Lovebox Weekender

Its aim is to bring eclectic sounds to new ears
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The brainchild of Tom and Andy of Groove Armada, Lovebox has been running since the turn of the new millennium, with events running across the UK, in Ibiza and beyond.

Its aim is to bring eclectic sounds to new ears, and while this weekend’s line-up at times veered on the wrong side of comfortable, there’s enough to keep Clash entertained over two days in leafy East London.

Saturday
We arrive in time for Alphabeat, but their midday slot is too early even for door staff, so many punters get through the gates just as they finish their set. A shame, as their summer-drenched pop could’ve been a big hit later in the evening. Over on one of the smaller stages, Lykke Li does her bit for Scandinavian pride with an energetic set of bouncy pop. Like a hippy Robyn, the girl from Stockholm owns the stage, while her band are a pounding electro-pop formation. The sleepy crowd are more than a little tentative but they’re drawn to the sweet, melodic sounds of ‘Little Bit’ and the upfront rhythms of single and album highlight ‘I’m Good I’m Gone’.

Before this, Young Knives look a little lost over on the main stage while newcomer Natty draws a sizeable local following as the early afternoon sun goes up a notch. There’s no doubt about who brings the glamour to Saturday, with The Human League showing off their influential back catalogue. Phil Oakey is in good form, striding stylishly about the stage, at one point thanking the audience for playing their part in “a thirty year crusade for synth pop.” Their music still has a futuristic edge to it, and the weekend’s first sing-along arrives with the timeless ‘Don’t You Want Me’. Despite the odd wrinkle and grey hair, the League still have enough about them to suggest their new material could be a dramatic return to form.

Following the League are the day’s big draw and hosts, Groove Armada. They pull out the stops with fireworks and some mind-altering visuals, and the duo’s backing band rivals any dance-rock stadium group going. They’ve an enviable back catalogue to fall back on too, and the 90s nostalgia of ‘At The River’ is a notable highlight in a set that takes in chill out, dance and pop to please an expectant Victoria Park.

Sunday
Fully refreshed after a much-needed night’s kip, Clash finds Sebastian Tellier opening up day two. A fascinating artist and performer, Tellier ignores an early shower of rain and strides between guitar and piano (in fetching pink trousers, no less) to showcase songs from new-ish album ‘Sexuality’.

A quick dash across the park finds A&R darlings White Lies perform with impressive style and verve. Having just signed a major label deal, they’re clearly a band in development, but early signs are very good. They look fabulous, dressed all in black and with enough moody stares to keep some intrigue. Crucially, they already have a couple of great songs, with debut single ‘Unfinished Business’ and closing effort ‘Death’ the pick of a five song set. Similarly, Howling Bells have star quality in the form of model-like like singer Juanita Stein, and the Bells have grown into a formidable live band in their break from touring. ‘Broken Bones’ is updated with extra darkness, while new song ‘Into The Chaos’ bodes well for the forthcoming second album.

Back on the main stage, Goldfrapp provide the perfect warm up for The Flaming Lips, with Alison Goldfrapp’s direct electro showstoppers complementing their new folk experiments perfectly. The headliners, led by the maverick, sharp looking Wayne Coyne bring the fun to Lovebox with a dozen dancing super heroes and no shortage of glitz and confetti. Still arguably one of the best party bands around, the Lips provide a rock-heavy set, with the likes of ‘Free Radicals’, ‘Fight Test’ and ‘The W.A.N.D’ played with much gusto. The triumphant psychedelics of ‘Race For The Prize’ is the pick of the bunch, a heady reminder that The Flaming Lips are still one of the most important bands around.

As Clash took in one last walk through the park post headliners, we couldn’t remember being present at a more polite or undemanding music festival. The atmosphere (lazy and languid) perfectly suited the backdrop of the vast Victoria Park, even if the ugly, overlooking Tory council blocks reminded us we were in deep dark East London. No matter, good music was the order of the weekend, something that Clash very much believes in. Until next year, then?

By Alistair Beech

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