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Review: Citadel Festival

Review: Citadel Festival
Matt Beard

With Citadel moving from its regular spot in East London to West’s Gunnersbury Park, the day event underwent a transformation in more ways than one. Previous acts including Ben Howard, Sigur Ros and Caribou had meant it previously offered festival goers more relaxed vibes, when compared with its counterparts such as its MAMA Festivals sibling Lovebox. But this year Citadel changed its approach as to how it wanted to be enjoyed: punk grunge bands Shame and Fat White Family, electronic indie bands The Horrors and Chvrches, and psych rockers Tame Impala topped the most amped-up bill in its four-year history.

Having previously taken place in the expansive Victoria Park, Citadel has always felt like a place where one could set up a mile back, let an afternoon and evening’s music wash over them, and just generally be able to embrace the fact it was Sunday instead of being scared of it. However, at Gunnersbury Park the Main Stage and its surrounding area had a more enclosed feel, and a far more energetic lineup meant a chilled unwind was not really an option.

For a festival that had previously prided itself on having a very specific style of music, this did feel like quite an unusual selection but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. In many ways it worked. Shame were a perfect way to kick off the sweltering hot Sunday afternoon playing a large portion of the tracks from their debut album Songs of Praise. The Horrors (late on after admitting they had driven to Victoria Park by accident) demonstrated their versatility by making the very most of their self-inflicted shortened slot, creating a buzz with ‘Something To Remember Me By’ which was both their final and fourth song. The magnetic Fat White Family displayed exactly why they have become one of the best British bands of the past decade and, as the sun slowly started to set, Chvrches played high-powered hits from their three albums, nicely setting up the crowd for the evening’s entertainment.

There was still a place for the Citadel of old too. The Communion stage – a place for its temporary citizens to roll out their picnic rugs – hosted the likes of The Barr Brothers and Leon Bridges, though many used this sheltered stage as a place to escape the Sahara-like conditions.

When it finally began to cool the crowd gathered at the main stage to see Tame Impala‘s only UK appearance of the year. As frontman Kevin Parker said towards the end of the set, headlining a festival can be scary when you haven’t released anything new since 2015 but this mattered little. In those last three, much of which have been spent touring, the band have become tighter and more confident as an ensemble. From their opener ‘Let it Happen’, a song that could open and close any headline set around the world, to ‘Brand New Person, Same Old Mistakes’, the Citadel crowd were with them every step of the way. Favourites like ‘Elephant’, ‘The Less I Know the Better’ and ‘Eventually’ were enhanced by psychedelic visuals that ethereally mirrored the bands movements. As the confetti rained down, it was hard to remember that this was a Sunday.

Unfortunately transport issues – which the organisation apologised for the next day – meant that for many the journey home very much reminded them what day it was. The festival has certainly reshaped itself, and while it could be said it has endured the mildest of re-teething problems, with performances that strong there’s no doubt it will continue to a be firm fixture in the London festival circuit.

Photography by Olivia Judge.


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