With James, Various Cruelties, Edwyn Collins and loads more
Feeder - Kendal Calling Festival 2012

Kendal Calling seems to occupy a special part of the festival calendar, having won two best small festival awards and managing to feel intimate and relaxed despite its gradually expanding capacity (which will creep up to 20,000 by 2014). The main stage is complemented by a range of smaller stages and boutiques that boast everything from the gypsy rave punk of Slamboree and feel-good trumpets of Juan Zelada, to new-name indie, to after-hours ‘20s inspired electro, to exclusive DJ sets from the likes of Ghostpoet and DJ Andy C. This selection of small areas nicely splits the festy up into cosy little haunts, so you keep getting that private gathering vibe wherever you happen to be.

This year’s expansion has meant a bit of a shift to the usual site layout, to accommodate a bigger dance area, including the open air Kopparberg DJ Kube and the sink & sofa strewn House Party stage. Producer Endoflevelbaddie, played the inflatable-sculptured Glow Dance tent, with live cronies Eyesaw (appearing inside a papier mache eyeball), and MC Player1 prowling and grinding in front of the cheekily programmed LED screens. They’re as impressive visually as their sound - an infectious mix of boggle-inducing dancehall-flavoured basslines and cleverly dropped samples.

Further along, there are two more new areas - The Woodlands acoustic stage & silent disco, and the Tim Peaks Diner, a surreally-born, delightfully crafted 50s diner featuring a stunning selection of acoustic acts and readings curated by The Charlatans’ Tim Burgess. Highlights are Edwyn Collins playing with Aztec Camera’s Roddy Frame to 100-odd people joining in in the tiny crammed hut, and PiL contemporaries Minny Pops performing a hypnotic and rare acoustic set, involving some incredible banter with a heckler and a quiz about exotic animals.

The nostalgia trip continues with Shed Seven on the main stage, whose hits bring grins to the faces of all the ‘90s indie kids like an old friend with a pint of snakebite and black. Feeder are equally powerful for the college kids of the noughties, the entire front half of the crowd sitting on their friends’ shoulders waving their arms and belting the lyrics to ‘Just a Day’ like their lives depend on it.

The Calling Out stage hosts indie-boy guitar from Tribes and Various Cruelties, the latter’s Liam O’Donnell sounding scarily like Alex Turner’s croaky croon. King Charles pulls a capacity crowd to the tent as he swaggers on stage, his flamboyance effortless; his intelligently-crafted love songs commanding instant attention with their passion, hint of Caribbean sunshine, theatrical melody and drama - and of course his own rich, triumphantly saucy performance.

But it’s James that steal the festival. Tim Booth, our very own Michael-Stipe-alike, effortlessly transports you to his deep and offbeat yet immediately familiar world, his vocals ringing clear as a bell through the trees, his face betraying his utter absorption in his work. The hits are gigantic chant-along energy-rushes from Booth, the band expertly teasing the crowd with their instrumentals, while ballad ‘Out to Get You’ is as delicate as it is powerful. It’s easy to dismiss James’ popularity, but their live show proves just how well deserved their success is - theirs is a meticulously crafted, majestic performance, and no-one will forget it in a hurry.

Words by Elly Oracle
Photo by Danny Payne

Click here for a photo gallery of the festival.

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