Citadel Festival: review, what we learned and the best bands from Gunnersbury Park

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DMAs

Citadel Festival in London’s Gunnersbury Park was back for a second year and it gave Getintothis’ James Baker a proper buzz.

When it comes to the summer, the live music scene only really has one word on everyone’s lips: festival.

Some would argue that sitting around a tent with your mates whilst smelling of various questionable liquids for 5 days is all part of the festival experience, however for some that just doesn’t sit right.

For the people who think the latter, London is the place to be. With the capital playing host to a huge array of one-day festivals, you’re not shy of variety. If you want that variety in one place, Citadel steps forward.

As soon as you pass the entrance gates you can see that you’re in for a treat.

Look to your left and you can see an absolute beast of a stage set-up, which many could pass and think it was one of the main stages. The design is what we can only describe as a steampunk-esque jukebox for giants, albeit a sleeping giant as the action didn’t kick off there until later on.

It was home to The Blu Stage, a DJ-led stage with names including none other than Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh.

To the right of the entrance a small crowd had started forming at the Communion Stage ready for openers MarthaGunn. Although it would have been great to catch the five piece, we found ourselves heading straight to the main stage, along with many others, to catch openers Inhaler.

A triumphant set like this raised the bar high for the rest of the day, and made it clear this Sunday in particular was no ‘day of rest’.

After that awesome opener, we took to having a wander to discover the rest of the site. Of course this is primarily a music festival, but in reality there really is so much more to it than just that.

Citadel finds a balance that we didn’t think possible, there is so much going on yet you can’t but feel relaxed whilst being there.

Next up on the main stage we caught The Coronas, which was a bit of a slow burner. There was a fun feel to their set don’t get us wrong, but not enough to keep us from heading over to the Sunday Papers tent.

The festival’s own take on a comedy tent, comedians come up for their set to talk about a certain area or topic you’d see in the paper. This area is about as chill as you’d ever see at any festival, period.

A small stage in the middle is surrounded by sofas and small desk lamps, giving the tent proper living room vibes. We saw Lou Sanders midway through her set on ‘style’, and as soon as we entered it was like we’d completely forgotten where we were. We could’ve happily sat there all day but didn’t forget there was still plenty of music to be had.

From this point on was where we really needed our energy. Hurrying over to the DIY stage to catch The Murder Capital, and then weaving in and out of people to get back to see English-Icelandic trio Dream Wife tear up the main stage was definitely worth the cardio, because you’ve got to do some stage hopping, right?

The latter of the two acts got one of the biggest cheers of the day so far when they dedicated a song to squashing the idea of gender norms.

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The afternoon was coming along nicely, as was the crowd.

By the time aussie rockers DMA’s came on stage the buzz was definitely reaching a height, as space was running out for a decent spot at the main stage. Blasting through their 45 minutes with what was clearly a crowd that were already familiar with their work, ready equipped with flares and bucket hats.

More people were joining the main stage than leaving at this point, however we made our way back over to the DIY stage for Irish punks Fontaines DC. This was something we’d have loved to stay for the whole set if it hadn’t been for those pesky clashes.

Back at the main stage Friendly Fires were bringing the summer vibes and set the pace for the rest of the evening; sunsets, dancing, and great tunes.

Taking a brief step aside from the music again it was clear to see Citadel weren’t going to just throw any old food vendors into Gunnersbury Park. It wasn’t just the variety they had (Ever had a Yorkshire burrito anywhere other than a Christmas market?), but more the quality.

Seeing some of the offerings walking about the place you’d have been forgiven if you thought the food court was its own upmarket food festival. It was refreshing to see compared to your usual dry burgers…

Stepping back into the music, a cinematic set from Bastille led up to the moment the majority were here for: Catfish and The Bottlemen.

A crowd this size shouldn’t have fazed Van McCann and co., considering they comfortably sell out arena tours. But you can see by the looks on their faces that this was big to them, the sense of pride was there written in their smiles.

After a wave to the fans and the strapping in of guitars, the place erupted as they smashed straight in to Longshot, the lead single from their latest album The Balance. Any brief thoughts of anxiety were well out of the window by now, the band looked well at home, with a helping hand from two neon lights depicting their latest album artwork.

The set as a whole was exactly what you’d expect from them, and that’s far from a bad thing. The guitar swinging, the monotone outfits, and the extended jam during Business was all welcomed with open arms.

Many people can be found to slate them for producing three albums with a similar sound, but Catfish have their sound and it works well for them. We don’t see that as a negative, if it’s not broken don’t fix it, right?

Fans old and new could walk away satisfied, as the setlist almost exactly evenly weighted out songs from each of their three records, chopping and changing between them as you would.

Ending on the undisputable bangers of Cocoon and Tyrants, Catfish left the stage having satisfied everyone around them, with the only disappointment being seeing them go. A set like that is enough to prove to doubters that they are headline material, and with their absence at Reading this year, could they be in for one of the top spots there next year? We wouldn’t rule them out.

We left Citadel with that classic post-gig buzz, filing through with the rest of the fans heading towards the tube.

Echoes of Kathleen and Pacifier can be heard down different parts of the queue, which is something we love about coming away from a massive set like that; it’s a warmth down the roads which isn’t solely from it being mid-July.

The festival as a whole has been a massive hit, it’s safe to say whatever mood you were in (or even if you had several moods in one day), there was something there for you.

It’ll be great to see what’s in store for next year, and you can guarantee we’ll be there for it.

Getintothis’ best bands of the day

Friendly Fires

Friendly Fires

I’ve waited well over five years to see Friendly Fires, so a touch of bias may creep in here when I say these guys were the absolute stand-out of the day for me. Their set completely epitomised a summer festival slot; the dancing from Ed Macfarlane, the tropical feel of the visuals and clothing, and just the all-round feel-good factor everyone seemed to get from it. If I wanted to be super-critical, I’d say his dancing was too quick, but only because my camera couldn’t always keep up!

Jade Bird

Jade Bird

Stepping in for Matt Corby on the Communion Stage, Jade Bird proved why she should have been there all along, if not higher up the bill. The singer brought her joyous, giggly energy along with smiles to everyone’s faces whilst she stormed through tracks from her recently released debut album. Stepping in for someone at the last minute must be a nerve-racking and anxious affair for any artist, but with the reception Jade received from everyone, it’s clear she deserved her spot, and rightly so.

Inhaler

I touched on the Dublin four-piece in my preview and tipped them as ones to watch, and in the most modest way possible, boy was I right. Even though I knew what I was in for in regards to the music, I was surprised at the size of the crowd for an opening act. Even more-so surprised at the large scale of crowd participation during recently released songs My Honest Face and There’s No Other Place. Bear in mind this is all at the hands of a band that have yet to embark on their first UK headline tour, which sets off in autumn.

Dream Wife

Dream Wife

Dream Wife coming on was a breath of fresh air after a set from The Coronas, everyone seemed taken back a bit, in a good way of course. The punchy and defiant music from the trio showed they were here to make a difference. Lead singer Rakel Mjoll also made a point calling out the festival itself for the lack of female artists on the lineup, some food for thought for the organisers maybe?

Fontaines DC

Fontaines DC

Their straight-talking set brought tension to the DIY stage and got the tent riled up right from the off, opening with the aptly titled Hurricane Laughter. For the Irish punk band this was one of countless festival stops for them, and they definitely showed us why they’re being billed as one of the breakthrough acts of 2019.

DMAs

DMA’s

Aussie rockers DMA’s have become somewhat of a staple for those more indie-focused within the crowd over the past few years. This was duly noted when it took less than a song and a half to get the flares and smokes going. It was clear to see there were plenty of fans there to see them as one of the biggest sing-a-longs of the day was for one of their slower songs, Delete.

Bastille

Bastille

Bastille have been known for their theatrical take on stage sets and visuals, and Citadel was no exception. Armchairs, an old tv, and rotating platform, an ensemble of singers and dancers, it really had it all. Throw in birthday boy Dan Smith and it really was a sight to see (and hear, of course). With the show they put on and the extensive hits they perform, their cover of Of the Night being a notable stand-out, it’s any wonder as to why they’re not headlining festivals themselves. A shoe-in for next year maybe?

The Murder Capital

A part of what seems to be an Irish takeover at the festival, The Murder Capital appeared on the DIY stage all suited up for an amazing set. Their fast paced punk raised the temperature (as if it wasn’t warm enough) in the tent with frontman James McGovern constantly taunting with and geeing the crowd up throughout the set.

Images by Getintothis’ James Baker

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