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The South West is awesome, truly awesome, and we sure do have enough amazing festivals but occasionally it is well worth the four or five hour journey up north to sample some of their offerings and Kendal Calling is precisely one of these times.
Despite the horrendous weather which followed us all the way up the M6 we did quite well, enduring only a couple of half arsed showers over the weekend.
A wonderfully cheap festival (£85 for the whole weekend with much cheaper food/drink and merchandise too!) full of fantastically friendly northerners. OK so it had it’s fair share of Liam Gallagher wannabes but they’re pretty easy to ignore.
People at southern festivals can be pretty insular but here everyone was really up for it and uber chatty and this is what can make or break a festival. This and the bands obviously.
Looking at the line up there was enough to keep the indie kids, the rockers, the electro hounds and the ravers happy but nothing so hardcore that it completely alienated part of the 8,000 strong crowd.
The main stage obviously featured the better known acts but the crowd was often pretty evenly split between the half a dozen stages – for example, when the Doves were belting out their atmospheric soundscape into the Cumbrian hills, our beloved folk fella Mark Chadwick was rocking the Kayleid tent with some unplugged Levellers – slightly inebriated but great as always.
One of the good things about this festival is you go with a small list of bands you really want to see and it is the previously unknown gems which completely capture your mind. I was excited about British Sea Power, thinking that it being a bit of a homecoming gig would take it to another level, sadly this was not the case and it was a little lacklustre show from the boys in branches. They weren’t the only other local heroes – with Wild Beasts putting on a much better performance than their recent set at Dot to Dot in Bristol and the fairly unenergetic Coral treating us to some of the more lively offerings from the new album.
But it was the visitors from down south which really stole the show. Fresh out of a performance at Cornwall’s Leopallooza festival The King Blues didn’t know what to expect from the North Eastern audience but they absolutely nailed it and had the crowd united in singing along with their poignant political ska. With elements of Madness (who were playing down at Camp Bestival in Dorset at the same time), The Specials and The Clash, The King Blues take genius lyrics (such as ‘Going to war to prevent war, the most stupid thing I ever heard’) and mixing them with kick ass tunes sung by the passionate and undeniably charismatic frontman Itchy.
Coming in close second as the highlight of the weekend was the screaming sensations that were The Subways. I don’t know what these guys are on with the sheer amount of energy they’ve got but I’ll take a double dose please! Belting out their loud and proud indie rock everyone was singing along – hits such as Rock’n’Roll Queen and Oh Yeah resulting in one massive party in front of the main stage. And third place, a surprise entry from Calvin Harris who blasted through his dance hits and made for the perfect start to Friday night (it ended with some serious dancing to the amazing DJs in the well-considered House Party tent).
You can’t beat the feeling of coming away from a festival with a load of new bands to check out and Kendal Calling gave us Notebook (think Pavement meets Weezer), Yields (an acoustic Northern fare) and Kathryn Williams (honey voiced siren).
That and meeting some of the bands which have blown you away (easy as pie if you stand to the left of the main stage where they all seem to gather after their sets).
We’ll definitely be heading back next year.

Words and photos: Laura Williams