THEY SAID 'It would be a swamp'.
They said 'The headliners weren’t big enough'.
They said 'It’s no Glastonbury'.
'They' weren’t missed, and Kendal Calling was all the better for it.
It's not a single crowd-pulling headline act or being situated on the outskirts of a large suburban area that makes the people flock. They come because Kendal Calling seems to try a lot harder to go beyond expectations
Those who were there (and there was some 17000+) embraced Kendal Calling 2014 and enjoyed the very reason the festival has enjoyed year-on-year success from its birth back in 2006, that the whole is better than the sum of the parts.
The secret recipe for this success?
Select rolling green hills, small lakes and giant oak trees, mix in Cumbrians, Northumbrians, Glaswegians and Mancunians before adding seven music stages showcasing any mixture of music. Add a dash of artwork, culture and children friendly zones and leave to rest under a steady spray of finest Cumbrian precipitation for about 72 hours and you should have one perfectly formed music festival.
Across Friday fans of all ages arrived from up and down the M6 to the Lowther Deer Park, (near Penrith rather than Kendal confusingly) instantly swapping flip-flops and shorts for wellies and waders it was on to the music, via a brief stop at the real ale tent or a pun-laden food vendor - Kebabalon & Piggy Smalls for me if you’re asking.
De La Soul kick started the Friday night - though not helped by turning up (un)fashionably late and as a result doing the shortest main stage set of the weekend - gave a whirlwind trip through a 27 year back catalogue which warmed the crowd up for Mercury winning, Britpop pioneers Suede to steal the show.
Proving that age hasn’t subdued the showman at all, frontman Brett Anderson provided a master class of singing, dancing, prancing and entertaining whilst energetically working the crowd into mass sing-a-longs of songs you either thought you had forgotten or were too young to have known.
Over at the Twin Peaks Diner, the brainchild ski chalet style venue of Charlatans front man Tim Burgess, it was northern soul that had revellers dancing on the tables with Wigan Young Souls playing into the early hours.
As is so often the case at festivals some of the best moments can be found tucked away from the anthem singing at the main stage, which turned out to be the case on Saturday.
Whilst Frank Turner played (or preached) his political punk-folk music to one of the largest weekend crowds it was at the Calling Out stage that the perfect voice of Rae Morris captivated a packed tent.
In direct contrast followed Augustine’s high energy set that mixed performances both on stage and acoustically in the crowd. An absorbed crowd seemed genuinely upset when the set came to an end which summed up the atmosphere across the weekend. Punters seemed to hold the acts in high regard and not as a token afterthought to getting tanked-up in a field - that or they didn’t want to leave the comfort of the tent for the bog outside.
For fans of drink, drugs and party anthems, or at least an example of what decades of those can do to you, The Happy Mondays gave their best account. Undoubtedly a crowd favourite, with Kinky Afro and Step on lapped up by fans, who even forgave Sean Ryder for forgetting where he was, “hello...errr...festival” still got a cheer.
Saturday night’s entertainment reached its crescendo in the House Party tent where XFM's Gareth Brooks turned the small venue into a sweat box sauna as revellers danced away into the night to his hip hop set.
With two days of eating, drinking, not sleeping and mud-wading by Sunday morning, the masses were lagging. That was until The Lancashire Hotpots woke the site up with their unique mix of comedy folk and found themselves playing to a packed-out main stage.
Amongst the trees on the woodlands stage Carlisle-based punk rock band Colt 45 made the walk up the hill a worthwhile one. Though it was the combination of Clean Bandit, who’s white skinny jeans indicated the only part of the festival they had seen was the tour bus, and Tom Odell, that kept the crowds dancing in the quagmire.
Example closed the festival for another year, with his brand of rap-rave delighting the crowd which chanted back every one of his multitude of five word choruses back at him before the firework finale proved to be a fitting end and nice touch for the crowds still going strong.
So the secret is out. It's not a single crowd-pulling headline act or being situated on the outskirts of a large suburban area that makes the people flock. They come because Kendal Calling seems to try a lot harder to go beyond the expectations of your larger commercial festival, it engages the punter to enjoy the beautiful site, to try the local ales, to spend time watching either young and exciting or old and wise artists.
And it's keen to get better. That makes a Kendal Calling.
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