling ‘2 B Free’. Their set felt a bit hollow after Despacio however, and dragged on a bit as they really milk the crowd, revelling open armed in the response to ‘I’m Every Woman’ and ‘Finally’.

These final two tracks cut into Scuba’s set time; the Hotflush boss conspicuously side-eyeing the pair as he hovered in the background. By the time he does get himself onto the decks it was satisfying to have a bit more grit as he rifled into some welcome techno. Two remixes provide the set high points: Alan Fitzpatrick’s version of ‘I Want You’ and George Fitzgerald’s ‘Open Eye Signal’ rework both inducing pumping limbs.

The airing of Paul Woolford’s attempt at Untitled mk.II ‘MDMA’ introduced housier sounds. Hearing the track on release didn’t do much for me, feeling a bit too choreographed with its ‘summer banger’ components, right down to the bait title. It does work well in a festival setting however, with the rousing piano and vocal doing their job.

Finally Scuba brought things full circle back to Soul Clap, closing on Room 5’s ‘Make Luv’, a baton Heidi picked up and ran with, mixing straight into Michael Gray’s ‘The Weekend’ before jacking the tempo up with trademark thumping house. Heidi was joined by Kim Ann Foxman for a memorable b2b. The pair danced vivaciously throughout, flicking their hair and jerking their limbs with infectious enthusiasm that spreads into the crowd.

Bonobo follows over on the Noisey stage—an aural misnomer of a title. DJ sets on big outdoor stages are a strange phenomenon that don’t seem to work outside the sphere of high-budget EDM-type productions. Bonobo filled the set with his own productions though, opening strongly on ‘Kiara’ and ‘Kong’, so without taking much notice of the stage I was able to pretend it’s the live band incarnation playing which makes more sense in the setting.  The sound wasn’t up to much again unfortunately, but tracks like ‘We Could Forever’ and its jangly guitar draw a good response.

Choosing to avoid the hordes for a, by all accounts, apathetic Snoop Floggy Flogging A Dead Horse, house master Kerri Chandler closed my festival with grooving house in the Hot Creations/Defected mould. He deservedly drew himself a strong following with the crowd spilling far outside the tent perimeter and dancing until curfew.

Amongst London’s hordes of festivals, Lovebox ranks highly. It suffers from the main detractor affecting any inner city event of low sound levels on the main stages, but the lineup across the numerous smaller stages is strong enough to hold attention all day, and the effort put into the site and stage design further contributes to the upbeat atmosphere. Lovebox ticks all the boxes for a fun daytime festival.

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