Kendal Calling is renowned as being one of the best small festivals on the circuit and this years edition further added to that reputation. The sun shone, the rain fell (it wouldn’t be a festival without a bit of rain would it), the headliners did their thing and the crowd played their part, but the star of the show was the event itself.
It’s refreshing to attend a festival where the security staff were friendly, the stewards helpful and the organisation exemplary. You are made to feel part of the festival rather than a cash-cow who needs their wallet emptying. The event is family friendly, you wouldn’t have any concerns bringing children of all ages as many did. Friends are quickly made with campsite neighbors and there are no qualms with striking up conversations with complete strangers. The site is small enough to comfortably get around yet big enough to host several stages plus a whole host of hidden gems.
The headliners of course draw the crowds and there was something for everyone on the main stage, Public Enemy, Basement Jaxx, Ash, I Am Kloot, The Charlatans, Johnny Marr, Seasick Steve and Primal Scream. For me though a festival is about discovering something new and Kendal Calling is perfect for this, so here’s my rundown of what caught my ear.
Wandering around the site mid afternoon on Friday you couldn’t help but be drawn to the powerful voice and large crowd overflowing from the Calling Out tent. This was Misty Miller, a young singer/songwriter from South London, only managed to catch the last two songs but that was more than enough to realise this was something special. A raw blues sound with a folk tinged edge, not to dis-similar from Manchester girl Findlay. Check out the Next To You EP.
Headlining the Calling Out tent on the Friday night were Theme Park, a London 3-piece who’ve been on the up and coming radar for a while now. Their blend for 80’s infused funk, laid back beats and great vocal harmonies was the perfect soundtrack to get your groove on for a summer’s evening. Check out Tonight
Worth dragging a sore head out of your tent for were Tea Street Band opening up the main stage on Saturday. The Liverpool band are a firm favourite on ALBL (have a read of the introducing….. article) and didn’t disappoint on the big stage. What started out as a handful of interested spectators soon developed into a large crowd roused from their slumber with by the sunshine infused indie-dance, perfect for a festival. Push The Feeling On, Fiesta and Summer Dreaming had the crowd dancing in the sun. Check out Disco Lights
The D.O.T drew a decent mid-afternoon crowd on the main stage, the duo are Rob Harvey, front man from one of my favourite ever bands The Music and Mike Skinner, of course the brains behind groundbreaking outfit The Streets. This new incarnation is already two albums old with Harvey providing the vocals and occasional guitar and Skinner providing the beats, additional vocals and plenty of crowd banter. The bass heavy sound and old school dance elements had the crowd dancing away. Check out Goes Off
Topping the bill at the Woodlands stage on the Saturday night were another ALBL featured band The Feud (have a read of the introducing….. article) the locals boys proceeded to smash it up with their electronic dance/rock crossover sound that had the slightly wet crowd jumping and dancing in equal measures. If you wanted a band to energize a flagging festival crowd The Feud were the perfect tonic. Check out this live footage
Over in the Chai Wallah tent Dub Pistols had the late night festival goers getting down to a mix of big beat, ska, punk and dub sounds. Not something I would normally listen to but again showing what a festival is all about, exposing you to new sounds. Check out their take on The Stranglers classic Peaches which went down a storm.
The perfect example of discovering something new at a festival was Silhouette, a great Northern Irish outfit fronted by Shauna Tohill and backed by a talented band. I’d describe the sound as perfect pop music, and in pop I mean music that transcends genres and would appeal to all ages and musical tastes, as it did for those gathered in the Calling Out tent on the Sunday afternoon. Catchy chorus’, danceable rhythms, great melodies and in Shauna Tohill a wonderful vocalist with engaging chat between songs. Check out Toss It Up
Final mention goes to Public Service Broadcasting another ALBL featured band (check out the album review) who had a tough slot going up against Johnny Marr playing Smiths classics on the main stage, but it’s testament to the increasing popularity of PSB that a healthy crowd has gathered in the Calling Out tent to be Informed, Educated and Entertained. The innovative concept of using clips from old information films plus other suitable excerpts and setting them to electronic beats, guitar, banjo and drums was both an audio and visual treat for the Kendal crowd. Watching J. Willgoose, Esq. in action is a sight to behold, seamlessly controlling keyboards, laptop and guitar with effortless ease and even managing to have banter with the crowd using pre-recorded soundbites! Check out Signal 30
If you’re considering a festival for the first time or a regular festival goer sick of the big commercially bland experience get yourself to Kendal Calling and I’ll see you in the fields next year.