Past the superman costumes, ginger bread house and hammocks, down the ‘hobbit hole’ and into the Woodlands: the rasping vocals of acoustic artist Ben Dyson meet us, and proceed to glide all the way over to the Main Stage.
Here, the infectious Riot Jazz Brass Band are loosening the limbs of this year’s Kendal Calling attendees with their “live organic sound”. A simply beautiful and unique cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Everywhere’ contrasts with the anthemic ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’. The crowd’s appreciation is palpable.
Kendal Calling’s first evening brings the special appearance of American hip-hop collective Public Enemy. The group’s hits ‘Fight The Power’ and ‘Harder Than You Think’ spark raptures, but unfortunately it looks these are the only tracks really known by the throng. A mash up of ‘Seven Nation Army’ and ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ goes a bit too far, leaving audience faces puzzled.
But Friday’s headliners Basement Jaxx deliver a more impressive performance, mixing their own material with house favourites such as Mosca’s ‘Bax’ to churn up a continuous set of contagious grooves and delightful harmonies. Everything culminates with a pulsating ‘Where’s Your Head At’.
Saturday begins with The Twang taking us back to when we were 16, before we’re reminded of the present by the haunting and powerful vocals of London Grammar's Hannah Reid, whose delivery evokes comparisons to Florence Welch. The trio’s set is brilliant, and they hail the crowd as “one of the best we’ve ever had”. Cue: immediate cheers, and the sense that these three have only just begun.
Back down the ‘hobbit hole’ and five-piece The Mispers are treating the woodlanders to their blend of country-ish folk and indie. The combination of acoustic guitar and violin with a noodling electric creates an incredibly compelling and energetic spectacle, drawing more and more their way.
After a fire show of hula-hooping and juggling set against the backdrop of pounding drums and a pirate ship, the reverb-induced psychedlica of British Sea Power takes over, parting the heavens above and leaving us all rather soaked.
The sun is back out as Kendal Calling welcomes the excitable Primal Scream. Before that, though, Main Stage goers are treated to the unshakable, emotional choruses of Dublin quartet Kodaline. The ballad-cum-tearjerker ‘High Hopes’ only swells the glands compared to the despairing ‘All I Want’, which closes the set.
Mystery Jets take up the baton and focus on their latest material, prompting annoying heckles: “Play ‘Young Love’!” They do, but it’s a shame that many watching only knows the band for that one track, given the brilliance of their catalogue.
You could be forgiven for expecting the same kind of shouts for the following Johnny Marr, but none are made in earshot of Clash. The Smiths legend’s solo material still pays homage to the jangly guitars that became his former band’s trademark, but the man himself has made the move to frontman effortlessly and flaunts the stage brandishing his guitar and striking poses.
The bouncy ‘Upstarts’ and dreamlike vocals on ‘The Messenger’ enforce that Marr should not be remembered for one thing. Yes, the old classics go down a treat, and need to be played to show who we’re dealing with, but that’s not the end of it. His set ends on a mass sing-along of ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’, and makes room for a cover of The Crickets’ ‘I Fought the Law’, as made famous by punk kings The Clash, before planting a dig at Glastonbury: “We all can’t be from the North.”
The Calling Out stage witnesses a set from The 1975, who pack out the tent with their incredibly catchy songs ‘Chocolate’ and ‘Sex’, sending waves of excitement through the crowd. Speaking of waves, Liverpool-based quartet Wave Machines attract a smaller crowd but still display why their albums have received acclaim, demonstrating a mature and delightful groove of disco-rock and electro.
Up at The Woodlands, psychedelic outfit The Lucid Dream burst eardrums, creating a stirring hallucination to a dedicated crowd of adoration. “Thanks for coming to see us when Primal Scream are on over there,” they quip. “You’re better than Primal Scream!” comes the reply.
Over there, Bobby and company take time to ease into their set. Coming on to new single ‘2013’, their performance is a little hit and miss. Tracks such as ‘Swastika Eyes’ and ‘Movin’ On Up’ provoke mass jubilation and ecstasy, but the trippy ‘River Of Pain’ and ‘Goodbye Johnny’ seem to drag more than fly.
However, when they get going, Primal Scream really get going. The groove of ‘Loaded’ positively sparks flares, whilst the rock ‘n’ roll of ‘Country Girl’ and ‘Rocks’ really hits the spot as Gillespie gears up the crowd: “Are we ready to get our mother*cking rocks on, Kendal?” We most certainly are, and as the clouds burst and thunder roars above, we’re captivated by Bobby and his bandmates, and no amount of rain can dampen the party atmosphere.
It’s an atmosphere taken right into the Chai Wallahs tent and subsequently sweated out to the “psychedelic gypsy beats” of Denmark’s Tacko Lacko, who wear everyone out. But with screams of more and more, the band returns to the stage to let us jump again.
Kendal Calling just keeps growing year after year, and with its ever-expanding line-up looks set to build on its reputation as one of the best small festivals around. Or will it be billed as small for much longer? Attracting a diverse crowd, ranging from adolescents to families, the atmosphere oozes a comfortable thrill that can surely appeal to all. Good for both the newbie and the oldie, Kendal Calling is well worth a dip.
Words: Luke Nightingale
Photos (excluding Sailor Jerry shots): Haydn Rydings
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Sailor Jerry were on site to provide both entertainment and refreshment to the Kendal Calling masses. The rum bunch rolled onto the site in their branded Airstream and set about pouring some fancy spiced rum cocktails, from Backyard Lemonades to Old Ironsides. Resident DJs Liam Young and Stuart Alexander kept punters popping all weekend. There’s a few snaps from the Sailor Jerry party – sorry, parties – in the gallery above.
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