Lovebox 2012 might have marked 10 years of the dance-music orientated event, but it also signified the end of an era, drawing a concluding line under co-founders Groove Armada’s association with the event. As such this year’s Lovebox, organised and run by music group MAMA, presents the beginning of a new chapter for the festival.
Of the three days, Friday is the only day that sells out and the festival site is already pleasantly busy by late afternoon. Over at the Red Bull Music Academy tent, Lovebox favourite Jazzie B warms up with a selection of classic party tunes for a noticeably younger, less family-orientated crowd than previous years (no doubt influenced by the likes of Azealia Banks and Rudimental booked as headline acts).
Jurassic 5’s fun-loving early evening performance draws a large crowd to the main stage, but it is Flying Lotus’ closing set at the big top that proves to be the highlight of the evening. Flanked by impressive 3D visuals, the forward-thinking hip-hop producer opens with bass-heavy sounds that become more playful and experimental as the set progresses. At one point inviting fledgling producers to throw their demos onstage for him, and later eschewing the curfew by leaping into the crowd and continuing to perform, FlyLo’s performance proves to be not only the most impressive of the evening, but the most fun.
Despite being the only overcast day of the weekend, there is a latent Ibiza vibe to Saturday. This is more than partly thanks to the Hot Creations crew’s transformation of a patch of London scrub into an Ibizan terrace on the Terraza Stage, with Jamie Jones and Infinity Ink dishing out peak-time deep house. The only major disappointment is when second-billing Art Department don’t make it (it turns out they missed their flight). The fact that the organisers don’t bother to inform any of the festival goers of their no-showing nor organise a replacement DJ, however, is possibly more insulting than the no-show.
A further cancellation blights the main stage, with So Solid Crew having been pulled only days before the event due to "circumstances out of [their] control". However, any disheartenment is quickly forgotten during the standout set from American soul legend D’Angelo and his band. Performing classics intermingled with new material, it is his politically-informed songs that not only stand out but, as highlighted when the singer actually mentions the recent Zimmerman case, feel particularly pertinent.
Yet despite solid sets from D’Angelo and the Hot Creations ensemble, Saturday’s undercard feels thin on the ground. And whilst Plan B’s main stage finale draws the numbers, it offers a rather pedestrian finale to a day that is wholly lacking in standout moments.
If Saturday’s programme suffers from a dearth of talent, then Sunday is quite the opposite with a line-up that is, without exception, fantastic. Interestingly, the size of the site has been cut in half – with the smaller Terrazza area now serving as the main stage. The smaller site actually has a better feel to it, the uncrowded yet compact space making for a friendlier atmosphere than previous days.
The DFA-signed Factory Floor storm through a mind-blowing rendition of their homemade techno sound, followed by bubbling, deep house from American duo Benoit & Sergio. And whilst a healthy number flocks to see Goldfrapp headline their second Lovebox, a very rare London appearance from DJ Harvey offers an unbelievable eclectic alternative.
Yet, it is Jon Hopkins' closing set at the Crack Stage that offers the festival’s finest moment. Manipulating a huge bank of hardware, the unassuming producer renders the pastoral techno of his last album, 'Immunity', in real time: a menagerie of fizzing synths and fierce drum kicks. Forty minutes later, as his sound diminishes to an abstract fuzz of feedback, it feels like a nigh on perfect ending to both the set and the festival.
There is a loose consensus amongst Londoners that Lovebox, with its loved-up atmosphere and hassle-free crowd, was once the most endearing of all the festivals in the capital. Whilst Lovebox 2.0 wasn’t without its drawbacks, Sunday’s astute programming and smaller scale presents MAMA with an explicit example of how the next era of Lovebox has every hope of being as brilliant as the last.
Words: Peter Adkins
Photos: Marco Micceri
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