Festival Review: Kendal Calling 2018

Kendal Calling 2018

Words: Samantha Sadler

Back again for the 13th year running, Kendal Calling once again totally smashed it out of the park for festival goers. The four-day music festival in the Lake District has been steadily growing year-on-year and as the crowds get bigger, the atmosphere gets better. I try to go to Kendal Calling every year and this year was definitely one of my favourites so far.


Headed up by Hacienda Classical, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Plan B and The Libertines, it was a weekend to remember for quality music and the four seasons of weather that we endured. So if you’re back from the festival and still suffering with those pesky post-festival blues like I am, strap in and grab a can of cider whilst we reminisce on one of the best weekends of 2018 so far.


Unfortunately we arrived late on the Thursday so could only hear Hacienda Classical from the campsite as we pitched our tent but the dance classics pumped throughout and the vibes were electric. A perfect way to kickstart what was going to be a crazy weekend.


On the Friday we woke up in the baking heat and decided it was time to cover ourselves in glitter, grab a lukewarm can of Old Mout and head to the Woodlands Stage for some great, upcoming music. We were greeted by indie Liverpool outfit RATS and their chaotic yet funky instrumentals. Frontman Joe Maddocks provided the energy as his high-pitched vocals pierced through the enclosed stage area, and despite them not having their bass player with them they still put on a cracking set. A stunning cover of Back to Black by Amy Winehouse, one of their own tracks about The Sun Newspaper and their new single ‘Weekend’ which blasted football violence and how stupid it is, delighted the whole audience and I absolutely loved them. Ending with a bow and “don’t buy the fucking Sun”, the lads strutted off stage and firmly stapled themselves as one of my weekend highlights.


Next up on Friday’s agenda was my favourite lads of 2018 – Marsicans! Both myself and the Popped crew can’t get enough of this Leeds quartet and their infectious sunshine indie-pop so it was great to see them packing out the Calling Out Stage. Opening on the super catchy Too Good, the hardcore fans had flocked to the barrier to scream the lyrics back and clap their hands as loud as they could. An energetic set absolutely bursting with flawless vocals, anthemic choruses and chirpy riffs, the guys plugged through tracks including ‘Pop-Ups (Sunny at the Weekend)’ and ‘Friends’. Incredible performance as always, Marsicans just keep on delivering.


Mooching on over to the Yam Riot stage it was time for Carlisle band Sugarspun. The guys managed to draw in a crowd but it was a shame they weren’t on a bigger stage – Yam Riot is great but so secluded that sometimes the festival goers forget to head on down. Despite that, they were brilliant and extremely energetic. I’ve compared them to a modern day Oasis in the past and I stick by it – I reckon these guys would easily pack out larger venues. Psychedelic vibes and impressive bass lines, it’s easy listening at its finest that you can tap your foot to. Highlight tracks have to be latest single Spaceman Dreams and Is This It? – oozing with proper British indie tones.


As the sun started to go behind the clouds, it was time for headliners Catfish and the Bottlemen to take to the main stage. I’ve been going to watch Catfish since they were packing out tiny venues in Newcastle so it’s beyond incredible to see them go and play the larger stages and even headlining a festival. Opening on the popular Homesick, the audience were chanting every single lyric from the get-go. There’s very little to be said for Catfish at this stage other than they always put on an incredible show with impeccable instrumentals and vocals. Unfortunately the main stage sound was pretty bad so there was a lack of bass if you were stood further back, but it didn’t take anything away from the performance for me. Van McCann is the definition of a showman, with his super cool attitude and carefree strutting on stage. A stripped-back version of McCann performing Hourglass was a obvious stand-out moment, really powerful and one for the fans.


After all the excitement from the Friday, it was easy to get up on the Saturday to experience another day packed full of music. Newcastle’s very own Sam Fender was first on the list to catch and it beat away that hangover. The young singer-songwriter has already built up a fanbase of adoring fans so it was no surprise to see how busy the main stage was. Introducing the band as “three Geordies and a Frenchman”, Fender was likeable and extremely talented. Popular Play God of course made an appearance with its funky beat and finishing on Leave Fast was a perfect way to end the set. Such a lush performance, and I have to mention the impressive guitar duet with Fender and a fellow bandmate.


Another North East act I caught on Saturday was the awesome DEEP.SLEEP who I’ve had my eye on for a good while now. In all honesty, they were again another highlight from the festival due to how likeable they were and the fact their tracks were so easy to dance to. Playing at the Woodlands stage, it can be difficult to draw a crowd in with it being focussed to newer music but the area was packed as the sun provided a respite from the heavy rain. Bounding through tracks such as ‘Orange English Sun’, ‘Soho’ and ‘1994’, I think it’s safe to say that the guys have found serious fans this weekend, myself included.


I was also really pleased to catch summery indie-pop quartet Indigo Velvet on the Woodlands Stage, a band who played for Popped only last year. The rain returned just as they were about to come on stage out but plenty of people were happy to bounce around in the mud to their awesome tunes that radiate African influences and twinkling riffs. A one to keep watching for, for sure.


Ok so I have to admit that Saturday’s headliner isn’t my favourite act in the world. In fact, before the weekend I had very little time for him at all. HOWEVER, Plan B was probably the biggest shock of the festival for me. Called in as a last minute headliner, it didn’t stop the British hip-hop artist drawing in massive crowds. Of course Ill Manors and Prayin’ made an appearance but it was Love Goes Down and It’s A War that really exposed Plan B as an incredible vocalist. Dramatic and passionate, I’d happily say that he’s transformed me into a fan of his work. Bravo.


The rain may have been damping the ground on Sunday but it wasn’t dampening spirits. After wandering around trying to catch whatever we could, the following three acts have to be mentioned as highlights.


Lady Leshurr, Birmingham’s finest rapper, had to be the most grateful act of the whole weekend. Full of love for the audience and bringing the energy, she bounced around the main stage in a bright red tracksuit, bringing a smile to everyone’s face. After bringing out tune after tune in an attempt to keep the masses from feeling gloomy over the weather, Lady Leshurr brought out the extremely popular ‘Queen’s Speech’ as everyone screamed “brush your teeth” and threw their own toothbrushes onto the stage. Carnage so early in the afternoon never looked so good.


Pale Waves are another act of the day that definitely need a shout out. Again, they are another outfit that have been on my radar for a while now but I still wasn’t sure what to expect from their live performance. I’m pleased to report, it was everything I wanted and a bit more. Blasting out tunes including ‘Heavenly’, ‘Kiss’ and ‘Noises’ it was like gothic, super-pop dream. A splash of the 1975 radiates from the Manchester outfit but they are unique in their own right with heartfelt lyrics and a look of determination on every single band members face. Heather Baron-Gracie is officially my new girl crush, her vocals are completely flawless and her dance moves are the most bizarre, yet most wonderful I’ve witnessed. Thank god we have more talented women frontwomen that aren’t afraid to offer the rawness that Baron-Gracie does.


Ending the weekend was my personal favourites The Libertines. Now, I’ve been a fan of The Libertines for years and I’ve seen them many times, but every single time I see them feels like I’ve never seen them before. Although the sound wasn’t brilliant, as I mentioned for Catfish on Friday, it can’t take anything away from the dynamic between Pete & Carl on stage. I personally think that the best thing about The Libertines is that they are so suited to small venues with their laidback attitude that it’s almost a shock that they can head up a full festival or an arena, but they really can hold the masses in the palm of their hands. Of course the favourites ‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’ and ‘What Katie Did’ were there to please us old-school fans and ‘Death on the Stairs’ was an absolute treat. You don’t really have to go into detail about the instrumental and vocal ability of The Libertines, everyone knows how good they are. All I can say is that they are still one of the best bands out there and in terms of British guitar music, I honestly believe they can’t be beaten.


With all that said, thank you again Kendal Calling for an amazing weekend. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve lost my voice and my body aches. See you in 2019.

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