Lovebox 2017: Frank Ocean and Solange dazzle with their dulcet tones at London's original festival

Once you get past the punters in hunters despite there not being a speck of mud in sight there is a fair bit of fun to be had

Maya Oppenheim@mayaoppenheim
Wednesday 09 August 2017 17:22
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Despite starting as a predominantly dance festival, it has since grown to include a wide assortment of genres, spanning everything from grime to pop, indie, hip-hop and then the odd cabaret or fringe act
Despite starting as a predominantly dance festival, it has since grown to include a wide assortment of genres, spanning everything from grime to pop, indie, hip-hop and then the odd cabaret or fringe act

There is no mistaking the fact that Lovebox instils you with the unshakeable somewhat claustrophobic feeling you are trapped inside a giant playpen. Just swap the selfie sticks for rattles and the sickly sweet Kopparbergs for baby bottles and you could be in a piece of furniture for a toddler. There is even something unmistakably infantile about the inebriated adults.

In Lovebox’s defence, all of the above could probably be said of any day festival inside the M25. But unlike most London festivals, Lovebox is one of the first to hit the capital and one of the best.

The two-day festival, which was founded by Groove Armada in 2002, is held in the dusty grounds of Victoria Park in east London. It being walking distance from my house, I’ve wound up inside its slippery steel climb-proof walls every year for the last six years, and always wind up having fun after shaking the initial but visceral sensation of claustrophobia.

Unlike many other events of a similar nature, it draws a diverse crowd reflective of the surrounding area. Devoid of any pretension or airs and graces, both the Londoners and the day trippers are there for nothing more complicated or sinister than a good day out. In other words, there are no self-satisfied sons of aristocrats in sequin leggings, vintage ferret-hats and Pete Doherty-style military jackets in sight.

Despite starting as a predominantly dance festival, it has since grown to include a wide assortment of genres, spanning everything from grime to pop, indie, hip-hop and then the odd cabaret or fringe act.

The man of the moment this year was, of course, Frank Ocean. As you would expect, the always elusive, never predictable singer’s performance was preceded by an edgy 25-minute wait. Unsurprisingly the delay elicited fears he might never show – fuelled by the fact he has cancelled a slew of festival dates this year. However, to the relief of many in the audience he eventually made it on stage.

Frank’s only appearance at a London festival this summer and first London date since 2013’s Wireless festival was of course highly anticipated and of course attracted throngs of his somewhat cultish adoring fans – many of whom were watching their leader in the flesh for the first time.

Performing on a platform implanted in the centre of the crowd surrounded by chairs, the singer had home video style visuals captured by Spize Jonze (the Oscar-winning director who is rumoured to be filming a tour documentary) projected onto three mammoth screens behind him.

Rubbishing the age-old idiom that no man is an island, Frank cut a lone figure on stage. Wearing sizeable headphones, he appeared isolated as he obscured the audience’s venerating screams.

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The majority of the setlist came from 2016’s Blonde album with big hitters from Channel Orange such as "Super Rich Kids", "Swim Good", and "Pyramids" not given a look in. While his dulcet tones were flawless, they were imbued with their characteristic and distinctive tinge of melancholy, meaning the atmosphere did not feel quite right for a Lovebox headline set.

Other musical highlights included standout sets from Bicep and Seth Troxler in the Fabric tent and Solange who opened the evening sets on the Noisey stage with a dazzling performance. But the set did come rather close to cancellation for comfort - the singer who released grammy-award-winning A Seat at the Table to widespread critical acclaim last year, awoke in hospital on Friday.

“After my show, I had a serious episode and they told me I shouldn’t perform. And so I broke out of that bitch this morning because I knew this place was going to be filled with so much love,” she explained, adding, “I’m a hospital fugitive.”

In summary, Lovebox is a highly recommendable experience. While it would be a barefaced lie to say the event is free of shortcomings or annoyances, all of its criticisms could be levied at most festivals which have taken place or will take place this summer.

In other words, once you learn to block out the punters in hunters despite there not being a speck of mud in sight and get past the feeling you are on a never-ending photo shoot comprised of boyfriends and best friends begrudgingly snapping flicks of their loved ones, there is a lot of fun to be had.

The Saturday leg of the festival, which The Independent did not attend, included performances from Chase & Status, Annie Mac, DJ EZ, and Jess Glynne.

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