Lovebox Weekender - Victoria Park, London - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Lovebox Weekender - Victoria Park, London

by Leonora Walters Rating: Release Date:

Saturday was the day the rain came, together with some of the weekend's strongest acts. The main stage, silent on Friday when the Gaymers stage hosted the day's biggest acts, came to life including when electro-pop band Fenech-Soler played their set, which quite literally brought out the sun. Earlier this year the band postponed their March tour after front-man Ben Duffy was diagnosed with testicular cancer, at which time he stated: "Everyone is very upbeat that I will be fighting fit again in a couple of months (as it had been caught early)."

And his prediction appears to be true. A notable feature of Fenech-Soler's live performances has been their energetic multi-tasking front-man, and it was no different at Saturday Lovebox. Ben sang, jumped around, sound mixed, and banged drums with as much energy as ever. The only difference was his sober black jeans and t-shirt rather than the usual spangly jacket - and fair enough at an outdoor festival blasted with wind, cold and intermittent rain.

Fenech-Soler's set included 'Lies' and tale of paranoia, 'Demons'. But the band did far more than regurgitate their more popular singles: 'Stop and Stare', for example, came in the form a dance mix - a very upbeat dance mix. This band don't just write and play songs, they can really work their music, perhaps a reason why super club Ministry of Sound was the venue for their DJ set later that day. And to keep purists happy they played a more pristine version of 'Stop and Stare' towards the end of the performance. With a heavy festival schedule ahead and tour rescheduled, Ben and the band seem back to full strength - and long may it last. Welcome back, Ben.

Over at the stockade, Friday's dubstep session made way for Saturday's drum & bass (d&b). DJ Shy FX infused his set with some hip hop and dubstep, much to the appreciation of the rain-dancing crowd. No 'Singing in the Rain' though - even with an umbrella in hand you can't make d&b shapes look Frank Sinatra.

The sun was out and DJ London Electricity, aka TonyColman head honcho at d&b label Hospital Records, also came out with one of the best sets of the day. Alongside some of his own creations came some excellent d&b remixes of rave classics with some dubstep baselines thrown in. Rather more unexpected was London Electricity's decision to have his two children on stage, and at one point hold one of them as he played - though there was no Michael Jackson moment with kids hung over the crowd from a dangerous height. High Contrast followed with a well delivered d&b focused set - minus any infants.

The approach of headline slot time meant some difficult decisions on which stage go to, but for the hefty crowd which favoured Groove Armada on the Relentless Stage rather than rapper Snoop Dog on the main stage, there was no disappointment. Producers, DJs, Lovebox organisers and masters of every musical style they touch, Groove Armada, presented Red Light - two hours of hard house and a total departure from their foray into 80s electo pop via last album Black Light. No band, singers or instruments here: just Andy Cato and Tom Findlay (and four mixing decks, synths etc)- firmly back in the dance music camp.

'At the River', Groove Armada's best known and probably most chilled record, was notably absent. Crowd pleaser 'Superstylin' and some of the Black Light material was remixed with a much harder baseline. The only concession to Groove Armada's softer sounds was a less mixed version 'Superstylin' towards the end of the set. Red Light, according to Groove Armada's web site, "both live and in a series of dance-floor EPs, will mark a return to the spirit of the warehouses where the GA project started. Rooted in the warehouse. Delivered stadium style. 2011 and the boys are returning to their roots."

The Lovebox incarnation of Red Light featured a number of dance classics as well as Groove Armada's own material, but remixed into a pumping baseline. It's a brave decision for any DJ to bang out old classics because it can sound a bit lame and regurgitated, unless they deliver a striking and original mix and make those records their own. And that is exactly what Groove Armada did - and how!

Sorry Snoop Dog - 'main stage' and festival headline was down my way.

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