Review: Citadel 2016.

Perhaps it’s the heat – Sunday was, until Monday (and Tuesday subsequently), the hottest day of the year, after all – or the fact that Citadel sits in the shade of the preceding days’ Lovebox, itself put to shame this season by Field Day before it, but the Victoria Park shebang is palpably lacking in verve. Inevitably, on a humid, muggy Sunday, everything from overpriced refreshments to underdone production values – two longstanding, and legitimate gripes with these sorts of shows – is likely to become that little bit more irritating, but in these sweltering climes, to consider Citadel even so much as lukewarm really is a stretch of even the most limber imaginations…

The first ensemble we see, Tex-Mex mainstays Calexico, is barely audible above background nattering and over a sound system that has all the oomph of an excessively aqueous salsa. So far, so very underwhelming, then. Subsequently, NYC sweeties Battles take to The Big Top, although they too fail to make any kind of meaningful impact. So technical a sound do Dave Konopka & Co. produce that difficulties are never very far away, and with time so often of the essence, the festival setting fails to suit them once again. Atlas, for instance, is an absolute mess, the absent Tyondai Braxton’s contorted, backing-tracked vox out of tune and time likewise, while the jittering, bitty Dot Com never really gets itself going. Nor do the New Yorkers’ audience in truth, although with honesty always a laudable quality, Futura really does sound devastating, even today.

Battles, Citadel 2016

It’s not simply lamentable sound levels that bedevil Caribou on the Time Out-associated Main Stage, mind, as a set that’s been taken around the world umpteen times seems jet-lagged and lackadaisical. By now, you’ll doubtless know the drill: Dan Snaith et al. kick off with Our Love and conclude with Sun, the latter remaining capable of cajoling even the most curmudgeonly into vague movement beneath the beating star. But the best part of two years have elapsed since Snaith’s last, Our Love, was first released, and with no sign of any new material forthcoming, you’re genuinely left to wonder why they came. Because, increasingly, they’re becoming the kind of act that attendees really can do without, as steadily increasing numbers do…

Caribou, Citadel 2016

Leaving us to wander from Corona Sunsets, through Jose Cuervo Tequila Town, to the Kopparberg Urban Forest. I’m not really one for decrying this kind of indecent tying-in, but it does have a tendency to become a tad overbearing here in Victoria Park, with little done to render these areas even vaguely novel or, for that matter, in any way interesting. Elsewhere, wholly perfunctory nods are gestured towards comedy, fine(r) dining, and sociopolitical debate, but these either feel desultory, or are staged in spaces that simply cannot accommodate the numbers seeking transient solace out of the “sun, sun, sun, sun, sun, sun, sun, sun, sun, sun, sun, sun.”

But emerge we must, as Sigur Rós take their rightful place as Main Stage headliners. However, when frazzled both dermally and mentally by the weekend’s exertions, this feels like neither the right time nor place for Jón Þór Birgisson’s maudlin lot, meaning that – before Festival really hits its stride, but following on from a wearisome E-Bow – we bow out of an event that, unlike the edifice from which it takes its name, doesn’t seem to be built upon the soundest of foundations…