Summer was supposed to be coming to an end. England were knocked out of the World Cup, Trump had visited (and we rioted) and the country was starting to experience the first rainfall for weeks.
But in a quiet part of London, thousands were descending for a day of 30 degree heat and a brilliant curated selection of music at this year's Citadel Festival. Citadel Festival and Lovebox festivals both now had a new location in Acton's Gunnersbury Park due to All Points East buying the rights to the legendary "Vicky Park". Thankfully, they retained the same chilled atmosphere which makes them stand out so much from an oversaturated festival market crammed with teenagers shouting "Pickle Rick."
|All photos - Instagram: @richmaver|
The eclectic line-up pulled in a more mature crowd, families and plenty of hipsters (we've never seen so many twizzled moustaches in one place), which helped feed the relaxing vibe. Admittedly being placed on a Sunday probably helps things somewhat too – but the crowd couldn't be any more different to the Lovebox fans who filled the same location on the two days before.
Launched in 2015 to "re-energise the day of rest", Citadel Festival has been maintaining its promise for four years now, this year basking in the glow of two of the most unlikely scenarios; one of the hottest summers in living memory and the success of an England football team in a World Cup. In 2018, it was down to a UK festival exclusive from no other than Tame Impala to bring it home. Spirits were unsurprisingly high around Gunnersbury Park, the first time the location has been used for Citadel, and while the promised screening of the World Cup final on the main stage had England got through would have been an indescribably magical experience, the team's semi final loss to Croatia at least meant the day was focused on music and nothing else.
However, this didn't mean that football fans weren't catered for with the World Cup final between France and Croatia beamed out on a big screen - with a healthy French contigent in the crowd enjoying the outcome, naturally.
|France v Croatia|
Musically, the afternoon provided a variety of acts with rowdy newcomers Shame and indie stalwarts The Horrors impressing early on the main stage, as did Goat Girl with their set on the Clash & Last FM stage. Back in London after a stint in Europe, grinning like naughty, possibly drunk, schoolboys, Shame took to the main stage. Lead singer Charlie Steen, with his high trousers and silly dancing had a level of cockiness and swagger comparable to The Last Shadow Puppets, yet with the menacing, punky leer of a band like Idles. In bizarre and unsettling yet hilarious tracks like ‘The Lick’, where the topless Steen crowdsurfed, and crowdsank, fans grasped the microphone to bark the lyrics out for him and on ‘Friction’, they sounded like a punkier Happy Mondays. After providing the crowd with some glorious, sun drenched gothery, The Horrors proved to be France’s lucky charm as they stopped by the big screen to see them extend their victory to 3-1.
With so many acts to see, the only choice is to be on the move constantly, going between acts like Sea Girls (see our previous interview with them here), with their unfathomably catchy tracks like ‘Lost’ and ‘Too Much Fun’ or the particularly doomy sounding Goat Girl. Off the back of their debut album release, the fully-female outfit springboarded off their rising momentum to deliver a captivating set, hidden away under the tent shadow; a welcome respite from the blistering sun. They commanded the audience, with the assertive vocals from Clottie Cream enthralling all present.
Fat White Family’s scuzzy, strange tracks like ‘Auto Neutron’ and ‘I Am Mark E Smith’ sounded surreally anthemic on the main stage, not because they sounded like typical festival anthems, but because the crowd sang every word as if it was ‘Football’s Coming Home’. How a band infamous for their wild, lewd and intimate gigs could adapt to a festival main stage with that same raucous energy yet also a newfound professionalism was incredible. The half hour queue for tap water next to the stage, who were avoiding the 25 minute queue for £2.50 spring water, were bombarded with songs asking “Baby, is it raining in your mouth?”, yet surprisingly loved every second. Mostly.
Later, the sounds of pop masterpiece ‘Get Out’ caused literal sprinting from all across the park towards Chvrches, who were exactly as perfect as you’d expect. Containing Citadel‘s tasty disposition of booking bands which pride themselves on an organic rise that can only be described as meteoric, Chrvches then had their chance to shine. Their melody-ridden, synth heavy set soared across the dusty plains of Gunnersbury Park with a pop-charged quality. The Scottish four piece blasted their crowd favourites to an eager crowd, shaking the last few listeners out of their afternoon slumber.
By now, the mix of noises and styles, ‘Fuck Trevor’ t-shirts (see ‘The Less I Know The Better’) and secretly smuggled spliffs all seemed to be building for the main event; Tame Impala’s only UK performance this year. Opener ‘Let It Happen’ saw perhaps the biggest confetti cannons ever drench the crowd in joy and colour, as Kevin Parker humbly announced “We’re called Tame Impala” before going into early demo ‘Sundown Syndrome’, which sounded just as fresh as their new material, or all the hits on Lonerism that gained them their mass appeal.
Kevin Parker's Tame Impala were their usual, resplendent selves, the Aussie psych rock giants once again proving the seismic impact of their 2015 third release Currents, with a setlist that was littered with the likes of sumptuously perfect 'Let It Happen', along with 'The Less I Know The Better', 'Yes I'm Changing', 'New Person, Same Mistakes' and more.
Away from the stodgy grooves and glittering disco feel of their most recent record, Parker and co also let rip with numerous clanging, guitar heavy gems like 'Mind Mischief', 'Why Won't You Make Up Your Mind', and 'Alter Ego' from their exquisite opening duo of albums.
Parker himself was in typically fine form, ushering an already exuberant crowd into further ecstasy between most tracks throughout the set.
Buoyed by the success of drummer Julien Barbagallo's native France in the World Cup final, the outfit's only UK show of the entire year served as a reminder of how much of a live powerhouse they truly are, and also how much of an impact Parker's genius has had on such a large scale following Currents' gargantuan success. The pressure is now on the Australian maestro to tap into the rich vein of songwriting again, and there's little doubt the festival headline slots are only going to increase in stature if he pulls it out of the bag again.
The only hitch to an otherwise perfect festival was the matter of leaving it. Fans were left queuing for hours to make a handful of the final few trains away from the venue, with little to no communication about how to get home. Multiple trains arrived, only to terminate at the nearest station and leave empty. While this isn't directly controlled by Citadel, it appears this deadline wasn't communicated to all fans.
Some revellers reported being forced to pay around £300 to make lengthy journeys back to Bristol, while others had to stay out all night to await the first train the following day.
Citadel was truly a celebration of awesome music, dampened only by lengthy queues for water and fans struggling to get home. More water and trains next year please, then you’ll be perfect.
Tame Impala played:
2. Let It Happen
3. Sundown Syndrome
4. The Moment
5. Mind Mischief
6. Sestri Levante
7. Keep on Lying
8. Yes I'm Changing
10. Why Won't You Make Up Your Mind?
12. The Less I Know The Better
13. Alter Ego
15. Apocalypse Dreams
16. Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
17. New Person, Same Old Mistakes
Written by // Richard Maver