Once again, Cadgers took some time out of his incredibly busy schedule to venture to not one, but two festivals in a single weekend. What a hero. Anyway, here’s his rundown that includes rather frequent barings of his soul…
Imagine the scene, if you will: it’s 10.30pm. You’re standing in the middle of Victoria Park in London. You’re surrounded by thousands of people. It’s the Saturday night of Lovebox Festival, a festival that sounds like it would feel right at home in the 10pm slot of Channel Four. There appears to be a drunk bloke crying his eyes out reasonably near the front. Someone has just caught a super-rare Blastoise on Pokémon Go. LCD Soundsystem are headlining and have unleashed a torrent of dance-punk gems over the course of the last hour and a half. That weird drunk guy you noticed crying his eyes out? He’s now screaming along, completely out of tune, as if his life depends on it. Well, that weird bloke crying is me. Perhaps what is more surprising is how frequently you can find me crying at sets for no good reason; for instance, I screamed and cried when I heard that one Daphni song I liked once. I also dropped to the floor crying when I saw Bicep and they played a song I have heard about 27 times on loop in my own room. I don’t know why this happens, I mean I’m a grown man, but sure enough it happened again. But let’s start from the beginning.
“As soon as I got home, I got naked in bed and drizzled that mouth-watering gravy all over my oodles of fried goodness”
As with all good things, our story begins with a snake. Why? I have no idea. Lovebox is a reasonably sketty affair. I’m still not sure I really understand it all. Anyway, I had been drinking heavily on the tube to Victoria Park and as I was polishing off yet another vintage strength cider, already a little tipsy, I saw a man walking up to a group of young female festival goers with a fucking snake wrapped around his neck. I have absolutely no idea why he had brought a snake with him to the entrance of a festival he wasn’t even attending, but perhaps even more inexplicably, he was successfully using it to try and pull. As security closed in and watched with trepidation, we decided it was perhaps time to leave reptile-man and actually enter Lovebox. We started with the final moments of Jackmaster at the Fabric tent; a bespoke first outing for the famed London club onto the festival scene that featured a wooden floor, a tailor-made pioneer soundsystem specifically created for the weekend, and further impressive lighting specs. Despite this remarkable portable club, it suffered from one major problem: it was unbearably warm. The sun decided that it would more than make up for the Bangladesh-style monsoon that was Field Day with a blistering heat wave that unfortunately did not benefit the enclosed, dark, sound draped tent. With that, we ventured over to check out Chet Faker on the main stage and bask in the sun. I was reasonably drunk and quite hazy during the Australian singer-songwriter’s set, but I distinctly remember a sweaty lurching Chet awkwardly stomping around accompanied by a live band. As I watched him jump and heave on stage I considered whether the bearded Aussie was in any way representative of my own bearded and sweaty awkward self. Deciding it was best not to make life comparisons between the man energetically singing his own songs on stage in front of thousands of people and myself, a man-child who sweats just by existing, I regained focus in time to catch personal favourite ‘Cigarettes and Loneliness’, the stellar album closer from ‘Built on Glass’. None of Chet’s set sounded as polished or even as loud as it could have; the vocals were muddied and distant, and the electronics didn’t sound as earth shattering as need be, but maybe I was just a bit drunk and suffering from sunstroke. I don’t know. I don’t function well in the sun.
I’d be lying if I said I could remember what we really did between Chet Faker and LCD Soundsystem. I definitely remember being less than impressed by Jamie Woon, who I found to be quite mild and bland and perhaps a little bit inoffensive in the obnoxiously offensive environment that was Lovebox. If Jamie Woon was inoffensive, I think it’s safe to say the Elrow stage was up there with the KKK. (… Ed.) I don’t mean that in a bad way, I just mean it was in-your-face, no-shits-given chaos. Nos canisters littered the open air tent, inflatable animals guarded each side of the DJ booth, everyone looked like they had dropped about 3 grams of various powders, and that’s before the array of carnival dancers bounded around with Elrow branded inflatables, dancing like those inflatable men you see outside second hand car dealerships. All of this was accompanied by a hard techno and house set by Steve Lawler, but it was just so fucking fun. No one seemed to care about anything other than having a good old dance, and if you ignored the inflatable chaos surrounding you – not that you would want to – it was perhaps the only tent designed for pure unadulterated enjoyment. It was the complete antithesis of the Fabric tent; open, light and airy, chaotic, and it even possessed the token rave confetti explosion that everyone laps up and instagrams because they are so pinged they think it’s far more beautiful than the coloured bits of paper it actually is. Unfortunately, Ricardo Villalabos had pulled out due to illness, so we departed the carnival jungle explosion of fun that was the Elrow stage towards the band Jungle on the main stage, avoiding the Fabric tent with newfound knowledge of the lack of Ricardo. Jungle were decent; I can’t say I particularly like them, but everyone else seemed to so I guess that just makes me wrong, so I’m just going to skip that part and go straight to LCD Soundsystem because that’s all that really mattered (at least to me).
The problem with finally getting to see one of your favourite bands after years of anticipation (I personally never thought this would happen as I can still recall watching LCD’s mammoth farewell show at Madison Square Gardens beamed to me via Pitchfork’s live stream) is that essentially whatever they do isn’t going to live up to your own pre-determined hype. LCD Soundsystem are the only exception I have found to this rule. The setlist was blisteringly perfect; each song was far superior to the last, like some sort of perpetual motion machine. The encore was achingly brilliant; it consisted of destructive love-ode ‘New York I Love You’, ‘Dance Yourself Clean’, and ended on the greatest song of the 21st Century ‘All My Friends’. If you disagree with me about ‘All My Friends’, I will happily write you an essay about why this is the case in some sort of fetishized self-enjoyment project that I would get off to a bit too much. I know I am ridiculously biased but I can honestly say (and have some back-up from other people) that regardless of your own views of LCD Soundsystem, it was an incredible experience. A mixture of 8 minute plus songs featuring cowbell solos, ridiculous dance jams like ‘Yeah (Crass Version)’ extended into pure elation and electronic girth, disco balls, and James Murphy’s controlled and immaculate vocals blended to create an hour and forty-five minutes of celebratory bliss. As someone who has waited to scream the lyrics at the break of ‘Dance Yrself Clean’ in unison with thousands of other fans who had waited equally as long to see them for the best part of six years, it was a particularly cathartic experience. The quality of the set was matched only by these die-hard fans, many sporting farewell tour tees or other such memorabilia. And what better way to end than with ‘All My Friends’? Definitely my favourite song released since I had the displeasure of be being birthed, ‘All My Friends’ was the perfect ending. The lyrics of aging that so define LCD Soundsystem were sung in near harmony – and through teary eyes in my particular case – so cacophonously that when the final refrain of ‘Where are your friends tonight?’ came to be sung, it really didn’t matter where they were. Whether it was the inherent sadness of them not being at Lovebox, or the overwhelming gratification of them standing next to you, it was irrelevant: the crowd, James Murphy and the rest of LCD Soundsystem were there to help address the rhetorical question. It was a triumphant defiance in unity.
“Definitely my favourite song released since I had the displeasure of be being birthed”
The issue I found with having expectations met – at least for me, a person who thrives on cynicism, never being satisfied – was a deflating one. I had nothing to bitch about. There was nothing that could’ve been improved. Feeling remarkably content with my perfect LCD show left me feeling pretty deflated. So what did I do? I went home, ate KFC naked in bed and bought tickets to sister festival Citadel for the very next day because I am shocking with money and responsibilities. And so the morning came, the sun came back (oh god I hate the sun so much) and we set off once again to Victoria Park, although this time we opted for vodka for the tube journey. Rogue. Billed as ‘your perfect Sunday’, Citadel was like walking into the twilight zone after having seen the dutty goings on of trackied-up ket heads at Lovebox fewer than 24 hours prior. The Elrow stage had been turned into free Croquet (???) and volleyball, the age range had dramatically increased from Stormzy-wannabe ‘yutes’ to faux-artsy adults who had decided their mid-life crises would consist of buying tote bags in Starbucks and desperately screaming for attention through post-ironic slogans embroidered on such articles of clothing. The nos canisters (or ‘laughing gas’ to all you innocent rapscallions) that littered the park had been replaced with…Sunday Papers? Reptile-man and his womanising snake had also disappeared, thankfully. We caught the end of The 2 Bears slot in the Fabric tent – that now functioned as a slow cooker under the new and improved summer sun – which featured some thoroughly enjoyable funk and disco edits. One of the most thoroughly enjoyable parts of Citadel was the laid back approach and simply wandering around, exploring new things in the glorious weather. Maribou State were pretty shit. Battles struggled through some early technical issues to deliver a set suitable for a maniac, one that frenetically bashed through glitch electronics and insanely precise drumming for an enjoyable watch. We watched an atrocious band play in a mini Corona village, but hey, none of it really mattered as it was such a pleasant, laid back festival. I was also pretty drunk again which helped.
The biggest disappointment of the day was Caribou, who suffered from decibel limitations and were heartbreakingly forgettable – the sound was off throughout and sounded far more light and airy than electronic-reliant songs such as ‘Mars’ should have done. As enjoyable as it was to sing along to ‘Sun’ in the sun – i.e. shout sun every few seconds for dramatic effect – it was far less euphoric and grandiose than I expected it to be from idol in human form, Dan Snaith. Lianne La Havas delivered some perfect vocals and created the sing-along experience apparently craved by everyone. Her set came at the perfect time for the people who were either calming it down for work the next day, or delving further into their alcohol supplies; she catered to both the drunks singing along and to others as a relaxing lull. As the weekend drew to a close, Sigur Ros took to the stage to play some of the most terrifying (anything from Kveikur) and beautiful (anything not from Kveikur) compositions I have had the pleasure of hearing. Earth-shattering when need be, and angelic when not, Sigur Ros’s set saw them play a vast expanse of their work that functioned as a beautiful end to a laid-back summer Sunday. As we returned home for the second time, I once again stopped to get some more of that beautiful KFC to function as my Sunday roast. As soon as I got home, I got naked in bed and drizzled that mouth-watering gravy all over my oodles of fried goodness. What better way to end the day? And with that, I’m five festivals down this year with Green Man and Bestival to come. I can only hope that they, too, consist of naked KFC indulgence.
Images: Ya Boy Cadgers 2016