Last weekend I attended the 15th anniversary of Lovebox, East London’s weekend festival of music, good vibes and love (how the event describes itself.)
To be perfectly honest, I’ve never been a city music festival fan. They just seem to be a bit of an oxymoron to me, an invention for people that love festival attire, but hate camping. But seeing as I was still nursing my Glastonbury blues, after nine years of living in London I decided to finally give Lovebox a go and see if it could help ease the melancholy at all.
I turned up on the sold-out Friday with an open mind, excited for a pretty impressive line-up of artists. Just as I predicted, there was an abundance of glitter, face jewels and festi-fashion, but I didn’t let that, or even the long queues to get into (INTO!) the bar tents put me off.
The first stop of the day was the Noisey stage, which had curated an admirable parade of acts. Fresh from her first appearance at Glastonbury, Ray BLK gave a performance that wonderfully accompanied the afternoon’s warm, sunny weather. I look forward to the day when she has enough of her own material to fill her set time.
Elsewhere, Joe Goddard was demonstrating how much of a seasoned pro he is, delivering the perfect mix to keep everyone dancing as the afternoon elapsed.
Kaytranada proved that he’s an act far bigger than the tent he was in, pulling in a huge crowd, who were absolutely loving each tune he played. Alongside a welcome set of tracks off his album, 99.9%, he also worked in a nod to the stage’s headliner, Solange, with a smooth reworking of ‘Cranes in the Sky.’
For me, Sampha was the highlight of the day. His electronic soul drawn mostly from his album, Process, as well as a few of his hits with SBTRKT went down better than I would have thought. A ballad such as ‘Like the Piano’ couldn’t even kill the mood, with the entire tent singing along.
Then I faced a challenge — to watch Jamie XX or Solange? Say what you will, but having seen Solange just a few weeks earlier, I decided to head over to the main stage to watch Jamie as he got everyone warmed up for the headliner with his electronic selection he’s so well-known for.
In what was probably the only slight disappointment of the day, Frank Ocean, a hugely impressive headliner and exciting billing given it was the only UK date on his European tour, took to the stage a half an hour late. Given the strict curfews thanks to surrounding residents, his set was cut short after performing tracks from Blonde. He looked just great, though, I’ll give him that.
I was back again on Saturday for what was almost a completely different festival, due to a line-up that bore little resemblance to that of the day before. I’ll be honest and admit I turned up rather late — the grey weather and the likes of Jess Glynne and Raye just weren’t enough of an offering to get me up and moving. I arrived to the sound of Jamie Jones making some noise in the background, and scoured the line-up.
The Noisey tent used Saturday as an opportunity to showcase a whole new generation of MC’s, most of whom I’m no where near cool enough to know anything about.
On the main stage, and clearly happy to be performing in East London, Kano delivered an energetic and entertaining show before Annie Mac was up to give the most classic of Annie Mac sets. I’m not really sure what else I can say about that.
And then it was time for Chase and Status. Their headliner ranking confused me somewhat…I hadn’t given them a thought since they were a thing, which was probably back in 2014 when they last headlined the festival. But that didn’t stop them from hosting a closing party for the entire gig — there were flames, confetti and appearances by Kano and Emeli Sandé, which was nice.
Saturday was a bit of a bum ending when compared to the fantastic Friday line-up, but the two days had definitely gotten me back into the festival spirit. As the crowds dispersed into the streets, off to their respective after parties, I decided that although still not a convert to the city weekend festival, Lovebox undoubtedly provides a brightening weekend of music and a tiny dose of welcome escapism.