Lovebox Weekender 2011 review
A wet and wild weekend in London's Victoria Park
Strobe lights bounce off the rain clouds, as the heavy grey sky turns into night and 20,000 ravers tread cans and other
chaos into the mud underfoot to 2ManyDJs.
It's an atmospheric climax to a weekend that's variously camp, colourful, wet, gangster-ish, sunny, boisterous and very, very glam. From the statue of David wearing a "Welcome to Lovebox" sash at the entry gates, to the googly eyes staring through the trees of East London's Victoria park, everything about this three-day pop concert is mischievous, naughty and fun.
Among the unique and bizarre goings on are a New York drag-queen disco with half a yellow taxi crash-parked in the roof, and a stall where you can upload your mug shot onto a model's body and try on different virtual outfits.
Elsewhere there are cider gardens, tea rooms and tiny secret stages of the type you would expect to find in country festivals rather than on the Central Line.
Despite a few downpours on the Saturday and Sunday mornings and some swampy conditions on the ground, spirits mostly remain high throughout. Unfortunately the same can't be said for the sound levels on the main stage, which waver with the wind and occasionally disappear. Particularly frustrating during Snoop Dogg's Saturday closing show, the rapper is barely audible for the first 15 minutes, though the problem is soon fixed.
On the subject of the main stage, it comes as a slight shock to some revellers that it's out of use on Friday, with a smaller purple setting housing the headliners, but with the price set at less than 30 quid for the whole day, most are happy to let it go.
Among the musical highlights, Snoop Dogg (9/10), the man who sold out Saturday in weeks, plays a ‘Doggystyle’ set bringing lots of his friends along for the pimped-up joy ride, including Warren G with whom he performs a striking 'Regulate'. Short gangsta films featuring Snoop, and a trio of scantily clad dancers add an element of bling, as does the gigantic diamante version of his name decorating his microphone.
Santigold (8/10) performs an electric set wearing a crown and invites festival goers to join her onstage alongside a white pantomime horse, while Blondie's Debbie Harry (7/10) looks hot in a multi-coloured Indian brave's headdress as the band play classics like 'Atomic', 'The Tide is High' and 'Hanging on the Telephone' - then shock by throwing in a cover of Beastie Boys' 'Fight For Your Right To Party'.
And Beth Ditto (7/10) claims Sunday (known to Lovebox regulars as gay-day) as her own, gyrating in her undies, sipping neat spirits and dragging on a cigarette without missing a note. Jumping into the crowd towards the end, the most powerful Lesbian in pop comes across a little inebriated, or perhaps just "in the moment" as one punter puts it.
Later, Scissor Sisters' (8/10) Ana Matronic announces that one of her dreams is about to come true as Beth Ditto enters the stage again for ‘Tits On The Radio’. Streamers, confetti and a lot of dancing ensues.
Also, Metronomy (8/10) declare their infatuation with airplanes, Example (7/10) swears a lot and pleases even more, and The Wombats (6/10) thrill with a high-energy laser show.
The brief lowlights are the result of bad sound and worse weather, the latter contributing to the former. Katy B (6/10) is in the middle of a very well-received mid-90s dance-track medley - 'Back to Life', 'Gypsy Woman' by and 'Show Me Love' - during her dubstep-influenced set when the heavens open and horizontal rain soaks the yellow welly wearing beauty as much as the crowd. To her credit, she powers on nonetheless, but sadly, the atmosphere washes away along with her enviable hairstyle.
Otherwise, Kelis clashing with Scissor Sisters is a shame, as is Groove Armada's ill-timed set that coincides with Snoop Dogg - blame trying to squeeze in a whole festival of acts before the 11pm city-centre noise curfew.
The weekend can be summed up by a quote from a very amused passing festival-goer though, wading through the mire strewn with empty Gaymer's cans, dilapidated straw hats and the remnants of a giant silver worm-like balloon unleashed by the Scissor Sisters: "How can this ever be a park again?"