Victoria Park, London
In a cloud of glitter and dust, last weekend’s Lovebox Festival descended upon East London’s Victoria Park for its 15th year. With 50,000 people in attendance, the festival had sold out thanks to the jaw-dropping bookings of Frank Ocean and Solange alongside reliable crowd-pleasers like Chase & Status, Jamie xx and Annie Mac.
Friday’s Noisey tent proved to be the most popular spot after the main stage, but sadly there were no screens to accommodate those who failed to fight their way into the crowd for a decent view of Sampha, Kaytranada and Solange. For those lucky enough to get a good glimpse, Solange’s elegant choreography mesmerised throughout the set and the atmosphere was charged with love, unity and mutual respect as she broke into empowerment anthem F.U.B.U. The song clearly holds great significance for the singer’s black fans who made up the bulk of the audience, with many of them raising their hands as she sang: “This shit is for us”.
If the atmosphere on Friday was laid-back, by Saturday the same tent had flipped that vibe on its head. Birmingham rapper Mist instigated a mosh pit with the opening notes of his hit Karlas Back, but the crowd really lost it when he brought out longtime collaborator MoStack for their joint track Screw and Brew. To follow, XL Recording’s New Gen showcase presented a number of acts forming the vanguard of UK rap, grime and afrobeats. Belly Squad, South London drill group 67, DJ Kenny Allstar and more ensured that energy levels remained high.
The highlight of the whole weekend, of course, was Frank Ocean, whose anxiously anticipated set was delayed by 25 minutes. When the elusive singer eventually emerged, sporting noise-cancelling headphones that blocked out the screams from around his small stage in the centre of the crowd, he looked dramatically isolated. While Frank’s voice was every bit as beautiful as it is on record, at times the set felt a little unpolished, with his small band occasionally slipping out of time and Spike Jonze providing shaky visuals on a handheld camera. Still, this was Ocean’s first London performance in four years and it was a beautiful, slightly confounding set that inspired a number of emotions, from sadness to euphoria. A few of the faces in the crowd could be seen shedding tears as they swayed along to Ocean’s voice, making a particular line – “Some nights you’re dancing with tears in your eyes”, from Blonde cut Self Control – resonate deeper than ever before.