Creative Review New Music
Beautiful and Award Winning, Kendal Calling, now in its seventh year, is set in the rolling mountains and hills of Lowther Deer Park in the middle of what seems like nowhere making it the perfect festival of escapism.
The festival’s individual identity is highlighted by its attention to detail, the eight foot high daffodil pole lights, the wooden engraved ‘leave no trace’ signs, life-sized gingerbread houses and toad-stools bring a fairytale feel to Deer Park.
The festival aims to appeal to everyone with an eclectic line-up, separate family camping and quirky touches like helter skelters and a tent that specialises in live acts and chai teas. It certainly tries.
Starting the day on Friday with a trip to the Calling Out Stage to see the very sleek Ghost Poet, the crowd were eager for the London artist and producer to perform. Stepping out with a quiet confidence in a Oldboy t-shirt he dove straight into his hazy Noughties trip-hop with a modern beatnik style delivery and delighted his audience, which grew as the set went on.
Next it was the first taste of the Scroobius Pip, performing twice at the festival it was a treat for fans who had been waiting to see him reunite with DJ Dan Le Sac. His first performance was with the support of his band giving his spoken word set a rock feel. The crowd were a little distracted by a boy in the crowd dressed in a Borat mankini and as soon as Scroobius Pip came out, with his shark backpack on, he joined the Borat joke, vowing to give him a heart attack in his faster songs. Hearing his heavier side the crowd formed several circle pits and threw wave after wave of people over the crowd, in a crowd surfing frenzy.
Festival favourites Maximo Park were the Friday headliner. Lead singer Paul Smith came out in his trademark bowler hat, smart outfit, jaunty dancing and wait for it…1,2,3 stage jump. Despite the routine not being new, the energy behind the performance kept it fresh. Cleverly dotting new songs around their hits, they managed to keep the festival goers in high spirits and entertained. Dedicating their song ‘going missing’ to their absent drummer after the birth of his second child, warmed the crowd up even more.
After the initial settling in the atmosphere was a lot more relaxed on Saturday, shown by the oodles of people in fancy dress. This new dress code made the Main stage performance of Jamaican superstar Little Roy seem a little hallucinogenic. The smiley fifty nine year old and his radiant band performed Nirvana covers, whilst superheroes, fairy tale characters and people wearing Jedward, Alan Partridge, The Duke of Edinburgh and Simon Cowell masks swayed to the music. Little Roy’s energy was heightened by the crowd’s response, he danced around the stage before removing his hat shaking out his dreadlocks and thanking his audience.
Another Main stage band were Spector, the band who have promised big things this year have lived up to their name. Looking a cross between an eighties and a wedding band, they introduced the festival to their set list. The band recruited fans who stuck to the front of the stage and sang their songs back to them. Hyper lead singer Frederick Macpherson tried to shake the nerves out of his slightly quieter band, by mocking their appearance including talking about the fancy dress outfits and describing his fellow band member as Simon Le Bon. The crowd loved the songs and their repetitive style meant the fans were easily able to sing along.
The complete mix match of acts seems to be one of the reasons that the once quite dinky festival is growing in popularity, and Endoflevelbaddie on the Glow Stage were a great example of this. The dance act with a rapping front man took the audience away from the sunshine and made them feel like they were in an all night rave. The DJs in the back were also in a sort of fancy dress, one wore an eyeball on his head and the other had a Transformers mask on. They battled with each other mixing tracks to form the backing track to their MC. Wearing a vizer, he danced across the stage, rapping to the surprisingly young audience.
Another quaint aspect to the festival was a stage set in the middle of the woods. The tiny stage was home to several acoustic acts across the weekend. One of those acts was the three piece Thomas J Speight. The extremely likeable trio were made up of a shaggy haired keyboard player, a guitarist and singer Thomas, who looked a little bit like Zac Efron and an endearingly coy female vocalist. Stepping down from the stage and playing in the middle of the crowd they made themselves that more memorable. Finishing on an interactive ballad, the vocalists layered their voices and their song danced around the forest as their fans repeated “you and I” back to the trio.
The Main stage was home to a lot of bands that provided a lot of Nostalgia to the crowd and one of these was Shed Seven. The crowd had transformed from teens to adults who were taken back to their youth as they waited for the band. The lead singer of the York band, Rick Witter, ambled around the stage singing hits from their album ‘A Maximum High’. Their Brit pop music excited the crowd, the performance pleased the fans who could sing every word, but the newer listeners may have found the performance slightly soulless.
The Calling out stage was home to To Kill a King. The five piece played folk inspired music. Their performance was perfectly polished but despite this, the constant looking around the crowd made them appear self conscious. The crowd dancing and pushing themselves up to the barrier showed that the act were a hit.
Dizzee Rascal, never a stranger to large crowds, seemed to have the majority of the festival goers watching him to close the Main stage. Singing his hits from the beginning of his career to the latest songs, the reception was electric. The rapper was in his element, but unfortunately that was short lived as he had sound issues half way through ‘I luv you’, where he had to leave the stage. His DJ distracted the crowd with an impromptu set. The technical problem didn’t leave him downhearted, he brought out a female singer Pepper to join him in appealing to the patriotism of the crowd. He performed his song for the Olympics, ‘Scream’. The audience already bouncing, Dizzee elated the crowd, finishing with Bonkers and a lot of fireworks and ticker tape to close the show.
As expected around the site on Sunday there were some very blurry eyed individuals and the fancy dress outfits had depleted. The Lancashire Hot Pots were the best thing to wake everyone up. The spoof act wore pinstripe waistcoats and flat caps, sang songs about, chippy tea, beer Olympics and a man and his love for a motorbility scooter. The novelty act drew the an enormous audience in who knew every word. The audience couldn’t hide their enjoyment, with roaring laughter and mile long conga lines, they got everyone involved.
We are Scientists came out unassuming, waved to their audience and began. They unleashed their witty side with light back and forth joke and requested that the audience was comprised of just two lines of people across the park. Though they sang their songs pitch perfect, something about the act seemed a little lacklustre, but their funny exchanges kept the set entertaining.
Hyde and Beast, two members of the Futureheads had joined a band as a side project. The band were a band for people to wind down to, their relaxed music style created a feel of having been invited to see them jam. The audience spent most of their time nodding in quiet appreciation before breaking into spontaneous jigs.
Following them was Random Impulse, a band fronted by an MC, wielding a guitar, creating rap songs that surprisingly had an edge of Arctic Monkeys about them. His young crowd were desperate to show how much they adored the MC keeping their arms out stretched over the barriers throughout the majority of the performance.
Next on the Calling Out stage was a dose of the deliciously quirky King Charles. His eccentric wardrobe, including mini trench coat, silk scarf and seven storey high barnet just added to his unique music. Singing obscure love songs with the added subject of a crocodile he transfixed his audience. He was adored by his crowd and it was contagious. Between prancing around the stage and singing he was mastering his electric guitar which just enthralled the audience more.
Over on the Mainstage were Feeder. The audience at the front had their hands firmly in the air and their friends giddily on their shoulders. Their career span meant that their music appealed to different generations of festival goers indicated by the massive crowds that formed. Their sunny disposition seemed to bring the sun out just long enough for the crowds to dance under.
The festival closing act James, drew the biggest audience. The band revered by many who weren’t just there to hear Sit Down, were vibrating with excitement. Lead singer Tim Booth through himself about frantically as he danced to the songs. His distinctive voice sailed through the crowd and bought to the park to a stand still. As he winced and strained through the notes it was clear that the performance held as much importance to him as it did the crowd. Their stand-out musical and vocal ability was the best way to close the event and send people home, back to reality.
Words – Cat Marr
Photos – Gemma Harris & Jamie Boynton