REVIEW festival Old Subbacultcha Old Subbacultcha

Is Lovebox Suffering From An Identity Crisis?

Trying to bridge the gap between Wireless and Field Day Festivals, Lovebox loses a little of it's identity in favour of a youthful gloss on it's tenth anniversary...

Lovebox feels a bit confused. For the last few years it's inhabited the world of not-so-big inner city festivals, not quite glamorous enough to attract the chart-topping headline acts who prefer the more sponsor-drenched climbs of say British Summer Time, Wireless etc. Instead favouring  a nice slice of retro Hip-Hop & Funk, a small smattering of campness, Clubbing impresarios and some truly forward thinking artists over a handful of zeitgeist-riding bands and an even larger list of also-rans.

This year the line up reveals a slight identity crisis, maybe fearing the competition as another festival season slams into it's Nth gear and seemingly every weekend offers you multiple choices of festivals with so many line up permutations (it really is a buyer's market, unlike the property market in this fading capital), Lovebox feels a little bit, dare I say it, safe (and not in the way many of the attending revellers used the term, i.e. "Safe 'Bruv"?).

There are some names to get excited about like the return of Cypress Hill (always a great festival addition), whichever Safari animal Snoop Dogg is obsessed with at the time, Indie-Dance sentimentalists Hot Chip, remix-legend-in-the-making Flume, Hip-Hop revivalist Action Bronson, Grime-master Skepta, Club-visionaries Despacio (feat; 2manydjs & DFA's James Murphy), Electronica-genius Squarepusher, Chill-Out-post-Ibiza iconoclasts Groove Armada and more... But there's also a larger part of you that whilst scanning through the list of names to play that feels a little bit deflated at the lack of names that would fill the "outside of the box"-lineage that has featured on previous Lovebox line-ups.

As you stumble out of Mile End tube station en route to Victoria Park, you might find yourself hyperventilating in fear at the prospect of being surrounded by so many Top Shop-wearing clones, it feels like a Hollyoaks casting call only with less Scouse accents and a lot more Hippy Crack. Many come to London for the promise of roads lined with gold, but instead are greeted by the silvery shine of Nitrous Oxide canisters littered amongst the curbs and storm drains.

The highlights of the festival, in no particular order were the hit-laden sets from Cypress Hill, a band who generally don't get the credit they deserve, maybe their Marijuana-obsessed image makes them seem less important than fellow luminaries like the Beastie Boys, but listening back to those awe-inspiring samples that pack out their legendary opus "Black Sunday" and their openness to new styles (they do love their dubstep), you'd be hard pressed to find a more engaging Hip-Hop act of that era with so many bonafide classics.

Hot Chip also surprise with the sheer quality of their back catalogue, so many indie-dancefloor gems with a genuine alien-like quality to their sound, their geek-chic image pushing the audience to heighten-states of abandonment. Snoop Dogg reminds us of his comedic genius and back catalogue that allows G-Love anthems to brush up alongside his more R 'n B flavoured jams with Pharrell.

Having cracked the charts in recent years, the evolutionary D 'n B pop group Rudimental also display a great sense of stagecraft, although their style is somewhat throttled by the limitations offered by that BPM and need for a silky soulful hook in EVERYGODDAMNSONG... a little variety, please?

Bonobo spins some tunes that help paint a larger picture of his styles' influences. Action Bronson really ought to be hogging the headlines as much as Run The Jewels and Despacio have totally changed my perspective on the future of clubbing (finally a club-based concept that doesn't require for the attendee to be off their face on pills).

All in all it was a good festival, nothing necessarily turned my world upside down, but a great standard of acts and the vibes were like, totally epic y'all... Maybe next year they could find a happy medium of this years line up and previous ones?

To find out more about Lovebox click here.

Words & pictures by Jeremy Chick