Live Music + Gig Reviews

Lovebox 2008, Day 1 @ Victoria Park, London

19 July 2008

A choppy start to a weekend of escapism in the capital brought brief reminders of the horrors experienced at Zoo8 this summer, as Alphabeat found themselves first up on the main stage – with nobody listening.

There was confusion at the gates, with no-one seemingly knowing what was going on, and a large sell-out crowd poised patiently at the door of the party – but unable to get in.

Then suddenly all was resolved, and the 10th Lovebox Weekender proper started, an hour later than planned.
Once in, the air of bonhomie Lovebox has done so well to cultivate arrived quickly, helped by bands such as Smerin’s Anti Social Band, with their cheeky cover versions including a brassed-up take on the Dr Who theme. The Black Seeds, too, drew a big following as they dispensed good vibes of sunshine ska, dub and reggae on the Amnesty International stage.

The first band to make a full impact on the main stage were The Human League – and how good it is to have them back, with their sound suddenly more relevant than ever. Perhaps that says a lot about the direction a large strand of electronic music is taking at the moment, but their durability is most impressive. Opening with a majestic Seconds, their set grew in stature – as did Phil Oakey’s smile – and by the time Don’t You Want Me and Love Action had arrived, the crowd were with them.

Sadly house legend Frankie Knuckles was ill and unable to attend, so it was left to the Midnight Juggernauts to rescue the Strangelove tent from the clutches of the hugely talented but ill-fitting human beat box Beardy Man, himself following a brief surprise set from Mylo. The Australian trio warmed to the task, but not without their own problems, having been parted from their equipment on the way over from Barcelona.

Some heroics from the stage crew helped them settle, and once into their stride they delivered a powerful set. Performing choice cuts from debut album Dystopia, they secured raw, almost primal rhythms, and, helped by Daniel Stricker’s Neanderthal drumming style, the tent rocked to concrete-heavy beats and thudding basslines. There were melodies aplenty too, and while the harmonies and falsettos of Galaxy and Road To Recovery were thrilling, so too were the robotic Daft Punk-isms of Tombstone.

Meanwhile Secretsundaze succeeded in filling the Stockade to the brim with clubbers primed for a day of house music. DJs Giles Smith, Ame and James Priestley placed the sound system as the festival’s beating heart, centre-site, with a large glitterball hanging from the trees. And when Smith dropped the sound for a minute, introducing Nomad‘s (I Wanna Give You) Devotion, complete mayhem ensued.

This was our cue to return to the main stage, where an energetic and vibrant set from Manu Chao was still pumping. Here was another beating heart – that of the singer, who thumped his microphone against his chest during the course of a generously-filled set. Chao’s intensity was matched by his backing band, with tremolo guitars, fabulously full-bodied percussion and vocals that made the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. It rescued an inconsistent but colourful day of music.

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