Kendal Calling has a curious place on the festival landscape. Literally speaking, it really does live up to its reputation as one of the more scenic UK festival sites. Our campsite overlooked the rolling hills of the Lake District and the main arena is enclosed with enough woodland to make you forget the entirely. Musically, it occupies the middle ground between a smaller boutique festival and that of a fallen giant like T in the Park. Having expanded rapidly the last few years, I was interested to see how the festival would cope.
There were plenty of musical highlights. Chic were fantastic. One of the minor grumbles throughout the weekend was the relatively short sets played by some of the artists lower down the billing. It had clearly crossed the mind of Nile Rodgers himself, as he and his band played well past curfew. As if their own back catalogue wasn’t stacked enough, they also found time to rework some Sister Sledge classics and a raucous rendition of David Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’.
The Friday night was a real triumph, with barely a notion that Saturday would unfortunately bring a deluge of wind and rain, which would initially sap some of the enthusiasm for the acts which opened the main stage. Our Friday began with London-based four piece The Big Moon, whose 2017 album Love In The Fourth Dimension had been shortlisted for the Mercury Prize. They’d drawn a fairly sizable crowd with their early noughties indie rock, throughout a set which culminated in the gorgeous 2016 single ‘Cupid’. A fairly reliable barometer of a band’s performance is whether the crowd was bigger at the start or the end of their show, and by this metric it had been an enormous success. As the day progressed we partied like it was 2011 with the Pigeon Detectives and Miles Kane, whose tracks are clearly buried in the muscle memory of the slightly older indie kids in the crowd. There was just the right amount of newer material interspersed with the old favourites for their sets to his just the right note.
Saturday was altogether more difficult. The weather had made navigating the site a lot more troublesome, although the organisers had done everything you could reasonably have expected of them. The main thoroughfares between the campsite and the arena were badly affected, but the music ran as expected and the covered stages provided some welcome respite. Without the rain we may never have ended up seeing Lucha Britannia Mexican Wrestling in the comedy tent, which would have been an enormous shame. Gerry Cinnamon’s early evening slot certainly wasn’t adversely affected, and I’m still left wondering how a crowd can be quite so raucous for such soft sounds.
Sunday’s performance from Tom Jones was enormous fun. His cheery repertoire of 90s ballads was ideal for lifting a weather-weary crowd from its mid-afternoon lethargy. By this point the conditions were treacherous underfoot, but the skies were blue and Jones’ sunny disposition made it one of the most enjoyable performances of the festival. Having seen his set at T in The Park some 7 years ago and been disappointed not to hear Sex Bomb, that was thankfully put to rights here. For a man of advancing years, it was a high energy gig that blew away any cobwebs from the previous night. As far as closing headliners go, it’s easy to see why The Courteeners have become a staple choice for mid-sized festivals. Their tunes are anthemic and sit nicely in the space that Oasis vacated around the turn of the decade. It was just the right amount of rowdy, as ‘Not Nineteen Forever’s flares faded, a note-perfect ‘What Took You So Long’ was an ideal way to bring the festival to a close.
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