SATURDAY JULY 19 – by Jeremy Allen**
Another year, another Lovebox, and another fine opportunity for Groove Armada to retain their primetime Saturday night slot and be the two words on everyone's lips (what with them being the organisers).
Londoners arrive at Victoria Park to let their collective hair down and leave their fears about knife crime and the erratic service on the Victoria Line at the gate. The trusty plod are here in force too, seemingly making arrests between acts; a rather unwanted but nevertheless diverting sideshow. No doubt the rest of London is like Dodge City this weekend, and were I not so beguiled by Lykke Li's pulchritudinous alluringness, I might consider robbing Stoke Newington Police Station.
Dressing all in black on a baking afternoon is never recommended, but the Scandinavian singer stays fresh and icy; in fact it's possible she doesn't sweat. If security is an issue, one thing that Lovebox does offer is a delightfully eclectic line-up - Lykke Li is the antithesis of the hirsute, grunting, thrusting, Gallic sexpot* Sebastien Tellier* (Sunday's opener), but both, in their own way, are wonderful. Despite the lethargic response, Li gives a gutsy performance, throwing hip-hop shapes while performing lite-pop with dark undercurrents. Those who came having read they'd be witnessing the new Björk are understandably baffled.
"I'd like to do the special one," _reveals Lykke at the end of her set, and a few people cast their eyes around in hope of seeing Jose Mourinho. She and her adept band then gamely cover A Tribe Called Quest's 'Can I Kick It_' compounding the general confusion further.
There's no confusion where* Lethal Bizzle *is concerned, though that hasn't always been the case. The Walthamstow-born MC is in his own backyard so no fear of a reprisal of the now infamous and abhorrent treatment he received at Download. As ever, his performance is towering, and his anti-police rhetoric before and during 'Police on my Back' feels that little bit more edgy given all the bizzies.
Finding a highlight in The Human League's set would require a tooth-comb of the fine variety. Phil Oakey talks up the band's services to electro over the past 30 years with a glint in his eye, but clearly this is but one step up from the Here and Now tour, and it shows. Still, we've all got a living to make, and bonus points for playing 'The Lebanon' when most just wanted to hear 'Don't You Want Me'. If Oakey's demeanor is grudging, then the same couldn't be said of Mr Hudson.
Musically they are to be admired for embracing many genres and melding them effortlessly. But aren't they just a little too nice? 'Nice' is not what this year's Lovebox is about.
SUNDAY JULY 20 – by Daniel Ross**
Beginning with a slightly stunning, breathless set from Seun Kuti and his father’s legendary band behind him and ending with a mad Oklahoma native calling us “motherfuckers” and telling us we’ve had the best night of our lives and that there’s no use arguing, the second day of the now-quite-well-established-actually Lovebox Weekender is a disjointed but rewarding sort of experience. DiS sees nothing of the reported huge bar and toilet queues, main stage over-population and chavvy clientele, but plenty of kindness, good nature and some surprisingly good music, thanks, starting with Seun Kuti. Afrobeat as a genre will always endear itself to the sunshine, and Kuti knows it - the sweat dribbles down his face and stains his silver trousers while the assembled and impeccable horns behind him (occasionally his own) honk gleefully and, at times, with serious fury. Summer days were designed to be accompanied by this sort of thematically righteous but equally joyful politi-funk.
A brief and pleasurable circuit of the festival finds us sat in front of Mercury nominees Rachel Unthank and the Winterset, amiable Geordie lasses who, very politely, take us through a lot of ba-ba-ba-ing and a Robert Wyatt cover, but not for long will we lie in the long grass.* Roni Size* is pummelling heads too unsubtly and too early in the day to be of note, so aural (and simulated oral) oppression comes in the form of Lovebox’s trump card: a New York gay disco hidden in tiny tent. A few spins of Donna Summer or whatever, JD & Coke in hand, novelty moustache affixed, a transvestite hanging from the wall and we’re in hysterics. Teatime is, perhaps, also a little early for this kind of thing, so it’s back to the main stage.
Goldfrapp, having dressed the stage to resemble the climax of The Wicker Man, are actually quite scintillating. It’s pure theatre, with just enough musical bite to remind you that they haven’t papered over the cracks with spectacle. Spectacle comes in the form of virginally-clad dancers who later pole-dance on a maypole in bikinis and wolf masks, giant shredded wheats on the back wall, a chorus of angelic auxiliary voices and another ream of dancers who appear to be a cross between Snuffy from Sesame Street and a post-it note. The folksy material from their latest album,_ Seventh Tree_, is perhaps not as well-received as the Bolan-esque numbers, but it’s beautiful enough for the sun, who ducks and weaves as accompaniment.
The Flaming Lips are a band who, unless you LOVE them with ALL of your HEART, will annoy people for having done the exact same live show for the last umpteen years. People are idiots, though, aren’t they, so BOW to The Lips and their continuing desire to emote and to encompass all of your senses in one show! Synaesthesia is their most powerful tool and, with cannons firing like it’s 1812, they are untouchable. An almost Balearic_ ‘Race For The Prize’, Wayne Coyne’s customary bubble-encased crowd surf, the nagging knowledge that Stephen Drozd is pulling all the strings, a fist-pumping cover of Led Zeppelin’s ‘The Song Remains The Same’ and a final, fucking triumphant smash through _‘Do You Realize???’ and everyone goes home happy. By all means fill your festival with good vibes, lovely food, woodland raves and nice toilets, but if you want it to be special, just book The Flaming Lips.
Find the official Lovebox website here