The time is here when music lovers and Instagram culture unite under the dim roof of the flickering British sun.
Two words: festival season.
Some overlook Lovebox festival as a less alluring counterpart to the more ‘mainstream’ London festivals, which boast an amalgamation of hip-hop and RnB chart-toppers. This includes Wireless where this year’s surprisingly disappointing line up consisted of Cardi B and her desperate plea for attention- snatching off her own wig was in the cards along with a numerous amount of American rappers who were forgettable in their mumbling uniformity. Of course, sometimes the acts at Wireless are undeniably enviable, such as Goldlink (a personal favourite) who performed last year. However, what usually brings down the vibe isn’t the music or the venue, but the school of teens in white shirts, booty shorts and bucket hats. If you’re looking for a more mature experience, have been called a music snob, and consider your taste objectively superior to some catchy guilty pleasures, then Lovebox is the place to be.
It’s all in the name
Almost no act failed to produce inevitable word plays and puns in between songs, such as the classic ‘I love you love box’ (Chance the Rapper seemed particularly touched by the name and its marketing genius). Having missed Childish Gambino last year, the last headliner of the two days was a riveting surprise and hands down the best performance of all- in our humble opinion. It wasn’t the mere ‘bells and whistles’, such as the red and white streamers or confetti, which made his set miraculous. Chance’s voice carried a magnetic energy that was both raw and exciting. The crowd couldn’t keep themselves from moving and nodding to the beat of up-tempo and more lyrical songs.
The second day was certainly more electric, with fire and steam blasting volcanic barriers between the audience and the acts every so often .
Brockhampton began, Giggs followed and Chance finished- an unorthodox trinity of different rap styles all gracing the main stage. Brockhampton made their UK exclusive performing their set that day, greeting fans with new levels of energy as they jumped and kicked their way across the stage. Hit songs including ‘District’, ‘Sweet’, ‘Bleach’, ‘1999 wildfire’, and ‘Gold’ were performed with perfect flow alongside the crowd who shouted back the lyrics fervently.
Chance the rapper wasn’t even our favourite artist, yet the combination of production and soul fused into it was pleasantly jarring. It was the kind of performance which made you want to delve back into his entire discography anew, and sink into it repeatedly. He covered favourites like ‘Cocoa Butter Kisses’, which couples cozied up for, and finished with ‘Blessings’, orchestrated beautifully with the powerful sound of a choir that brought us close to tears.
The only downfall was that all the videos I painstakingly took while balancing on top of my boyfriend’s shoulders didn’t save! The upside is my thighs felt like I spent five minutes on the hip abduction, so I got a miniscule leg day in.
Regardless, Chance’s performance was moving, touching- a spiritual experience you could say. But the cherry on top of what was already a rainbow flavoured cocktail of hypnotic music and beautiful people could be seen directly above the stage: the sky itself mirrored the atmosphere like a prism of pink light, dusky clouds and a gradually darkening glow.
‘Is that Beyoncé’s song?’
After the exhaustion from the inconvenient roadworks around our hotel in Feltham, it was a relief and mood booster to finally reach Gunnersbury Park and the gigantic, bright pink Lovebox sign (pre drinks in our room and en route helped too). Catching the end of Kaytranada’s set at the Noisey stage was a blessing, I’d never heard him talk before and he sounded more central American than ever. As the DJ extravaganza smoothly switched from his song with Gold Link to ‘Glowed Up’ with Anderson.Paak, we got sudden nostalgic flashbacks to Anderson.Paak’s own set exactly this time last year where he performed the same hit song at Lovebox’s main stage.
J Hus excited everyone by bringing on Dave, and adding in the beat from Beyonce’s latest song, Before I Let Go, to the end of his set. “Is that Beyoncé’s song?”, I said aloud in my own excitement, as a guy nearby turned to me with happy eyes and confirmed this with a quick, gleeful nod. J Hus flirted with the crowd, impishly saying “you know I’m a DJ too” (with a wink), and asking “who’s ready for a disaster” (their hit song) before slowing down the tempo for Samantha, where they both “mixed the gentleman with gangster”. The pair were electric together, and the production of the big screen, which utilised inverted colours and bold flames, created an energy that proved unforgettable.
However, Solange was the clear winner when it came to aesthetics. Her dancers and back up singers were stunning black women dressed in all black: bikini tops paired with elegant pant suits. Editorial as ever, Solange was the picture of serenity and soul as her choreography transformed into a visual blessing.
Apparently, her son was distracting her from her twerking at the corner of the stage; she told the crowd but this went unnoticed. Shortly after, a fifteen minute close up of a dancer in a white body suit, who’s butt cheeks jiggled stupendously, made us all gasp. Her derriere was almost performing acrobatics.
Solange took a break from her set to make a mini speech about spirituality: “I began praying for all of these young girls, and I see them catch the father’s spirit- they were shouting and crying and speaking in tongues…”
Later on, she commented on how happy she was “to see all of these black and brown faces in the crowd”, which was more prevalent in Lovebox than most festivals. Whether by coincidence or not, it was hard not to notice all the white faces which were actually walking away from the stage. Perhaps it was getting late and they wanted to avoid the crowded tube, or maybe they felt too uncomfortable in their whiteness to join this celebration of diversity. I (Maya) feel that the acknowledgement of Black pride should be something people of all ethnicities should celebrate, as whiteness has always been praised historically. She wasn’t even critiquing white people, but simply embracing the beauty of Black people and ethnic minorities. So the ignorant Facebook comments which littered Lovebox’s posts were completely stupid. The songstress with an eye for true art went on to say “put your hands up if you’re black, beautiful and proud!”. Yes, I (Jill) felt a little awkward for those around me who couldn’t raise theirs as I did feeling empowered, but then I remembered this is one small aspect that was aimed to black women and men to feel proud, just as her song ‘FUBU‘ says “don’t feel bad if you can’t sing along / Just be glad you got the whole wide world” and most prominently, “this shit is for us, some shit they can’t touch”.
In the very last song, a dancer in a bejewelled head-dress covering her face graced the stage, with slow choreography matching the high notes Solange gifted us with. The performance was heavily visual, although her voice simultaneously created a floating feeling as we were seduced by the power of her music.
Run forest run
On the first day we refused to run for 2 Chainz when we were forced to walk the exterior of Gunnersbury Park- a boring forest made fairy-tale like by our intoxicated suspense and the brightly dressed ‘cool kids’ we bumped into. Shiraz rosé never tasted so good. Truthfully, 2 Chainz’s voice helped add an heir of exhilaration to our 20 minute trek, but we were ‘gone’ enough to keep confusing him with T Pain (remember that one Chris Brown song).
Oh, how that contrasted to Day 2 when we emptied our pockets for 2 ubers- only to still be forced to sprint in order to catch Buddy’s set! Galloping through a haze of vape smoke with the buzz of sparkling rosé still lingering in my ears from earlier, I (Maya) abandoned my friends only to just catch a glimpse of his exit from the stage. We ran into friends who sent us videos of what looked like the best set so far, but I drowned my disappointment in fried junk food and the knowledge that he didn’t perform some of my fave songs. At least seeing Goldlink this year will make up for it. We almost missed Lizzo but were mainly looking forward to ‘Truth Hurts anyway.
Tion wayne appeared after Buddy’s set, just before we changed to Brockhampton, and he ended up being an afrobeat King. His crowd-driving antics made me feel like I was at home in Smack or Neon again. Our former escapades were framed by running through the forest towards the exit at the end of the day, as it was lit up green and blue. Salacious men tried to pull on our arms to pepper us with compliments or make dry convo, but we felt fast, free and young as we fled from their grasps and into the neon night.
Spend long breaks between your favourite acts exploring the rest of the festival, and if fairground rides aren’t for you then Lovebox always includes a small grouped off shelter for club dancing. This year it was the Smirnoff ice dance area, lit up with well-strung bulb fairy lights leading to a Smirnoff waterfall concluding the perfect backdrop for Instagram stories.
Warning: the prices there are triggering so the patriarchy can actually be lucrative in these situations. We snuck in a miniature Malibu bottle on Day 2, but on the first day I saved money by being offered free wine if I gave the bartender my name. Afterwards, I was invited to an after party by this guy who ‘confused’ me with ‘Lisa’, but by the time we re-entered our hotel room only a gluttonous takeaway could satiate us.
Maya Kokerov & Jill Lupupa
Images are either our own or sourced from the artists’ and LoveBox Instagram accounts.