Lowther Deer Park, Cumbria
27-29 July 2012
We were so in love with Kendal Calling that we’re bringing you a second review of the festival – see you in the fields next year? You can see our first review here or see the interview we did with Toy after their set at the festival here.
Having snowballed from a small gathering of music fans beside the River Kent, Kendal Calling has well and truly put south Cumbria on the music festival map.
The brainchild of townsfolk Ben Robinson and Andy Smith, who had the vision to see that an event such as this was exactly what the Lake District needed, it has sold out every year since its inception at Kendal’s Abbot Hall park back in 2006.
The event, which now takes place at Lowther Deer Park, near Penrith, manages to attract genuine music legends alongside some of the most exciting acts in the world today.
Take the line-up this year – iconic Manchester band James, Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess, still as relevant as ever, were on the bill alongside the UK’s most popular solo male performer Dizzee Rascal and up-and-coming bands such as Toy.
And it’s not just about the music, the site itself is a thing of beauty and boasts breathtaking views of Cumbria and is the perfect size to ensure there is enough space for lots of attractions without revellers having to walk miles to find them.
On the opening night of music main stage headliners Maximo Park performed anthemic tracks like Velocity and Hips and Lips as the sun went down over the perfectly-sized festival site.
The band later wrote on their Twitter account: “Thanks to the big crowd at Kendal Calling for choosing us over the Olympics! Lots of good vibrations across the Lake District.”Â
Further highlights on the day included a triumphant performance from drum and bass supremo Shy FX, while a surprise hit was the New York Brass Band, whose unique takes on classic tunes such as The Jackson 5’s I Want You Back enthralled the Riot Jazz tent.
On Saturday, Dizzee took festival revellers to UK hip-hop heaven and back with a headline set that saw thousands of people bounce in unison.
The British rap-pop superstar wowed the crowd with a laser light show and fireworks and including stomping versions of Fix Up, Look Sharp, Dance Wiv Me, Holiday and a storming Bonkers, which brought the gig to a close.
Over in the Calling Out tent though, arguably the best performance of the weekend was provided by Tribes, who debuted two new songs, Dancehall Master and Get Some Healing as well as playing tracks from their phenomenal debut Baby.
Before taking to the stage, guitarist Dan White said: “We were offered the chance to play here and we like to go to places which are slightly off the beaten track. The Lake District is beautiful and it’s a lovely festival.”Â
Lead singer Johnny Lloyd added: “We also liked the line-up here – we love Dizzee Rascal and The View.”Â
The sound of summer was provided by Dodgy, who had contacted festival organisers to ask to play because they had heard rave reviews from friends in the industry.
Drummer Matthew Priest told me backstage: “Somebody told me you should do Kendal Calling, so I contacted the organisers and said, ”Ëwe want to play’.
“It was our best gig of the summer so far – just the vibe of it. The crowd was great and they are here for the right reasons. It is a festival about community and the good things in life.”Â
Fellow ’90s indie hitmakers Shed Seven went down well, with a main stage set that featured Speakeasy and Chasing Rainbows.
And for people who sought to extend Saturday night into Sunday morning, there was the Glow Dance Tent where Toddla T‘s drum and bass was followed by a two-step set from Redlight and MC Dread.
The friendly and fun atmosphere at the festival was demonstrated by a fancy dress themed day, with many getting into the spirit of things by dressing up as everything from Batman to Wolverine to Rapunzel.
A hugely popular addition to the festival this year was Tim Peaks Diner, the brainchild of legendary Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess, where there were spine-tingling acoustic sets from Edwyn Collins, Roddy Frame, Nick Heyward and Mr Burgess himself, who later took part in a question and answer session led by Roy Wilkinson, brother of Kendal-born British Sea Power leaders Neil and Scott Wilkinson, who also read from his book on the band, Do It For Your Mum.
On the final day, it was left to one of Manchester’s finest acts, James, to close proceedings on the main stage, showcased their undeniable musical ability on Sunday during a set which included Born Of Frustration, Johnny Yen, Come Home and Waltzing Along.
Earlier, lead singer Tim Booth said: “It’s a real pleasure to be here. We have been walking around the site and it’s a beautiful festival. We just want to add to it.”Â
Their set followed performances by Feeder and Inspiral Carpets and a wonderfully entertaining gig by The Lancashire Hotpots, who drew one of the biggest crowds of the weekend.
All in all, it was yet another triumphant year for arguably the most friendly and fun festival in the UK.
Just seven years from its birth in a small corner of Ben and Andy’s hometown, Kendal Calling has established itself as one of the best festivals in the UK.
All images by Andrew Allcock.
All words by Daniel Orr.