Kendal Calling epitomizes what being at a festival is all about

Kendal Calling 2011 review

published: Mon 8th Aug 2011

around the festival site

Friday 29th to Sunday 31st July 2011
Lowther Deer Park, Hackthorpe, East Cumbria, CA10 2HN, England MAP
£95 for weekend with camping - SOLD OUT
daily capacity: 8000
last updated: Tue 12th Jul 2011

When attending so many festivals, it's difficult to ensure that your memories don't blend in to one uncertain recollection. However, it later became clear that Kendal Calling had provided enough fond memories to keep me smiling for years to come. It's difficult to distinguish why some festivals have such a great atmosphere, because try as they might, many of them seem to lack it. More than likely, it's the attention to detail that guarantees a warm atmosphere. Regardless of your age, Kendal offers something to keep everyone content. My regular haunts throughout the weekend included the Riot Jazz Café, The Houseparty and The Real Ale Festival.

around the festival site
Music wise, this year's festival had some heavyweights in store. Chase & Status, The Cribs, and Blondie were certain to set the place alight. Riot Jazz Brass Band were a fitting act to open up the main stage, mass dancing under the beaming sunshine ensued. House of Pain, who are essentially a poor man's Cypress Hill, did manage to bring a huge crowd to life. Although most were waiting for their song 'Jump Around', their stage presence was commendable. Try as I might, I just can't get into Chase & Status. I fully appreciate why they're becoming such a force to be reckoned with, but their music just isn't my cup of tea.

However, 'Blind Faith' seemed to lure me in to their extravagant show. I decided to catch the remainder of Frankie And The Heartstrings's set instead, who were headlining the Calling Out tent. Coming from Sunderland, they're a band that ticks nearly all the right boxes. They're genuine, down to earth lads, they're fellow Sunderland supporters and they dress rather well. Unfortunately, they simply don't have enough good songs. Their single 'That Postcard' sounded great, ensuring the extremely full tent was bouncing. However, by the time they played 'Hunger' I became increasingly bored. Their inoffensive, jovial blend of indie pop is at first endearing, but soon wore a bit thin.

The Houseparty, with its truly unique vibe, was where I spent the rest of my evening. Amongst hearing classics like 'Psyco Killer' and 'Teenage Kicks', my new favourite Manchester band took the stage. Unsigned act, Where's Strutter? had a full tent of people singing along to songs they'd never heard before, something that cannot be ignored. Having recently discovered the band at two festivals prior to this one, I was elated to think that I'd latched on to something special before it was exposed to the masses. After crowd surfing, surviving an intimate mosh pit and ensuring that every single punter was clapping along to 'Winterford Road', they left the stage to a wave of compliments.

Saturday presented me with an extremely exciting prospect, seeing The La's live in concert. Granted, it wouldn't be the full line up, but it had great potential. I returned, once again, to a relatively full Houseparty tent. It hadn't been announced anywhere in the line-up, meaning word of mouth alone had brought a couple hundred or so people here. I was in eager anticipation of seeing one of my all-time musical heroes, Lee Mavers. Granted, he's practically been in hiding for twenty years, but he's written some truly magnificent songs.

They're raw, soulful and quite simply as good as anything that's ever been written. The mythologizing that surrounds The La's is borderline ridiculous; Mavers is a legendary lost figure who allegedly has hundreds of unheard gems up his sleeve. Although the extremely short set didn't include any of these elusive new tracks, hearing the Liverpudlian - song writing genius sing Feelin', There She Goes, Timeless Melody, Failure was dreamlike. I was almost pinching myself, unsure whether it was actually happening. I was far too young to see The La's the first time round and was in absolute awe as I stood a metre away from the intimate stage, singing every word. A seven minute rendition of Looking Glass was heart-warming, easily one of the best things I've seen at a festival.

Elsewhere, The Minx and Little Barrie were extremely well received in the Calling Out tent, while Alice Gold was the main stage's big talking point. The Cribs began their headline slot with well-known anthems 'Cheat On Me' and 'I'm A Realist', fiery upbeat numbers that elated a huge crowd. However, certain misguided members of the crowd seemed disappointed to learn that Jonny Marr was no longer in the band. Keep with the programme, folks. 'Be Safe', complete with a backing video of Lee Ronaldo's speech, felt like it had been written specifically for Kendal Calling. Ending with 'Men's Needs' and 'City Of Bugs', anyone doubting the Wakefield band's ability to hold their own on such a large platform would be an utter fool.

More often than not, it's the music alone that keeps you going on the Sunday of a festival. Fortunately, the line-up was awash with some fantastic acts. Having been brought up on bands like The Stranglers, I was extremely pleased have stumbled upon a solid set by Hugh Cornwell, who undoubtedly still has a lot to offer. Although he remains bemused why festivals are so popular in our predominantly wet country, his renditions of 'Golden Brown', 'Peaches' and 'No More Heroes' were superb. His voice remains to be a force to be reckoned with, showing his younger counterparts precisely how it's done.

The Lancashire Hotpots are the perfect festival band for a Sunday, as I've already discovered this summer. Regardless of whether you're tired, hung-over or absolutely hammered, their hilarious, eccentric set will almost certainly cheer you up. Unfortunately, during an excellent rendition of 'Chippy Tea', I was forced to leg it back to the Calling Out tent. Unbelievably, The La's had taken the stage again. Lee Mavers and bassist Gary Murphy played the debut album almost in its entirety, as well as phenomenal renderings of 'Knock Me Down' and 'Calling All'. Lee's voice sounded as fresh as it did in the early nineties, which brought a considerably larger crowd together in a state of pure elation.

Mavers even had a quick bash on the drums, complete with a beaming smile across his face. I managed to have a quick chat with Gary, who had revelled in the two secret shows. He said; "Everyone knows how many good songs there are, hopefully we'll get them down and get them out there. I'm buzzing, Lee's buzzing. I've known Lee for twelve years, we play together all the time and we can't sit around the table any longer. There are no labels involved; it's just me and Lee. But we've got a few gigs confirmed and it's all very positive at the moment."

around the festival site
Perhaps the weekend's largest crowd saw Blondie open her set with classics like 'Union', 'Dreaming' and 'Atomic'. In fact, nearly everything she played was, in its own right, a classic. Debbie may be getting on a bit, to put it loosely, but she's still got bags of charisma. If only a selection of today's female pop stars had been in the audience, they may well have been hit with the grim realisation that they aren't even in comparison to Debbie Harry. I'll mention no names, but you get my drift.

In terms of closing the festival, there was quite literally one man for the job. Describing it as his 'home town festival', Craig Charles tore the roof of the Kaylied Stage. As the weekend's music came to an end, a two hour DJ set filled with funk and soul classics was the perfect night cap for the thousands who crammed into tent. He may have rebelled from it in his youth, preferring to listen to Led Zepplin, but Craig Charles is now a firm ambassador of funk and soul.

It's beautiful, picturesque surroundings are the perfect match for such a festival. In many ways, Kendal Calling epitomizes what being at a festival is all about. Which is why, like many others, I'll be making it one of next summer's main priorities.
review by: Joe Martin

photos by: Joe Martin

Friday 29th to Sunday 31st July 2011
Lowther Deer Park, Hackthorpe, East Cumbria, CA10 2HN, England MAP
£95 for weekend with camping - SOLD OUT
daily capacity: 8000
last updated: Tue 12th Jul 2011


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