This year Kendal Calling took place on what will likely be remembered as the only weekend in summer 2018 in which it rained. And not just rained, there was a thunderstorm and the heavens opened. We managed to get to the end of Catfish and the Bottlemen and have a little explore before the rain hit on the Friday night. Catfish were great fun, a lot of energy and were the perfect way to kick off the weekend. The main stage has a great set up that reminded me of the stage at Rock City in Nottingham, with the crowd not going back too far so the whole thing seemed quite intimate, despite there being a large amount of people there. Because the line-up was diverse, there was a great mixture of ages and groups. At the end of each set on the main stage, a handful of young children would sweep the floor collecting plastic cups to take back to their bases at the back of the crowd, and eventually swap for cash. Some of the family set ups at the stage were very impressive: I’m talking camping chairs, trolleys, picnics – the lot! Alternatively, there was plenty going on for the groups of people there for a heavier weekend with DJs and indie parties going on into the night.
Having spent the last two summers at Glastonbury, the festival site seemed quite small at first but despite this there was plenty to do, with different bars, stages and specialised drink vans around the arena and in The Woodlands. The Woodlands was a mix of living art, fire sculptures and quirky bars. We eventually saw Afrobeat Orchestra in what was essentially a log cabin after getting lost in the woods and queueing to get into the wrong stage, turns out we briefly went to a Red Star party. This party had been talked about on social media before the festival, with secret passwords, meet ups and very little information. The Red Star on the door told us as we were leaving that they planned to kidnap Andy Smith for a secret set later that night.
The rain meant we went into more tents and got to see some of the smaller acts on offer at the festival. The Indica Gallery were a particular highlight, we stumbled across them in the Yam Riot tent and their psychedelic vibes had a definite Beatles influence. They had such great enthusiasm and almost made us forget about the cold and the mud. Almost. The tent is dedicated to promoting local talent and giving local bands the opportunity to showcase their talent. This tent seemed to sum up Kendal Calling quite well; the whole festival seemed ‘local’ and not having to walk miles for food or to go back to the tent was a definite bonus. Later, in The Glow Tent, we saw Grandmaster Flash give the crowd an education of hip hop history from its beginnings in the Bronx with Kool Herc and Africa Bambaataa through the Golden Age to modern classics. The crowd here was a great mixture of young people discovering some of the music for the first time to people rapping along to every word and not missing a beat.
Another welcome break from the weather came on Sunday afternoon with Lady Leshurr on the main stage. Don’t get me wrong, it was still raining but her energy and charisma were infectious. Lady Leshurr had the crowd jumping about in the mud (carefully – it was very slippy!) with energetic call and responses with the crowd. The highlight of the set had to be when she played the absolute banger ‘Queen’s Speech Ep. 4’ where she had the whole crowd chanting “Brush your teeth!” and throwing their toothbrushes on the stage. If you aren’t familiar with this song check out the video, it currently has 53 million views on YouTube!
The weekend finished with indie giants The Libertines. I found the first 45 minutes of the set a bit dull and disappointing. There didn’t seem to be any energy from the band, and Pete and Carl seemed to be singing and playing a bit mechanically, clearly there for the cheque. There was no crowd interaction and there almost seemed to be a tension between the band. However, halfway through something changed and the energy picked up, the second half of the set was great, they looked like they were starting to enjoy themselves and getting into the music the crowd clearly loved.
If you are looking for a festival in beautiful surroundings with friendly people and lots to keep you entertained then I would definitely recommend Kendal Calling – just take your waterproofs (even if it has been really sunny for weeks before!)
Words and images by Megan Jones