REVIEW: Kendal Calling, 2017

Kendal Calling from the air. Picture by Jody Hartley.
Kendal Calling from the air. Picture by Jody Hartley.

Under the dark clouds of persistent rain the beautiful Cumbrian fields were a wash of colour as 25,000 people pitched their tents for four days of spectacular music.

Despite the wet weather and muddy walkways, welly wearing music lovers gathered for fun and frolics at Kendal Calling.

Kate Nash at Kendal Calling. Picture by Scott M Salt.

Kate Nash at Kendal Calling. Picture by Scott M Salt.

Now in its 12th year the festival at Lowther Deer Park is home to an array of music, comedy and arts – and the offerings certainly didn’t disappoint.

To name a few acts that tantalised our musical tastebuds were Stereophonics, Manic Street Preachers, Franz Ferdinand, Brian Wilson performing Pet Sounds, Jake Bugg, Slaves, Frank Turner, Tinie Tempah, Example, Loyle Carner, Kate Nash and more than 200 other artists.

It was the artists hiding in the nooks and crannies of the award-winning festival, the bands who performed at an earlier time, the nervous singers who came alive with the welcoming crowd who really wowed.

Bands like Blow Trio, a ‘secretive’ electronic jazz wonder who made the Riot Jazz tent (a favourite of mine) their own.

Tinie Tempah on the main stage at Kendal Calling. Picture by Jody Hartley.

Tinie Tempah on the main stage at Kendal Calling. Picture by Jody Hartley.

The band from Belgium consisting of two saxophones and one drumset got off to a slow start as they adjusted their sound equipment.

But the dark clothed, white masked figures were enough to keep the crowd intrigued and soon enough we were bouncing to their energetic, thumping brass.

Over in the Woodlands, Liverpool lads Life At The Arcade easily engaged with the audience.

Paddy, Adam, Chris and Paul have developed their indie pop rock sound since forming in early 2015 and their performance was memorable, a possible one-to-watch in the coming year.

Brian Wilson on the main stage at Kendal Calling. Picture by Scott M Salt.

Brian Wilson on the main stage at Kendal Calling. Picture by Scott M Salt.

The open-mic tent, which offered plush seating and shisha, (a sharable, fragrant smoking pipe) was a refreshing addition.

Festival-goers braved the microphone, one man in particular (I didn’t get his name but he had long hair and sunglasses) belted out classics and got the crowd clapping to the beat.

Julia, lead singer of Carlisle band The Unsung, certainly felt the nerves at the start of their rainy performance on the Carvetii stage.

But nerves did settle down, perhaps because they were still being watched by a crowd through the pouring rain.

For Evie Plumb, lead singer of Lancaster band, Lowes, nerves are a good thing.

“They make you sing better and perform better and I think the moment you get out there all the nerves disappear,” said the 22-year-old.

Lowes, a relatively new band, deserved every bit of glowing reaction during their set on the Chai Wallah stage.

Evie’s powerhouse voice mixed with the electrifying guitar riffs and classical piano pulled the stage away from its usual relaxing atmosphere into a party of early delights on a Sunday afternoon.

Other locals who made an appearance were Batala who drummed their way through the illuminated woods.

Earning their right on the main stage were the Lancashire Hotpots, who are always a favourite with families and dancing dads.

Some festival-goers said the Hotpots ‘made their festival.’

Lancaster Brewery also had their wide range of beers on offer in the Real Ale Tent.

The stunning art installations of Lost Eden were a perfect opportunity for photographs and the camp fire outside the arena became a welcome addition during the walk back to the tent.

Hats off to the marshal attending the fire, who sweated over it every night, ensuring everybody was safe while they huddled around the flames.

And of course who can forget the headliners?

Going back to Thursday which saw a riff laden headline set from Scottish art rockers Franz Ferdinand with hits such as ‘Take Me Out’, ‘Do You Want To’, and ‘Matinee’ receiving a rapturous reception from the crowd.

The legendary Happy Mondays presented by Amazon Music also appeared – ‘Step On’ being an obvious favourite (a phone call was made to my envious father during this set).

Friday brought the biggest main stage crowd in Kendal Calling history for a rousing set from Stereophonics whose sing along anthems included ‘Dakota’, ‘Maybe Tomorrow’, ‘A Thousand Trees’ and ‘Just Looking’.

Dakota was a brilliant live experience, especially with the finale of the fire display.

Jake Bugg and Kate Nash also impressed, making Friday a good contender for the best day of the festival.

I enjoyed Nash’s older hits more, you just can’t beat ‘Foundations’ and for those of us who have experienced someone unpleasant in life, ‘Dickhead’, was a good song to sing along to.

Welsh rockers Manic Street Preachers belted out their hits on Saturday night after Brian Wilson attracted a huge crowd to see him perform ‘Pet Sounds.’

I am glad I can now say I have seen Brian Wilson live.

The legendary performance saw the former lead singer of the Beach Boys sing classics such as ‘Good Vibrations’ and ‘Good Only Knows.’

Editors and Feeder also performed on the main stage as well as Reverend and the Makers.

Reverend and the Makers were one of my Saturday favourites, it was quite surprising that their set was from 3.15pm-4pm.

But I suppose it is down to personal taste, I do think they should have been on a bit later.

‘Heavyweight Champion of the World’ and ‘He Said He Loved Me’ got the crowd stomping through the mud.

The festival drew to a close on Sunday night with a firework display after Tinie Tempah’s headline set with huge pop hits including ‘Pass Out’ and ‘Written In The Stars’.

However, the rapper was booed by the crowd due to his performance being 30 minutes late. But he did make up for it with an explosive set.

Frank Turner, Slaves and Lethal Bizzle’s energetic performances were also crowd favourites.

Even though the festival prides itself on a unique, intimate experience with the same capacity as last year, sometimes you just can’t fit everything in. For me it was missing out on Pete Salisbury and Nick McCabe, from the The Verve, at Tim Peaks Diner. There was also no chance of getting into the Glow Tent to see DJ Example.

It was a shame Idris Elba cancelled. The Luther actor was going to play a DJ set in the Glow Tent on the Sunday but sources say he pulled out due to filming commitments.

Security, at times, struggled to keep the crowds out as people rushed into the already-packed tent (but this was brought under control).

Kendal Calling isn’t short of a disco from anytime after 11pm, there are DJs at the Carvetti stage, an Indie Disco at Calling Out, DJs at the House Party tent, Chai Wallah and a silent disco in the Woodlands.

Credit to the organisers of Kendal Calling, to all the staff, security, volunteers, artists and marshals for making the 12th festival one to remember.

Kendal Calling will return to the fields for more fun and adventure in 2018, on the usual dates from July 27-30.