Right, let’s get the messy stuff out of the way before we start properly. Kendal Calling was muddy. Very muddy. Muddy as hell. But while some festivals last weekend fell, Kendal Calling flourished.
The party spirit across the site at Lowther Deer Park wasn’t remotely dampened by the claggy conditions, and the four-day festival maintained its family-friendly atmosphere and 25,000 revellers danced their socks off to a cracking line-up of acts, regardless of what it was like underfoot.
And that line-up! From the iconic musicianship of BRIAN WILSON‘s Pet Sounds to the punk battering of SLAVES, the stages were filled with a truly eclectic collection of musical mayhem. We revisited some classic tunes from familiar artists and discovered some ace new bands we’ll be keeping an eye on in the near-future.
The headline acts predictably pulled in huge crowds, as STEREOPHONICS ploughed through an uninspiring festival-set-by-numbers without much heart and soul while TINIE TEMPAH brought the weekend to a close with a fireworks-and-serious-basslines finale.
And while dads enjoyed MANIC STREET PREACHERS do their thing on the Saturday night, over in the Calling Out tent, seemingly every teenage girl at the festival gathered for THE HUNNA.
Barely two years into their existence, the four-piece are clearly doing something very right. Their charged set was bolstered by an excitable atmosphere in the packed-out tent (and its perimeter) as a surge of shrill voices sing back every single word to the Hertfordshire heartthrobs with glee.
The Calling Out Stage hosted some pretty neat acts over the weekend. We spent a fair bit of time in there (sometimes slightly reluctantly when the sun make a rare appearance) and caught some ace bands with ever acer names.
I only headed over on the Sunday to see HAVE YOU EVER SEEN THE JANE FONDA AEROBICS VHS? because why the hell wouldn’t you? The Finnish garage-pop trio were a bit of a treat, hippy chic meets do-wop punk. They’re as out-there as their inspired band name (the drummer’s idea, apparently).
Scandinavian neighbours FEWS tore through some razor-sharp punk sounds, while FICKLE FRIENDS returned to the fields with some wonderful sugary indie-pop.
My musical idol made me both very happy and rather sad as he and his fellow Beach Boy Al Jardine provided some much-needed Californian sunshine on the Main Stage.
BRIAN WILSON‘s bittersweet show revealed a frail, bewildered genius, a shadow of the man we saw a year ago enjoying playing Pet Sounds in full to an eager crowd in Manchester. His vacant, child-like expressions only slightly broke when he sang what he could, the majority of the high notes handled incredibly by Jardine’s son Matt.
However, Brian and his band paid homage to the Beach Boys’ iconic album with such precision and passion, it was easy to focus less on the fragility and bask in the delights of Wouldn’t It Be Nice and soul-crushing God Only Knows.
FRANK TURNER, complete with festival glitter on his face (at the request of his niece, apparently – yeah, right!), may well have played his best live show at Kendal. At least it’s the best we’ve seen him, and we’ve seen him lots.
Ignoring the fact that TINIE TEMPAH was bringing the weekend to a close, the folk-punk favourite put on a headline-worthy set which drew on a staggering back catalogue of singalongs, which kicked off with Get Better and only got better.
Hiding among the trees near Lost Eden, the appropriately named Woodlands Stage has become a regular Kendal Calling stop-off point to pick up on some up and coming acts.
GRACES from Sheffield have a kind of emo-but-not rock sound about them, giving off a sturdy Taking Back Sunday vibe to get the crowds going on a Saturday lunchtime. We’ll be on the lookout for more of them for sure.
And also flying the Yorkshire flag were THE INDIGO PROJECT and last year’s Centre Stage winners FAUX PAS, who had a fresher presence than last time we saw them live.
And WHERE FIRES ARE returned to the Woodlands Stage after a colourful turn last year, fully embracing the weekend’s Into The Wild-themed fancy dress code. Sporting animal onesies, the five-piece proved to be an alt-rock force to be reckoned with. Even with a bassist dressed as a giraffe.
Leeds was also ably represented on the Main Stage by POST WAR GLAMOUR GIRLS, delivering a solid, politically charged set bursting with wired guitars and sprightly synths which mask more downbeat lyrical content. It was a real pleasure to see them command that stage with conviction.
It’s been ages since we’ve seen the ever-brilliant EDITORS live. Frenetic fontman Tom Smith contorting himself around guitar and piano, twisting out dark indie-pop anthems which still sound as vital as they did more than a decade ago.
From the quality of the line-up to the on-site organisation, the family-friendly atmosphere and the safety of every festivalgoer, Kendal Calling is fast becoming one of the best festivals in the UK – it’s definitely our favourite.
And as if proof was needed, tickets for next year’s festival are already selling like Kendal mint cakes. Get yours soon because it looks like it’s going to be another record-breaking sell-out.
For more details, head over to kendalcalling.co.uk ASAP.