Live Music + Gig Reviews

Lovebox Weekender 2009: Day 1 @ Victoria Park, London

18 July 2009

Lovebox Weekender 2009: Day 1 | Day 2

There was none of last year’s disorganisation to report as Lovebox 2009 got underway, the feeling already taking root that this year’s model was bigger and more organised than the last.

This was a mixed blessing. While it was good to report the bonhomie found by the tree house overlooking the second stage, and the new second stage itself, the unfortunate Secret Sundaze found themselves booted out to the back of the festival, beyond anything else – and it took punters a while to realise they were there.

In their place, in the Stockade, was a pumped up Rizla enclave, massively increased from last year’s van-in-a-clearing to take in first day DJs such as Bill Brewster and X-Press 2. Make that X-Press 1, actually – Diesel drawing a massive queue as he dispensed euphoric house anthems on cue at sunset.
The sun shone for much of the day, giving contestants in Fake Tan Wars 2009 a chance to go a less delicate shade of orange, or those who were not so prepared – such as a musicOMH writer or two – a shock as they went a delicate shade of maroon. Yet the good vibes Lovebox prides itself on were never hard to find.

A new margarita stand had with it a set of bands offering feel good Spanish and Peruvian music; the Horse Meat disco was back, albeit in a tent that couldn’t take the demand, and, despite their fate, the Secret Sundaze boys James Priestley, DJ Sneak and Giles Smith did the business through the day within the striking installations commissioned by Relentless, throwing flames by the close.

So what of the bands? Early plaudits went to Official Secrets Act on the sparsely attended second stage, their pleasingly melodic power pop hiding a darker centre in tunes such as Victoria and Snakes & Ladders. Over on the main stage the lungs of V V Brown were drawing quite a crowd. This girl can certainly sing, and though her cover of Kings Of Leon‘s Use Somebody brought the biggest cheer of her set, a reggae version of Crying Blood was a treat, as was Shark In The Water. Dressed in a modern kitsch style that suited her perfectly, here was a girl who wanted to sing her heart out for everyone.

Feel good music was now the order of the day, especially as we swung by the Rizla clearing to practice hip movements to the early disco of the Lowlife DJs, soaring strings and insanely funky bass lines the order of the day. Over at the second stage it was the turn of Temper Trap, still playing to a small crowd but with the muscle bound Dougy Temper‘s vocals soaring overhead. Following them was Dan Black, who seems to be staking a claim to be real life’s Zoolander, with perfect hair, neon pink t-shirt and dark cardie. But where his songs occasionally avail themselves of hooks, his whiny voice undermines them. Symphonies, for all that, only has one hook. And that soon becomes as annoying as his voice.

Coinciding with Black was Mr Hudson on the main stage, full of apologies at his attire. “I thought it would be raining”, he confessed as he appeared in an all black number. Short of a ‘CREW’ legend on the back, he couldn’t have looked more like a roadie. No matter, for Kanye West‘s New Best Friend delivered well crafted new songs from forthcoming album Straight No Chaser. He seems a more serious proposition since disbanding from his Library, and with songs like Knew You Were Trouble and White Lies seems to have toughened up from the man who asked, “Why do I always play the clown?” This song, Too Late, got the best response of the set, though a guest appearance from Kano also upped the temperature.

Hercules And Love Affair head honcho Andy Butler made his sold out UK DJ debut with Horsemeat Disco last year, causing queues of incensed trannies to form in Vauxhall, all dressed up with no way in. So it made sense to book the stubbly ginger Studio 54 fan for Horsemeat’s own programme in a tent. It would’ve been better had the venue been dressed in the decor of previous Lovebox festivals, if only to suggest it was other than a lost wedding marquee blown in from Hertford, but the shades-sporting denizens shook their limbs amiably all the same.

While Butler’s set was getting going, Florence And The Machine were taking to the drizzly main stage, Florence Welch with her now-customary flowers, harp and bandmates. Wearing Heels Of Hugeness on the end of Legs Of Longness meant the skyscraping Camberwell dweller resembled a dancing giant in search of a beanstalk. A big crowd unfurled brollies and stayed put to cheer her through Dog Days Are Over, Rabbit Heart and an emotional rendering of her cover of The Source‘s You’ve Got The Love. She played in a tiny tent in this park two years ago, but this was her first main stage appearance. It most certainly won’t be her last.

The rain was also hitting the power pop of Frankmusik, though Mr Frank was still hitting the high notes. Confusion Girl, the Stranglers-sampling When You’re Around and 3 Little Words worked wonders on the spirits of the small crowd, and pleas to buy copies of the former song were genuinely heartfelt rather than the usual standard plug. This was a man craving success for all the right reasons – acceptance for his undeniably striking and catchy take on pop music.

While it was tempting to sample some more euphoria in the Rizla area the queue to access it by now was 30 feet deep and counting, so it was back to Gang Of Four in the outer field. Revered among many of today’s guitar glitterati as a keen influence, they pack a punch live – and over gravelly bass lines, Jon King’s vocals make a particularly arresting impression, peppered as they are with a plethora of full stops. The small but intense audience lapped it up – but not as much as the Friendly Fires crowd, who had clearly come to see if they could throw their hips with the same abandon as singer Ed Macfarlane. There was only going to be one winner in that contest, so the assembled throng buoyed themselves by belting out Paris, Jump In The Pool and the soft-centred euphoria of Love Is All, a heart melting sunset moment. At last the second stage had come into its own.

There was no doubting the biggest crowd of the day, however, as Duran Duran pulled a massive following to the main stage. They’ve been at the pies since their yacht-crewing mid-’80s heyday, but Simon Le Bon still wears white trousers as though he has the figure of fellow main stager Pharrell Williams, topping off his look with a black top hat, waistcoat and tails. Taking to the stage to music from Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange soundtrack, they made a statement of intent with Wild Boys. Older, yes, but not yet too old to cut it, they soon had toddlers bouncing on shoulders and ladies of every age and shade singing back lyrics from an extended array of the reformed veterans’ canon, giving special loving to the sparkly keyboards of Say A Prayer. An intriguing day was over, topped by a spectacular light show – with the promise of a similarly eclectic Sunday on the cards.

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