Depot, self-branded as Cardiff’s most exciting original venue, certainly earns their creativity kudos (and then some) with a whole host of events from street food socials to pop-up secrets speakeasys and, since 2017, an annual music festival at Cardiff Castle. After having reviewed the wonderful line-up, but woeful organisation, of my first festival experience (last year’s Burning Lantern Fayre), I was looking forward to seeing how Depot in the Castle (DITC) fared with their sophomore festival – and I’m happy to report that it was a roaring success!
I was incredibly impressed by just how well the event was organised. A plethora of food stalls purveying everything from posh crepes to pizzas – it was dazzling to the eyes and ears, and also the tastebuds. Unlike Burning Lantern – where I only managed to procure a Danish pastry approximately seven hours in – the availability of food on offer here was astounding. After much deliberation, I plumped for curry and chips at That Fish Guy’s stall – I was served immediately, and can only commend their efficiency of service and high quality of food. The only queues in sight were, understandably, lining up to the bar (though with the amount of staff on hand, they were fast-moving and efficient), and at the ice-cream van. Il Gelataio’s artisan ice-cream was a highlight of the day, and the best gelato I’ve ever tasted – the 30 minute queue was in part due to their status as the only ice-cream vendors of the day, and in future I’d suggest they have at least two such stalls to reduce the wait-time.
The free water was also a huge plus – I wrongly assumed that it was available over the counter, so I initially had to shell out £2.50 for bottled water (though I’m not sure why they weren’t allowed to give out lids, leaving me carrying around a precariously un-lidded bottle all day). However, once I found the free water station, it was a life-saver – especially on such a gloriously sunny day – and an idea from which Burning Lantern would have benefited.
Depot also continues my personal trend of finding the penultimate performers to be the best acts of the festival. For Burning Lantern 2017, that was Jack Savoretti; for Depot in the Castle 2018, that honour goes to The Fratellis. Their debut album Costello Music was one of the first albums I ever bought, and hearing it again – live – was a full-on nostalgia trip. Sung by football fans and angsty teens alike, their iconic song Chelsea Dagger has mass appeal in the nifty universality of its one-word chorus – and the raucous refrains of ‘do do do, do do do, do do do do do do do’ (repeat ad infinitum) understandably had the crowd in raptures. Their set was the standout of the night, and every song was a winner – from the pretty little ditty Whistle for the Choir, to the bawdy belting of Henrietta, and the scat-like sound of Flathead’s gleeful gibberish chorus that could just as well be a modern update of The Beatles’ Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da.
Sister Sledge closed the night with an absolutely sensational, stylish set, bringing the house down with iconic tunes like Lost in Music, Thinking of You and He’s the Greatest Dancer (during the latter, they even brought up two people from the crowd to dance on stage, which was a lovely touch). And it was a special treat to see these legends closing out the festival with the incomparable We Are Family. I have to also shout out their amazing band, who filled the festival with the most amazing music. Their joy in performing was matched only by the joy of the audience.
It was a real privilege to be able to see The Fratellis and Sister Sledge performing live in Cardiff, and a real coup for Depot to have secured them for the festival. However, I must say that they were the only musical acts worth seeing at the event. Hackney Colliery Band, while highly skilled musicians, didn’t fit the tone of the festival for me. And the only other music was pumped, pre-recorded, out of the speakers. Fleetmac Wood’s remixes only lessened the original songs; and Horsemeat Disco had a great playlist, but it didn’t come close to the quality, excitement or atmosphere of live music. Say what you will about Burning Lantern (and, believe me, I have), at least they had live music across the board throughout the entire event, on both the main stage and a separate acoustic stage. Holding the festival in St Fagans also provided Burning Lantern with a bigger, more picturesque location – though setting DITC 2018 in Cardiff Castle was a real treat. Unlike Burning Lantern, DITC’s site was accessible and well-signposted, and it was most helpful of them to release a setlist and site map prior to the event that made navigating the festival easy and enjoyable.
Depot in the Castle 2018 was a huge success, from the wonderful central location to the excellent organisation, delicious food with minimal queueing, and the two stellar headliners. However, the scarcity of live music was a disappointment, and I can only hope that the overall quality of the festival will entice more artists to perform live at Depot in the Castle 2019.