Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Ten Things We Learnt at Lovebox

23 July 2013, 17:33 | Written by Thomas Hannan

With my t-shirt suntan now a permanent fixture but the stubborn dust having finally washed from my skin after a day’s constant scrubbing, it seemed like the perfect time to take a look back on the three day hoedown of Lovebox and wonder whether I’d actually learnt anything, or just had a silly amount of fun. As it turns out, I somehow managed both.

1. Nobody goes to three days of this thing

Seriously, I must have been the only one. The crowd was so clearly split in to three distinct demographics – the chin stroking blog readers on day one, the early to bed Radio One listeners on day two, the total wreckheads on day three – that, if it weren’t for the ever present pink bunting hanging off every tent, one would have wondered whether you’d gone to a trio of different festivals. Somehow though, Lovebox maintained a tangible identity, one provided to it by something other than its curious line up – and even though it made for a pretty weird weekend, it was ultimately to its credit.

2. Some bands should be enjoyed in a cool, dark place, away from direct sunlight

Very few artists on the Lovebox bill this year had been responsible for records anywhere near as good as Gold Panda’s Half Of Where You Live, but there were many who will have enjoyed far more well-received sets than his. Whilst nobody could have faulted the sounds we were hearing, which were as playful and inventive as we’d come to expect from one of electronic music’s leading lights, the overall event was worryingly un-engaging. Why? Was it because most of the post-work crowd were still arriving, it being half seven on a Friday evening? The fact that everyone was just at another stage, or sitting checking their gurns in each other’s sunglasses? Maybe, but more likely, it’s that this stuff just doesn’t work before nightfall. The same fate befell an otherwise brilliant Factory Floor on the Sunday, pounding away to next to no one, in brilliant sunshine. Poor scheduling, Lovebox – but commendable sets from the both of them nonetheless.

3. Flying Lotus can do anything he wants, to infuriatingly high standards

If Gold Panda had Flying Lotus’ set time, one suspects he’d have been infinitely more adored. However, he’s still got some way to go before he’s quite at this fella’s level. The first thing one noticed about this Fly-Lo set was the visuals, which put those of every other act appearing to shame; there he was standing in between two screens displaying projections that made it look as if the guy was conducting music from inside of a giant, levitating ball. He looked as if he was about to take off at any moment, leaving us pitiful mortals behind as he performs to the planets.

The music too was far less introspective than any who have pored over his ever so intricately put together records might have suspected; the atmosphere certainly one much more of partying than it was intellectualism. When Steven Ellison emerged from behind his screens for a spot of being the rapper Captain Flygeria rather than Flying Lotus – and proved to be equally as enthralling behind the mic as he is behind the desk – I became convinced that, despite it being day one, I’d see nothing better all weekend. And I didn’t.

4. Kelis has loads of songs with “that really good bit” in them

Visually, Kelis appeared to be settling into diva mode quite nicely, thank you very much; she was all feather boas, capes and sequins, and with a horn section to beef out nigh on every tune she played, she looked like Aretha Franklin recast as one of the crew in Star Trek. But if you listened to the music, it was nowhere near as self important; she only got through about thirty seconds of a song before, as if worried that the crowd might be tiring of it, she wass on to the next snippet of a modern classic – which might not even have been one of her own tunes. What this meant is we got just long enough of ‘Caught Out There’, ‘Trick Me’, ‘Jerk Ribs’, ‘Millionaire’, ‘Milkshake’, ‘Good Stuff’ etc. to leave us feeling like we had actually watched a Kelis set, but also ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’, ‘Love To Love You Baby’ and even a little bit of Hudson Mohawke for good measure. It was basically like watching the coolest wedding band ever.

5. Nobody knows who D’Angelo is

OK, so some people knew who D’Angelo is. There were about twenty of them at the front. But his crowd was bafflingly small for one so highly regarded, dwarfed for example by that of Jurassic 5 the day before, a band whose critical stock is at nowhere near the levels of this funk-soul brother’s. He’d have worked far better on the Sunday – with the main stage being shut and everything being shunted on to a smaller one for reasons punters could only speculate about, perhaps a few more would have paid him a cursory glance. Though he’s not the ripped sex god of ten years ago, D’Angelo still plays and sings like one, his voice still as unnervingly filthy and dangerous as it ever was, his guitar playing presumably on David Cameron’s list of things to ban next, lest it cause lascivious thoughts. ‘Devil’s Pie’ was the highlight, a tune so downright sensual that D’Angelo seemed to merely fling it at his audience and let it writhe around atop them, doing its dirty work.

6. They don’t make hip hop like they used to

You wouldn’t get away with starting a hip hop band like Jurassic 5 these days. They’re just so goddamn tuneful, so endearing, so bloody nice that they’d be laughed out of even the friendliest of towns. Christ, even De La Soul could probably beat these guys up. But confrontation certainly wasn’t on the minds of anyone in their audience, who seemed to think – and I was in full agreement – that ‘Concrete Schoolyard’ is actually a perfectly excellent song to listen to over a beer in the sunshine, the nostalgic thrills of the likes of it, ‘Quality Control’ and ‘Jayou’ being so uncomplicatedly enjoyable that even Cut Chemist’s wholly unnecessary showboating came off as kinda funny rather than merely annoying.

7. So many of us wasted years pretending to be ‘too cool’ to like UK garage

But we were idiots. That snare sound, songs as big as DJ Luck and MC Neat’s ‘A Little Bit Of Luck’ and ‘Flowers’ by Sweet Female Attitude – whatever you and I were listening to in 1999, it certainly wasn’t anywhere near as fun, or most likely, innovative; these songs don’t sound like they’ve aged a day, and whilst certain stages at Lovebox weren’t always full, there was always a little tent where the likes of B Traits and Juma or Emily Rawson and Supa Dupa Fly are cracking out the classics like these. Full of the kind of idiots who prefer dancing in a dark, tiny tent to enjoying the heatwave of a lifetime, they were the most fun places on the whole site.

8. Never rely on Lil’ Kim

The news that Lil’ Kim was not going to be appearing as scheduled on Sunday afternoon – with the crowd primed after Kelis for what was certainly due to be a fun time, if not one that was as musically rewarding as its predecessor – in one way or another really did kill everyone’s vibe. Of course, whilst very few were actually rushing down the front to get a load of her music (sample quote: “I just want to get close to that… face”), she was expected to keep the atmosphere pumped full of endorphins for a little longer, at least. What we actually got was a lot of standing around, a cancellation (but not an apology) and a thoroughly dull set from Hurts (sample quote: “so… it’s like a bad Depeche Mode?). Lil Kim’s antics have provoked a few reactions in the past, but this is the first time anything she’s done has resulted in a kind of exasperated boredom.

9. New pop bands shouldn’t be asked to play for more than 20 minutes

And the likes of AlunaGeorge seem to know it. Before they closed on a sterling version of ‘White Noise’ that had people clambering on one another’s shoulders in an attempt to be able to look Aluna in the eyes whilst they sing its chorus back at her, the reception they received was so flat they might as well have been regaling us with golf commentary. “Oh so now you get in to it”, sighed Aluna, lamenting the fact that it took up to their final song for anyone to start paying attention. If they’d just been forced to play that, ‘Attracting Flies’ and whatever singles three and four from their forthcoming album end up being, I’d wager they’d have picked up infinitely more admiration as a result.

10. Wiley does actually enjoy playing some gigs, occasionally

Wiley grew up in “that pink building over there”, he said, pointing at that pink building over there. And though his Twitter rants of late have given the impression that the Grime godfather despises playing festivals no matter what ludicrous sum they’re throwing at him to do so, he seemed to genuinely thrive off playing this one. Whilst it was tempting to think that its proximity to his childhood home lent the event a certain emotional significance, one listen to the lyrics he’s yelling (“we need some more girls in ‘ere, there’s too many man, too many many man”) dispelled such high brow concerns, and replaced them with ones vastly more hedonistic. Simply, far more so than the Lake District or Glastonbury’s green and pleasant fields, this festival suited Wiley, and Wiley suited it too.

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