We could get used to this. For a third day in a row Hackney’s Victoria Park is basking in the heat of a glorious long summer weekend – and this day, billed variously as “gay day” and “out and out FIERCE Sunday”, is the warmest yet. That’s not a huge consolation to the occupants of the Relentless dance tent, mind, which is in fact relentlessly warm and dark. So much so that we opt not to visit there, plumping instead for an early acquaintance with the Rizla arena.
Here shade can be found under leafy cover, ideal conditions for outdoor dancing topped off by the first of three Joe Goddard appearances. Here he is operating as half of 2 Bears, before later Hot Chip DJ and artist appearances take over. Initially the arena is empty, but 10 minutes later finds a large crowd assembling to the strains of Jaydee‘s Plastic Dreams and the early Basement Jaxx belter Summer Magic.
Summer magic – it’s everywhere. Today’s NYC Downlow construction hosts Horsemeat Disco, with good vibes in plentiful supply both inside and out. The fringe stages are once again in good nick, the Cat Flap offering such weird and wonderful items as Sonic Fire and Bearded Kitten, while the Gaymers bandstand has more men with accordions and tubas than your average festival would normally boast.
Fenech Soler power up the main stage with some feisty electro-pop, while a short set from the Silver Columns over at the second stage includes the elegiac Columns in a sandwich of perky, beat driven items. Back at the main stage, HURTS are questioning their own attire. Quite naturally expecting a typical British summer day, the Mancunians are squeezed into tuxedos for a set in the full summer sun. It doesn’t deter them, and we are treated to a fine selection of exquisitely brushed pop songs, delivered with aplomb by Theo Hutchraft. He looks more than a touch like Jude Law in his immaculate suit, and is backed by an opera singer who never moves, but deserves his own bow at the end. Wonderful Life is especially gripping as it gets its message across, and so too Better Than Love – yet the whole set is made up of genuine pop nuggets with real staying power.
A reconstituted Hercules And Love Affair arrive ahead of their scheduled start time and immediately set about giving the main stage a sex-lathered New York ’70s disco vibe. Main man Andy Butler is stripped to the waist and sports a sailor’s hat and shades. There’s something big in his mouth. “It looks like I’m smoking a tampon,” he announces, before assuring us that the device is in fact to help with quitting the ciggies. Long-time collaborator Kim Ann Foxman is joined by two other vocalists and Butler is augmented by another figure on the backline as they mix and match material from the eponymous debut album, including hit Blind, with new tracks from the upcoming follow-up. It’s hot and bright, being outdoors in the middle of the afternoon, yet still they create an atmosphere that would maybe have worked perfectly in the close by NYC Downlow area. This is music to get naughty to.
Over in a packed Rizla arena the Hot Chip DJs are working the crowd ahead of an appearance from disco doyen Derrick Carter, who kicks off with Wu Tang Clan‘s Gravel Pit before stepping up the pace.
Meanwhile back on the main stage one of the day’s stranger acts has arrived. Pottymouthed electrovixen Peaches has hurt her leg. The limb is in a cast and she’s ensconsed in a “wheelchair” of sorts, wheeled around the stage by a naked (save for strategic black crosses) shemale. Assorted stripped sorts vogue about, some also handling the instruments that play her hard-edged recent numbers from I Feel Cream, including Mama Complex and Talk To Me. Her earlier material elicits cheers from the partisan crowd, and the feel is almost of a greatest hits set, but the lasting memory is of her high-kicking as she’s wheeled about, like an electroclash Dr Everett Scott, and of being held up by two accomplices, obviously in pain, at the finale. “I could’ve cancelled,” she tells us, grinning through adversity. The baying throng before her are delighted she didn’t.
It’s time for food – so into the heavily populated takeaway alley we pitch, tempted by many a hot dish despite the temperature. Suitably refreshed, we admire the impromptu hula-hoopers by the Gaymers bandstand, presumably preparing the way for her ladyship Ms Jones later on. It’s Hot In The City, as Billy Idol would say – and Lovebox is basking in the glow.
Once again the second stage fulfils the expectations, with the sunshine synth pop of Cut Copy a huge tonic to all present. Practically ignoring the existence of their more thoughtful first album, the group instead opt to test out new material -and the big choruses of their songs Elisa and Blink suggest a step out on the glamorous side. Lights And Music and Hearts On Fire, meanwhile, get the crowd dancing and singing for all they’re worth.
Up next are Chromeo, who are in typically mischievous mood. It seems all you need to enjoy yourself with this band is a pair of functioning legs, a keyboard and a vocoder. The latter device is employed for all kinds of audience pleasing tactics in between tracks, while the duo offer promising songs from their upcoming LP. The whiff of cheese is strong but not overpowering, and in songs like Bonafied Lovin’ and Fancy Footwork, the Toronto funksters have enough weapons up their sleeve.
The surge of bodies from second stage to main becomes a tidal wave as the hour of Grace Jones approaches. Fashionably late, she arrives backstage on a black carpet, before giving us a hit-laden set, packed with sharply amusing asides, even sharper stilettos and flamboyant headgear. As is customary she gives us a running commentary while changing backstage, while her band are once again flawless purveyors of funk in a joyous Pull Up To The Bumper, which could quite easily go on forever.
The emotive Williams Blood makes a highly charged leveller in the middle of the set, while said hula hoop is out and circling for Slave To The Rhythm. Still working those hips, Jones introduces her band, says good night and walks off stage, the hoop not lowering an inch. Open mouthed and wide eyed, even those Grace veterans in the crowd admit it’s been quite a show – and for Lovebox, it’s the perfect end to a wonderful three days in the sun.