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CITADEL FESTIVAL 2016 Review

CITADEL FESTIVAL returns to Hackney’s Victoria Park for the second edition.

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When I entered the festival site my first thought was literally “It’s my fourth or fifth festival this year and finally no mud!”. What a relief.

And what a glorious day it was! A pure blue sky with just a few clouds gracefully passing by and many people happily melting in the sun. What an amazing difference to what we experienced not that long ago at Field Day Festival, which was more like a biblical downpour and more grumpy faces. The music was great of course.

On Sunday (July 17th) the exuberant festival-goers filled Victoria Park to spend another beautiful day exploring the diverse line-up and fully take advantage of the festival’s abundant entertainment.

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Having experienced the first edition of Citadel Festival certainly set the bar higher. My expectations were big and worries about the headlining acts totally justified.

Let’s make a quick stop before we move to the music part. The festival offered a wide range of alternative entertainment on the site. Sunday Papers Live treated on culture, travel, style and even sport which included a speech from Eddie “The Eggle” Edwards. If somehow you managed to get bored with the performances at the time, the options were many. From the Citadel Comedy Tent to a little bit of work out in the Sports Day area, to drawing and making knots aiming to discover the great artist within you.

But believe me with a line-up such as this, the chances of getting bored were very little. Even for the cost of a sunburn.

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My musical journey began with London’s singer-songwriter Sam Gillbanks and his band who took to the Communion Stage in the early afternoon. A perfect lunch time for some people casually chilling in the sun and listening to their vigorous tunes.

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Cat’s Eyes, aka Faris Badwan of Horrors and Canadian soprano singer Rachel Zeffira, seemed to make a great team and a perfect fit for the Main Stage. Their gold sequins beautifully glowing in the sun, their soothing harmonies elegantly spreading across the field. A nice break for an afternoon drink. However, if you were a fan of heavier sounds you probably found yourself next to a totally different stage.

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Nathaniel Rateliff and his slide on the stage was certainly a remarkable entrance and one of the festival’s highlights. Having been promoted from last year’s Communion Stage to the Main Stage, alongside his folk-band The Night Sweats he delivered a highly energetic performance. One many sweaty fans will remember for a long time.

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At this point I was trying to explore the festival site a little bit more so I started to walk around. The queues to the bars were considerably short, depending on how thirsty you were, but the drinks rather pricey. That’s the usual at a London festival I suppose. On the other hand, the queues to some stages were horrendously long at some moments. If you really wanted to see a particular band you were advised to head down quite early. That’s the usual at every festival I suppose.

The overall atmosphere was very vibrant though. Some people doing sports on one side of the park, some proudly wearing glitter on their faces (the glitter beards were one of my favourites) on the other, some taking advantage of the amusement park attractions (incl. roller skating) and some having a grand gypsy moment dancing all barefoot and all shirtless. If you looked around that was exactly what you expected from a summer festival, especially when you wanted to escape the hustle and bustle of a big city just for one day.

Whilst a lot of people were heading towards the Soundcrash or Fabric tents in a mood for some disco vibes in that scorching weather, I was on my way to Kopparberg Urban Forest.

Perhaps ISLAND didn’t get the easiest job playing a 3pm set but they certainly did an amazing job. The euphonious mellow melodies gracefully floated from the stage spreading their charm. From the band’s latest upbeat single Come With Me to their glorious and critically acclaimed debut Stargazer they surely made all their fans really satisfied and all the newcomers asking “Who are these guys?”.

Despite of people chilling on the grass throughout the entire set the dynamism of the closing track Spotless Mind got a few of them up on their feet. Nevertheless, I’m not completely sure if a festival’s daytime arrangement is a great option for this band. I couldn’t get rid of the impression that their soothing sound would better fit a dark space with dancing lights so we could all stargaze a little bit longer.

Having said that, the Oxford’s four-piece will headline Scala in London on November 2nd.

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When Tom Misch took to the Communion Stage and Battles shook the Soundcrash tent not that far away, there was another band who caught my attention. Flyte who certainly got more sun-rays than all the bands before them. Perfect fit for their summery and happy sound. The catchy Please Eloise put a smile on everyone’s faces whilst energetic Light Me Up made a great culmination to their short set which undoubtedly felt like not enough.

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And again, whilst Caribou was appearing on the Main Stage many people were squeezing tightly in front of the Communion Stage. It was quite a distance. Believe me, I had to run. Of course, missing Matt Corby‘s show was never an option.

Having seen this Australian singer-songwriter at his sold out show at Roundhouse a couple of months ago made me exactly remember of his impact on all listeners. He is a perfectionist within minimalism.

Corby‘s soulful inspirations display throughout the entire set revealing his choral vocal range when effortlessly going from deep low-pitched notes to a high falsetto.

His debut album Telluric, released in March this year, is a remarkable work of art. Tracks such as Resolution, Brother and Souls A’fire are already fan favourites getting the joyful cheers and loud singalongs in response.

Having experienced Corby‘s performance within an indoor arrangement may be more mesmerizing, but his magnetic persona will surely continue to gather bigger crowds in the near future.

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And there they were. The mighty Icelandic legends who have been gracing the stages of this world for over 20 years. Now stripped back to three-piece, Sigur Rós emerged on the Main Stage at Citadel Festival with the sun setting on the opposite side.

The ethereal blend of unadulterated sound and exquisite genius makes them a worthy headliner. The frontman’s Jónsi Birgisson‘s falsetto vocals and the use of a bowed guitar work really well for the band’s minimalist aesthetic, even with the sublime arrangement of their lighting sets. The simple plethora of divinity glowing in the dusk.

However, to experience the most of the band’s performance you had to move closer to the stage. Having passed many people loudly chatting and complaining about the language the songs were written in made me realise that Sigur Rós are not for everyone. But that is totally fine.

The trio finished the set off with the dozen minutes of the track Untitled 8 aka Popplagið (The pop song). Orri Páll Dýrason’s restless drums build up to a beautiful crescendo and when it breaks, well you break with it. The overflowing imagery flashing on the screens made a graceful ending to their set as well as to this bountiful day.

Perhaps, Sigur Rós are not your hotly tipped festival headliner or your everyday favourite band but certainly they are magic. I wish every human being on this planet to experience the beauty of their performance.

And I wish everyone to consider coming down next year. Having brought only two lavish editions to life so far, Citadel Festival is definitely a worthy contestant to become one of your favourite destinations in your future festival schedule.

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Photo: Kasia Osowiecka