After a triumphantly packed Saturday at Lovebox including Duran Duran and Florence and the Machine, Sunday seems a little soggy at first. But this quieter day at the disgustingly convenient London weekender actually has less obvious joys and more hidden talents.
The first major rethink is clear the second you get through the entrance. The past few years had seen the festival become more and more commercially minded, coming to a crux last year when you walked through the door straight into a sponsor cramped main arena, and a not-everyone's-favourite-ethical-company Nestle booth. It wasn’t exactly the greeting punters wanted to see. However this year, full marks to the organisers since the layout has been rearranged, the sponsors reassessed, and all to create a more punter friendly festival rather than what was turning into an advertising jamboree. Nestle is out while the sun-drenched prospect of Gaymer’s cider is in. They’ve even made a tree house for Gigwise to play in, as well as providing us with hula hoop competitions. Sold.
The Gaymer’s Stage isn’t too shabby either, with Bombay Bicycle Club and The Boxer Rebellion competing with the deliciously childish anarchy that seems to be going on in the treehouse. The Boxer Rebellion’s set is beautiful and perfect for a blustery afternoon on the precipice of rain. They finish on their first release ‘Watermelon’. Across the way the Rizla arena to be found in the woods is absolutely jumping, packed to the gills with would be mixers and karaoke stars. The queue makes you wonder if you want to be involved, but then you realise that, well, it’s largely karaoke. Don’t knock it though, Horse Meat Disco were there the previous day.
Over on the main stage, Ladyhawke’s album may be pelting up the charts, but songwriter Pip looks like a rabbit in the headlights. The songs are perfect to get the mid afternoon schmoozers moving, but the band give the audience little in the way of chat and floor it through their set in a panic. ‘Delirium’ and ‘Back of the Van’ are received adoringly amid skipping punters, but it would have been nice to see a little more warmth from one of this year’s breakthrough acts.
Once Gary Numan’s finished having a strange gothic breakdown, Doves charm their way through their set. Perhaps fondly thought of as Elbow’s younger cousins in terms of style, Current album ‘Kingdom of Rust’ has lifted the band to a new awareness. ‘Winter Hill’, their new track on release this week provokes a lulled swaying amongst punters. Yet with their lack of mega choruses and heavy swagger, Doves’ subtlety can be lost on the weekend party audience. However their subtlety is more than that, their rhythms multi-layered, their sounds tweaked into submission. Despite this, its quite suddenly we notice that the park has been quite low on numbers all day, and now the second headliners are playing to a disparagingly quiet main arena. Recent hit ‘Kingdom of Rust’ and their breakthrough hit ‘Black and White Town’ are well received, and frontman Jimi does a nice line in Mancunian banter with the audience, but it still doesn’t quite catch, even when they truck out ‘The Last Broadcast’.
Grove Armada’s headlining Sunday night finale has become a bit of a tradition amongst Lovebox-ers. With Grove Armada’s new album on the horizon, the set takes up a different format to the greatest hits feel of previous year. With the news that the band won’t be playing their own festival next year, most of the festival go-ers know where they want to be come 9:15. They may not be the biggest hitters of recent year, but there’s a fondness and a carnival atmosphere intrinsic to their presence. However in honour of the new album there’s some changes, and the first is Grove Armada’s new vocalist Saint Saviour. She’s a familiar sight to A&R-ers or regular Loveboxer’s – she sings most of the time with electric Armada management mates The RGB’s. However for Grove Armada’s next album, she is the collaborator du jour. And it has to be admitted that she takes a live act that occasionally lack a focal point, and gives them a dynamically elastic feel. This lifts Grove Armada from a late ‘90s favourite into something fresh for the future.
Old favourites such as ‘Song 4 Mutya (Out of Control)’ and ‘Chicago’ pepper the set of largely new material, and it doesn’t seem out of place. Showing off their remixing prowess, fragments of ‘Easy’ and ‘Madder’ flash through larger mixes. The encore sees Andy take to the stage to open with his trombone solo from ‘At the River’. Its here they hit us with some final crowd pleasers. Finishing as ever with ‘Superstylin’, the crowd lose it to the hits that they want to hear. Some newcomers are a little disgruntled at the lack of ‘If Everybody Looked the same’ and ‘I See You Baby’, but old timers are raving about the new material. It may have been an under full Lovebox, but it meant that punters could enjoy the gems there were.
Lovebox Day Two:
Day by day review of this weekend's Sussex seaside festival - wish you were here?
Plan B also headlining London festival
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