Lovebox Weekender 2009: Rated!

United Kingdom United Kingdom | 21 July 2009

Overall – 7/10

London might not always be blessed with the best weather in the world but at least you can rely on Lovebox to put a smile on your face for one weekend every year.

50,000 revellers pay little heed to the forecasts of gloomy July skies in east London to descend on Victoria Park for the weekender devised by Groove Armada duo Andy Cato and Tom Findlay. For early arrivals, the seventh installment looks as though it has been blessed with beautiful sunshine but it’s not long before the clouds move in and everyone scrambles for cover.

That’s not enough to out a dampener on the party though, especially with the prospect of seeing 80’s superstars Duran Duran headline the main stage on Saturday night, with Doves and Groove Armada lined up for a grand finale on Sunday. Add to the mix some seriously funky sounds provided at the Relentless stage and Rizla Invisible Players arena and the first-ever on-site bowling alley and it’s little wonder people keep coming back for more.  

Getting there and back – 6/10

The beauty of urban festivals is that you can sleep in your own bed but the downside is the weekend never quite captures the true hedonism of a muddy field that’s miles from civilisation.
Situated just three miles from London’s financial nerve-centre, it’s no problem accessing the venue, although the walk from the tube station is much more fun when the sun is shining. The task of cramming so many people inside the gates seems beyond the mass of assembled security forces outside, although once you’re through, that’s long forgotten.

Atmosphere – 6/10

As for the atmosphere, it takes a while to hot up but the arrival of rain showers just as Florence and The Machine take to the stage on Saturday evening has the desired effect, with thousands of T-shirt wearers grabbing the nearest bin lid or free poncho in a bid to stay dry. The result is a more carefree attitude among those who stay to brave the conditions as everyone forgets trying to look good and instead concentrates on what matters most - letting their hair down.  

Sunday is a more chilled out affair but no less fun, although Jazzie B and Diplo on the Rizla stage charge up the temperature perfectly in time for Groove Armada to round off the weekend as only they can.

The site - 8/10

Wide-open spaces are what make Victoria Park one of London’s best public parks and the organisers have made the most of their surroundings. The main stage is visible from most parts of the site but it is the cool surroundings of the Relentless Stage that really steal the show.

Music - 7/10

At first glance, it’s difficult to know what direction the organisers were looking for with a massive variation in the line-up. On Saturday, 80’s superstars Duran Duran rub shoulders with Pharell Williams and N.E.R.D, while indie fans are also well represented with the likes of The Rumble Strips, Florence and The Machine and Friendly Fires over on the Gaymers Stage.

Surprisingly, the mix works pretty well in the end, although it has to be said that the true essence of a festival like Lovebox will always be in the quality of the dance acts on show. True to form, fans aren’t let down in that department with a veritable feast of fantastic turntablists including Idjut Boys and X-Press 2, not to mention Joey Negro for those lucky enough to make it into the VIP area.

The pick and mix theme continues on Saturday with Ladyhawke, Gary Numan and Doves at one end of the scale once the day finally gets going. Over on the Gaymers Stage, Filthy Dukes kick things off nicely and the evening is rounded off by the unmistakeable sound of Rodrigo y Gabriela.   


Duran Duran – 8/10
Duran Duran are not the most obvious choice to headline a festival that’s filled with youngsters born a generation too late. But life is about taking risks after all. Having secured his requested five dressing rooms for families and friends, Simon Le Bon proves he hasn’t lost any of his star quality as the boys belt out ‘Wild Boys’, ‘Girls On Film’ and ‘Notorious’ with Mark Ronson even joining them on stage for the encore. The highlight has to be ‘Rio’ though, with the east London skies providing a thrilling backdrop.

Florence and The Machine – 9/10

There’s some artists who have the ability to change the whole mood of a festival and on this evidence Florence and The Machine could be pretty busy over the next few years. Having spent the first couple of hours wondering when things were really going to kick off, the answer came with the arrival of the enigmatic Florence Welch on stage. Her rendition of Candi Staton’s ‘You Got The Love’ provides an awesome finale after her perfect delivery of hits like ‘Rabbit Heart’ and ‘Kiss With A Fist’.

Groove Armada – 9/10

Try as they might to promote the rest of the line-up, for most people still braving Victoria Park at nine o’clock on the Sunday it’s all about seeing one band. The faithful are not left disappointed as Tom and Andy (not to mention fantastic new vocalist Saint Saviour ) roll out classics like ‘At the River’ and ‘Superstylin’’ alongside newer material from the forthcoming album ‘Black Light’.


Mr Hudson and The Library – 4/10

While Florence and The Machine enliven Victoria Park, the band that precede them fail dismally. Perhaps Mr Hudson and The Library thought the audience were only interested in getting a few books out for a Saturday afternoon of studying because they seemed to be trying very hard to live up to their name. A severe lack of energy and poor attempt at a remix their best single ‘Too Late, Too Late’ left most people at the main stage rushing to the bar.

Doves – 5/10

A massive disappointment after three weeks of talking them up – maybe this just wasn’t the right festival for them? They shun some of their more upbeat hits in favour of promoting their current album ‘Kingdom Of Rust’ - the talent is there for all to see but the crowd simply don’t respond. Better luck next time boys.

By Ed Aarons.

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