Another summer festival has come to an end. The traditional homecoming shower has been taken, the comforting takeaway has been devoured and a creeping sense of sadness at returning to non-festival living is setting in.
But any tendency toward melancholy can be combated with the memories of what has just unfolded. The new friends made, the unique sights seen and, of course, the music. Kendal Calling offered all three in spades.
The growing number of boutique festivals has seen regional events start to reclaim their local character in recent times. As a result Kendal Calling has a Northern feel that gives it both a rowdy but well-natured atmosphere. The organisers astutely tap into this and each year put on a musical programme with enough edge to satisfy the festival ultras and more than a little something for everyone else. Here’s what was on offer this year.
You might think Kelis would appear as a blast from the past, even a singer whose star has fallen over the past decade. But on Saturday she showed what a true icon she still is. A stunning set of house, R&B and hip hop moved the crowd like no one else, with a mix of live band and DJ that struck just the right balance between original and borrowed sounds.
‘Milkshake’, ‘Millionaire’ and the exceptional ‘Trick Me’ brought genuine star quality to Cumbria. Kelis is still one of the most innovative musicians on the planet and it’s an honour to have her here.
Photo: Chris Chadwick
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
Closing a festival boasting a very high density of Oasis fans with Noel Gallagher was an obvious but ultimately very successful move. He is on record on saying he’ll never stop playing the hits, and boy did he deliver. High Flying Birds tracks including ‘AKA What a Life’ went down well, but the real adulation was saved for the generous smattering of Oasis songs delivered as promised.
‘Champagne Supernova’, ‘Half the World Away’ and ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ made grown men weep with joy. Whatever it is about Gallagher’s compositions that evoke such powerful emotions in so many men (and some, although fewer, women) sure is a powerful tool. And it makes him a shoe in for any UK festival headline slot.
Photo: Chris Chadwick
Teleman are on the surface a more austere prospect than Oasis or the Gallaghers. They’ve sometimes been accused of lacking a certain warmth or humanity, but honestly anyone saying that either isn’t looking hard enough or lacks sufficient insight.
They infuse their precise, driven rhythms with melodies that are powerful enough to raise the hairs on the back of your neck, and that’s where the real genius lies. ‘Cristina’ and ‘Dusseldorf’ lit up Kendal Calling with their transcendent beauty and just for a few minutes Cumbrian time stood still. Stunning.
Manchester’s Spring King charged up Sunday evening with a set of pure balls out rock & roll that, to quote the Blues Brothers, was powerful enough ‘to turn goat piss into gasoline’. They were aided by the proximity to their native Manchester and were clearly overawed by both the size and enthusiasm of the crown they drew. But they more than rose to the occasion.
Expect to be hearing a lot more of ‘Can I?’, ‘Rectifier’ and more in the near future as these young men break out of the North West and into the national conscience.
The Chai Wallahs tent offered a welcome respite to those who felt a little run down, or whose body or soul just need a slight tune up, across the weekend. But there were also some musical gems to be found there if you knew what you were looking for.
One such gem was Will Varley. With his long hair, straggly beard, waistcoat and classical guitar, he resembles a young Billy Connolly. He also shares the easy between-song wit that persuaded the young Scots folk singer to go into comedy full-time. But, unlike Connolly, he has the songs to propel him to musical stardom.
Playing wistful troubadour music that gives a nod to the past without forgetting its place in the present or responsibility to shape the future, Varley is a rare talent who is not to be missed. ‘King for a King’ would be a good place to start for the uninitiated.
Simon Price’s Stay Beautiful Bowie Special
Forget the turgid BBC Proms tribute, this was the moment that would have made the great man proud. Simon Price brought his Brighton-based club night to the North in an hour of pure joy. It was overcrowded, overheated and sleazy: everything Bowie stood for.
Price is an excellent DJ and a contemporary figure who attracts a similar kind of disciple to Ziggy Stardust back in the day. He made sure it was a special evening.