★★★★☆ (4.5/5)

With a Glastonbury shaped hole in the 2018 summer festival schedule, revellers seeking their party fix are turning to the rise of the inner-city festivals. After launching in 2015, Citadel Festival has found a new home in Gunnersbury Park, London and with a UK exclusive set from headliners Tame Impala it was lining up to be a highlight of the summer.

Walking onto the festival site the party was already in full swing, welcomed by glitter balls and blazing hot sunshine. It was like leaving London to find a little sparkly urban party paradise for an afternoon.  Entertainment didn’t just come in the form of the numerous bands that filled the line up but also artists, poets, croquet, and yoga. Touted as a way of re-energising ‘the day of rest’ Citadel Festival strives to be a celebration of what we love about Sundays, be that day drinking with world class bands or indulging in good food after an intense sun drenched work out.

Diving straight into the musical acts of the day the main stage was opened by the mysterious Another Sky, a very Radiohead-esque influenced band who brought a certain intensity to the start of the festival. Followed by South London’s Shame, their post punk noise cut across the park, never stopping to smell the roses.

The other stages of the festival come to represent the London’s music scene, with the second stage being hosted by the Notting Hill based record label Communion. Catching a bit of The Howl and the Hum, lording from York they put on a captivating performance. After receiving praise from BBC 6Music, a successful debut tour and a string of acclaimed festival sets they are certainly a band to watch. Their melodic pop has dark undertones that shine with frontman Sam Griffiths' lyrics shining under the canopy of the Communion stage.

Exploring some of the other offerings of the festival lead down the inevitable rabbit hole of the weird and wonderful. Lounging in the Neon Safari you can catch some words of wisdom at the Science Camp with talks such as “The Neuroscience of Creativity” and Guerrilla Science presents “Flavour Feast.” If performance art is more your thing, Sunday Papers Live provided a fresh take by poets, politicians, writers, and more. There was a real range of people on display, giving talks, reading their work, or encouraging you to dance on the sofas under the white bedouin tent.

Rejoining the throngs of people as The Horrors took to the stage for a set that booted the festival up a gear, getting the audience dancing and singing along to the likes of 2017’s ‘Something to Remember Me By’ and 2011’s ‘Still Life’ from the album Skying. Their constant changing has clearly kept fans entranced as they pulled a large crowd that crooned along as though back to being teenagers in the mid naughties. Their moody shoe gazing rock that has consistently evolved has maintained The Horrors as one of the most relevant bands to come out of the last decade.

A highlight of the day came from the uber talented Sam Fender. Named one of the BBC’s Sound of 2018, the twenty something year old already has a distinctive sound that captures the feelings of the younger generation. A biting social commentary that covers everything from government surveillance to sexual harassment, it’s living proof that the indie genre has some renewed grit to stand up and say something about the state of the world we are in. His delivery on stage is non-threatening and pleasant but the stunning lyrics are cutting and clever, allowing pure talent to speak for him rather than a brash stage persona. Sam Fender’s set was not to be missed and he is certainly one to keep a keen eye on.

Wandering through the site landed you in with The Spandex Ballet crowd, working up a sweat in the 30 degree heat. A tongue in cheek take tribute to the work outs of the 80s, part comedy, part exercise class. They brought a bit of cheesy nostalgic fun to the festival.

As the day drew on, some of the organisational issues with festivals really showed through. A lack of shade left people following the shadows of the sound desk towers and taking little refuge under the small smatterings of trees. The queues for the water points were long and exhausting. Stood in a long queue under burning sunshine with an empty water bottle feels like something out of an apocalypse film. The food and bar queues were well managed and after the publicly shamed experiences fans have had over the summer at London festivals it was on the mind of those attending.

For a blast from 1969 the festival delivered Hawkwind, the prog rockers famed for their ambitious live shows. Bringing original music innovation to a typically youth driven festival it was very refreshing to see the melting pot that was the crowd. From teenagers getting to grips with classic rock to parents who remember the band’s inception. With a few technical problems that ate into a significant portion of their set, the band handled it with the grace and professionalism of a band who have earned their time on stage.

As the night began to draw in Scottish synth poppers Chvrches took to the main stage to bring their happy pop to the masses. With vocalist Lauren Mayberry leading the charge, she performs with absolute power and certainty. Their latest album ‘Love Is Dead’ was released in May 2018 to critical acclaim and has garnered a strong fan following. Even with a few lyrical mistakes Mayberry cruises through the set with absolute gusto that put a spell on the crowd for their entire set. Their energy is electric and as Mayberry throws herself around the stage in towering platforms it is an impressive sight to behold. They are loud and fun, and perfect to keep a Sunday evening going as the sun is beginning to set.

Catching the end of Leon Bridges on the Communion stage was another highlight, the gospel soul singer from Texas. Bridges brings classic Sam Cooke influences mixed with 90s RnB to allow for a fresh contemporary take on the soul genre.

As the sun dipped below the trees Tame Impala took to the main stage to headline the festival for their UK exclusive show. As to be expected their lighting was phenomenal, with lasers and haze that drifted out over the crowd to create an immersive music experience. Decorated with confetti cannons and a stunning video backdrop their set was an hour and a half of pure psychedelic joy. As they open with 'Nangs' and then straight into 'Let It Happen' the crowd were immediately in the palm of Kevin Parker. Arguably, it was ‘Elephant’ that launched them into the spotlight and it’s easy to see why, as they break into the instantly recognisable riff the entire crowd goes off.

With big riffs and licks and beautiful lights Tame Impala played out Citadel to the bitter end. Playing hit after hit and keeping the music going and keeping the audience dancing into the night, Tame Impala were the perfect headliner for a Sunday evening summer festival.

Citadel Festival is a wonderful melting pot of music, arts, and culture, and the ethos that the festival is built on allows for a day that truly represents the London of 2018, from independent street food stalls to world class bands, to politicians mixing with yogis - Citadel provides a microcosm of the 2018 cultural landscape.


The Modern Record