Kendal Calling began 17 years ago as a 900-capacity event in the grounds of Kendal Castle and has blossomed into the Norths finest festival. Now located in the beautiful hills of Lowther Deer Park the four-day bonanza is sold out with 40,000 festival goers. Just like all great festivals, Kendal Calling isn’t just about the music.
Despite the ominous weather forecasts, the blissfully sunny Friday morning sees us imbibe a delicious coffee at Tim Peak’s Diner (the beloved brainchild of Absolute Radio’s very own Tim Burgess), take a wander through the magical wooded area of Lost Eden, and pay a visit to Kids Calling with its inflatable slides, bouncy castles, crafts and activities for the young ones.
If it takes your fancy, there are also cinema screenings from the morning until the early hours, an Oktoberfest beer tent, and a smorgasbord of other attractions, delights and stages throughout the site.
The sun was shining as We Are Scientists delivered an indie masterclass on the Main Stage with anthems like ‘The Great Escape’ and ‘Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt’. Next up was Melanie C and while there was a lot of excitement for and ex Spice Girl being in the lakes she warbled her way through a few Spice songs and 90s covers but I had very little interest in this so I happily trudged off up the hill in search of a warm red wine and sustenance which would guarantee me heartburn.
On my way to a churros box I happened upon a Bavarian Oompah Band playing the new Ocktoberfest tent so spent the next half hour bouncing about with a drunk group wearing visors along to many classics including their rendition of the Abba Mega Mix, and let’s face it that’s the Holy Grail of entertainment when you’re day drinking in a field in wellies.
Next up was Mr Elliott Gleave aka Example who delivered an utterly unapologetic bonkers set with all his major hits including ‘Changed the Way You Kiss Me’ Kickstarts ‘Stay Awake’ delivered over various quips about the diabolical traffic from London up the M6.
His DJ expertly mixed samples between tracks made sure the crowd didn’t have a minute to catch breath between bobbing and pint throwing. Example has always been a bit of guilty pleasure for me and he didn’t disappoint.
As with all festival line ups, there’s a bit of something for everyone but not everything will be loved by everyone, which was summed up perfectly by two brave die hard Lathums fans sporting the bands t shirts clinging to the barrier front and centre eagerly awaiting the Lathums being the next band on the bill.
Even Example clocked this legendary pair and commented they were not here for him. While they managed to cling on despite the riotous crowd after the set they resembled shell shocked soldiers who had just returned from the Vietnam war while the rest of the main stage massive had clearly just had a blinding last hour.
Next up was Wigans finest Lathums. This was their second performance of the day having done a previous (not so) secret lunch time Tim Peaks set which was recorded live and mixed the same weekend and pressed to a limited run of 200 vinyl .This was sold on the Sunday to a queue stretching for miles and easily doubling the length of the ever popular Yorkshire Pudding Wrap stall which had a line the entire weekend the same length as the queue for Tate That at Whitley Bay Ice Rink in the early 90s.
Warming up the main stage for the Friday evening ahead, relative new comers compared so some old timers on the bill, drew a huge crowd. Their ever-gaining popularity has soared throughout the summer with a massive sold-out 8000 capacity show at Castlefield Bowl and Glasto set. With two U.K. top 10 albums under their belt and clear personal connection to their North West roots Lathums are the band to watch as the next huge UK act.
The couple at the front found their gritty survival tactics played off and had the perfect views for ‘Fight On’ ‘Sad Face Baby’ ‘I’ll Get By’, ‘Struggle’ and ‘Say My Name’ Main Stage Friday headliners were Leicester’s prodigal sons Kasabian who were clearly doing fine without the swagger of former vocalist Tom Meighan, as the legendary Serge Pizzorno pulsated energy from opener ‘Club Foot’ as he bounced about every inch of the stage.
The Music’s Rob Harvey is also a vital addition to their touring line-up, providing musical muscle and seamless harmonies that complement Serge’s gritty vocals perfectly. Hits were aplenty from ‘Shoot The Runner’ to the euphoric ‘L.S.F. (Lost Souls Forever)’ by the time they reach the crowd pleaser karaoke closer ‘Fire’, it’s clear that Kasabian are still a musical powerhouse. Lastly on the KC2023 to do was Cassia. Who thanks to a last minute slot change were bumped to headline the Calling Out stage.
Despite the ever-gathering rain clouds the band delivered a set of sunshine feel good hits including “Slow”, “Motions” and “Right There” to an eager and appreciative crowd. It was a tough slot to take on going against the main stage mammoth headliners Kasabian but the Macclesfield band filled the new bands tent with fans both old and new.
The night ended with me being serenaded to sleep by a ketamine fuelled karaoke show being staged by the inhabitants of the tent just behind ours. I was treated to everything from Scooter to the theme tune from Minder in an inglorious mash up of bangers being belted out into the dark. So it was time for ear plugs and some shut eye before doing it all again tomorrow.
SATURDAY Saturday saw an early set from the Kendal favourites the Lottery Winners to get the crowd suitably geared up for the days musical treat ahead with Frank Turner joining them on stage for their collaboration “Letter To Myself” much to the delight of fans. The set was a try triumph for the band having previous worked their way up through the billing on smaller stages of the last decade definitively proving main stage is where they belong.
Looking every bit the showman in his salmon pink suit, Rick Astley proved he is eternally entertaining, with jokes about the him being ‘my face on your Mums CD’s’ and promising he will get to the only song people care about at the end of the set. He lapped up the attention and interaction from the huge crowd pleaser as he effortlessly covered Harry Styles’ ‘As It Was’ and got on the drum kit for AC/DC’s ‘Highway To Hell’. The show ended naturally, with his seminal anthem ‘Never Gonna Give You Up.’
Then, it was a quick dash over to Parklands to catch the end of Frank Turner’s truly electrifying live set which included a heartfelt tribute to fellow musician Frightened Rabbits Scot Hutchinson. Frank was on form and the intimate surrounding of the tent made the performance all the more special.
The night ended with Stockport finest Blossoms giving an exceptional Saturday night main stage headline performance complete with a personal introduction from the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham. The band were celebrating their 10 year anniversary of forming and 8 years since their first Kendal Calling slot. Blossoms perfectly performed tune after tune from opener ‘Your Girlfriend’ right through to closer ‘Charlemagne’ featuring Rick Astley on drums.
The wind and rain eventually came and made it feel like a proper UK summer festival but it didn’t dappen Sundays opener comedy folk band The Lancashire Hotpots singing songs about chippy teas and mobility scooters and had the crowds faces shinning even when the weather wasn’t. With waterproofs on and hoods up the rain came down heavier so the next stop was a dryer tent to see Brit actor Paddy Considine’s enigmatic performance with his band Riding The Low.
A genuinely memorising front man with a huge stage presence but on the screen and on the stage. Riding The Low have been active since 2006 so while this might be the actors side project he’s clearly a man serious about his music and performance.
Tents were a clear popular choice on the Sunday, the Parkland tent was positivity euphoric to the sounds of the exceptionally talented Riot Jazz . After that’s we found our way to the local bands tent Yam Riot for the BBC introducing Cumbria line-up. Admittedly it was a complete ball ache to find as it was hidden at the edge of the field behind a load of barriers whose job seems to be protecting trees.
Now I’m all for saving the trees from being pissed on by cider fuels louts unable to walk 20 meters to millions of toilets on site but maybe a bit more signage would have helped? By pure chance we caught Springfield who delivered a blinding set but without any listings for Yam Riot appearing on other of the published material I’m surprised anyone made it there at all.
Out last stop of the day was Tim Peaks for the mighty Déjà Vega who not only hosted an album Listening party but also a fabulously feral set. Previously performances at Tim Peaks have gained the band a loyal following at KC but It is time for Déjà Vega to be promoted from the best kept secret category to bigger stages.
Overall the festival was a resounding success, running smoothly throughout and the little bit of weather never ruined anyone enjoyment. The overall atmosphere was one of only good vibes, from families to teens going nuts to Professor Green to the Mums who still thought Rick Astley was still a bit of alright…. Kendal really does have something for everyone with the hugely diverse audience reflecting that.
So until next year Kendal Calling and will see you ‘In the Fields’ in 2024
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