Photography: Gaz Jones / @GJMPhoto

KENDAL CALLING

Lowther Deer Park 28/7/16

KENDAL CALLING has, slowly but surely, become one of the key events in the northern music calendar. Not, admittedly, as big as the celebrations over at Leeds in August, but Kendal’s far more family- and adult-orientated event has provided an opportunity for people to party in the memorable and picturesque surroundings of the Lake District for the last 11 years. With the expansion to 35,000 festival-goers this year, it is almost certain to be bigger and bolder than ever before.

Due to the crowds packing into Tim Burgess’ Tim Peaks Diner, it’s obvious that the secret set by BLOSSOMS is not much of a secret at all. The wooden shack shakes with the cheers of those inside, packing themselves in to see these new pretenders to the throne enter and have to squeeze to the front. You don’t get to the top of the pile without being a well-oiled machine, but even this gig is a test for Blossoms considering the lack of space in this tent. It’s impossible not to get enjoyment from seeing them revelling in this, though, and getting swept up in the singalong. With a set in a bigger tent to follow later in the night, Blossoms get the Friday of the festival off to a start that’s something special. Although, looking at the extra security needed and the thousands of people left outside, maybe secret sets should be a bit more secret.

While Blossoms are on the newer end of the spectrum, it is for reasons of nostalgia that a large crowd are gathered at the Main Stage waiting around for KELIS’ set. These kind of party sets can really light up a festival, but Kelis fails to ignite on this occasion. For some reason her set is a mixture of songs that people are struggling to remember, with  all the hits such as Milkshake and Acapella squeezed into the last 10 minutes of the set. Kelis herself even seems to lose interest midway through, spending one whole song taking a photo of the crowd. It’s actually quite baffling, something you’d expect from someone who had never played a festival audience before, but not a seasoned performer like Kelis.

You can bet that a group of seasoned performers like SUGARHILL GANG are not going to let the audience down. In Kendal Calling’s Glastonbury-aping Sunday legends slot, the group know that they are not just there to go through the longest-possible version of Rapper’s Delight that they can remember. As they charge on to the stage, the collective all start to work the crowd with the usual hands in the air, this side/that side, bounce bounce-style crowd participation, and it’s obvious that this is a masterclass in hip hop. The audience are absolutely putty in their hands. This set is a festival-goer’s delight.

Everybody knows what they’re going to get with Sugarhill Gang; RATBOY, on the other hand, makes everybody in the Calling Out tent stand on their tiptoes in anticipation. Accidentally or not, the set gets delayed and Ratboy starts to entertain immediately – much to the chagrin of the security on stage, who are rightly taking offence at his creation of a flamethrower using some Lynx body spray and a 50p lighter. This is comedy anarchy, though, as he is obviously as dangerous as a tin of soup. But his fans cannot help but lap it up, and the rough tunes he has at his disposal show that there is reason behind the attention grabbing. He makes the audience want to listen to his music, and makes sure that you do not take your eyes off the stage.

Throughout Kendal Calling, the Calling Out stage serves as a showcase of the very best of UK music talent. It’s so exciting every time you go near to the stage, with bands like THE AMAZONS, SPRING KING, FALSE ADVERTISNG and SUNDARA KARMA consistently blowing the roof off the tent.

The last night of the festival is dominated by one act. NOEL GALLAGHER’S HIGH FLYING BIRDS are in town, and the biggest crowd that anybody has ever seen at Kendal Calling are there to watch Gallagher Senior sing some of the highlights from his two-album solo career and then anything from his old band. The Mexican and If I Had A Gun… are sounding brilliant as Noel is most definitely on form, but the reaction of the crowd to a series of Oasis B-sides shows that these old tracks are the reason that the likes of GHOSTPOET are not being visited. Noel lifts the stars in the sky with Wonderwall and Champagne Supernova, and, as he finishes with Don’t Look Back In Anger, you can almost see the magnetic connection between him and his followers.

Gaz Jones and Gary Lambert

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