Our favourite Lake District destination returned for a slightly damp edition of Kendal Calling. But with or without wellies, the Cumbria weather was no contest for the sold-out capacity of 30,000 people, who wanted to be heard and counted.
Kendal was split into four days - a really jam packed, anthemic extravaganza for the weekend and a cheeky warm up on the Thursday. Glaswegian rising star Gerry Cinnamon brought a rock-folk sandwich to the early campers, and his tracks ‘Belter’ and ‘Sometimes’ brought the emphatic sound of thunder before the literal thunder arrived two days later.
Legendary DJ Craig Charles then sprinkled a pinch of euphoria later that evening, with another ostensibly new compilation of lost soul classics and boyish enthusiasm to partner it. The main act of the evening was Hacienda Classical, and the works of Pickering and Park illuminated the night sky with the sounds of the 90s dance music wave.
Then came Friday, the sun had fought valiantly at this point and continued to shine on Saint Agnes and Hollie Cook, both performances differing in genre, Agnes with their first pumping percussion and Cook with her liberating twist on reggae. Manchester's James returned to the festival circuit with some new, politically charged bangers moulded firmly around singalongs ‘Sometimes’ and ‘Laid’, and Booth and co set the marker of what to expect from the headlining acts.
The main stage was polished off by Llandudno indie rockers Catfish and the Bottlemen, and the parents routinely dispersed from their youngsters as their beloved tunes ‘Hourglass’ saw a teenage swarm reek utter havoc at the front of the crowd. This Is England boys Thomas Turgoose and Andrew Ellis mixed a thematic dollop of ska and Madchester classics to a packed-out Tim Peaks diner at the end of the night, and although perhaps more of a safe bet, it proved that they can stick to a script.
Saturday seemed to be the climax of the entire event, but was dampened by the news that hip hop’s uncles Run DMC had withdrawn, to be replaced by Plan B. The rapper made no illusions that his reputable title was also the unfortunate truth behind his headlining set, but a stark combination of new reggae material with the old slick, swing and swagger classics like ‘She Said’ and ‘Ill Manors’ reinstated Plan B’s authenticity in his game.
Elsewhere throughout the day, Shed Seven were on top form and best manners with frontman Ricky teaming up with a ten-year-old boy called Alex to form an adorable relationship between band and audience. Grandmaster Flash drew in a crowd of all ages for a hip-hop spectacle that only a live rendition of ‘Shimmy Shimmy Ya’ could defeat. Twisted Wheel rode the wave of lad anarchy all the way to an incredible performance in HP3000, with Brown’s vocals sounding more refined than ever before. The night was capped by Hacienda pioneer Dave Haslam who continued where the Hacienda Classical departed, spinning fan favourite house tunes left right and centre.
An hour set from rap sensation Lady Leshurr on Sunday possessed the fans to hurl their toothbrushes on to the stage as she sang ‘Queen’s Speech’, her performance also highlighting a shadowed sentimental side as she individually thanked fans for coming to watch her. Leshurr was followed by a rampant performance by Peter Hook & the Light, with a cocktail of Joy Division and New Order classics hitting a familiar chord.
The Calling tent played host to two-piece PINS, who played so loudly that it was borderline impossible to hear anything other than ‘Agoraphobe’ pounding the eardrums. Indie raconteurs The Libertines made up for a slight lack of pace with stumbles and mic fumbles between Doherty and Barat, and still managed to play tunes such as ‘Boys in the Band’ with the same mid-twenties angst.
A truly special festival, and it’s exceptionally difficult to contend with a line-up so eclectic and bursting with talent.