Having only experienced the chaotic essence of Wireless in my younger years, Lovebox is a new feel. It’s cult status is revered; the perfect playground for twenty somethings looking to roll themselves in glitter and good vibes. After marinating in a mile-long queue you are met with golden fields, shrieks echoing from fairground rides and addictive basslines pulsing underfoot. Now I hate to say this; but the Lovebox app is a necessity. With sensational sets constantly overlapping - every second must be accounted for or you risk missing out bigtime!
Friday began with a bang. Due to traffic delays poor SZA missed half her set; performing only four songs before her mic was abruptly cut and a burly man escorted her offstage to a chorus of boos. Regardless, she rose above expectation (concerning her recent vocal injury) delighting us with soft, angelic tones during “Broken Clocks” and “Love Galore”. Anderson Paak was a complete scene stealer! The cheeky Californian reminded London we’re looking “peng still” before diving into an energetic performance of his grooving hit “Come Down”, followed by “Glowed Up” and latest single “Bubblin’”. It’s extremely rare to find an artist who sings, raps and is the lead drummer of their band but he did it all, in a neon durag with mindboggling ease.
Hip-hop royalty, the Wu Tang Clan proved that age hasn’t affected their razor-sharp flows, heavy beats or lyrical agility. RZA & Raekwon took the lead with appearances from GZA, U-God and Ghostface Killah. Noticeably, Method Man was not present but nevertheless they all gave a fitting tribute to the late great ODB. Skepta - the most notorious member of UK grime saviours Boy Better Know, was the Friday night headliner. Posted in front of billowing smoke and huge chopping fan blades, Skepta was not lazy in terms of the visual and not stingy in terms of BBK guest appearances. He performed stellar renditions of “Shutdown”, “It’s Not Safe” and finished with hypnotic hit “Praise the Lord”; well after the burly man had cut the cameras.
One thing that separates Lovebox from Wireless is the audience’s energy. This crowd is mature and therefore laidback; creating mosh pits when instructed but never doing the absolute most. After all, they have work Monday morning! This meant that artists had to work harder to see the kind of reactions they get from 17-year olds hopped up on Smirnoff Ice. Lovebox may have a hand in ensuring this lacklustre attitude; as they only provided tiny closed off spaces (Kopparberg/Hidden Jungle) for some of the biggest grime, jungle and garage DJ’s the UK has ever known. To add insult to injury, fans were forced to queue (again) and be eyed over by security for the exclusive privilege! Compare that to the vast open spaces and massive pitch-black tents allocated to house DJs and well… it’s side-eye worthy at best.
Saturday offered a host of delights. Colombian-American star Kali Uchis, serenaded us alongside homegrown hottie Jorja Smith. We were sun kissed whilst dancing to Big Boi’s Atlanta classic “The Way You Move”. N.E.R.D and Pharrell showed off their impressive production roster (as long as my leg) which dominated the noughties charts. OVO Sound alumni DVSN flaunted the perfect flow of their album Morning After (2017) by performing it back to back. Followed by Annie Mac, whose remix of Teyana Taylor’s “WTP” from recent album K.T.S.E (2018) sparked the greatest voguing battle I have ever witnessed.
Saturday’s headliner featured the enigmatic jack of all trades; Childish Gambino. Donald Glover who is an: actor, comedian, writer, director, singer (breath) and rapper stepped into his musical moniker to deliver a show which mimics his latest project. Dressed in an almost identical fit to his character in the controversial “This is America” video, Gambino even performed other tracks with the strange, wide-eyed look and twisted expression peppered throughout that viral visual. Vocally, he stunned the crowd by bursting into spontaneous falsetto during “Redbone” and “Terrified” then encouraged us to wave in unison to “3005”. This set clearly marks the beginning of a new era for Gambino, his bare chest and bushy beard indicating that his moniker has morphed into a satirical character as opposed to a simple alias.
My first ever Lovebox was something special and surely won’t be my last. I just hope they can return home to Victoria Park in 2019, as the two-hour trek to the outskirts of West London (Gunnersby Park) both days in a row, almost sent me to a not so loving box of my own!
Words by Danielle Hilaire