Citadel Festival had all the right ingredients for a cool day: quirky pineapple decorating, people exercising in Spandex, robot exhibitions. All this made for a highly easygoing experience, perfect for a Sunday festival – throughout the day I only spotted one puking sixteen-year-old. But it missed the sense of music bursting and leaking over crowds from stage to stage that comes with most festivals: I didn’t go home with a hastily written list of artists to look up, or more than three songs replaying in my head.
In fact, most of the songs that were stuck in my head were from the fantastic Foals. Intense and moving, Foals crafted a performance that felt like a home-coming for the band. You could feel their joy as they performed both rarities (‘Black Gold’) and big-hitters (‘What Went Down’) with a ferocity that took their indie-rock sound to the next level. I woke up humming ‘Spanish Sahara’ while shaking confetti and glitter out of my hair. Definitely a sign of a good gig.
Just as Foals fed off the crowd’s feral energy, Bonobo brought party vibes to an otherwise peaceful day. After Laura Marling came across a touch too serious during her performance, I and many others appreciated how often Simon Green spoke to the crowd – it’s always nice to have an artist say ‘thank you’ during their time on stage. A special mention should also go to Oumou Sangaré and her band at the Kasbah stage for their commitment to getting a previously static crowd dancing. I didn’t feel like the festival had really begun until Sangaré dramatically walked on stage with a floor length dress, a big smile and a powerhouse voice.
The headline act on the Kasbah stage was Ben Howard’s guitarist Mickey Smith, who played an atmospheric set that utilised orchestral strings to add a real sense of delicacy and refinement. Whilst intimate, the set was a bit too cautious and one-paced: I found it hard to feel a real contrast between each song.
Music aside, the bars were fully stocked – a massive improvement on last year. However I was also aware of the leftover stages from Lovebox Festival throughout the grounds, as well as an aesthetic and layout that is a bit too similar to Field Day. If Citadel Festival gained a stronger sense of identity and pumped the day full of musicians then we might get a few more puking youths, but also a lot more dancing and an abundance of festival joy.