Citadel Festival returned for its third year this July, and building up to the day there was a lot of excitement. As a student, hidden away in books for most of the summer, the promise of a festival with something a little different to offer intrigued me.

The ‘sun-drenched utopia’ was apparent upon arrival at Victoria Park. Under a canopy of trees with fashionistas dressed up in accordance with Citadel’s spacey utopia theme, and people running around proudly holding pineapples they’d just glittered, I did get that wonderful surreal festival twinge in my stomach. But there were some odd moments. Citadel was the Sunday survivor of the host site to other festivals such as Lovebox and Field Day, the day for all the kinks to be ironed out from a long weekend.

It felt a bit odd seeing a leftover stage from Lovebox lurking behind Clash and Last.FM’s Kasbah stage. It made me feel a bit like I was actually wandering around the set of The Truman Show. Another factor adding to that was the amount of silence experienced on the day. Not complete silence, but not the floods of music that usual come hand in hand with festivals. I think this was in part due to how smoothly everything was laid out, and how carefully the stages were segregated from each other. The downside of this was that it didn’t feel like any of the stages were really competing with each other and so the musical kaleidoscope you usually get at festivals wasn’t a major factor for Citadel, which gave the day a bit of an eerie dystopian edge. Usually when you’re overloaded with music at a festival you go home with at least three songs stuck in your head and ready to add to a playlist.

The positive of this though was the fact that the whole day felt drenched with anticipation for the headlining act, Foals. They played a lot more from their album What Went Down and when Foals performed ‘Night Swimmers’ the atmosphere in the crowd took on a whole new energy. The band’s versality was on full show as they mixed up songs with a calypso edge for party vibes, moving from ‘Night Swimmers’ to rarities like ‘Black Gold’. A highlight from the set was when Yannis roared his way through the encore song ‘What Went Down’ and his intensity was reflected back at him by a crowd full of super fans. I left the event with glitter and confetti all over me and a sudden realisation that the band’s early fans had also grown up to look like muscly bros leaving behind their fey indie boy days. Walking out of the grounds I felt a lot of nostalgia and a lot of emotions in the air.

Oumou Sangaré @ Citadel Festival 2017 (c) Alex Solo

Oumou Sangaré @ Citadel Festival 2017 (c) Alex Solo

Aside from the music, the organisers aced it for the activities put on through the day to keep us amused. I particularly enjoyed their Science Camp that featured the Robots exhibition from the Science Museum and Sugar J‘s spoken word slot at Sunday Papers Live. After visiting this, smells from an eclectic range of food-stalls started calling over. A massive improvement on last year. This time the bars were fully stocked and I was seriously wishing I’d put aside a bigger budget for food. I splashed out on Los Churros Amigos and entered a chocolate heaven as I ate hot churros wandering over to see Wild Beasts ooze their way through a sexy set that was slick and professional (albeit a bit too similar to the rest of their shows to feel like I was getting anything new from them).

Some other musical highlights were from Bonobo who brought party vibes to a generally chilled out day. He really responded to the crowd and got things a lot more exciting (I’m sure the topless dancing girl caught on camera would agree). I particularly appreciated how often he spoke to the crowd after Laura Marling barely said anything during her performance. It’s always nice to have an artist emerge from the music to acknowledge the ones taking part. A special mention to Oumou Sangaré and her band at the Kasbah stage for a powerhouse performance, especially her kora player who played a lot of funky jams. The headline act on the Kasbah stage was Ben Howard’s guitarist, Mickey Smith, and his band A Blaze Of Feather, who used orchestral strings to add a real sense of delicacy and ambience to an atmospheric set. With a bit more confidence, I think his live shows will become something quite ethereal and beautiful.

I’m excited to see where the festival will go with time. With a lot more fresh and young talent pumped in and some bigger hitters before the headline act, I think next year’s Citadel could be one of the best summer Sundays of the year.

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Words: Tice Cin
Photos: Alex Solo