Kendal Calling festival had a reputation to up-hold after a decade of enchanting weekends in the Cumbrian countryside, and 2016 did not let the party people down. Everybody knows the Lake District is notorious for its wet and windy weather, but not this year. The sun was shining down on the crowds all weekend at this year’s festival at Lowther Deer Park. The park is home to a herd bred from Henry VIII’s deer, but from 28th to 31st July this year, Kendal Calling turned the peaceful pastures into a magical musical escape. Every step taken comes with a pleasant surprise, there is an endless amount of fun for all the family and music for everybody’s ears.
The first band of the weekend was the Mancunian rockers Pins. The four ladies took to the main stage in fantastic outfits of glitter and mesh to kick off the festival fun. Following Pins was the Northern Irish rock group Ash. It’s safe to say that after twenty four years, the trio still know how to get the gaggle going. After an incredible performance it was time for the first headliners of the weekend. Tim Burgess is a ‘tent-hold’ name at Kendal Calling, he is the creator of the famous Tim Peaks Diner and front man of The Charlatans. Thealternative rock band stormed the main stage on Thursday evening, playing all the favourites. ‘One to Another’ had everybody singing along and twisting their arms in the air while Tim Burgess delivered perfectly, whilst showing a striking resemblance to Andy Warhol. Thursday put all the festival goers in high spirits and set the bar really high for the rest of the weekend.
After the first night of celebration and drinking, a good crowd of people headed to the mystical Woodland area to ease into the day. In the early afternoon Rory Connor took to the Carvetti Stage for a captivating acoustic set. Rory played mostly originals including ‘Nowhere We Can Go’, a song about his cottage on the Yorkshire coast in winter. The Cumbrian singer songwriter had the crowd singing along to covers of Gotye and Bruce Springsteen, a perfect way to start the day.
As the day went on the festival folk were seemingly ready to party again, many headed to the main stage to see Too Many T’s. This English rap duo have been described at Britain’s answer to The Beastie Boys, and they certainly have the energy and superstar stage presence to get the people going. Leon Rhymes and Standaloft’s music is heavily influenced by the 80’s hip hop scene, making them a crowd pleaser instantly. Their track ‘Four Four’ was a particular favourite, in which the Dj would switch tracks every four bars, sampling old school hits such as The Wiseguys ‘Ooh La La’ and MC Hammer’s ‘Can’t Touch This’. Too Many T’s had everyone dancing, especially the little ones, however the two did have to apologise for the inappropriate language for quarter to 3 in the afternoon, with Standaloft saying “we really need a swear jar, sorry about the swearing for the little kids”.
Following Too Many T’s onto the main stage were the explosive Molotov Jukebox. This London band are perfect for every festival, their eclectic mix of music roots and range of talented musicians within the band really makes them stand out in the line-up. Fronted by the Game of Thrones and Harry Potter star Natalia Tena, the band brought sunshine to all, and then as if by magic, the sun appeared from behind the clouds and everybody was dancing in a tropical paradise. The band played a few songs from their new album ‘Tropical Gypsy’ including the uplifting single ‘Pineapple Girl’. The main arena was full of beaming faces and fantastic dancing to the amazing brass, led by the immensely talented Angus Moncrieff on trumpet. To finish, an impressive solo from the bands extremely talented violinist/vocalist Sam Apley.
Over on the Calling Out stage The Big Moon played a set in the early evening. The Big Moon are one of the latest indie girl bands to come out of London and they are definitely going to be big. The girls got it “perfectly right” when playing their song ‘Cupid’ which was released in April this year.
Thousands flocked to see the best thing to come out of Llandudno, Catfish and the Bottlemen. The crowd went wild for the whole set, with dozens on friend’s shoulders letting of pyros, creating a sky full of colour. The band certainly gave the fans what they wanted, playing all the hits including, ‘Fallout’, ‘Business’ and ‘Homesick’.
The Chai Wallah tent was bursting at the seams when Chainska Brassika played their midnight set to end the first day of incredible music. The “rising stars of the London ska scene” blew everybody away with their insanely energetic catalogue of ska. Chainska Brassika are an eight piece band consisting of a brass section, guitarist, bassist, saxophonists, drummer and Shman on lead vocals. It was impossible to keep still and everyone was getting their knees up in true ska fashion. The crowd were treated to what can only be described as absolute belters such as ‘Bad Habits’, ‘All Day Long’ and ‘Get Some’. Each and every song was incredible and if you haven’t heard of these guys already, you absolutely have to check them out!
The Lancashire Hotpots took to the main stage early on Saturday, the beloved comedy folk band put everyone in a jolly mood. Originating from St. Helens, the band performed their most loved songs, including ‘I Fear IKEA’ and ‘Bitter Lager Cider Ale Stout’. The main arena filled up as the band played on, drawing the attention of all ages. The Lancashire Hotpots are one of the more child friendly bands who played Kendal Calling, they’ll definitely keep the little ones entertained, however they may leave them demanding a ‘Chippy Tea’.
In the early afternoon festival goers at the Chai Wallah Stage were treated to a highly entertaining set from Will Varley. Will stunned the crowd into silence with the incredible ‘Weddings and Wars’, the tent filled with people sat down, staring up in awe. Will has a terrific song writing talent, moving his audience through many emotions with ease. He had them laughing, tearing up, stunned and tutting in agreement during his fifty minute set. Will Varley fans were not disappointed, hearing the favourites, such as the hilarious ‘I Got This Email’, the thought provoking ‘We Don’t Believe You’ and the spine chilling ‘King for a King’.
Everyone was well on their way into festival mode by the time Maximo Park hit the main stage in the afternoon, and the energy was only heightened by frontman Paul Smith. Maximo Park gigs have a tendency to get the adrenaline pumping and the people moving. Paul’s pizzazz on stage drove the die-hard Maximo Park fans crazy whilst encouraging those unfamiliar with the band to get up on their feet and dance. Playing all their classics including, ‘Books from Boxes’, ‘Our Velocity’ and ‘Apply Some Pressure’ alongside terrific tracks like ‘National Health’ and ‘Midnight on the Hill’. Unfortunately the band were late due to their flight from Dusseldorf being delayed, resulting in their set being cut short, but they definitely made the most of their time on stage and impressed the crowds.
Following Maximo Park onto the main stage was The Darkness, the main arena was packed out for the Suffolk based rock band and spirits were high. The band, best known for their hit ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’, pleased the crowd by playing all their hits from their debut album in 2003.
Over in the Riot Jazz tent Too Much Love played in the early evening. The seven piece cosmic disco funk group and their eclectic music vibes had everybody dancing and grooving to their prodigious horn section, and leading lady Vicky Freund.
To finish off a Saturday of magical sound and joyous jiving in the sun were the much loved English ska band Madness. Tens of thousands poured into the main arena with drinks in hand to take part in the ultimate festival celebrations whilst being entertained by Suggs and the band. Madness had a hit laden set list and the crowd’s spirits were heightened with every song. Early in their set the Kendal Calling folk were treated to ‘NW5’, ‘My Girl’ and ‘Wings of a Dove’. Party people of all ages were dancing throughout the entire show, getting their knees up to all the hits. Suggs took a pause and began a Bon Jovi singalong, leading the crowd in ‘Living on a Prayer’ before exploding into a perfect rendition of ‘One Step Beyond’. Following this was a mad 15 minutes of non-stop party, playing ‘House of Fun’, ‘Baggy Trousers’, ‘Our House’, ‘Madness’ and ‘Night Boat to Cairo’. Just when the festival goers couldn’t think it could get any better, the band returned to the stage for their encore with the wonderful ‘It Must Be Love’. Confetti cannons blasted heart shaped confetti into the air and it snowed down across the main arena before releasing dozens of multi coloured beach balls across the crowd, resulting in what must have been the largest game of keepy uppy the nation has ever seen. Madness was without a doubt the highlight of the weekend. After forty years making music the band are still as incredible as ever and the twenty five thousand in the main arena that Saturday night would definitely agree.
The Dub Pistols got the party going on Sunday in the early afternoon. The two frontmen Barry Ashworth and Seanie Tee had sensational stage presence. The band played crowd pleasers such us ‘Sticky Situation’ and ‘Problem Is’. Barry Ashworth made it clear that it didn’t matter that it was 1pm on a Sunday, everyone was going to have a party, and they did. As their set drew to a close, the Dub Pistols drove the crowd into a frenzy with their upbeat ‘Mucky Weekend’ and set them up for a final day of fun in the sun.
Shortly after Rag n Bone Man graced the main stage with his incredible vocals and moving repertoire of songs. Followed by The Sugar Hill Gang. The classic hip hop group filled the main arena with fans and they were not disappointed. A particular highlight of their set was the famous ‘Apache’ (Jump On It). Thousands were twirling their wrists and spinning full circle to the classic hip hop song. Henn Dogg and Master Gee got the crowd involved with their biggest hit ‘Rappers Delight’. There’s something particularly impressive about hundreds of people singing “I said a hip hop, the hippie, the hippie, to the hip, hip hop, and you don’t stop, a rock it, to the bang bang boogie, say, up jump the boogie, to the rhythm of the boogie, the beat” in perfect unison.
Hidden Charms rocked the Calling Out stage in the early evening. The London quartet, influenced by the great Jimi Hendrix, Muddy Waters and Howlin Wolf. The dark and dingy tent was lit with jittery lighting and this added to the indie rock vibe. The highlight of their set was their slightly eerie, very powerful song ‘Love You Cause You’re There’.
The festival was drawing to a close but Everything Everything made sure everyone was kept happy and enjoying every last minute. Their unique sound impressed the fans and drew passers-by into the main arena for a closer look. Frontman Jonathan Higgs showcased his bewitching falsetto perfectly, swanning around the stage with such grace. There is no doubt Everything Everything are like nothing you have heard before. Their set was filled with a varied mix of funky beats, playing their biggest hit, ‘Distant Past’, as well as ‘Spring/Sun/Winter/Dread’ and ‘No Reptiles’. The bass driven ‘Regret’ was particularly impressive, showing the bands incredible talent and versatility.
Closing the festival was the worldwide phenomenon and one of the beloved Oasis brothers. Thousands waited in anticipation for Noel Gallagher to step on stage. The crowd went wild the second the Mancunian legend emerged from the dry ice. Noel started the night as he meant to go on with the biggest hit of his solo career, ‘Everybody’s On the Run’. The set was split in two halves, the first dedicated to Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, and the second to Oasis. Noel hit every note and interacted with the crowd between songs such as ‘Riverman’ and ‘If I Had A Gun’. Noel jokingly presented himself as disgusted upon being told by a fan that it was Yorkshire Day coming up on Monday, to which he replied, “you’ve got your own day? Why the f**k? What do you do, eat gruel?” The dedicated Oasis fans were treated to ‘Champagne Supernova’, ‘Talk Tonight’ and ‘D’yer Wanna Be a Spaceman?’ Before a moving performance of ‘Half the World Away’, which Noel has been singing recently in dedication to his late friend Caroline Aherne. The band swiftly started up the good vibes again with ‘Digsy’s Dinner’, leading the words “I’ll pick you up at half past three and we’ll have lasagne” to be bellowed by the thousands. The final minutes of Kendal Calling were precious as Noel kept the hits coming, playing ‘Masterplan’, ‘Wonderwall’ and ‘AKA… What a Life!’ The final song of the weekend of glorious entertainment was ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’, paired with a finale firework display from the top of the main stage. A special moment was created when the showers of star like fireworks scattered across the night sky above the thousands of waving arms, with heads flung back singing along with this Brit Pop star. Kendal Calling 2016 lived up to every expectation and it is easy to see why this festival has such a good reputation, growing bigger and better with each year.