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Kendall Calling 2023 Review

Kendal Calling, we came, we got wet, we got tanned, there was mud, we struggled to get in, we struggled to get out but we saw some amazing bands, heard some great comedians, ate fantastic food and drank some of Lancaster Brewery’s amazing beer. So much happened it’s hard to remember it all but one thing I will say is you lived up to the hype, can I put my name down for next year already please? Kendal 2023 was an excellent, nearly immaculately organised and compered festival. If you haven’t been to Kendal yet why not?

During the course of the weekend I managed to watch 27 bands, catch snippets of some comedians, eat a mixture of Sri Lankan, Italian, American, Greek and English food (the good old sausage butty) although I did miss out on Tibetan as every time we went to get it the queue was too long (I was gutted as it’s excellent), visit a few beer tents, speak to some of bands (separate articles to follow) and get chatting to various people in the arena and wandering about the site.

I’ve never been to a festival (and suspect you haven’t either) where the on-site CO-OP was conducting a rave on Sunday morning, I’m not sure who was doing the rapping about what you could get in there but they were really good. The effort they put in was tremendous!

So before I get in to who I did see and who I enjoyed most there were a few bands I was gutted to miss (it’s inevitable you miss bands, you can’t get round everyone) but there were specific reasons for missing four, firstly Black Honey, who I’d been really keen to see, who I missed because of the queue to get in (see later on), I’m still gutted. Dead Pony, who took ill and were unable to play and likewise Izzi De Rossa (I hope you all get better soon) and the Hunna, who I’m a big fan of but I made a self-preservation decision and decided to leave the festival slightly early because of the parking situation (see later). I’m gutted to have missed all four of you and hope, if you’re touring soon, there might be a review pass to see you going?

Honourable mentions also go to acts who I missed because of clashes, Stone, Example, Circa Waves, Connie Constance, Kelly Swindall, Hardwicke Circus, Prima Queen and Cate amongst others, all acts I wish I’d been able to see. They are all brilliant acts who deserve your support as do the many other acts who I didn’t get to see, especially if you can go to your local small venue to do so as local venues are struggling and need your support, if Frank Turner (brilliant guest appearance with the Lottery Winners Frank!) tells you to do so who are you to argue!

I’ll tell you who I did manage to see then tell you who I enjoyed the most, which is strictly a personal view, and why.

I was lucky enough to see, not in any order, Chic, Melonyx, Frankie Jobling, The Murder Capital, Melanie C, Kasabian, Lime Garden, Swim School, Matilda Mann, Rianne Downey, TC and the Groove Family, Daytime TV, Happy Mondays, The Lottery Winners, KT Tunstall, Confidence Man, Rick Astley, Kiefer Sutherland (briefly), Witch Fever, The Lancashire Hotpots ( a wonderful Kendal tradition, chippy tea anyone, are those bins out or not? With a special guest appearance by Freddie Mercury which was impressive), Riot Jazz (briefly), Natalie Imbruglia, Reverend and the Makers, Alice Merton, Sonique, Panic Shack and the Enemy.

The acts of Kendall Calling for me, of the ones I saw obviously, were Chic, The Murder Capital, Mel C, Rianne Downey, Daytime TV, The Lottery Winners, Kasabian, Lime Garden, Confidence Man, Natalie Imbruglia, Witch Fever, Panic Shack, Alice Merton and Sir Rick Astley. These are all for very different reasons. Every other act was brilliant, I don’t want you to think otherwise, but these are the ones I will take the most memories from.

On a side note I do think Melonyx could have been a massive hit as they are clearly talented but the scheduling for them, noon on Friday in Chia Whallahs, was bizarre, for a soulful, reggae band with two excellent singers a slot later on in the bill, preferably after 10pm, will see them smash it out of the park. Also watching Sean and Rowetta get into an argument about whether to dedicate a song to Paul Ryder was highly entertaining and the award for least impressive exit goes to Sonique, who was brilliant, had the crowd going, played 'Feels So Good' to a rapturous reception then just stopped, said that’s all I have and wandered off stage, most of the crowd took a while to realise she wasn’t coming back!

The Murder Capital were clearly impacted by the sad news about Sinead O’Connor, their set was subdued to start with and clearly in her memory, it livened up as they went on but this is a band who are going to do things on their own terms, if you’re impacted by something don’t hide it! They were still brilliant.

Rianne Downey is an excellent new singer to me, she has the potential to be a big star, her combination of talent, great songs, a tremendous voice and an obvious joy of life was infectious!

Rick Astley is having a massive renaissance just now, first Glasto and Kendal. He is clearly loving life just now, enjoying being on stage and is a born entertainer. He even pointed out there was a pilot in the crowd (interesting choice of outfit for someone I’m sure). His new music stands up against the classics and he owned the whole audience, the weather wasn’t brilliant when he was on but he got us all to a point we didn’t care.

However my personal five favourites were Alice Merton, Panic Shack and The Lottery Winners, I also really enjoyed Daytime TV and Witch Fever. All of them impressed in very different ways, all have a very unique sounds and all took the slot that was given to them and made it their own. I have to confess that I was lucky enough to interview Daytime TV and Witch Fever, both of whom were brilliant, open and honest, all you could wish from an interview.

The Lottery Winners go from strength to strength, they are perennial Kendal favourites having graduated from the Woodlands to slowly move up to the main stage this year after the Parklands stage last year, after a number one album this year as well things keep getting better and better. It couldn’t happen to a better band, their personality and enthusiasm are contagious with some of the best banter from a front man you will ever hear!

Alice Merton is brilliant, she has the songs, she has the band, she has the voice, she has the moves and she has the personality to be a massive star, if you were lucky enough to catch her set this year you will have left the Parklands with a massive smile on your face.

Panic Shack are also brilliant, a five piece punk rock band with attitude, humour, synchronised dance moves and some of the best songs I’ve heard in ages, they definitely didn’t give me the ick! They were a joy to watch, they energy and obvious enjoyment of what they do was infectious, again, if you didn’t leave the Calling Out stage with a massive smile on your face there may be something wrong with you and you may need to be Ju Jitsued!

Daytime TV had the hard job of opening the main stage at noon on Saturday, there wasn’t much of a crowd when they started but they kept at it, kept playing some excellent songs and kept clearly enjoying themselves, it worked, the crowd grew throughout and became more and more engaged to the point when they finished there was palpable disappointment that they were finished, keep an eye on this band, I expect big things of them.

Finally of the bands I will take most memories from there is Witch Fever, they are known for their views, for their attitude and for intense performances. What doesn’t come across from most reviews I’ve read of them is just how much fun they have on stage, just how good they are and what a tight unit they are. I went along thinking it could be an intense set that might be more appreciated than enjoyed, I left thinking I’d just seen a brilliant punk rock band who are on top of their game and not afraid to let you know what they think while thoroughly enjoying themselves.

So let’s get the two negatives about this year’s festival out the way, and there were only two, something went wrong with the plan for getting us in in the first place, it took over 3 hours to queue to get in on the Thursday, I don’t know if the Friday was as bad but Thursday really wasn’t great. It meant missing one of the artists I wanted to see the most Black Honey. Given entry to last years festival ran smoothly I’m guessing it was just one of those years, something to sort out for next year? The second was, depending on which car park you were in, not being able to leave due to the rain and high levels of mud, surely given the weather and the track already churning up on the Thursday this one could be seen coming? I was lucky, once the stuck cars were towed out, I was able to drive out but my friend wasn’t so lucky and needed to be towed by a land rover, The people helping were brilliant, a real credit to Kendal, but some better plans for next year please?

There was a personal negative for me as well, on the Friday night someone staggering home took out the guidelines on my tent and collapsed it on top of me in the middle of the night. Whoever it was disappeared off before I struggled my way out, bad etiquette whoever you were, you stop and help when you do that. The tent was knackered after that but luckily, we had a spare with us so Saturday morning was putting up a new tent.

Would I go to Kendal again and would I recommend it? Absolutely (although I have to confess here it’s not my first time and I hope won’t be my last, I bought my ticket in advance in case a press pass didn’t come through this year), it’s set in a beautiful part of the world, it’s friendly, it’s a good mix of families, different ages groups and lots of different types of music, its has some brilliant stages, The Parklands and Calling Out Stages are awesome for their decoration and the Woodlands for its setting.

It is the only festival in the world to achieve the cask marque accreditation for real ale (big shout out to Lancaster Brewery who brewed beers specially for the festival and also had the Lancashire Hot Pots beer on in their tent). If you didn’t try their beer, your loss!

I loved the eclectic mix of music, the effort most people put in for the summer of love on the Sunday (confession time here, we got the day wrong and dressed up on the Saturday, which resulted in a few strange looks and me having to explain to the bands we interviewed why I was wearing a tie dye t-shirt) and people just dealt with the rain, the mud, the sun, the wind and danced and sung their heart out.

It’s just a fantastic experience, one request though for next year, could we see if Haim are free to headline? Or Sam Fender? Possibly Kendal favourites the Lottery Winners are ready to step up? Just asking for a friend you understand…. Of course I hear Taylor Swift, Pink and Beyonce all love the lake district?

Kendal Calling, it’s the best festival you could go to at the end of July, and one of the best options all year, choose Kendal Calling, choose to enjoy 4 days during which you will make nothing but brilliant memories!

We would also like to add, the on-site PR team lead by Alex were outstanding, fully aware of everything going on and brilliant at looking after everyone from the press. Thank you!

Review - Iain McClay

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