• Aled Vernon-Rees

Citadel 2018: Livewire's Review


Curated to be the renaissance of a Sunday, London's Citadel Festival has an ethos of rebirth and eclecticism.

This year’s annual Citadel Festival found its new home in London's Gunnersbury Park. The change in location from Victoria Park bought about a myriad of issues, which, alongside the 30-degree heat, slightly marred the festival, however, the quality of performers and atmosphere shone through.

The first band I saw was Liverpool’s dream pop duo Her’s, a band I have seen before and was keen to see again. However, they were playing the DIY stage, which had a small entrance--presumably to attempt to reduce the noise bleeding out to other stages. This unfortunately led to a fairly substantial queue to see the band when the area inside was only half full. The start of their set was also lugged down with problems as their drum machine, which is integral to the band's sound, was not working. Even so, it was quickly sorted, and the band performed the set with their quintessential charm. Though they were still held back from the sound of the stage as the bass drowned out both the guitar and vocals.

Next up was The Howl and the Hum at the Communion stage. The band hail from my hometown of York so I’ve seen them multiple times in an array of packed tiny rooms. So, when I found out they were performing at Citadel, I was interested to see how they’d stand in a bigger environment (today being the most people they’ve ever performed to) and as the first song began it was clear they were going to deliver. Lead singer Sam Griffiths encapsulate the audience with his haunting vocals and eccentric lyrics this shining through in new single ‘Don’t Shoot the Storm’.

At this point the heat was really showing its effects on the festival, people huddled into any spot of shade available and massive queues for water taking over half an hour at times. I decided to leave the shade of the Communion tent to see Shame, a slightly underwhelming performance from the band but understandable as the band were jet-lagged and still put a lot of energy into their performance in the blistering sun. Their last song ‘Gold Hole’ was a favourite, the band clearly piecing together their last ounces of energy. This was followed by Matt Maltese who was in the DIY tent, he is a truly incredible singer and performer however the stage’s sound (like Her’s) really let the sound of his band down. He powered through though, playing his tracks from his debut album Bad Contestant a highlight for me being his song ‘Greatest Comedian’ which really showcased is vocal and lyrical ability.

The festival was clearly more than just a music festival. It was full of crafting activities, various sports, yoga, and talks: a lovely addition to the Sunday festival which I did not take nearly enough advantage of. However, after Matt Maltese I had a bit of free time to check out Sunday Paper’s Live which is a collection of talks which make up a newspaper-esque podcast. These talks happened in a homely tent filled with sofas and rugs like an oversized living room. I managed to catch the food part of the podcast which was an interview with food critic Jay Rayner. In all honesty it’s not what I expected to see in a day festival headlined by Tame Impala, but I did enjoy a break from the music to hear Jay talk about everything from Brexit to Greg Wallace’s mannerism.

From this I went to see Fat White Family, who lie on possibly the polar opposite side of the arts to the talk I just witnessed. They immediately took to the main stage with the crazed energy which made them so renowned. Songs like ‘I am Mark E Smith’, ‘Touch the Leather’ and ‘Special Ape’ (which was dedicated to Shame) got the crowd going and proving to everyone as why they are established as one of the best live bands in the country. So, if you do get the chance to see them be it at a festival or their own gigs make the most of that opportunity.

I was expecting Fat White Family to be my festival highlight as they are one of my favourite bands and I’ve never seen them live before but due to no fault of their own they narrowly missed that mark, as what came after them was just incredible. Over at the Clash stage I witnessed space rock legends Hawkwind followed the Swedish experimental group GOAT. Both bands complimented each other’s sound so much. The ethereal synth and hallucinogenic projections of Hawkwind followed by the experimental grooves and mysterious costumes of GOAT. After seeing them it was obvious nothing else could top it, the crowd which ranged from about 18-80 were all dancing - the atmosphere was just unbeatable, such an expected highlight.

The festival then came to a close with Australian psych-rockers Tame Impala. Having never properly listened to Tame Impala apart from their big singles I feel I had a different experience to the rest of the crowd which took the one and a half hour set as a massive sing along (and possibly pole-climbing) experience. I found their set to be if anything too perfect there was no roughness around the edges as they played tracks like 'The Less I Know the Better' and 'Elephant', it was like listening to the tracks on record. Though this wasn't exactly to my taste it went perfectly with the psychedelic projections and the crowd seemed to love it. Before the encore Kevin Parker talked about how he was worried no one would come, the crowd replied with pure love for the band. It was that response which really captured the essence of the set and the festival, the atmosphere was wonderful everyone just focused on having a good time and making sure those around them were enjoy themselves too. The sun set as the band played their encore which included the euphoric 'Feels Like We Always Go Backwards', it was the perfect ending for the day.

After the festival ended another issue arose as it was a Sunday there was no more trains going through the nearest underground which left some travellers stranded or paying ridiculous amounts for taxis. It is clear the festival’s new location has got teething problems with sound, queues for water, and transport. However, Citadel Festival has such a positive atmosphere and an eye for quality performers I can’t wait to see what it has in-store for us next year.

#musicfestivals #music #citadel

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