In a year where the festival calendar has a rather large Glastonbury shaped hole it’s a relief to know Kendal Calling always manages to bring a little of that Worthy Farm spirit to the summer. Set in the beautiful grounds of Cumbria’s Lowther Deer Park, the event, has become one which music fans can guarantee to deliver year after year.
In terms of vibe, it is very much a mini-Glasto with lots to enjoy over Kendal Calling’s 11 stages. It is fair say the festival, which took place for the 13th time this summer, still has indie at heart but it puts in a good effort catering for different genres – particularly with its late-night club entertainment.
The M6, bathing in sweltering sunshine, was something of an ordeal to overcome on Kendal Calling 2018’s opening day but that was all forgotten on site. The addition of Thursday at the festival, an extra bonus in recent years, aimed to get everyone dancing with Craig Charles bringing his funk and soul show to the main stage.
We also got to enjoy the spirit of Madchester when the Hacienda Classical treated Lowther Deer Park to a bangin’ array of ’80s and ’90s Manchester rave classics. The set highlight came when New Order’s legendary bassist Peter Hook joined the orchestra for a reworked rendition of Blue Monday. It was quite obvious that former Joy Division man, Hook, thrived doing something different with a song that helped create a whole new movement of music in the UK.
With the whole site fully opening on the Friday, the Chai Wallah tent is always the best place to conclude the first night at Kendal Calling. Come Friday, the campsite was brimming with tents for another sold out event up in Cumbria. Despite rain being forecast, the site was only being showered by the sun’s rays as we got to explore all the wonderfully picturesque setting had the offer. As ever, the enchanted woodlands was the place to visit with its silent disco being a must to end a night.
But well ahead of Friday night’s frivolities the daytime delivered some wonderful moments courtesy of Felix Hagan and The Family, Marmozets, Tom Grennan, Catfish And The Bottlemen and James. The latter, a big favourite of the festival, treated their adoring crowd to mix of old and new – a difficult task when you consider they are now on album 15. The rendition of rarely played indie anthem, Sit Down, was something many savoured. The contrast between crowds for James and Catfish was quite amusing with parents taking their kids to see the former and leaving them there for the indie pop band. A party in the woods was then calling after the main stage headline performance.
One of the hidden gems of this year’s Kendal Calling had to be the dystopian futuristic club which was waiting to be discovered in the woods. Many enjoyed a little moonwalk there ahead of Bugzy Malone, Shed Seven and Plan B on the main stage.
The Londoner was Plan B by name and nature when the rapper turned soul star stepped in last minute to replace Run DMC who had to drop out because of scheduling conflicts. Plan B deputised well but the event did miss that top level headline act that Saturday nights at festivals demand. There was also a slightly embarrassing moment where the sound was cut presumably because Plan B went over curfew.
Come Sunday morning, Lowther Deer Park was a bit of a muddy mess in places but that didn’t bother regulars as Kendal Calling always gets at least one day of rain. By the afternoon, the skies started to clear and the crowds were able to enjoy the music, the festival’s family entertainment, fairground area, comedy tent and many bars of all shapes and sizes.
Fans of The Libertines were treated to two sets from the indie royalty. Firstly, they made a surprise appearance at Tim Peak’s Diner, The Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess’ regular Kendal Calling coffee shop turned disco, which made for a sweaty affair. Then Doherty and Barât brought the curtain down on another memorable festival with a set which spanned their three albums. Their performances left many in an expectant mood ahead of the band’s rumoured release of new material in 2019.