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REVIEW: LOVEBOX 2014

Victoria Park, London on Saturday 19th July

Five weeks after the buzz of Field Day, it's Lovebox's turn to woo East London's festival ravers.

The weather might have held out for Victoria Park's more leftfield foil, but the sight of sequential storm clouds on our weather app doesn't bode well.

Thankfully our app is pretty much always wrong. Today's an absolute scorcher, temps reaching 28 degrees, which means that the Red Bull tent, where Horse Meat Disco are knocking out disco classics, feels more like it's set in the middle of the Sahara desert than Victoria Park — but who are we to complain?

It also means many people have made off-kilter choices of attire; Hunter wellies treading cracked soil and waterproofs tied around waists combine with lycra leotards and wife-beater vests, while noticeably the crowd is also a little confused; a mismatch of “deep house” shufflers and polysexual clubbers found here usually on a Sunday.

Last year's “gay day” had such a poor turn-out that the main stage acts had to be moved onto a smaller stage, and its absence this weekend is conspicuous. Instead, only two of the standard three days have been laid on, meaning that a slightly ham-fisted attempt has been made to shoe-horn elements of previous Sundays into today.

HMD — followed by Tensnake — aside, we pass one platform on which drag artists perform a voguing routine to the odd bemused passerby. Hercules & Love Affair do their best to install some flamboyance, but there is a sense the majority of people are here to see the likes of Ben Pearce, Breach and Scuba on an open-air stage made up like a country manor hosted by Krankbrother.

Nas, meanwhile, has attracted hip-hop heads in their droves. The sight of one of rap's elder statesman on the line-up is one thing Lovebox does get right this year. Along with the scarcity of his London appearances alone, the opportunity to see him perform 'Illmatic' in full for its 20th anniversary means the novelty factor is next level.

And his set — a show of two halves — doesn't disappoint. With the beats expertly cut and pasted by DJ Green Lantern, Nas' debut LP makes up the first part, presented with dapper flair and ice-cool charisma — without the self-indulgent whinging of Kanye West at Wireless earlier this year. 'One Love' and 'Life's A Bitch' are two of the more memorable hands-in-the-air moments, further confirming why the album remains such a firm favourite amongst fans.

The latter half, however, placates those outside of Nas' hardcore following. A high-octane trip through his 20 years and ten album back catalogue, taking in classics such as 'Get Down', 'Made You Look', and 'If I Ruled The World' as well as a ropey but enjoyable sing-along to 'Oochie Wally'.

A headline set from M.I.A. later ticks boxes reserved for both hipsters and hip-hoppers, but we opt for the Soundclash marquee instead where Mount Kimbie played an absorbing live set earlier. Bonobo is joined on stage by Szjerdene and his band for a stunning rendition of 'Transits'. Following that is a quick dash to catch the end of Kenny Dope's set, but we get there just as he's on the mic announcing he's getting shut down.

It's only about 10pm so — as with Loveboxes past — we look around for a soundsystem that's still alive only to find — once again — our search is futile. If we subtracted the amount of time we've endured the drinks queue, or waited for mates to return from the toilets, with that actually spent dancing, they'd be very little in it. Any chance of respite isn't found in the VIP area either, which we find is also rammed.

Lovebox may have shrunk in 2014 — while Field Day grew to two days — but as a result we have a sold-out Saturday and barely any extra bars or bogs to cater for demand. Whether it's the jumbled lay-out or the extra numbers here, Lovebox feels more cluttered this year and as a result we're left wanting more. Over-compensating for a missing day, Lovebox tries to cram a bit too much into a single 12 hours, resulting in conflicting identity across the site. If it wasn't for Nas' set and a couple other ace moments, we'd feel rather short-changed today — and we're probably not the only ones.

Words: Adam Saville & Josh Sparrow

 

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