Lovebox isn’t just a music festival. It’s much more than that.
You hardly recognise Victoria Park as you step through the entrance. When I think about it, Lovebox Festival is essentially a parallel universe; a joyous, vividly colourful, and incredibly wondrous place where people of all backgrounds come to take in hours upon hours of great music performed live by some of the greatest artists around. If the gateways from the game Ni No Kuni: The Wrath of the White Witch actually existed, Lovebox is the place you’d be transported to on the other side of Tower Hamlets.
Last year, Starchild (the editor in chief) & I went and we had an incredible time. We took in the likes of Friendly Fires, Groove Armada, David Rodigan, Hospitality (Hospital Records all-star DJ set, which is a festival in itself), Maverick Sabre, Boy Better Know, Magnetic Man, Rita Ora, Emeli Sande, and more. This year, my fiancée and I went together. I remember saying at some point last year that I didn’t think Lovebox 2012 could be topped, given that it made one hell of a first impression. I was proved flatly wrong. Simply put: Lovebox 2013 far exceeded the standard they originally set in 2012.
We arrived on Friday and headed straight to… the bar. Despite the lengthy queue (which you come to expect at festivals of this magnitude), we headed over to Red Bull Music Academy with drinks in each hand and got stuck into David Rodigan’s Ram Jam. We got in just time for Venum Sound, who spun some great tunes. After securing more drinks, we went back to Ram Jam and Artwork provided the soundtrack for the first heavy dancing session of the night. Artwork spun some classics from the early 90s and lit the place up proper just until David Rodigan arrived. The noise inside that tent was tantalising when Rodigan’s arrival was announced and even more spellbinding when he finally took over after Artwork’s great set. Last year, Rodigan smashed the living daylights out of his set when he was invited to spin some tunes as part of the Hospitality arena set Hospital Records puts on. This year? Rodigan stepped it up a notch, spinning some fresh new school/ol’ school mashups; roots and bashment; a bit of lovers rock; and old school jungle. It was absolutely insane and I’m sure those present would agree that Rodigan’s set that night was definitely one of the best, if not the best. Jazzy B of Soul II Soul then hit the decks, meaning there was no time for a break. More dancing ensued. Jazzy’s mashup’s were every bit as good as Rodigan’s and the session overall was magnificent.
Once that was finished, we procured more beverages of the alcoholic persuasion, tucked into some delicious jerk chicken wraps, and then bopped over to the Main Stage. We just missed Rudimental but from the sounds and looks of things, it seemed like they had a brilliant set of their own. All was not lost and the disappointment soon subsided because it was shortly after the set change that everyone was treated to some real hip-hop goodness. The incomparable Jurassic 5 showed up and showed out. People, the level of performance was nothing short of extremely high quality and you’d never know that J5 disbanded in 2007 based on said performance. The highlight of the set had to be Cut Chemist and DJ Nu-Mark getting on what was the biggest turntable I’ve ever seen and banging out the tunes. Nu-Mark then got what looked like an abstract vest of assorted vinyls and CDs and then started tapping on them. Yeah. Nu-Mark cranked out some beats on what was essentially an MPC vest that Damien Hirst would envy (simply because he didn’t think of it first). J5 rocked the spot, no doubt about it. Having seen the likes of A Tribe Called Quest and The Pharcyde, witnessing another legendary hip-hop group perform live reminded me just how much of a privilege it was to be there to witness it. “I can finally cross J5 off the list,” I proclaimed to my missus as we made our way back to The Bigtop.
We finished the night on one last drink and we got stuck into the visual and aural sensations of Steven Ellison, known to many as the musical genius called Flying Lotus. FlyLo definitely had the most unique set of the festival and even though I expected a master class of the unconventional (because FlyLo just doesn’t do conventional anything), I was still left saying to myself “Well, I wasn’t expecting that!” FlyLo was apparently very pissed (“I’m so fucking drunk right now!” ~ Flying Lotus) but he still managed to do three things: kick out the jams, spit bars with clarity and cohesiveness, and make the audience laugh… but not in that “Haha, duuuude. You’re so drunk!” kind of way. I mean I didn’t, anyway. The best bit of the set for me was when he started chanting “Old shit! Oooold shit!” before throwing together a mashup of two of my favourite tunes: SexSlaveShip & RobertaFlack. If the music didn’t move people, the visual effects certainly did but I thought the psychedelic elements of both worked together like steak and ale does in a pie. FlyLo’s set was genuinely awesome, although I did leave Lovebox with two regrets: not being able to meet fellow Sampleface minion Bee Thakur (who was also at the event on Friday) and not bringing a copy of my beat tape with me (FlyLo asked the producers in the house for beats and people obliged by chucking everything from CDs to cassette tapes up on stage). Kudos to the person who’s cassette tape got pocketed by the man himself… lucky git.