This weekend LoveBox hit Victoria Park, London. With Nas performing Illmatic, Soul II Soul and EZ on the bill I thanked my lucky stars when I ended up with a very last minute ticket. I could hardly think of a more perfect way to spend a scorching (and stormy) weekend in London. But when I got there, something just didn’t feel right. The LoveBox I’d come to know and love had been replaced…
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Long recognised as London’s coolest festival, Lovebox traditionally struck the balance between the too-trendy, the weird and the random. With a line-up that’s just left of mainstream, art installations and a strong glam-gay scene, the festival spoke to real music heads, (the often slightly pretentious) hipsters, hippies and gays alike.
So you can imagine my surprise when I rocked up Friday night to see the park surrounded by local rudeboys - the type you’d catch loitering outside of an under 18s rave or a chicken shop.
Not yet perturbed, I pressed on into the festival and was greeted with LoveBox’s new clientele – a whole new crowd of ‘lads’, fake-tan streaked Essex girls and ratchet ravers looked like a Noisey article waiting to happen.
Gone were the gays, hipsters and hippies. But while there may not have been any hippies, but hippie crack dominated the streets and grass of Victoria Park.
No exaggeration – laughing gas balloons were EVERYWHERE. Many a time I tried not to trip over piles of disused balloons and canisters, while people gulped desperately on empty balloons and all around me dealers yelled “3 FOR A FIVER!”
It’s this year’s festival drug of choice. Notably tamer than the usual suspects like MDMA and not yet illegal, a gulp of nitrous oxide only emits a momentary high.
But it looks really stupid. I’m not sure what felt more ridiculous; people way into their twenties furiously lip-wanking balloons in search of a dying high or kids shoving their way to the middle of the crowd of ACTUAL Nas fans to get their newest fix without being seen by (the notably absent) security.
But beyond the balloons, something had just shifted in the atmosphere at LoveBox. It lost it’s lighter, carefree vibe and felt a little more tense. Saturday was fun, in a ‘I’m surrounded by pissed up ravers and dickheads’ type of way. Overheard conversations were hilarious; often I felt like I was watching a Channel AKA hybrid of TOWIE and Anuvahood. I heard plenty of reports of people getting vomited on and fights almost happening. But most of all, I heard many old-skool LoveBoxers uttering, “LoveBox, I don’t know you any more.”
So what’s the cause of this shift in dynamic? LoveBox’s line-up has become notably more mainstream, and they’ve scrapped Sunday – the extra happy, extra hippy, gay day. But I think it goes beyond LoveBox’s changes. Festivals are the new nights out in Brick Lane or Hyde Park hype days. For London’s gassed, garish and ghetto contingent, they don’t care about the music, they just like having somewhere that allows them to chat up girls/guys, get pissed, get high and possibly cause a little fight – and they’d happy to spend upwards of £60 for the pleasure.
What festival is going to occupy LoveBox’s space?
Field Day, I’m looking at you. Should I be? People, tell me what’s next.