Come the summer in London and we tend to dispense with the usual park, pub, pint routine and wonder what the bloody hell we do with ourselves as we glare up at that elusive ball in the sky called ‘sun’. We aren’t used to it here. Restaurants get abandoned, dogs die in the heat and we make vague nods towards outdoor kundalini yoga, or flock, en masse towards the lido – the urban equivalent of an oversized latrine come August.
Salvation, it seems should lie in the form of a party and London isn’t exactly shy of parties or clubs. That said, few parties can boast stages curated by fabric and elrow. Or see the likes of Chet Faker snuggle alongside Luciano in a line up. Welcome to Lovebox – a celebration of the best of British and international music spread over two days in Hackney’s Victoria Park.
Founded in 2002 and originally the brain child of Groove Armada, this years event saw some 80,000 revellers, twelve stages and some eighty artists take to the grass: A tempting smorgasbord of festival fun, which spares its punters the all-too-familiar logistical ball ache that accompanies camping in the UK.
The 2016 edition saw Joris Voorn, LCD Soundsystem, Nightmares on Wax, Steve Lawler, Kiasmos as well as fabric’s very own Terry Francis and Craig Richards take to the decks. Major Lazer and London’s Jungle rocked the main stage whilst Jamie Woon brought his usual smattering of delights to the Soundcrash venue. My personal favourite though was Canada’s hot duo, Bob Moses a.k.a Tom Howie and Jimmy Vallance, who fuse seemingly incompatible ethereal, electro beats with a grunge and indie acoustic set ( More on this to follow from Electronic Groove! )
There were plenty of performances from lesser know up coming talent too, such as Scotland’s The John Langan Band who threw out knickers in the air, punk-influenced folk from the bandstand to a boisterous, reeling crowd. The vibe is drunken hedonism meets alfresco social and you find yourself torn, trying to cram in even half of what’s on offer over the course of the weekend.
For those looking for something under 120 bpm, there is plenty to keep you satiated. Voice box curated by MAMA Festivals programming powerhouse, Ben Devere, celebrates the unique capacity of the human voice. The stage delivers a heady dose of poetry slams, beatboxing, storytelling, spoken word and hip hop with extended sessions from Roundhouse and Apples & Snakes. There’s fairground rides and a Glitter Tribe of pro make up artists ready to smatter you with gemstones. There’s also more food stalls than you can shake an ostrich burger at.
There is also a somewhat undemocratic, if increasingly popular VIP section for those wishing to escape the toilets and the crowds. Think palm trees, pastel decor, neon nights, cocktails and Miami Vice themed beach vibes. The only real quibble is the bar queues – a persistent issue for UK events and one that leaves me bewildered as to why organisers don’t introduce the token based systems you see in Europe, to alleviate crowds. Kudos to the organisers where its due though: Production is tight, water is a responsible £2.50 and party-goers can opt for a quick courtesy STI check in between sets: a truly great initiative we need more of in the U.K.
Trappings aside, the real focus of Lovebox, is exactly where it should be: On the beats. The main stage is constantly flooded and sees LCD Soundsystem close the Saturday with riotous aplomb. Corona Sunsets brings a touch of balearic warmth to the proceedings, spinning out deep latin driven house and serious disco vibes from the likes of Pete Herbert and Norman Jay.
Throughout though, elrow is firmly where it’s at for my friends and I. The Barcelona based tribe bring their usual dose of colourful carnivalesque magic in the form of roadshow: ’Sambodromo do Brasil’ which lets the actors, props, blow up toys and carefully curated mayhem rather than DJ’s, take centre stage. It’s hardly an insignificant line up too and includes Joris Voorn, Luciano, Richy Ahmed, Steve Lawler, Patrick Topping, B.Traits and Alan Fitzpatrick, alongside residents, De La Swing and George Private distributing magic as only elrow know how.
Come midnight and we’re ready for the afterparty. We leave elated, surrounded by new friends and ready to do it all again tomorrow at Citadel festival which makes use of the same site. London summers may not always be warm and sunny, but for this weekend at least, the sunshine, like the vibe in Victoria Park, is on permanent full decibel.
Photos by Alex Welensky