Oh, the rain! The warnings were there beforehand but Kendal Calling 2014 rose above the inclement conditions and once again delivered a three (and a half) day celebration of established artists, young up-and-comers, DJs and togetherness that the gathering clouds above couldn't dampen.
Set over a number of stages, all within about five minutes walk of each other, Kendal Calling provides something for everyone. It is almost a perfect festival. A wide range of food and drink stalls, an excellent real ale bar, childrens' workshops and eclectic sideshows. However, the focus really is the music and apart from doom metal, pretty much everything is catered for.
Taking to the main stage on Friday evening was the first of the festivals “big” bands. After a fifty minute delay due to traffic problems,De La Soul, had to do a lot to win over the assembled crowd . Excited chanting of the band's name eventually turned into bored jeers as the minutes ticked by. Expecting the Daisy Age crew of the late 80s and early 90s was perhaps too much to ask; DLS are slick, tight and know exactly how to rock a party. Tracks new and old were delivered with class and conviction and proved that after twenty-five years the old dogs of hip-hop don't need any new tricks. Although we're disappointed at the lack of flat-tops and peace symbols shaved into their hair, they just about did enough to redeem themselves.
In the Calling Out tent (Kendal Calling's showcase of music's bright young things), Catfish & The Bottlemen engaged their audience with an infectious enthusiasm that is charming, inoffensive and tremendous fun. The Welsh quartet have earned the goodwill and attention lauded upon them through tireless gigging and a maturity to their song writing that belies their years. They blast through Rango, Fallout, Cocoon and other favourites and it leaves you dumbfounded that so many good singles have been produced so quickly. A lot of the crowd were already fans and the ones that weren't will be now.
Doves are a band that have, over the years, instilled a justifiable loyalty amongst their fans with a consistent and quality output. Front man Jimi Goodwin's solo performance commanded the Calling Out stage with a beautiful and mesmerising set, full of feeling and emotion. His recent album, 'Odludek', sounds at times like a elegy and at others, as if someone just told a joke at the funeral. This translates well to the live environment and the appreciative audience are happy to laugh along.
Brett Anderson takes to the main stage dressed in a white shirt; a single spotlight picking him out as the porcelain 'The Next Life' leads into what effectively is a Suede greatest hits show.
Ever the showman, Anderson can conjure drama with a flick of an effeminate hand and his stage presence is immense. It's a brave move to throw 'Trash' and 'Animal Nitrate' into the show so early and testament to the strength of the Suede back catalogue that these era-defining anthems can be thrust, like Anderson's hips, upon the festival with such wild abandon.
A master-class of musicianship, song writing and entertainment, the band are all a little greyer, a wee bit more restrained and a soupçon less sexual than in their glory days but the recent single, 'It Starts and Ends With You' meshed well with 'New Generation' from their Dog Man Star opus. Ending the evening with 'Beautiful Ones' encouraged further crowd interaction before an acoustic encore of 'She's In Fashion' and into a rousing finale of 'Stay Together'. Not just a song I suspect, but a fervent desire of the majority of the audience. Magnificent from fragile start to bombastic finish.
Friday evening ended, for a large number of people, with dancing and/or relaxing at the welcoming Chai Wallahs tent. The legendary (if he isn't already, then he's well on his way) Mr Scruff performs a four hour set to round off the day. The early stages consist of self-indulgent, chest-pummelling dub before moving into upbeat breaks and the eclectic buffet of beats to which we've become accustomed. Chai Wallahs can be as lively or as relaxed as you want it to be. Cocktails versus coffee, hay-bale slumming versus hardcore stomping; it's the perfect synthesis of venue and artist and the ideal way to end the evening.
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