Festival Reviews

Festival Review: Lovebox 2010

By | Published on Friday 23 July 2010


My first impression of Lovebox is that it’s the prettiest festival I’ve been to. There are cute features like the giant pink and purple flowers providing shady havens, and tiny little flowers are festooned around.

Saturday’s main band for me was Wild Beasts. The highly original art rockers come from Kendal in the Lake District, the home of mintcake. In any other band Hayden Thorpe’s Baroque operatic vocals would be the most extraordinary thing about them, but everything is extraordinary about this band. Their other vocalist Tom Fleming doesn’t have quite the same range, but his seductive singing on set highlight ‘All The King’s Men’ is thrilling. They are the latest in a long line of English eccentrics stretching back to The Smiths and The Associates, but they’re as far away as possible from a traditional indie band. Their elaborate songs utilise intriguing rhythms and unusual percussion. The rich, sexually obsessed lyrics borrow from DH Lawrence with a side order of feminism and are charming and funny.

Paloma Faith provided a splash of colour with a full length green velvet dress which was designed so that when she raised her arms she looked like a giant fan. Sadly, although she has a decent voice, she will not aspire to anything other than Amy Winehouse lite, especially if she continues to cover songs like ‘Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime’, which is possibly the wettest song ever.

Mark Ronson was similarly uninspiring and I missed his special guests – two Taylors from Duran Duran – because I was rushing to the other stage to see Yeasayer, who are not, as I first thought, a death metal band but the latest leftfield Brooklynites to arrive on our shores on a wave of critical approval. I must admit, despite myself, I’m impressed and the songs from latest album ‘Odd Blood’ are surprisingly poppy, once heard they stick in the brain.

Main stage headliners Roxy Music have forgotten that the golden rule of festivals is to play your hits. As their set rolls on, one unfamiliar song follows another to the consternation of at least one punter who shouts exasperatedly and repeatedly, “Play ‘Virginia Plain’ you bastards!” Meanwhile the rest of the audience talk among themselves about how suave Bryan Ferry is looking while some just drift away.

Just in the nick of time they do start to play some of their classic tunes, even though ‘In Every Dream Home A Heartache’ seems a strange choice. Happily they then come up with the winning trio of ‘Jealous Guy’, the aforementioned ‘Virginia Plain’ and ‘Love Is the Drug’, not to mention an encore of my personal fave ‘Let’s Stick Together’. They just about pull it off and remind us that, not only were they the original art rock band, they could still be truly dazzling if they wanted to be.

Today Lovebox is crammed with bands; it’s electro-pop heaven which involves much rushing from one stage to another as several acts and times clash.

Discovery of the day is the wonderful Silver Columns who play to a small but appreciative audience on the Gaymers Stage. The duo have something of the geek chic of Hot Chip particularly on the title track of their album ‘Yes And Dance’, while ‘Cavalier’ has a distinctly New Order feel. They close with ‘Brow Beaten’, a very hi-energy dance tune, heavily in debt to Bronski Beat. It’s with some surprise that I learn later the duo are comprised of two moonlighting musicians; Adem Ilhan who plays in Fridge with Kieren Hebden aka Four Tet and Johnny Lynch aka Pictish Trail, one of the Fence Collective.

There’s time for a quick taste of We Have Band, who my friend reckons sound like the Gossip, before it’s time to head back to the main stage for Hurts who are one of the festival highlights. Again they are an electro-pop duo; their brooding, glacial epics work well in the wide open spaces of Victoria Park. Theo Hutchcraft provides beautiful cheekbones and emotionally over wrought vocals while looking disconcertingly like one of the Goss twins from Bros. Band mate Adam Anderson plays his keyboard like a member of Ultravox although he is styled like someone from a much cooler 80s band. Their set climaxes with ‘Better Than Love’, part synth pop noir, part dance floor filler.

Peaches seemingly takes to the stage in a fringed ensemble that covers her face and body and gyrates around. But then suddenly she’s revealed in a wheel chair pushed on by a naked pre-op transsexual. She has a cast on her leg and it’s clear that the person in the costume earlier was not her. Her act is typically rude and provocative and she certainly puts in a good performance for someone incapacitated by a broken leg, though, while entertaining up to a point, she’s best in small doses.

Cut Copy create a blissed out mini rave atmosphere on the other stage, but unfortunately they clash with Hot Chip on the main stage so I don’t see all their set. Hot Chip are one of the big hits of the weekend, not least because they pump out one top tune after another. Indeed they work much better in a festival setting than I’d expected. Their warm hearted, endearing songs go down very well with the audience and although it’s hard to pick favourites from such strong material, ‘One Life Stand’ and storming closer ‘ Ready For the Floor’ are particularly effective.

Back at the other stage Chromeo are hugely enjoyable. There are grins all round as the Palestinian/Israeli duo employ call and response from the audience. ‘Needy Girl’ and ‘You’re So Gangster’ are wickedly funny and get the crowd dancing. Sadly their set clashes with Grace Jones on the main stage and I can’t miss her.

In typically diva-esque fashion Jones is half an hour late. But she closes the festival spectacularly with a set of ground breaking, timeless classics, not to mention some outrageous costumes. Looking every inch the Amazonian super model she commands the crowd’s attention. ‘Nightclubbing’, ‘My Jamican Guy’ and ‘La Vie En Rose’ are stunning.

It’s been a perfect festival; a couple of remarkable headliners, loads of excellent bands and some impressive brand new acts. JW