In its fourth year, Citadel transforms Gunnersbury Park into a feel-good haven of music and art. Expect long hair, glitter beards and a LOT of good music.
Festivalgoers are immediately met with mass yoga practice, croquet and volleyball games in full-swing, next to a flurry of rides and food stalls - most notably a chicken stand which could be mistaken as a mini stage, due to the large crowd attracted to its DnB blaring from the speakers. Each attraction and stage encapsulate their own aura. Attendees can intently listen to the low-key, acoustic sounds of Sofar Sound’s hand-picked artists (a worldwide collective where you apply for tickets to watchemerging artists perform in a secret location – click here for the Edinburgh site: https://www.sofarsounds.com/edinburgh ) in a bohemian tepee with plush cushions, without being distracted by your typical disco night at Mash House playlists of Diana Ross and CHIC coming from the Chapel of Love – a small tent hosting an array of glitter clad disco dancers.
The Kopparberg DIY stage is the most charming location on the grounds: a small enclosed stage resembling a boxpark, hosting the likes of the Liverpudlian duo Her's charming the crowd with languid hits like ‘Cool With You’, and finishing the day with the unmistakeably cool rock-tones of Pumarosa. The warm vibe of the festival is made clear across the stages, as anthemic favourites like Honne’s 'Warm on a Cold Night' and Dermot Kennedy's raspy passion ring out of the various tents throughout the day.
As the day goes on, an eclectic mix of stellar artists grace the main stage. As the crowd sits, waiting in anticipation for sultry rockers The Horrors to arrive on the main stage, I speak to two members of the crowd, Ned and Ben, asking them about who they’re excited to see. “Well, I mean, we saw Tame Impala on the line-up and immediately bought tickets,” Ned says. I ask them if they’re excited for The Horrors to come on, to which they respond with a confused “who?”.
The crowd continues to grow, watching the wonderful chaos of South London’s Fat White Family, culminating in their performance of 'Whitest Boy on the Beach', to the electronic, pixie-like tones of CHVRCHES. Unmistakeably, the key attraction of the day is the hugely coveted headline performance of Tame Impala: a UK exclusive for 2018 after their three-year hiatus, following the 2015 release of their album Currents. As the group runs through hits 'Let it Happen' and 'Elephant', alongside constant confetti canons, the excitement only grows, culminating in the crowd favourite 'The Less I Know the Better'. What’s so spectacular about the scene is the use of neon graphics on screen, blurring out the visuals of the band. This means that the crowd gradually gives up trying to film the set, and whilst their Instagram stories may suffer, the audience is fully immersed in the layered tones of the psychedelic songs.
Citadel is particularly strong in its recruitment of soul and jazz acts this year. The highlights are clear: the jazz-funk group R+R=NOW, who’s set could be understood as an ongoing jam session filled with brass and synth solos; hip-hop/jazz duo Blue Lab Beats whose music resembles a fusion of J. Dilla and John Coltrane; and the subtle tones of legendary jazz-guitarist Kamaal Edwards bring the day to a smooth close. However, the undoubtable star of the day is American born singer Leon Bridges. Defying the critique that his nostalgic style too closely reflects the likes of Sam Cooke amongst other 60s soul singers, Bridges enchants the audience with his slow-dance 'Beyond' and upbeat political statement song 'Bad, Bad News'.
In regards to its female line-up, Citadel has also done particularly well in distancing itself from recent London music festivals. Wireless made the news for having only an astounding three women on its main bill last weekend, whilst Lovebox wasn’t particularly successful either. Whilst there’s still a way to go, Citadel put itself on the map with Victoria Park’s new inhabitants, the female-forward All Points East, hosting acts like the rock-band GOAT, DJ Nabihah Iqbal's disco-infused set, and French Indie Band, La Femme.
If you’re looking for a festival where you can enjoy a range of your favourite artists whilst discovering new ones AND you can go home to your own bed at the end of the day (bar the transport MAYHEM on the way home: https://www.nme.com/news/music/citadel-festival-complaints-festivalgoers-huge-queues-london-gunnersbury-park-acton-town-2354907 ), Citadel 2019 is the one to watch.
A word of advice - as the heatwave continues alongside festival season, please remember: Britain you are not immune to the sun and bum-bag tans aren’t cute.
Link to Citadel's website here: http://citadelfestival.com/