On Saturday 15th June I took the trip to Victoria Park London to celebrate ‘A Decade of Love’ at the Lovebox festival as it clocked up its tenth year in the business. The walk up from Mile End station was a parade of festival goers gearing up for a day of raving. After not-quite-the best start on the festival’s organisational front with long queues at the gate and artists and guests all in the same line to get in, things eventually got moving and I managed to make it over to the Big Top Tent in time to witness Nu: Tone B2B with Logistics. The brothers Gresham had Hospitality’s Big Top Tent packed out, and were putting in a set that could have easily closed proceedings! With SP:MC holding down mic duties, it was heavy duty drum and bass business throughout.
After a brief spot of raving and having been on the road for some hours, it was time to refuel and grab a beer. The queues for the Tuborg bars looked ridiculous. Fortunately, no one appeared to have sussed out the Real Ale tent so grabbing a pint was pretty easy. There was also a decent selection of festival food to choose from, beyond the regular £10 burger option.
Back to the music and next up it was Hospitality’s special guest of the day, Mr David “Ram Jam” Rodigan, a man who needs no introduction. Every track went off!!! The energy Rodigan had in going back and forth between mixing and MCing was like the musical equivalent of a bleep test. Everything got dropped from soul, reggae, dancehall, 90’s piano house, breakbeat, jungle, dubstep, d+b – you name it. Fred V got so excited when Marka dropped he ran down from backstage to get in amongst it, making it just in time as it got the re-wind for the Rodgian’s VIP.
Rodigan received a rapturous ovation from all under the big top tent, then on came London Elektricity, charged with one of the hardest jobs of the night in following up on the last performance. Elek was of coursed teamed with his regular partner in crime, MC Wrec, and together they put on a show that felt like it embodied the Hospital sound in the space of an hour. From the ravey keys in the breakdwon of ‘The Plan That Cannot Fail’, the euphoria of Sonic’s ‘Piano Anthem’, and the highlight of the set for me, a spin of the vinyl limited Matrix & Futurebound VIP remix of ‘American Beauty’. Wrec declaring ‘THIS IS FAST SOUL MUSIC!’ Too true, and this one sent vibes throughout the Big Top Tent until London Elek ended proceedings on the always incredible, spine-tingling ‘Just One Second’ Apex VIP.
Next up it was Hospital’s most recent signing, Carlos Lima aka S.P.Y. Amidst all the uplifting moments of the past few hours, S.P.Y. was about to take things down a much darker channel. Representing a sound that is much harder than the rest of the Hospital camp, Carlos interspersed it with timely soulful moments. For the most part, S.P.Y. went in on the darker records such as ‘Love & Hate’, but picked his moments to switch things onto his more liquid roll out style, with ‘By Your Side’ of course delivering a BIG moment. Major props have to go out to Lowqui, whose flow was incredible throughout, taking the set to the next level.
After three relentless hours, it felt about right to take a break, but then on came Danny Byrd. Making his return to the decks after a hiatus, he dropped a set loaded with banger after banger. ‘Renegade Master’ mixed into ‘Ill Behaviour’, Andy C remix of Fresh & Dizzee Rascal’s ‘The Power’ BOOM! Sigma’s mix of Rusko’s ‘Somebody To Love’. The Byrdman kept the festival hits rolling. Even as I started to make my way from the tent, at what I thought was a lay off point, in dropped Sub Zero’s ‘Your Flex’. Creeping up on you as any aggy piece of Playaz DnB should do.
Finally I decided it was time to sample some of the other flavours that Lovebox had to offer. Where better to start that the Slush Puppy stand, which offered an array exotic tastes to chose from. With slush puppy in hand, I checked in at the Art vs Knives stage, definitely one to look out for next year. Comprised of a van to make up the DJ booth and came complete with a pergola to form the setting to what was the seediest dance floor at the festival. It made you feel a bit like it was mid afternoon on a Sunday and had just come straight through from an all nighter.
I made it back to the Hospitality tent for the start of Netsky LIVE! As much as I love a good mix, the organic vibe from a full live band is something hard to match. It was noticeable that a signature song writing style runs through to Netky’s records. One if it’s key characteristics is that the rhythm section is granted plenty of space to be rocked out in a live format. “Come Alive” in particular, during the half-time break down, could draw a number of parallels with heavy metal performances where the melody gets to ride over the rhythm section as the vocals cut through to provide and epic top line. The whole band smashed it!
Taking another break for the Big Top Tent, we went to delve into a bit of house music and catch Damian Lazaraus doing his thing on the Stockade stage. He was there as part of the Crosstown Rebels ‘Rebel Rave’ takeover also featuring Art Department & Maceo Plex. The spray tans and anoraks were out in force, so were the big fish, little fish, cardboard box dance moves, as the crowd grooved along in unison. Moving on from that brief melee and on to the Main Stage, where Friendly Fires were closing things up. The alternative dance outfit are always a treat live. With a second album under their belts, they had a host of new selection of infectiously catchy festival friendly tunes on offer. There was time to catch ‘Jump In The Pool’ and a few other big ones from the Friendly Fires before Camo & Krooked were due to take their headline slot at the Big Top Tent and close up shop for Hospitality Lovebox 2012.
In a set full of festival bangers, the Austrian duo were joined on stage by vocalist Ayah Mara for high octane renditions of ‘Cross The Line’ and ‘Watch It Burn’. Camo & Krooked served up a relentless 50 minutes, designed to drag every last drop of energy from a crowd that had packed out the Big Top Tent since early afternoon. The Delta Heavy remix of Maverick Sabre’s ‘I Used To Have It All’ was another high point. This tune has been going off in clubs for months now and sat up perfectly for them on a festival stage. It was a shame a security man appeared and cut the set short by about 10 minutes, and instructed that the sound had to be turned down, right as Hospitality was building to its climax. Rules, regulations… red tape.
Despite this slightly hindered end to things, it was in all a HUGE day. The Hospital crew had put in an incredible shift to produce an entire day’s worth of drum + bass festivities. The DJs, MCs and vocalists smashed the pants off the Big Top Tent. Major props going out to all involved!
Words by: James Paterson
Photos by: Andrew Attah