Lovebox pulls together an impressive roster of talent each year—but it's not a case of "book them and they will come." There are at least five other London dance music festivals competing for a similar audience over the summer. Add events like Glastonbury and the ever-present lure of Ibiza and Croatia into the mix, and you begin to realise what a competitive market Lovebox is operating in.
One of the ways Lovebox stands out is by attracting different crowds across the weekend. The demographic of each of the three days is not totally different, but there's a noticeable change in clientele from day to day. Friday pulled in a largely teenage audience, hyped up on nitrous oxide balloons and ready to party. Saturday was more mixed. In fact, rather than one type of crowd there seemed to be many distinct tribes, ranging from groups in Atzec print T-shirts and vintage sunglasses at the Hot Natured stage to Home Counties ravers by the Hospital tent. Sunday was definitely the most visually arresting, with some of the most outrageous members of London's LGBT community out in full force. The traditional "gay day" at Lovebox, the music and vibe on Sunday sometimes felt like a really great Pride event.
The most anticipated act of day one was clearly Disclosure. The pair attracted approximately 70% of the festival to their DJ set, leaving hip-hop legends Jurassic 5 playing to a remarkably small crowd on the main stage. Musically the day's highlight was Flying Lotus. His bass-heavy beats are always entertaining, but when you combine them with hallucinogenic animations of warring robots and cartoon dogs you have something irresistible. Day two saw A-Trak bring his unique brand of turntablism to the Red Bull stage, somehow making goofy records like Duck Sauce's "Big Bad Wolf" sound decent. D'Angelo's Prince-inspired vocals sounded as great as they did 20 years ago; tracks like "Chicken Grease" and "Brown Sugar" were a potent reminder of his considerable talents. Jamie Jones was predictably solid, bringing tech house to a rammed audience both in front of and behind the DJ booth.
Day three turned out to be tricky for the festival organisers, as the main stage had to be closed and the running order hastily rearranged due to low ticket sales. Kelis was disappointing, running through a shoddy mega-mix of festival bangers. Perplexingly, she often didn't sing the second half of her tracks, preferring to awkwardly dance to random instrumentals instead. DJ Harvey was much, much better. Oscillating between dusty disco and punchy techno, he climaxed his set with Rolling Stones "Gimme Shelter" while wearing a sea captain's hat. The day's highlight, though, was definitely A Love From Outer Space vs Horse Meat Disco. The London institutions went head-to-head in The Russian Standard tent, something that was cleverly subverted by a group of drag queens using the stage to appeal for Russian gay rights. As Horse Meat's Severino mixed two copies of Sylvester's "Mighty Real" to a room that included a naked dude, a six-foot sequined centurion and at least ten blokes in beards and high heels, the vibe was a messy, British version of Paris Is Burning.