Early-birds were treated to a barnstorming cabaret showcase
hosted by drag royalty Johnny Woo, with highlights from queer
cabaret favourites Bourgeois and Maurice and Le Gateaux Chocolat,
drag regular at Le Soiree.
There was no shortage of drag-inspired bacchanalia throughout the
rest of the day, with the predominantly gay male crowd flocking to
the 'NYC Downlow' tent which handed out stick-on moustaches upon
entry. An unexpected guest on Woo's cabaret programme was ragga
icon Feral aka MC Kinky, whose politically-charged rhymes - 'In
favela they wear machine guns like Chanel and Valenciaga' -
provided perhaps the only injection of punk spirit into the
Headlining on the main stage was Grace Jones, agelessly beautiful
and flamboyantly attired as ever, who delivered an hour and a half
of energetic, sexed-up classic hits and ended with a 14-minute
'Slave to the Rhythm'. After appearing at the start ten feet above
the stage in a head-to-toe shroud, she unveiled herself to reveal a
vagina-shaped helmet, and then changed costume between every song,
aided at one point by Sir Philip Treacy.
Another treat for lesbian festival-goers was Lana Del Rey, whose
notoriously unpredictable live vocals were on good form. Holding
the audience in thrall with her mere presence, she cooed," Oh don't
you clap" after one song received particularly hearty applause. In
the 'Dalston Superstore' dance tent Hannah Holland was on the
decks, best known as the DJ at iconic East End queer club night
Batty Bass, although bad timing meant her early slot failed to
attract much of a crowd.
Niki & the Dove and Crystal Fighters both gave energised
performances on the main stage, and the 'Stockade' Stage saw a
great set from Mika (it really was good, don't look at me like
that) after a very lacklustre DJ effort from Littleboots.
For 'Gay Day' there were woefully few acts to appeal to the
lesbian customer, the programmers presumably having gone for a bill
which catered to campness rather than trying to reflect any of the
subversive elements of queer sexuality. As is the case at London's
annual Pride march, it was apparent just how skewed LGBT occasions
can be in favour of men, with the drag community very much ruling
I love a good drag show as much as the next person and I certainly
have nothing against the festival's organisers for booking gay male
ear-candy such as Sam Sparro and Patrick Wolf. What I do wonder is
whether Lovebox is too clear a reflection of the current state of
London's mainstream gay scene in which it's easy for the casual
onlooker to forget that lesbians even exist (just cast your eyes on
the ratio of gay to lesbian clubs in Soho).
Having gone to the trouble of providing a whole tent in the name
of Dalston Superstore, they could at least have included some
mention of Twat Boutique, the club's popular lesbian night, or of
its new replacement Club Lesley. If I'd been responsible for the
festival line-up I'd certainly have wanted to bill some East London
bands like Wetdog who are keeping the riot grrl spirit alive, as
well as a showcase of the female comic talent about to blow up the
Edinburgh Fringe - Jen Brister, Josie Long, Zoe Lyons.
At next year's Lovebox I don't want to have to apply a stick-on
moustache to gain entry to the best tent. How's about stick-on
ovaries next time? Let's feel empowered by our sexuality instead of
feeling like an awkward guest as we scan the line-up for a lesbian
artist and resign ourselves to the fact that our best efforts at
Chaka Khan's 'I'm Every Woman' will be nothing compared that of a
mighty chorus of gay men.