The rain didn't let up through the night and after some brief respite in the morning, the heavens opened again at 1pm as The Heavy lit up the arena. A decent sized throng of weather enthusiasts watched on eagerly from in front of the stage as the rest of us hid under ponchos, trees and umbrellas. A great shame as The Heavy are one of the UK's shiny little gems. Sassy guitar and brassy funk grooves that, had the sun been shining, should have had the whole field dancing. Vocalist, Kelvin Swaby pandered to the crowd with a bit of the old right-side / left-side game, in an attempt to raise their spirits and the soundtrack to just about every beer advert ever, 'How You Like Me Now?' got the best reaction.
The theme of this year's Kendal Calling was 'Space' and an array of aliens, sci-fi costumes and silver wigs were in evidence around the festival site. A world record attempt at the world's largest moonwalk took place in the Glow Tent and over seven hundred dancers showed off their “talent” as Billie Jean played in the background.
Local lads Aquilo are generating a buzz at the moment and their fresh-faced dreamy electro-pop certainly pulled the punters in. The tent filled up exponentially during their thirty minute workout. The influences are easily referenced; London Grammar, The XX and oh, god...Coldplay. But, there's an innocence and a calm confidence that isn't in any way overwrought. Ones to watch, most definitely.
Red-headed troubadour, Newton Faulkner is a pretty amazing artist to be honest. He looks like he's just rolled up from a lost weekend at Stonehenge but his guitar skills are nothing short of mesmerising. He isn't at the height of fame that he was a few years ago but his enthusiasm hasn't diminished and the crowd were receptive and warm, singing along in all the right places. Sometimes, when you're soaked to the bone, you need something familiar to give you a warm musical cuddle. Faulkner has the arms for it.
Bella Union signings, Lanterns on the Lake on the Calling Out stage were a revelation. The Tyneside five-piece play delicate, subtle post-rock that regularly breaks free from its shackles and soars. Recent single, 'Another English Town' is austere, bleak and powerful. Their latest album, 'Until the Colours Run' was, according to the band, influenced by the current socio-political climate. If we are all in it together, then I'm glad this band is there with us.
Athlete try, bless them. They're actually a good band but they always inhabited that beige zone somewhere between Muse and Coldplay and, you know, they did that 'Wires' song. You probably had that on your coffee table to show a girl how sensitive you are and how caring you would be if she ended up in hospital. It really is a shame because they're excellent at what they do. Unfortunately, someone had created a mud slide on the slope towards the back of the arena and half the crowd found that more interesting. The band even dedicated a portion of their stage time to cheerleading the mud-caked “Ryan” as he went for another dirty swallow-dive of glory.
Oh, Johnny Borrell. Why do people hate you so? There's nothing inherently bad about Razorlight. They're the sound of summer 2006 and they have tunes. Perhaps it's the arrogance that JB exudes that people bristle against? Speaking of bristles; just look at that beard. Anyone would be arrogant with a chin-rug like that. But maybe, in 2014, we don't like snotty brattishness any more. We like self-deprecating, self-effacing souls. The world has moved on.
Nevertheless, Razorlight split the crowd. After an early strop over a faulty guitar and the petulant disposal of sunglasses, they play the hits and they have people singing along happily. It's stopped raining. Someone throws a bottle of piss. Standard.
Good grief. What's this? The Mispers look like the bastard offspring of Dexy's Midnight Runners and Adam & The Ants but sound nothing like either. “Do you like my outfit?” Says front man Jack Balfour Scott. Not really, but your band sounds ace. They're so cool, you can smell Hoxton on them like a cheap perfume and their staccato, violin-backed indie is a treat indeed. Heads up for this lot. They're coming for you and they'll be wearing dungarees.
What is there to say about Happy Mondays? They're national treasures, aren't they? Their ubiquitous appearances on the festival circuit over the last couple of years have enabled Madchester bores to dad-dance their way back to their youth, when they wore floppy hats and took copious amounts of the same drugs they tell their kids to stay away from now. Their kids watch and just think, “Who's that turtle-looking bloke waving maracas? I've seen him in my nightmares but never thought he could be real.”
That bloke is Bez and he's made from elastic. He enters, stage-right, to a hero's welcome, shouts something indecipherable about “revolution” and he's on one, mate. Never far from the front of the stage, he hogs the limelight as Shaun Ryder loiters near the drum kit. He's alright, Shaun. He looks well and he looks comfortable and he stays in tune. Rowetta holds everything together with perfect backups.
Again, it's a retrospective set and they're giving the people what they want. 'Step On' , '24 Hour Party People' and an encore of 'Wrote for Luck'. Good stuff.
Frank Turner has a certain aura. Saturday's headline act on the main stage has turned himself into the consummate rock professional, recently selling out London's O2 to twenty-thousand fans. This, to be honest, sits at odds with his hardcore punk background. The back room gigs in which he learned his craft aren't known for their showmanship; more often than not, it's all earnest preaching about unity and railing against society. Turner has taken those well-meaning but dour roots and channelled them into a glitzy mirror-balled, Hollywood, stylised variation of punk. The crowd love him and from the first song they're in the palm of his hand and, curse him, he knows it.
He praises them for their support. He swears a lot. “You're the best fucking festival crowd this year.” Of course they are. And cynically, so were all the others. Probably. It's what they want to hear though and it's this inclusiveness that is the winning formula. Somewhere, an internet forum is imploding under the strain of Turner superfans arguing over who shouted along to 'I Still Believe' with the most vigour until Site Admin tells them: “You all did.”
It's this duplicity that confuses a little. Is he lying? He's so nice. He couldn't be lying. And that's the thing; he's distilled all the awesome from a punk rock show; the togetherness, the fighting against the man, the “us versus the world” mentality and given it to everyone! Clever, Frank. Clever. He's turned it outside in and the results are undeniably impressive.
There is energy in abundance, the musicianship is polished to an almost studied ruggedness and the choruses are big. Very big. Arena sized choruses that can accommodate thousands of disenfranchised kids. It's hard to find anything wrong with that, I suppose.
Up at Chai Wallahs, the evening is rounded off by Leicester upstarts By The Rivers. Hang on, how old are these guys? There is a level of proficiency and maturity that is truly remarkable. The tent is packed and justifiably so. It's difficult to enthuse enough over their talent so go and see them for yourselves. What you'll get is energetic and powerful reggae; proper stuff like there used to be and it's a sublime way to end the night.
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