This year’s KENDAL CALLING was the best yet. Held at Lowther Deer Park in the Lake District over a long weekend, it’s very much like a mini Glastonbury, with plenty to experience away from the music.
Lost inside a festival bubble for a few days surrounded by rolling fields, woodland populated by thousands of music fans from eardefender-sporting toddlers to old-enough-to-know-better raving pensioners and the odd steam punk Sgt Peppers marching band playing New Orleans-style Depeche Mode tunes, we had an absolute blast.
Maybe the weather helped make the experience what it was – wellies were left at home, sunglasses were essential and refreshing real ale a must – but it was the music from Yorkshire filling our weekend that really shone through.
On the Main Stage there were huge turns from consummate party providers MADNESS and THE HIVES, CATFISH AND THE BOTTLEMEN, whose triumphant return to Kendal Calling saw the second-biggest crowd of the weekend, and former Oasis idol NOEL GALLAGHER who had the biggest crowd singing along to his old band’s classics.
Thursday night headliners THE CHARLATANS frontman Tin Burgess was joined by Libertines frontman PETE DOHERTY and BLOSSOMS for secret sets in his wonderful (and always rammed) Tim Peaks Diner, helping to raise over £10,000 for the David Lynch Foundation this year.
And this year saw a veritable invasion of West Yorkshire acts, all of which made their mark on a massive line-up of legends, rising stars and fan favourites. We managed to catch a good few, but missed out on sets from MILBURN, POST WAR GLAMOUR GIRLS and MI MYE.
The Bradford trio kick off our weekend with a triumphant 30-minute set on the Woodlands Stage, surrounded by pines and wild flowers. Their huge sound draws a pretty substantial crowd for what is announced to be their last-ever show – which is a real shame.
With a cool bluesy swagger, their rousing indie rock is peppered with ballsy electronics and frontman James Brander’s voice is just something else. As far as swan songs go, this is an absolute blast – urgent and spirited with no sense of finality. The Mexanines will be sorely missed.
Leeds punk rockers Brawlers are a real party band. They party hard and expect their audience to follow suit. From the get-go, the four-piece tear their way through a frenetic set of sure-fire punk hits including Day Job and Growing Up from their new Black EP.
Spending most of the time dancing in the crowd, frontman Harry is very much the host with the most, offering up free Jagermeister, encouraging a dance-off and creating a wall of love (like a metal show wall of death, but instead of slam dancing, there’s hugs and high-fives). The rest of the band (mostly) remain on stage bolster his delivery with wired guitars, driving bass and thumping drums. Great, great fun.
We’ve not caught this Leeds five-piece before, so were definitely not going to miss popping out the Calling Out stage. Treading hallowed ground between Queens Of The Stone Age and old school Muse with bags of punk attitude, theirs is a formidable racket.
Progressive rock has never been cooler with this lot’s keen musical chaos, as riffs ooze from the stage like a B-movie evil force, kept in check with firmly-fixed vocal harmonies and a gleeful use of cowbell gets heads bobbing.
Following on from Fizzy Blood’s ferocity comes Leeds trio Actor, delivering much in the way of dramatic, sweeping alt-pop – the musical equivalent of a Bronte tale. Singer Louisa Osborn is very much the focus both visually and sonically, as she prowls across the stage with a voice so powerful and striking, not unlike the soaring majesty of Florence Welch. A really captivating performance.
Leeds shoegaze lot Eagulls offer some fine 80s-fuelled gloom, hidden away from the evening sunshine. Their new album Ullages has been on our stereo for a while now and we love to bask in its John Hughes-tinted bleakness. The songs’ transition to the festival circuit is one of effortless minor-key victory, with singer George Mitchell keeping things suitably melancholic, sipping red wine from the bottle as he moodily drapes over the mic stand.
The reverb-drenched alt-rock is sublime, making album highlights Euphoria, Velvet and Blume seem more urgent, more alive. There’s not much movement from the mid-tempo throughout the set, a fairly restrained approach keeping the lofty sonics grounded, but the songs sparkle with joyous musicianship, even a tape recorder becomes something more ethereal in the hands of Eagulls.
In stark contrast to the gloom of Eagulls, Marsicans’ music is undiluted pop with plenty of fizz. As the sun pours through the trees at the Woodlands Stage, the glow from the delightful wooden set-up is pretty dazzling. Sunglasses at the ready, then. Dressed in bright 80s hues, the four-piece deliver a fine set of equally colourful guitar-pop with more hooks than aisle 7 in B&Q.
Swimming sees a dance routine break out in the crowd (a funky front crawl the preferred technique) and recent single and set closer Far Away (Saudade) disguises the song’s yearning with snappy guitars, four-way harmonies, dual vocals and rolling beats. A real joy.
WHERE FIRES ARE
These Leeds rockers seem to have been mistakenly booked to play a smaller stage instead of the Main Stage a bit further down the field. How their blistering tunes were expected to be contained to the area around the Woodlands Stage is a wonder. Their huge sound is stadium-bound – driving, finely-crafted guitar anthems, today delivered with a healthy amount of body paint.
The abstract shapes adorning the bodies of the five band members are as angular as the riffs wrapping around frontman Robbie Gillespie’s soaring vocals. There are a few hints of Biffy Clyro’s anthemic pop-rock in there, but rather than recreate verbatim, Where Fires Are boast an authentic vibe that they deliver with acute pride.
These magnificent seven were just a small (but sensational) selection of the world-class acts taking to the stages around Kendal Calling over the weekend.
Other pretty amazing highlights were the mighty SPRING KING, whose Sunday night set was filled with sing-along Clash-like moments, while New York’s original rap stars SUGARHILL GANG recreated an inner-city block party in the luscious green surroundings of Lowther Deer Park on the Main Stage.
It seems (just about) anything goes for one summer weekend in the Lake District, and we can’t wait to do it all again next year. The dates have just been announced, so we’ll see you in the fields from July 27-30.