LOVEBOX FESTIVAL, Victoria Park – Evening Standard, 21 July 2014

It has been a summer of tinkering for London’s music festivals, with Wireless and Calling moving to different parks, Field Day expanding to two days and Lovebox shrinking to the same number.

At the latter, two days was enough for it to feel rammed with tempting musical options, and people. Scuffles at the gate kept security and police busy and delayed entry to the site on Saturday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the bar queues would have benefited from the use of sherpas you could send ahead.

This year’s trends: girls with thick swooshes of glitter around one eye, like disco pirates, and everyone sucking nitrous oxide from party balloons like degenerate children’s entertainers. “Balloons! Balloons!” yelled the bold vendors outside the fence.

An accordingly up-for-it crowd was equally happy with live bands or spinning around the many DJ spaces, whose soundsystems rumbled over each other in cacophonous style. Poor old Bipolar Sunshine was forced to play an inaudible acoustic set on the roof of a Nando’s van, right beside the biggest dance tent.

As almost the lone rockers, The Horrors played to a number far smaller than they must be used to but their dense Gothic atmospheres didn’t suit the sweltering weather anyway. On the electronic front, Mount Kimbie and Bonobo managed to fire up their audiences even with their dark material.

Many attendees were there mainly to see New York rap veteran Nas, taking the legend slot on an otherwise youthful bill. Performing with just a DJ for company, he provided a track-by-track rendition of his classic, 20-year-old album Illmatic, and amazingly, sounded and looked exactly as he did back then.

The real party was happening on the other stage, however, where Crystal Fighters and their towering headdresses were romping through their electronic-tinged indie rock with relentless vigour. Back on the main stage, M.I.A topped their spectacle with a dazzling stage setup and sheer force of numbers.

The rapping firebrand, an edgy choice for a headliner, was joined by dozens of people throwing flashing sticks into the crowd. It made for a marvellous sight, and her clattering beats fitted a general theme of sonic overload, though she suffered sound trouble and a climactic stage invasion caused the music to be cut off.

It was a chaotic end to a chaotic weekender.