Lovebox Festival 2012 kicked off
While April baked Britain with summer temperatures, June decided to throw in much of the rain we missed at the start of the year. The outlook for Lovebox weekend was, you guessed it, rain and lots of it. However, brollies at the ready and seemingly undeterred, the Lovebox crowd came out yesterday, 15th June, in their droves for what was the 10th festival held at Victoria Park in Mile End.
Unlike our climate, us Brits have never lost faith in our music industry and judging by the artists performing over the three-day weekend, that isn’t going to change any time soon. Amongst 70 artists playing across nine stages in just eight hours, headlining Friday’s stages were Hot Chip and Crystal Castles on the main stage, Sub Focus and Shy FX on the outdoor stage and Skream with his Rinse FM entourage closing the day under the Big Top stage.
The artists were busy with sound checks. The weather was holding (just). The crowd was waiting. 2pm passed and the queue (which had now stretched to half a kilometre) was getting restless. After receiving a few shrugs of the shoulders, I was told that the explanation for the delay was “unclear” and that they were doing “everything they could” to open the gates. Soon after half an hour idly went by, we were finally let in to enjoy the opening and overcast day of Lovebox Festival 2012.
Due to the teething problems at the beginning, some of the earlier artists on the bill were either completely missed or their sets were cut short in order to allow time for changeovers, especially on the bigger stages.
Very much in the style of festivals like Reading and Sonisphere, the entrance walkway opens out to a large open space shaded by large oaks that sit amongst the Big Top stage, the Rinse FM stage and, further over, the outdoor stage. The rain continued to tease and so the wet ground under my feet became the churned-up mud pit which turned us all into frogs as we hopped from dry patch to dry patch. Fun at first, but tedious when seeing my shoes on the tube home.
Around the border of the site are the rows of countless eateries. They are impossible to miss. Food prices are festival prices, which is expected, but the burgers were very tasty indeed.
Whilst waiting for the music to get going, sampling some of the smaller stages was an incredibly enjoyable experience. These house the less well-known acts (think Reading and Leeds’ BBC introducing stage, but smaller), but by no means do they lack talent. One called Bearded Kitten Presents The VS Arena involved the referee from ITV’s Gladiator, John Anderson, presiding over two comedy/musical acts while providing a little comedy himself. It held a 20 or so strong following, but the key interaction between the performer and the crowd was met with drunken shouts and nonsensical requests which slowed it down a lot.
The Downlow Club could be found in a set reconstruction of the outside of a New York street. Inside was a smoke-filled, good-looking nightclub with an, albeit, expensive bar and deep house, given to us by the beautiful Moxie and her musical comrades, Mele and Benji B who shook the temporary standing walls with a lot of noise. It turned out to be a hit through the evening and went well with the theme of the festival.
Funfair rides were the secondary attraction. Dodgems, helter-skelter and a large spiralled slide were just a few of what was on offer. They seemed popular but, of course, we didn’t get tickets to the circus. Although, ironically, the Big Top is where it all started with Garage outfit Roska, with Ruby Goe and Mz Bratt on the vocals.
Again, similar to the Dance Tent at Reading/Leeds, a stage kitted with more wiring, lights and screens than a computer emporium looked out on to a vast space under a high, dark awning. Half full and Roska began. The No Smoking sign is flouted as the tent slowly tempts eager ears with dark, heavy bassline, accompanied by a fantastic sensor light show. The stage, as they say, is now set.
That ends and it is over to a different awning-covered enclosure dedicated to Rinse FM and their many artists. With Skream to close the festival at 11pm, Ms Dynamite opens it at 5.30pm as the first “big name” of the afternoon. There is no doubt in saying her presence is electric and she seems to feed off the crowd’s noise and enthusiasm effortlessly. In a conservative black jacket and leggings, her performance was anything but great. As one of the artists affected by the late start, her performance was short. What You Talkin’ About?, Lion’s Den and the punchy Wile Out were all included, together with remixes from Marcus Nasty on the decks. At the same time, deep house continued in New York “nightclub” and the Stockade stage seemed to follow suit by having a more electro/house line up throughout the day.
With Ms Dynamite being a highlight of the day for rousing the crowd to high spirits again after such a dismal start, the act that stole the show was Raf Rundell and Joe Goddard, also known as the 2 Bears. As if ploughing through hit after hit on the 2step/house scene such as the wonderful Gabriel and Shining Star wasn’t enough, Raf introduced their most famous track Bear Hug, by going through the dance moves, thus inviting a guy from the crowd to be a demonstrator. Once the guy had his two minutes of fame, suddenly, a wave of people started clambering on to the stage. In a very funny moment, it was soon littered with people all dancing away to the Bear Hug. Once Raf realised his mistake, the people were cleared and the 2 Bears continued their rousing performance.
Creeping up to 8pm, the weather had remained kind and Crystal Castles took to the main stage. Dressed all in black with cropped hair dyed purple, Alice Glass goaded the audience with her unusual body movements, very Bjork like. Her voice was lost under the clash of the drums, but still remained haunting amongst producer Ethan Kath and drummer Christopher Chartrand. Alice may not have gone far if she was on BBC talent show The Voice, but their set was solid and very fan friendly; Alice Practise was a memorable moment.
Drum and bass from Shy FX and Sub Focus, and bass that makes hair stand on end from Skream and Magnetic Man rounded what was a very fun, if not muddy, afternoon. The use and movement of lights and visual effects in Magnetic Man are worth a special mention and their set was also being broadcast live on Rinse FM. The tent had never been so full.
If a funfair, some of the best live acts around and an art exhibition painted on cars wasn’t enough, at 7.45pm the football fans were treated to a showing of the England vs Sweden game on the big screen; England won. With curfew set for 11pm, football chants filled the air as the park was slowly drained of its life; I bet not many remembered the long wait at the beginning…
Photos: Goncalo Miller
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