Snoop Dogg made it all good in the hood, as Kendal Calling 2015 is an undoubted success

Kendal Calling 2015 review

published: Thu 6th Aug 2015

Snoop Dogg

Thursday 30th July to Sunday 2nd August 2015
Lowther Deer Park, Hackthorpe, Cumbria, CA10 2HN, England MAP
£135 for weekend - SOLD OUT
daily capacity: 18000
last updated: Mon 6th Jul 2015

In many ways, Saturday was probably designed to be the highlight day of Kendal Calling. It featured the biggest DJ sets, the most promising upcoming bands, and a lot of the on-site activities. But for many, Sunday would be the day, not least because Snoop Dogg - yes, Snoop Dogg - would be visiting the Lake District. It was such a surprise that, when it was announced, it trended nationally on Facebook.

There'd be a lot of music before Snoop, though. The day got off to a quiet set, with the The Everley Pregnant Brothers on the main stage, a dreadful comedy covers band playing music similar in style to The Lancashire Hotpots, only without any of their redeeming features and charm. (The Hotpots themselves played in the Woodlands later in the day to huge crowds.)

Propellers: Kendal Calling 2015

Calling Out proved a much better place to be early on. First up were Propellers, an exciting indie-rock. With a proper frontman in Max Davenport, they were one of the best up-and-coming bands on show over the course of the weekend - so it's a shame that, much like Man Made on the Friday, they played to such a small crowd. For all of Calling Out's strong bookings over the course of its three days, the scheduling often left something to be desired, as they would have rocked the tent at any other time.

Grant Nicholas was the second artist to take to the main stage, to questions of "Who?" from the uninitiated. Grant is, in fact, the frontman of Feeder - but those seeing him for that fact would be left disappointed. His solo work is forgettable, and he lacked much in the way of enthusiasm or energy, looking a tired presence on-stage.

Billy Bragg: Deer Shed Festival 2015

At least you know what you're going to get with Billy Bragg. And that, in these strange times, is reassuring. Does 3pm on a Sunday at Kendal Calling equate to the Legend slot at Glastonbury? It should do, because he is. An easy Essex charm has the crowd eating from his hand and it isn't long before he turns his between song chat to talk some politics; this time to laud Jeremy Corbyn and his march towards the Labour leadership. In an era when politics seems less and less obvious in popular music, it's wonderful to see a festival crowd react positively to his hope of a better way.

Although the fire is still there, there's a more personally contemplative side to Bragg these days, evidenced in 'Handyman Blues', a touching ode to being useless at DIY but being good at writing songs. Touching and humorous it leads into a rousing finale of 'New England' before he exits.

Less Than Jake, strangely, for one of the better and more long-lasting ska-punk from America start off playing to a smallish audience on the main-stage. This doesn't last long as their jack-in-a-box frenzy is charismatic and infectious as they command pogoing and dancing from everyone in earshot.

Old favourite 'Johnny Quest Thinks We're Sellouts' has the fans, and everyone else, in rapture and one young man's topless abandon has him summoned to the stage to work his moves on 'Gainesville Rock City'. Incredible in both energy, enthusiasm and proficiency, they're one of the highlights of the festival.

Black Honey: Kendal Calling 2015

Black Honey are in the Calling Out tent, playing to a disappointingly small crowd. They deserve better but don't let it worry them. Full-on rock-out angsty indie-pop with the most photogenic lead singer to have hit the scene in years. She pouts and she snarls and looks vulnerable in turn and they have the tunes to match with a lead guitarist who gets into the spirit with spaz-out aplenty. These deserve to be massive and it was a treat to see them in such an intimate atmosphere.

A quick jog down to the House Party stage to see just one song of actor Paddy Considine's indie-rock band Riding the Low makes me want to stay and see what looks as if it will be an accomplished performance.

However, back on the main stage, Embrace are up in the slot that appears to have been designed to cater to an older crowd (given that Super Furry Animals and Levellers filled it on the two days before). Never especially beloved at the height of their powers, they prove an especially strange booking after the energy of Less Than Jake. Their performance did exceed expectations, and the crowd didn't revolt, but between pop-punk and the festival's most anticipated act they did not belong.

Time to get to the main-stage to see if the enigmatic Snoop Dogg would make it to perform. Rumours abounded throughout the weekend...he was arrested in Sweden...he'd been nabbed by customs in Italy...he'd cancelled and was being replaced by Lionel Richie...and yet, really, there was never any doubt.

 Snoop Dogg: Kendal Calling 2015

After a delayed start, he bounced out to the familiar strains of 'California Love' by 2Pac before launching into a rapturously received 'Next Episode' which ended with the gleeful screaming of: “Smoke weed everyday.” by a largely beery throng.

Playing what appeared to be a greatest hits set featuring 'Gin and Juice', 'Drop it Like it's Hot' and interspersed with cover versions of House of Pain's 'Jump Around' and some cheesy pantomime style crowd participation, there's a more than tangible sense that he's phoning it in for an easy payday but such is Snoop's lazy drawl and charismatic presence that it hardly matters. When he shouts: “Kendal, what's my motherfucking name?” There are few present that don't know and not many more that don't know the chorus.

There were some grumbles that his potty-mouthed, cannabis promoting and sexist posturing wasn't really suitable for a festival with a large number of children present but there's a reason his records have parental advisory stickers on them. They could have always been dragged off to see Emmy the Great in the Calling Out tent.

Triumphantly closing with a nod to his Snoop Lion alterego, there's a waffle and a strut through a cover of Bob Marley's 'Jammin'' and then he's gone. Probably to smoke a massive joint in the woods; or get arrested by Cumbria Police.

Kaiser Chiefs: Kendal Calling 2015

All that was left for the main stage now is the Kaiser Chiefs, the headliners for the day in timings, if not by expectations. But Ricky Wilson and the band proved excellent value and - after an, at times, average day of live music - kicked up a storm to close Kendal Calling for 2015 in style. Playing through their hits and getting involved with the crowd for second track "Everything is Average Nowadays", the crowd loved everything about them - and while their best days are behind them, they're still an essential festival band.

The fireworks at the end of the Kaiser's set signalled the end of the main stage for this year, although not for the entire festival as a whole.  Groove Armada (DJ set) played late into the night at the Glow tent, with far more aplomb than Grandmaster Flash on Friday, while The Sunshine Underground made a late start to close out the Woodlands stage. Their electro-indie sound was a party in itself.

Kendal Calling 2015 was an undoubted success, with headliners that delivered and so many great new bands to see at Calling Out. The supporting tents, the stalls and the arts around the site also all receive the thumbs-up, and while there were hitches and pockets of bad news - not least the headline of a death on-site - this continues to be a festival in the ascendancy, and a serious alternative to its larger northern rivals.


review by: Katy Blackwood / Nick Wesson

photos by: Katy Blackwood / Nick Wesson

Thursday 30th July to Sunday 2nd August 2015
Lowther Deer Park, Hackthorpe, Cumbria, CA10 2HN, England MAP
£135 for weekend - SOLD OUT
daily capacity: 18000
last updated: Mon 6th Jul 2015


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