A quick glance at the set list for Lovebox 2016 and it comes as no surprise that tickets for this year’s festival sold out weeks before the event. Having managed to secure some very sought-after last minute passes, GBC headed down to Hackney’s Victoria Park on Friday in the sweltering heat, manouvering through the bustling crowds, rowdy ticket-touts and nitrous-oxide shottaz.
A loud and lively though somewhat cheesy set from live drum and bass group NZ Shapeshifter starts the festivities on the main stage as the crowds begin to grow. Young Brooklyn-ite Joey Bada$$ gathers a huge following as he bounds across the West Stage in a performance full of energy. With many-a-head nodding to his boisterous set, crowd participation was high on the agenda as he performed a selection of tracks over classic throwback hip-hop instrumentals including the infectious “World Domination”.
The Red Bull Music Academy stage comes to life with some heavy bass and electronic beats from the ever-effervescent L.A Beats mystro The Gaslamp Killer who delivers one of the best DJ sets of the day. Slightly more subdued, but still efficient at packing the dancefloor, was Benji B who takes over as the after-work crowds start to descend on Victoria Park and the festival gets into full swing.
Come early evening a large gathering at the main stage assembles for A$AP Rocky who dazzles, despite what appears to be some minor sound issues, moving between festival-friendly hits such as “Fuckin Problem” and “Purple Kisses”. The Harlem Rapper works the crowd into a frenzy with “Wild for the Night”, building up to the “drop” which sees raucous mosh-pits break out in various pockets across the main stage; not one for the faint hearted.
Perhaps one of the most enjoyable sets of the day comes from Detroit legend Theo Parrish at the RBMA stage with his “Teddy’s Get Down” live show, featuring an all-star cast including Amp Fiddler on the keys. Accompanied on stage by a crew of “steppaz”, and with a full band delivering live renditions of songs like the infectious “Sky Walking”, the show is an absolute funk-fest; and a perfect way to end a great day.
Saturday seems hotter and more frenetic. Submotion Orchestra on the West Stage evoke the festival atmosphere as the heart-warming vocals of lead singer Ruby Wood blend effortlessly with the band’s rolling drums, soulful keys and ethereal synth sounds. Dance DJ’s and producers Soul Clap get the RBMA tent into party-mode with a funk-filled house set, and electronic duo Mount Kimbie deliver a performance which sounds heavier, and more guitar-driven, than expected, but it’s one that goes down well with fans in the scorching Big Top tent.
Saturday was however only really about one man; Hip-hop legend Nas. Still looking as fresh-faced and as full of energy as ever, he treats the packed arena to a full rendition of his classic “Ilmatic” album. 20 years on from its release he reminds us of his incredible lyricism, and displays breath-control to rival any emcee out today. To the delight of the crowd, he then goes on to deliver other classics from his back catalogue including “Nas is like”, “ If I ruled the World” and “Made you look”. For GBC, festivities are brought to a close at The Big Top by an atmospheric electronic set from Bonobo which sees the crowd break into rapturous applause at the end of a thoroughly enjoyable day.
Despite a number of frustrations including a rather irritating approach to crowd control, ridiculously long queues at the bar, and minor sound issues, Lovebox still maintains a lead over most other London festivals in its succesfull delivery of a truly eclectic and mouth-watering line-up of DJ’s and artists who fail to disappoint. If this year is anything to go by, we would recommend getting those tickets early for next year. A thoroughly enjoyable weekend.