Kendal Calling shows why it's one of the UK's best loved mid-sized music festivals

Kendal Calling 2015 review

By Katy Blackwood | Published: Thu 6th Aug 2015

Soul II Soul

Thursday 30th July to Sunday 2nd August 2015
Lowther Deer Park, Hackthorpe, Cumbria, CA10 2HN, England MAP
£135 for weekend - SOLD OUT
Daily capacity: 18,000
Last updated: Mon 6th Jul 2015

The first full day of music and live entertainment at Kendal Calling 2015 commenced under gloomy skies, a splash of rain here and there, the fields muddying at an early stage. The worst of the weather would hold out for the day, though, and the festival-goers were even furnished with some sun in to the afternoon.

As with each of the three main days, the music started at midday on a number of stages, and continued right through until 3AM at tents such as Chai Wallahs, a laid-back, sleek party tent with lots of brass, a more civilised - but still rocking - alternative to the night-club atmosphere of the nearby Glow tent.

One of the earliest stand-out bands were Man Made, a jangly indie-pop group fronted by Johnny Marr's son Nile in a glam-tastic sparkly suit. Their dreamy sound was only caught by a sparse crowd, owing no doubt to the time, but those that were there caught a band ready-made for a meteoric rise.

around the festival site: Kendal Calling 2015

But the main stage, understandably, drew the biggest early crowds. Murmurings had begun around the arena of a fatality overnight, which was later confirmed on both national news sites and the big screens on-site. The death related to a cocktail of drugs, and particularly an Adidas-branded green pill; searches had been commonplace going into the main arena, but the casualty had occurred in the camping fields. A number of others were admitted to hospital but, thankfully, recovered.

Fuse ODG took to the main stage as the news spread, bringing his Afrobeat sound to Lowther Deer Park and - after the flaccid set by James the night before - getting the festival going properly. With an eye-catching jacket, lots of crowd interaction, and a lively set, he worked through his own hits and party favourites.

Fuse ODG: Kendal Calling 2015

Following Fuse was Soul II Soul, the veteran soul and R&B outfit whose 1989 hit "Back to Life" is still heard regularly on the radio today. Far from a cash-in booking, the current line-up - with key founding members Jazzy B and Caron Wheeler still intact - have still got everything that made them such a huge act some twenty-five years ago. Of all of the older bands to play at Kendal this year, they proved one of the best - and the sun came out for the occasion.

Meanwhile, over at Calling Out, exciting new band after exciting new band was taking to the Kendal Calling stage. Two particularly stand-outs were Sunderland's Hyde & Beast (with a member of The Futureheads, Dave Hyde, as part of the line-up) and upcoming alt talents Flyte,. The latter played a jaunty set, full of cohesion, playing closely together and bringing a penchant for a catchy tune. They're one to look out for, as were many of the bands to play the stage over the weekend.

Augustines: Kendal Calling 2015

Augustines returned for the second consecutive year on the main stage as the crowds began to truly swell, and the drinking contingent began to get somewhat merry. The three-piece New Yorkers are well-known for their intense involvement with the audience, and while they didn't enter the crowd this time, they did bring a rock sound that went down a storm and demonstrated why they were asked back so soon.

The 6PM slot at Kendal Calling was a packed one, with Temples, Blossoms, and Walking on Cars all vying for the attentions of the music-loving masses. I plumped for the last of the three, an Irish indie-pop act with major label backing and regular support slots on major tours for bands such as The Kooks. They're glossy and sleek, which isn't for everyone, but their poppy indie is ready-made for festival audiences, and since my last sight of them last year they've grown as an on-stage presence. They're one to watch, although their label will want bigger results soon.

Grandmaster Flash: Kendal Calling 2015

The real draw into the early evening was Grandmaster Flash, the legendary hip-hop artist and DJ, who played a set in the Glow tent. Completely packed out in the dark - to the point that you could easily forget it was broad daylight outside - he took to the stage for a set that went down well with the crowds, but proved tepid by every other measure, limiting his dialogue to repeating "put your hands up" and chopping from track to track without much skill or tune. As a show it was one of the weekend's most disappointing moments, although the inebriated masses assembled in the tent didn't care at all.

Following Grandmaster Flash it was time for Kate Tempest, one of the day's main highlights at Calling Out. The likeable poet-turned-rapper drew a strong assembly of press representatives, and even performed through her lengthy soundcheck to the appreciation of a large audience. She'd performed poetry at the festival previously, but this year was back in full musical flow, and her set will live long in the memory.

The day's headliners were The Vaccines, the West London indie rock band whose third album English Graffiti was unveiled in May. They've opened for bands such as Muse and The Rolling Stones, as well as touring extensively in their own right. Their arrival on-stage was a little bit late (thanks mainly due to delays with other acts earlier in the day), but the crowds - and particularly the merchandise-wearing super-fans in the front rows - were more than happy to wait.

The Vaccines: Kendal Calling 2015

The set proved to be solid, if not spectacular, as they worked through both their latest album and older favourites such as "Norgaard" and "If You Wanna" quickly, closing their set with a shower of confetti that lingered on the ground for the rest of the weekend. Most importantly, the crowds loved it, and went back to their tents happy. It capped off a successful first day, with the main acts mostly delivering to expectations, and demonstrating exactly why Kendal Calling is one of the UK's best loved mid-sized music festivals.

review by: Katy Blackwood

photos by: Katy Blackwood / Nick Wesson

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