- by Andy Brown Rating: Release Date: Label:
Rain soaked sing-alongs, inadequate camping equipment and mud (glorious mud); seems I’m getting the full festival experience. It’s pretty exciting too. I’m a tent down and have to sort a lift home for tomorrow but I’m completely immersed in the festival. Maybe I am ‘the outdoor type’ after all. I head towards the arena to see what Kendal Calling has in store for me today.
I’m lured towards the Calling Out stage by the fresh sounds of Chester’s Peaness. Rach, Balla and Jess make charming, fun and occasionally political indie-pop. The excellent ‘Breakfast’ is a satirical nod to Brexit, “I'm not really sure, exactly what they're hoping for". Honestly, who is? Great start to the day though.
I head across the fields to grab some delicious vegan chicken (yes, such a thing does exist) to fuel the next 9 or so hours of musical discovery. Some acts I’ve planned on seeing from the start yet a lot of the best moments have come as a complete surprise. So without thinking too much I head back out.
I walk past Don Broco on the Main Stage, admittedly I don’t give it much time but I’m just not feeling the stadium-rock vibes right now. The dance-y, polished indie of Apre on the Calling Out stage unfortunately doesn’t seem to hit the spot either.
I head over to the Yam Riot stage in the hope of catching a good local act. Thankfully, Ogres of Go Go are exactly what I’ve been looking for. You don’t hear enough trombone in indie-rock but the Carlisle based 5-piece is here to readdress that balance with some quirky, inventive songwriting to boot.
Just as I arrange a lift home for tomorrow I wander into the Raptor House and catch the wonderful Band of Hope. Yes, dear reader, everything’s coming up Milhouse. The Oxfordshire based indie-folk/ country collective have something pretty special going on. The gorgeous ‘Keep my Love’ would have anyone swooning, "wherever you wonder/ whatever you do/ please keep our love with you”.
Next, it’s time to head to Kendal’s cosy log-cabin stage, Tim Peaks, to watch an interview with idiosyncratic, folk-esque, singer-songwriter Vashti Bunyan. I’m genuinely over-the-moon to be at the front to witness the Charlatans’ Tim Burgess interview the much-loved, cult singer.
A really warm and intimate chat ensues, Bunyan, discussing her work and her upbringing. The interview culminates in a request for a song. We get an absolutely spellbinding, a capella, rendition of ‘Window Over the Bay’. “I wasn’t expecting that” she tells us as the cabin erupts into cheers. A really beautiful moment.
I head over to the reliable Chai Wallah stage and catch heavy-soul outfit Psychadelephant in full flow. An energising mix of soul, funk and reggae with detours into RATM-esque rock. They finish with a barnstorming cover of The Beatles ‘Come Together’. A perfect choice.
Next, it’s time to head over to the Main Stage for Welsh idol and certified sex bomb, Tom Jones. I’m not sure what I was expecting from Mr Jones but I think it’s fair to say that plenty of people had their dirty, mud-soaked socks blown clean off.
Jones and his band kick things off with the heavy blues stomp of John Lee Hooker’s ‘Burning Hell’. Jones providing the crowd with something of a musical education as he serves up a set of blues and rock ‘n’ roll. A passionate cover of Blind Willie Johnson’s ‘Soul of Man’ and a stirring rendition of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Tower of Song’ prove to be emotional highpoints.
The well-known pop hits are delivered with unimpeachable class. An accordion-led ‘Delilah’ and a slow, almost jazz-like ‘Sex Bomb’ give us a fresh perspective on familiar tunes. Every song topped-off by that unmistakable, soulful and incredibly powerful voice. The lesson? Don’t underestimate the man who spent time in Vegas jamming with Elvis Presley.
Now for something completely different. I head over to the Raptor House to catch Liverpool’s finest and fiercest punks, Queen Zee. “Greetings children of Kendal” begins vocalist and all round rock ‘n’ roll queen Zena Devine, dressed in tight leathers and ready to rip up the stage.
In a world full of utterly pedestrian acts it’s good to know that Queen Zee is out there, taking on homophobia and transphobia (Devine is trans) while rocking out like there’s no tomorrow. It’s a wildly energetic and thoroughly passionate, sweat-drenched performance.
Like some gloriously unholy mix of the New York Dolls and Nirvana, they’re a relentless thrill ride from beginning-to-end. The likes of ‘Loner’ and ‘Boy’ get everyone jumping while Devine finishes the set half-naked and covered in mud.
It’s going to be pretty difficult to top Queen Zee but I walk over to the Glow tent with some half-baked plan that I might do some dancing. You can make your own, bespoke festival experience here at Kendal Calling yet while I’m intrigued, the strobes and dance music in the Glow tent aren’t for me tonight. Maybe next time.
I head back to the Chai Wallah stage just in time for a rather glorious set from the Dele Sosimi Afrobeat Orchestra. Much dancing ensues. It would be next to impossible not to. Summoning the incendiary spirit of Fela Kuti (Sosimi has played with Fela and his son, Femi Kuti), the band deliver a funky, inspiring and endlessly danceable set.
Call-and-response vocals, insistent rhythms and a feeling of pure, unadulterated musical celebration. It’s a heady stew of guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, trombone, trumpet and sax. I’m something of a shy, reserved dancer at the best of times and can tell you that I danced myself silly listening to Sosimi and his orchestra work up a storm.
Another unforgettable set in a weekend full of amazing moments. I have been well-and-truly sucked up into the giddy, muddy and somewhat euphoric festival spirit. If you haven’t been before then you really need to. As they say here at Kendal Calling, see you in the fields?