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  • Danny Dodds, Callum McWilliams, Cara WT

Lovebox 2019: Festival Review


Lovebox 2019 Festival Review

The only line-up Lovebox ever has to out-do is its own as its heavy emphasis on R&B and Hip-Hop distances it from the onslaught of British indie-rock festivals. Because it doesn’t try to cater to everyone, Lovebox instead refines it’s lineup to be the very best representation of the current R&B, Hip-Hop and Electronic scene making for a festival that really feels in touch with the culture and sound it’s trying to present. So here is my (Danny), Cara and Callum’s unfiltered experience with Lovebox 2019.

After wading through the crowds at Acton Town tube station and eventually making our way into Gunnersbury Park, the first thing you are greeted with is the festival classic; pounding bass and the smell of overpriced beer. It was pretty easy to identify the source of the pounding bass as the 'Blu Stage' towered over the entrance, a stage which looks like it was designed by a young adult novelist as a part of some sort of dystopian gameshow but unfortunately only held some fairly unexciting house DJ’s across the whole weekend, meaning that our relationship with it started and ended from afar. First on the agenda (after finding the source of the overpriced beer smell) was Tara Lily, a London-based Jazz and R&B artist who was to nobody’s surprise pretty fantastic.

Callum: “Sound was a bit off because she was a first act of the Friday. But she was pretty fun. Almost like kind of Jorja Smith meets a sprinkling of Nu-jazz? At time of writing she’s only got one song on Spotify and it’s a banger, so definitely worth following on Spotify for all the future bangers I’m sure she’ll put out as I would not be surprised to see her moving up the main stage in the next year or so.

Next up was one of my favourite artists of 2019 and easily one of my most anticipated of the whole weekend, Slowthai over on the main stage who brought energy, style and a Pornhub shoutout to my Friday afternoon. While there is no doubting that Slowthai was probably the most charismatic and honestly hilarious performers of the whole weekend, he did leave me wanting a little more as his set consisted of exclusively his hard-hitting bangers. This meant he of course played the insane ‘Doorman’ and ‘Inglorious’, but it unfortunately saw him missing out some of his slower tracks I was really excited to hear like ‘Gorgeous’ and ‘Missing’, leaving me a little deflated coming off of his set. Luckily if there’s anyone you want to be around if you are feeling deflated it’s Loyle Carner, so after flushing away another £5.50 on warmish beer, we got into position for what was bound to be a relaxing unwind after the insanity that was Slowthai.

If it weren’t for our position in the crowd that caused the sun to burn exclusively the left side of our faces, I would want to exist in that pocket forever as Loyle cycled through some hits off of his new album Not Waving, But Drowning like ‘Angel’ and ‘Ottolenghi’ (In which he brought out Jordan Rakei for the beautiful hook) as well as some classics like the blissful ‘Damselfly’ and of course ‘NO CD’. That afternoon, Carner just created such a sense of positivity in the air of Lovebox that I think everyone felt the benefit of, this was of course until he performed the heart-breaking ‘Loose Ends’ which earns it’s spot as the first tear of the festival from me.

Next on the agenda we were planning on taking in a bit of FKJ but unfortunately, we only managed to catch the last few songs because of how brilliant Carner’s set was, which is a shame as we what we heard was bouncy and undeniably groovy. Now I feel like I’m going to introduce every act by calling them ‘one of my most anticipated’ but honestly, with this lineup I feel like that isn’t far from the truth and especially not for Kaytranada who took over the Noisey stage for what was probably the fastest hour of my life. With a career-spanning spanning set, Kaytranada opened with some of his newer tracks like ‘Nothin Like U’ and the fantastic ‘Dysfunctional’ before transitioning into some classics from his incredible album 99.9%. With the left-right, goodnight combo of ‘Together’ into ‘Glowed Up’, Kaytranada made up potentially my favourite 7 minutes of the whole weekend while Cara had a big ol’ boogie to his performance of ‘You’re The One’. Anyone who knows Kaytranada knows he works best in the low, bassy frequencies and in a festival environment this couldn’t be more perfect as I felt every single kick drum was felt deep in my soul even if it was a little packed in the Noisey tent.

While I didn’t want to miss the UK icon JHus, my stomach was telling me otherwise so instead we settled on a compromise and used his set as a little dinner time viewing. Cara and I opted for some lovely mac n' cheese from a stall called ‘Mac Not Crack’ while Callum went for some classic chicken and chips as we watched the saviour of UK hip-hop take stage. Regardless of where you stood, everyone around was humming or singing along to his UK classics like ‘Bouff Daddy’ and ‘Lean & Bop’ meaning that despite being so far away, I feel like we weren’t far off from the full experience. Probably the biggest guest appearance of the weekend came from DAVE as he hopped on stage to perform the iconic piano duet ‘Samantha’, something which made it difficult to eat as I resisted the urge to sing along with every word. After JHus left the stage it was around 9pm and we realised that the main thing that was missing from our day was some good ol’ dessert so we hit up the local ice cream truck as you do for some (not 99p) 99’s with flake. Overall it was a good experience and I would give it an 8/10, good cream

Now I secretly always hoped that Solange would be the surprise dark horse of Lovebox and steal the festival because as much as I love her, I would be lying if I said she was topping my list of my most anticipated sets of the weekend. With some ambitious staging featuring a 2 story staircase and a troupe of back-up dancers, it was pretty obvious this set was on a whole other scale to anything else we had seen so far. Opening with a bunch of bangers from her fantastic latest album When I Get Home, Solange didn’t miss a beat on tracks like ‘Binz’, ‘Almeda’ and ‘Down With The Clique’ all of which included some brilliant and jarring choreography. After a heartfelt speech about her creative mentality and her anxieties about her son having to watch her twerk on stage, she moved onto some fan favourites like the bouncy ‘Losing You’ and of course the stunning ‘Cranes In The Sky’ which earned it’s spot as the second tear of the festival from me. I think we were all in agreement on the way out of the festival grounds that Solange was the best performance of the Friday and I might even go as far as to say she might have been my favourite of the whole weekend.

Saturday:

We started off our Saturday afternoon in disappointment as due to unforeseen circumstances, the first major excitement of the day, Cupcakke could not perform, leaving us relaxing in the afternoon sun listening to the Reggae and Dancehall icon David Rodigan, as he and his band provided some classic throwbacks and groovy beats to prepare us for the upcoming riot that is Lizzo and since I’m not as well-versed in her works, this one goes over to Cara.

Cara: “I’d spent the morning of Lovebox practising the lyrics to Lizzo’s ‘Boys’ in preparation for her set. I sat on the train singing it, as we walked around the festival, as we ate lunch but when it came to the big moment, I was so transfixed on the performance that I choked and forgot all the words. Lizzo’s set was a fluorescent blur of positive vibes, smiling faces and the knowledge that “Today, we are all thick bitches!’ She puts on a great performance along with her dancers ‘The Big Girls’ and DJ Sophia Eris that although superficially was twerking, glitter and big tunes actually touched on something deeper as Lizzo commanded the audience to love themselves and each other. Highlights of her set were ‘Tempo’, ‘Juice’ and ‘Water Me’. A lowlight was that she didn’t perform ‘Good as Hell’.”

Given the UK exclusive show, I don’t think it would be bold to assume that the majority of the Saturday attendee’s were there for Brockhampton and it showed, as it was the first time in my life I’ve ever felt there is a population crisis. Being near the front for Lizzo meant that as soon as the boys came running out to the banging ‘New Orleans’ we were tossed like a Greek salad and let me tell you I was not a big chunk of falafel, I was definitely just a cherry tomato. Playing a fantastic mix of Saturation era tracks and newer Iridescence bangers, the boys jumped across the stage for the whole hour and brought the charisma necessary for a UK exclusive set. Dom in particular stood out as he rapped his heart out, smashing some of his most technical and quick verses making for what was easily one of the most exciting sets of the weekend not just because we were fighting for our lives for the majority of it. Mixing up some of the tear jerkers like ‘Bleach’ with absolute slappers like ‘Boogie’, this set was thrilling, scary, painful, but most of all, fun.

One of the worst clashes of the weekend for me came with the decision between Brockhampton and ROSS FROM FRIENDS, the latter of which is easily one of my favourite electronic musicians of all time. Luckily, I ran off on my own after the chaos of the last two sets and managed to catch the final 20 minutes of his set and what a 20 minutes it was. Ross From Friends has always separated himself from the traditional DJ set through his inclusion of a live saxophonist and guitarist, beefing up the melodies on his classic techno bangers. Transitioning from the up-tempo ‘R.A.T.S’ into the stellar ‘Talk To Me You’ll Understand’ and finally the lo-fi house classic hit ‘Bootman’ was something to behold and it really makes me sad he had to clash with Brockhampton, as my two favourite sets of the day unfortunately occurred within the same timeframe. Another icon of UK music, another banging, carb-based meal as Giggs soundtracked my falafel wrap dinner from the main stage of Gunnersbury Park. With spouts of fire and elaborate stage displays, the Landlord brought too many UK grime classics to count on one hand, performing stonkers like ‘Look What The Cat Dragged In’, ‘Whippin Excursion’ and ‘Man Don’t Care’ but unfortunately splicing in a few hits from his disappointing latest album.

After absolutely falling in love with his track ‘Only Human’ released earlier this year and watching his boiler rooms and live sets over and over I couldn’t be more excited for Four Tet taking over the main stage and he really brought the energy. There an energy with Four Tet that I can’t really describe and that evening it really took me over and stopped me from going to see Action Bronson as I couldn’t really pull myself away. With classic techno and electronic hits and overwhelming bass, Four Tet ringed across the whole of Gunnersbury Park, hitting us with hit after hits like ‘Lush’ and his new track ‘Teenage Birdsong’ as well as a few of his famous remixes, pulling a Headie One track out the bag and of course finishing on his incredible remix of Bicep’s ‘Opal’. His whole set might have been the loudest thing I’ve ever heard and while I love him for his more low-key and minimalistic tracks, Four Tet opted for more of a high energy, techno-filled set that really brought my energy up after Brockhampton broke me.

While this did mean that I missed almost all of Action Bronson, Callum was there to fill me in: “Undoubtedly the highlight of Saturday for me. The girthy hero was welcomed onto the noisey stage by none other than Chabbudy G (Asim Chaudhry), to an absolute roar from the Gunnersbury Park. Undoubtedly never heard so many horse sound effects in 50 minutes. Unsurprising since the set was mainly a run through of his most recent album White Bronco. An album that I’ve been spinning so much since it was released. Tracks like 'Live From The Moon' and 'Picasso’s Ea'r went down as well as the title track. Not to mention the meaty classics like 'Easy Rider' and 'Actin Crazy'. Even managed to hear the entirety of 'Baby Blue' as well which was a surprise. Action did his verses at his own set, then the incredible Chance The Rapper performed his own during his magical headline set on the main stage. What a treat.”

(As you might have guessed) none other than Chance The Rapper was the next and final act of the weekend and all I can say is that I wish I knew more chance, because at the time of seeing him I only knew around 5 tracks of his.

Luckily, Cara was able to appreciate his set in all it’s glory: “If you had told 15-year old me I was going to see Chance The Rapper live I would have lost my head. Acid Rap was such an integral part of a specific time of my life so needless to say I was excited for his set, and boy did he deliver. I felt as though I had been taken to Church as the sun set and thousands of smiling faces sung along with him. ‘Ultralight Beam’ was when I began to get emotional but ‘Same Drugs’ pushed me over the edge and I shed a few tears, the highest compliment of any set. He got emotional himself, having not performed for a while, and it was clear to see how both the crowd and he felt lucky to be there. He performed mostly Acid Rap and Colouring Book which for me, was perfect. Highlights include ‘Same Drugs’, ‘Angels’ and ‘No Problem’. A lowlight was the performance of the DJ Khaled/Chance collab ‘I’m the One’ (Of which he forgot his own verse to which was pretty adorable)”

Lovebox 2019 was a success, tears were shed (I think 3 in total for me?), laughs were had and feet were sore. If I were to recommend any of the various London-based festivals it would undoubtedly be this and for any fan of R&B and Hip-Hop, Lovebox represents one of the only chances you have to see huge names like Chance The Rapper and Brockhampton in the UK, that is until next year (please god bring Frank Ocean back).

#festivalreview #Lovebox #rb #hiphop