Lovebox @ Victoria Park, London 15 - 17.06.12

The Low End Low Life hits Lovebox.

Jun 15th, 2012 at Victoria Park, London / By Matthew Bayfield
Friendly Fires Lovebox, the three day festival which in 2012 sees its tenth incarnation, is by and large a celebration of all things electronic. Not average dreary household electronics, such as George Foreman Grills and stainless steel Morphy Richards toasters, but music primarily created with electronics... hence the festival's line-up this year featuring such names as Hot Chip, Magnetic Man, Skream and Chaka Khan.

Yes it's that time of year again, high time Bearded waves a warm goodbye to the kitchen sink and all that ironing to go drink in another muddy field and act like the sun is shining! …Which it wasn’t.

As is de rigueur with the Low End Lowlife I pitched up late on the Friday and, with regards to sobriety, was a little worse for wear. Fortunately this meant I missed out on the festival gates opening an hour late followed by ridiculous waiting times for the stages to open. Unfortunately this also meant I missed out on such treats as Dismantle and Wheel & Deal Records bossman N-Type on the Rinse FM stage. Fiddlesticks. Luckily there was still ample time for myself and associates to soak up substantially overpriced, tonic heavy gin and tonic whilst enjoying the carnival vibes and deranged dancehall energy of Toddla T, backed by his longstanding emcee of choice Serocee. Opening his set with a video message of approval from fellow Sheffield luminary and all round inspiration Jarvis Cocker it was a full blown Northern affair. If I wasn't so skint from the drinks I'd have probably hurled a celebratory pasty. Redlight was also on hand on the Rinse stage to bring his bassy blend of chart bothering dance, perfect for getting people going after a day in the office and there were bear hugs all round as Joe Goddard & Raf Rundell's 2 Bears brought some peace, love and general silliness to the FactMag stage with their infectious blends of house, disco and numerous other variant strands of joy. Inviting someone on stage to teach them the Bear Hug dance moves also proved to be something of a misstep with the resulting excitement leading to a frightfully mild stage invasion from the crowd. In comparison though, this little infringement was small beans compared to the events that went down a bit later on Friday night. Whilst Hot Chip were over on the main stage, unfortunately playing one of the dreariest sets I've ever witnessed from them (perhaps all that fun with the 2Bears knocked the wind from Joe Goddard's sails) the Lovebox organisers apparently decided to subcontract scheduling duties out to a few ruthless leftovers from the Nazi Party. After the shambolic late start to the festival earlier in the day (from which I was thankfully absent) Rinse FM stage headliner Skream, along with regular frontman Sgt Pokes, had his set mercilessly cut down to less than the length of time it would take for him to play a Pink Floyd track (a quarter of an hour perhaps?) and, rightly incensed, invited a full scale stage raid from the crowd, peppered with a few hapless security bleating into their walkie talkies and asking people to get off. (Much humorous footage of which can no doubt be found on Youtube by now). It was a fittingly rock and roll manner with which to close proceedings on day one of Lovebox's 10 year anniversary and as Shakespeare so aptly put it in Henry V 'And gentlemen in England, now-a-bed, shall think themselves accursed they were not here’... Well, women too I'm sure will think themselves accursed. No need for chauvinism. Time has moved on I'm afraid Bill old boy. There were, I am assured, other acts I went to see on Friday. Unfortunately, and I’m not going to feign professionalism, I was far too intoxicated to accurately assess anything other than the sting in my liver, so I’ll not hazard a guess at who.

Saturday saw another late arrival from Bearded, and in typical British fashion I'd like to point the finger at the London Underground service (most of which was shut for maintenance) and not myself or Gordons gin. Undeterred by the shambolic queuing system at the gates (once again) and the extensive crowds of toxic orange Towie kids in Hunter wellies it was straight down to the alcohol tent for more expensive tonic that had a slight aroma of gin, whilst some faceless afternoon act spun a bunch of house music to a crowd who didn't seem to quite know whether they wanted to dance with each other or compare the cost of their Raybans just yet. Over on the main stage another unremarkable songtress by the name of Delilah (whose stage costume definitely included a piece of Bacofoil in here hair) was singing some rather unremarkable R'n'B type tunes to some actually quite nice live garage… Meanwhile, the Hoxton trendies could be heard bickering about their hatred for corporate branding whilst taking photos of their Hollister clobber with their iPhones... Saturday seemed to be struggling to pick up momentum.

Luckily, in the massively camp, massively entertaining NYC Downlow tent (which had been done up to look like a dilapidated New York tenement block complete with dancing transvestites) a well scheduled, mid afternoon Joy Orbison was on hand to bring things to boil with another masterclass in house, Balearic, disco and anything else designed to shake the hips of a happy soul. If following the momentum created by a man who in the past three or four years has proven himself to be one of the planet's most on point DJs seemed like a big issue there was really only one choice on where to head next: down at the Hospitality stage David Rodigan was gearing up for another round of his infamous 'Ramjam' sound. Ripping through everything from classic 60's ska to fresh, off the handle drum & bass with an energy and enthusiasm possessed apparently only by himself and small children who eat large quantities of Skittles, it was the perfect act to keep pace after Orbison’s set. Not bad for a gentleman whose résumé includes a show on Radio 2. There was then another brief let down in the no show of Maceo Plex, who possibly got caught in one of the many nefarious queues for toilets, drinks, food or possibly even oxygen (by Saturday evening the place was fairly full) but luckily Canadian dream team Art Department were coerced back out onto the decks to keep the feet of the public pulsing with another fine showcase of numerous strains of endlessly classifiable electronic music. When I was told I was off to see Netsky next (the live drum and bass act) much whining, abuse and posh gin was hurled about the place in an effort to get me off the hook, and away from the listlessy syncopated rhythms of D’n’B. Sadly it was not to be… Fortunately, they were actually far better than I initially predicted. It certainly helped that a large portion of their set was angled more in a dubstep direction, but with the addition of live instrumentation it was hard not to be a little impressed when you see a drummer flailing his arms at 180bpm like a man with photosensitive epilepsy. Rapping up their set with a rather pleasant Skream remix, which one can only hope was a cheeky wink to the organisers (whose scheduling skills were still operating at a level best described as ‘Mick Fleetwood hosting the BRIT Awards.’ ) I came away rather impressed and rather regretting throwing a tantrum, not to mention a drink. After picking my way through the end-of-festival human wreckage of disco jawed Essex girls and Hoxton trendies digging K-Holes it was down to the main stage to watch eternally popular, haven’t actually done anything new for a little while, scene stealers Friendly Fires. As usual they more or less stole the show. Lead singer Ed Mcfarlane was his writhing idiosyncratic self; oozing a surrealist Iggy Pop physicality whilst actually moving much more akin to an awkward student in a crap disco and somehow still managing to look good in the process and the band, backed by some wonderfully arranged live brass, were as tight as any laptop syncopated rhythm all weekend, with the whole crowd more or less joined in every note of every song. Particular standouts came in the form of ‘In The Hospitals’ heroin addictive chorus, ‘Live Those Days Tonight’ s euphoric sentimentality and the grandiose double encore of ‘Hawaiian Air’ and ‘Kiss Of Life’. After such a predictably impressive finish there really was only one way Bearded’s trip to Lovebox could have ended. With the queue to go home. Here’s to another British festival season!