Monday 15 July 2019

LIVE: Citadel Festival 2019

On Sunday I had the absolute pleasure of joining thousands of music fans in (very) West London's Gunnersbury Park for this year's Citadel Festival. My third one-day metropolitan festival of the year, it was a gorgeous day of live music, surprisingly decent weather and brilliant company. I was there to review and found it particularly amusing when the guy on the press box office asked "what publication are you with?" to which I bemusedly gave the name of my tiny blog as confidently as if it were the NME itself.

A reduced train service combined with a fault on the line held me up and meant that we missed the start of MarthaGunn's set but thankfully caught the majority of it, heading in the direction of recent single Saint Cecilia once we'd made it through security. Playing on the stage closest to the festival entrance, they opened up proceedings beautifully for those just arriving, showcasing brand new tracks and old favourites to the crowd at the Communion Presents stage. Closing the set, early single Heaven was a highlight, and I'm quickly realising that lead singer Abi is my hero.

As if all of my 2017 Communion dreams had come true, next up on the stage were Banfi. I caught some of their set at Bushstock recently, but couldn't see much from the back of the venue so it was great to see them again - my tenth time seeing them live and always a treat! Newly appointed manager/bassist Scott Miller (of Dry The River fame) fits into the band perfectly. They too delivered a set combining old favourites She Comes Home, Never Really Cared and Happy When You Go seamlessly with brand new tracks from the debut album they're working on. (Can't wait!!)

Next, with a gap in our schedule we had a break from the music, and explored more of the festival site. Near the main stage we found an area hosting a range of comedy, science and circus performances. We were drawn in by some dance, and were shortly being a little bit mesmerised by some diablo skills in the Roundhouse Presents area.

After a while of watching and repeatedly exclaiming "how? HOW?!" at the mind-boggling talent on show, we headed back towards the Communion tent, walking via the main stage and catching some of The Coronas on the way. After enjoying their new track So Caught Up recently I was really looking forward to checking out what Melbourne's The Teskey Brothers had to offer. Despite their early afternoon slot, they filled out the tent and played blues rock to a hugely enthusiastic crowd, hanging off their every word and over the moon at the addition of a harmonica to the mix. As their bio says, "onstage, singer Josh Teskey's smoke whiskey voice defies expectation, flooring audiences." Their new album Run Home Slow is out August 2nd!

We stuck around at the Communion stage afterwards - as I said in my preview of the festival, the quality of their booking means I could've happily stayed there all day. Next up was Matthew And The Atlas - my fourth time seeing the band, but the first out of the surroundings of a church venue (twice at Bushstock Festival and once at a special Bear's Den Christmas show.) Vocalist Matt Hegarty and his incredibly talented band ran through a set featuring two of my favourite tunes, On A Midnight Street and Pyres, before treating us to a peaceful rendition of Elijah. Watch out for a post on his brand new video later this week!

Cue a dash for food and a rush to the main stage, where we managed to catch the end of the DMA's set. Hailing from Sydney, I'd never listened to them before and quite enjoyed what we saw - it was pretty clear that they were well loved. In parts it felt like the vocals of Blossoms tied with the guitar lines I love from The Vaccines - a solid combination indeed. We managed to make our way through the crowd and get much closer to the front for the set I'd been most excited for, the opportunity to see one of my absolute favourite bands live again.

Friendly Fires delivered a hell of a performance, with frontman Ed Macfarlane showing us his signature (and frankly marvellous) dance moves from the first notes of opener Lovesick right through to closing track Kiss Of Life. I'm not really one for much dancing at gigs but it's impossible not to find your hips swaying along to these guys. In a completely joyous set (complete with a LOT of singing along on my part) the band ran through tracks from their self-titled debut album, the utterly sublime second album Pala and singles from upcoming album Inflorescent, due for release 16th August. It's been a long wait and from the tracks we've heard so far, I think it'll have been worth every second.

Feeling completely elated from their set, we quickly headed back to the Communion stage to catch the second half of Jade Bird's set. She was a last minute addition to the line-up, replacing Matt Corby due to illness, and what a welcome addition. I've been wanting to see her live for a while and really enjoyed the set, full of tracks from her recent self-titled debut - the only sad thing is that I think I missed her playing my favourite track, Uh Huh. I guess I'll just have to go and see her play again!

In a miraculous turn of events, we managed to get back to the front row in time for the stage's (reasonably early, at just after 7pm) headline set from one of my favourite bands, Bear's Den. It was my fourth time seeing them on the So that you might hear me run of shows and it was an absolutely triumphant return to the hometown stage after months of touring the album across Europe and the US. In a typical 21st century move, a guy on the front row was streaming the cricket live on his phone, holding it up for those around him to watch before the band started, and an amusing moment in the set arrived when the crowd cheered and clapped for a while after the second or third track. The band looked chuffed and I joined in, thinking it was sweet that the crowd loved them so much, before realising that it was because we'd just won the cricket.

In an hour long set (my only complaint is that this passed far too quickly) showcasing favourites from all three albums, the crowd proved themselves to be very much in love with the group, singing at the top of their lungs and clapping along at every opportunity, and occasionally resorting to cries of "we love the Den!!!" between tracks. It was my 11th (I think) time seeing the band but felt just as exciting as the first, with the opening banjo notes of final track Agape still instilling a lot of joy. After a Highlands & Islands tour of Scotland next month they're touring the UK later in the year, and have just announced a show at London's Eventim Apollo for 20th February - full dates here.

After catching up with some friends we headed back through the festival site to the main stage to watch some of the headline set from Catfish and the Bottlemen. For some reason I've never really taken a proper listen to the band, and mostly know them from what I've heard on the radio, but as we walked across the park, I could hear their first album hit Kathleen and couldn't help but speed up to get closer ("I know this one!"). With the morning's train woes in the back of my mind, we didn't stay for the whole set so that we could beat the crowds back to the tube, but from what I did see they proved themselves more than worthy of the top spot on the billing.

All in all I totally loved my first Citadel Festival and would certainly recommend it to people looking for a family friendly Summer festival that has things other than just music on offer. If the line-up next year is anything as strong as yesterday's (bear in mind that I missed Bastille and a host of other brilliant artists) then you'll be in for a treat.

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