Lovebox 2013 – review

Lovebox 2013

Revellers at Lovebox 2013: Photograph: Lucy Aylen

Lil’ Kim has completed another rite of passage to divadom: letting down her fans. At the last minute, naturally.

The rapper capped off this weekend’s Lovebox Festival by failing to perform her Sunday set, despite a barrage of promising exclamation points the day before: “London!!!!!!! Lovebox!!!!! The Queen is on the way!!!!” she tweeted.

But in true diva fashion, she managed to headline anyway, as the blame-game between Kim and Lovebox organisers played out in the national news. One fan told the BBC they had been “crying all day” from the disappointment.

The rest of the weekend was less emotional. Ladies yanked at their hotpants and fiddled with floral headpieces while gentlemen showed their hard-won biceps in vests with extra-big armholes.

One particularly tanned-and-toned trio weren’t seen wearing a shirt for the entire weekend. But the varied palette of the event was united by one overarching lesson. Crop tops: not for everyone.

The Red Bull tent was a veritable sweatbox of joy all three days.  On Friday, David Rodigan MBE spun reggae classic after reggae classic as he looked upon his young audience like a proud grandfather.

To the cohort who bailed after Rodigan’s set—the joke’s on you, but thanks for the extra dancing space. Soul II Soul’s Jazzie B struck just the right balance between old-school reggae, and a bit of garage and electro you can dance to without being on pills.

On the way home on Saturday we were pulled in again by the endorphin-inducing beat of DMX’s ‘Party Up In Here’ followed by Nas’s ‘Made You Look.’

Only the most committed wallflowers could stand still. The overconfident schoolboy behind the decks with A-Trak turned out to be an unrecognisable Mark Ronson, sporting a questionable new fringe.

On Friday the nice guys of hip-hop, Jurassic 5, were in rare form. Vocalist Chali 2NA’s unmistakable baritone voice is still a standout, but the group’s signature harmonies remain intact after a seven-year breakup. Despite rumoured rifts in the group, their positive energy hasn’t changed much since their first album was released in 1998—on cassette tape.

Overestimating the crowd’s interest in US politics, Chali asked the audience to raise a collective right fist in honour of murdered Florida teenager Trayvon Martin—whom the guy next to me confidently misinformed an inquiring friend was “another rapper.” The audience shrugged their shoulders and obliged.

A slimmer crowd came out in support of D’Angelo on Saturday. Sound glitches aside (the backing singers were way too loud), his voice is still magic. Renditions of ‘You’re my Lady’ and ‘Brown Sugar’ were enough to “make your knickers evaporate” according to one onlooker. But D is an exquisite talent out of practice.

At one point he seemed to forget he was meant to be leading a musical interlude on ‘Spanish Joint,’ and suddenly sprinted to the keyboard. By far the funkiest, most danceable song on the album Voodoo, it should have been a highlight.

Instead gaps in the sound and bungled lyrics left behind that distant sound you get when your headphones aren’t plugged in all the way. Now he’s shown his face, let’s hope he gets back to the studio and stages a proper comeback.

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