Lovebox 2012 (Friday)
London E9, Victoria Park
15th June 2012
The first day at this years Lovebox features big names such as Crystal Castles & Hot Chip. However, as Kevin Robinson reports It was actually the bassmongers who stole the day.
Inaugurated by Groove Armada as a one-day event on Clapham Common a decade ago, Lovebox has grown steadily to become one of the most hotly anticipated predominantly dance music festivals of the season. Having lured legendary names such as Sly & The Family Stone, The B52's and Snoop Dogg onto the line-up in recent years, the bill now encompasses everything from Baile funk, Afrobeats, hip hop, house, techno, bass music in all its forms and even horrible trance remixes of The Killers. As with Field Day, it's been nudged up the summer calendar for 2012, lest our capital be unable to cope with anything other than a tawdry, corporate whorefest without grinding to a standstill for two tedious sport-filled weeks.
It's a muddy start to the proceedings as Zach Steinman and Sam Haar, better known to us as Blondes are warming up a respectable crowd, gradually layering soaring synth sounds over beats and basslines, skillfully steering each sprawling track towards a dizzying crescendo. Straight afterwards Raf Rundell of Greco-Roman Soundsystem and Joe Goddard of Hot Chip team up together as The 2 Bears, strut onstage, flash cheeky grins, and launch straight into their remix of Wiley's 'I'm Skanking'. Several tracks later, the feel-good romp of ”ËBear Hug' is enough to prompts the first of two chaotic stage invasions this evening, grizzly embraces and all.
The second outdoor stage is curated by Shy FX, the Original Nuttah of the 90's junglists whose flawless productions and landmark releases have ensured he has remained a stalwart of underground dance music for two decades, alongside his Digital Soundboy crew. There are afternoon sets from such pioneering names as Sub Focus, Rusko and Breakage, who has an MC who appears to be conducting the skies, as sunlight beams through the threatening clouds overhead and directly into a sea of smiling faces at perfectly timed moments.
Crystal Castles are a considerably more muscular and confident-sounding beast since their gig at the now defunct Barden's Boudoir six years ago. Back then, having been sent to interview them in a kitchen in Dalston, I'd found two impossibly lithe, nervy creatures housed inside two pairs of the skinniest black jeans available to humanity. Ethan Kath brandished a laptop full of malevolent-sounding bleeps, pings and crunches of bass. Alice Glass's job was mainly to holler over the top of them. Tonight, she dons a black hoodie and white-rimmed shades as they race headlong into a new track from an upcoming third album. Descending from the stage, scaling the crash barriers and leering into a diminutive but transfixed crowd, they're now a menacing force to be reckoned with.
With five solid albums under their belts, Hot Chip can now declare their debut festival headlining slot a triumph. As unconventional as they are, they were initially somewhat underestimated, often perceived as geeky misfits far too eager to indulge their gangsta rap and R&B fantasies (beats by Prince, specs by Timmy Mallett). Tonight, it's all smiles as ”ËOne Life Stand' is, as usual, embellished with steel drums, and ”ËOver And Over' and ”ËReady For The Floor' are greeted like old chums. New tracks ”ËNight And Day' and ”ËFlutes' are received rapturously, as is a blast of Fleetwood Mac's ”ËEverywhere'.
Tonight though, belongs to the bass boys at the back. The disorderly scenes in the Rinse FM tent are an affirmation of the gargantuan impact that dubstep and drum and bass has had on modern music. The supergroup of Magnetic Man stand like an army, sculpting pitch-shifting basslines from behind their aligned MacBooks. Fronted by MC Sgt Pokes, they unleash violent waves of noise into a euphoric Big Top packed to the gills with beer and sweat-soaked revellers. There's a full-on moshpit and stage rush during Skream's set, captured on film below:
All pictures copyright Daniel O'Connor