Thursday evening at Kendal Calling was slightly delayed due to a rather impressive lightning show rolling over from the Lakeland fells, meaning campers were confined to their tents for a while. By the time I headed into the arena, the crowd were just gathering for 1998 Mercury prize winners, Gomez.
Photo - Jody Hartley
The set was reasonably well received, but it was a strange affair, with the crowd not particularly warmed up and guitarist Ian Ball looking like he wasn’t particularly impressed with their efforts. It was more like a mid-afternoon set in a lot of ways, but vocalist and guitarist Tom Gray did his best to whip up the crowd, and by the time the band reached their finale of ‘Whippin’ Picadilly’, it finally felt like we were underway.
Photo - Jody Hartley
Having seen Orbital play Glastonbury 20 years ago, I was intrigued to see whether they could still work a crowd. Yes. Yes they could. They had no trouble warming up their audience, and delivered a barnstorming set, ‘Satan’ in particular had the crowd bouncing in the drizzle with another impressive lightshow (this time provided by the lights rather than the sky) and incredible visuals, whilst the mix of ‘Halcyon’ and Belinda Carlisle, really made you believe that Heaven is a Place in Northern Cumbria (I’m not even sorry for that). It’s testament to both the mix of the crowd at Kendal Calling and Orbital’s prowess, that a main stage festival audience can be so entranced by such an act; from teenagers to middle aged Rock dads, we were as one.
Photo - George Harrison
I’ve not really listened to Beans On Toast before, but I know I’m going to now, after witnessing Friday’s set. Cut from the same cloth as the likes of Frank Turner and Billy Bragg, Braintree’s Jay McAllister delivers Folk with a conscience. Covering topics such as wealth redistribution, immigration and the way in which we treat our planet (and festival sites), Beans absolutely encapsulates the traditional festival spirit of togetherness. With not much more than his guitar and accompanying keyboards, which could appear dwarfed by the mainstage, Jay delivered razor sharp lyrics and a message that had the audience eating out of his hand.
Next up, I took a trip over to the Tim Peakes Diner, which is essentially a wooden lodge serving coffee, with a tiny stage in the corner, curated by Charlatans frontman, Tim Burgess. The room was packed to bursting for Mark Radcliffe’s UNE, an Electronic duo consisting of broadcaster Mark Radcliffe, and Paul Langley. Psychedelic electro beats with Mark Radcliffe’s deadpan vocal delivery sounds pretty strange and, in a lot of ways it was, but absolutely beautiful at the same time. The duo are gradually starting to build up a following with live dates which seem to have been around the North West, before they release their debut album, ‘Lost’ next month. The marvellously atmospheric cover of ‘Space Oddity’ was perhaps an obvious highlight, but the whole set had a hot and sweaty crowd completely enchanted.
The Woodlands is a delightful little stage, surrounded by trees (I suppose that’s how it gets its name) and provided an intimate setting for the large crowd that gathered to see Indie popsters Lottery Winners. Lead singer Thom Rylance has an endearing quality and worked the stage impeccably, it’s easy to see why they’ve developed quite the following in the North West. The band’s debut single from 2013, ‘Elizabeth’ went down particularly well, complete with crowd surfer (whose welfare Thom checked on afterwards, bless) and they will have won yet more fans with a great performance.
Photo - Paul Whiteley
Reverend and The Makers may have been going for twelve years, which makes me feel incredibly old, but despite not having had much success in the singles chart for about ten years, they continue to gain fans, judging by some of the fresh faces in the audience. Lead singer, John McClure expressed surprise at how well The Makers have gone down at this year’s festivals, but it’s not difficult to see why this is. They have produced some amazing singles, arguably the most successful of which being ‘Heavyweight Champion Of The World’, which got a mid-set airing, and smashed it out of the park with the last two songs (‘He Said He Loved Me’ and ‘Silence Is Talking’). I took a stroll back to the tent after their set, and could still hear punters belting out the trumpet riff (borrowed from Low Rider’s ‘War’) half an hour later.
Back to the Woodlands Stage for the ever amazing grunge rock outfit Hands Off Gretel. Lead singer, Lauren Tate has recently expressed her frustration (to put it mildly) at the inappropriate behaviour of some male gig goers and men commenting on the looks of the band, rather than their music. Tate has even referred to men telling her to put her guitar down, something she alluded to as she picked up the guitar early in the set. After this showing though, the music must surely be the only thing that punters were talking about, as the relatively small but perfectly formed audience were treated to a set comprising of tracks from this year’s ‘I Want The World’ and 2016’s ‘Burn The Beauty Queen’ albums- ‘Milk’ and ‘It’s My Fault’ standing out particularly well. This is beautifully angry music with a message, delivered with conviction from the four piece South Yorkshire outfit, and the audience were totally sold- including two toddlers throwing horns in the air. If they have role models like Lauren Tate to inspire them, then they’ll go on to great things.
I got the chance to chat with Manchester Post-Punk trio Liines before their set on the Tim Peakes stage (interview incoming to 3 Songs & Out once it’s been written up) and they promised a “loud and intense” performance. The band seem to be enjoying an incredibly busy summer, following their Sleaford Mods support gigs earlier in the year, and have been building their fanbase through festival slots at Manchester International, Bluedot, Kendal Calling and Indietracks. Their 2018 album ‘Stop-Start’ is the real deal, delivering powerful yet sharp rhythms whilst singer, Zoe McVeigh’s almost Karen O-esque vocals make sure that tracks like ‘Disappear’, ‘Be There’ and the heart breaking ‘Never There’ are going to win them plenty more friends over the coming years.
Photo - Jody Hartley
Finally, it was a short trip back the main stage, to see the evening’s headliners. I’d noticed an increasing number of festival goers wearing disco Afro wigs over the course of the day, and it was no surprise to see them in abundance for the final set of the day from Nile Rodgers and Chic. Now I’ll be honest and say that this wasn’t on my ‘must see’ list, as I’m not the world’s greatest lover of Disco, but it would have taken an incredibly hard hearted and cynical person not to be moved to dance by this greatest hits set. Mr Rodgers clearly loves to namecheck all the people he’s worked with, but I think it’s fair to say that he’s earned the right- and the set largely comprised of covers of songs he’s produced. Seriously, every song he played was an absolute banger, and I’m struggling to think of standout tracks without listing the whole set- but the Bowie covers (‘Modern Love’ and Let’s Dance’) were terrific, and Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’ was a sure-fire crowd pleaser. Throw in Duran Duran, Madonna, Sister Sledge and Diana Ross tracks, and you’ve got yourself a headline worthy set. Finish off with a mash up of ‘Good Times’ and ‘Rapper’s Delight’, and I’m totally converted, even if I may hold off on buying a pink disco wig just for now.
Review - Jon Stokes