Festival Preview: Kendal Calling 2017

Kendal Calling 2017

Words Gary Feeney

A lot of festivals like to claim that each year’s line-up will be the best they’ve ever had and that every edition of it has been the best to date. Often such claims are a tad hyperbolic, but in the case of Kendal Calling, the organisers go out of their way to make sure they live up to their promises each time.

Into its twelfth year, the Lake District festival has gone from strength-to-strength with each passing year, having grown in size and stature from its relatively humble beginnings to becoming one of the most acclaimed and in-demand events in Britain. As well as scooping a number of awards – the festival scooped Best Medium Festival in 2013 and 2016 at the UK Festival Award, having taken the Small Festival titles in 2010 and ’11 – Kendal has sold out in every single year, with this year’s tickets flying out of the door in record time. Quite rightly, too.

I first attended the festival back in 2013, attracted by a stellar line-up including Primal Scream, Johnny Marr and the Charlatans, and fell in love with it straight away. Having been a T In The Park regular for nearly a decade previously, the difference in…well, just about everything, really, was staggering: instead of essentially being a giant money-making operation like most big festivals are, everything about the site felt designed to be as attractive and enjoyable as possible, with every wee nook and cranny of the arena taken up by an entrancing array of sights, sounds and smells. Even after 4 years, I still feel like I haven’t managed to see everything that the site has to offer.

A particular area of interest is the Garden of Eden, a largeof woodland section to the rear of the festival which contains a range of art installations as well as the Woodlands Stage, which largely plays host to up-and-coming bands (as well as a late night silent disco) and also the more eclectic, avant-garde Carvetti Stage. A perfect spot for a break from the bustle of the main arena during the day where you can have a seat in the shade and watch the numerous performance art displays , the Garden of Eden really comes to life at night with mesmerising lighting and fire displays. It’s well worth taking the time for a stroll after dark, and if you venture down the far left corner there’s a DJ booth playing electro tunes in to the wee hours which is always good for something a bit different from the main site.
Speaking of late at night, the arena is open until 3am and there’s something for everyone somewhere, including a cinema for those who’ve had enough of partying for the day. If you fancy a good old sing-a-long, get yourself along to the indie discos which run in the Calling Out tent after the headliners finish – in particular, Baggy Mondays’ set on the Friday night is always a highlight.

To keep you fuelled, there’s an ale festival in the Real Ale tents featuring an array of local brews on draught for the more discerning/fussy (delete as preferred) drinker, although there’s also the usual, standard bars dotted around the site – there’s sometimes better deals on in the Real Ale tents though, so it’s worth a try to save a few quid. In terms of food, the standard and value at Kendal is very good indeed, with a huge variety for carnivores, vegetarians and vegans alike. For the latter groups, the Mexican stall near the entrance to the arena, along with Ghandi’s Flip Flop come highly recommended.

For those attending with children, Kendal Calling prides itself on being a family-friendly event and accordingly there are plenty of children’s activities on offer, although I’ve never had call to investigate exactly what! If you browse around the area at the top of the hill the main stage faces though, there’s always something going on, especially in the afternoons.
Ultimately though, it’s all about the music and for all the other delights Kendal has to offer, it’s here it truly excels. The headline/sub-headline sets range from older acts like Manic Street Preachers and Brian Wilson to more recent, contemporary stars such as Tinie Tempah and Loyle Carner with a bit of everything in between but one of the great things about the festival is that new bands are given their chance to shine rather than being slung on before most people have crawled out of their sleeping bags. As such, it’s worth slipping away from the main stage now and again and taking a punt on a new name elsewhere – you’ll probably find your new favourite band.
No matter what you look for in a festival though, you really can’t go wrong at Kendal Calling. The best advice we can offer is to you throw yourself right into it from the minute you arrive and you’ll be all set for the best weekend of the year, but if you’re after some tips on the hottest new acts, then check out some of our favourites below along with our own Popped Music Kendal Calling 2017 playlist.

Ones to watch

The Shimmer Band

Opening the Main Stage on the Thursday night, the Shimmer Band are one of the most hotly-tipped new bands around at the moment…and for good reason. With a sound heavily influenced by acts like Primal Scream and the Happy Mondays at their grooviest (think Screamadelica) injected with copious splashes of psychedilia, gospel and flat-out rock’n’roll, the Bristol outfit already have a stream of towering singles to their name, including the swaggering epic Freedom. Having saw them live a couple of times, I can confidently vouch for them as being the perfect party starters at Kendal. Catch them before they explode.

Find The Shimmer Band on Facebook

Listen to What Is Mine here:

The Ninth Wave

The Ninth Wave’s Soundcloud biography consists of two simple words. Sometimes that can be entirely unhelpful, but in the case of this Glasgow outfit, any more words would be somewhat superfluous.
“Gothic pop” is what it says on the tin and Gothic pop is what you get from the four-piece, who are widely regarded as one of the finest up-and-coming acts in their hometown on the back of singles like Change and their most recent release, Reformation, which has already gained airplay on Radio 1. Managing to be dark and brooding and yet breezy and uplifting at the same time is no easy feat, but the Ninth Wave manage it with aplomb and will be a highlight of Friday’s Woodlands Stage line-up.

Find The Ninth Wave on Facebook

Listen to Reformation here:


Vegan Leather

Although they’ve been around for a couple of years now, the Paisley group only released their first proper single, Shake It, earlier this year and have been causing quite a splash since. Fusing the art-school rock riffs of the likes of Franz Ferdinand with vibrant, dancefloor-filling synths and pulsing electro-beats, the Vegan Leather’s reputation as a top live act was further enhanced by an energetic set at TRNSMT earlier in the month. You can catch them on the Woodlands Stage on Friday afternoon.

Find Vegan Leather on Facebook

Listen to Shake It here:

Colonel Mustard & the Dijon 5

Where to start with this most unusual of bands? Clad all in yellow with disco ball helmets galore, the 15-piece (yes, 15!) make music that’s somewhere between the Happy Mondays and Chic with a sizeable splash of ska and pantomime flung in and put on live shows with the express purpose of making sure every, single person there has a good time – from inflatable unicorns to lessons in crossing the road (yes, really), the Colonel and his merry men and women are not to be missed when they open Saturday’s main stage bill. Get down early for some mustard loving.

Find Colonel Mustard & The Dijon 5 on Facebook

Listen to Cross The Road here:


Regular Popped readers won’t be at all surprised to see White appearing in this section, but we couldn’t possibly leave their Main Stage appearance on the Saturday out of this list.
Already established as one of the finest new acts to emerge from Scotland in many years via a handful of sublime singles – including Living Fiction, which I’d argue is one of *the* greatest singles of this decade, at least – and a reputation as one of the most thrilling live acts on the scene, White released their debut album, One Night Stand Forever, earlier in the year and it more than lived up to the expectations.
If you only check out one new band over the weekend then this should be it. Stock up on glitter and bring your best dancing shoes.

Find White on Facebook

Listen to Future Pleasures here:

East Fast

Appearing in the Calling Out tent on Saturday, the Newcastle band’s brand of fuzzy, full-on garage rock promises to be a stand-out on that stage’s bill. With the brilliant double-A side of Public Display of Affection and Sand Drone and second E.P Immortal Kombat to their name already this year, Eat Fast get better and better with each new release and have been very high on my own “must see” list for some time. If you like your music loud, this is for you.

Find Eat Fast on Facebook

Listen to Immortal Kombat here:



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