Kendal Calling 2009: Rated!

United Kingdom United Kingdom | by Gemma Fraser | 04 August 2009

Overall - 7/10

With just 6000 tickets available, it is pretty remarkable that Kendal Calling can offer up such greats as Ash, The Streets, Noah and the Whale and Idlewild, along with another 150 up-and-coming, legendary and just plain bizarre acts. Still a relatively new festival, there's a lot of room for improvement, including better site layout and staff who know what's going on, but all things considered  - including moving to a bigger and better location for the first time his year - Kendal is not too shabby and one to keep an eye out for over the coming years.

Getting There And Back - 8/10

Finding the festival site, just past Penrith, is a doddle, with regular signposts leading the way to the impressive Lowther Deer Park. After parking up, a helpful tractor was on hand to give you and your poor arms a break by zooming you up to the top of the field, leaving you with just a 10-minute walk to the campsite entrance. Getting back was equally as simple if you had a car, but a lack of shuttle buses to Penrith train station on the Monday morning led to a lot of pissed-off, hungover, sleep-deprived festival-goers who had to wait up to two hours for public transport.

The Site - 7/10

For some lucky people, the entrance to the main site was just a two-minute walk from their tents, making it incredibly easy to nip back for booze, jumpers or to shelter from the rain. The site itself was a bit randomly laid out, with the main stage - which looked like a giant pop-up tent – in one section and everything else rammed into the rest. A map would have been a welcome addition, especially since none of the staff seemed able to guide you to anywhere other than the giant bins at the arena entrance to dispose of "all your liquids". That said, if you did manage to successfully navigate your way round the site, you would have stumbled on a range of impressive folk and acoustic tents, a variety of top-notch food outlets - which for some reason all filled your plates with Desperate Dan-sized portions each time - and random circus equipment lying about the ground.

Atmosphere - 6.5/10

On arrival, Kendal Calling appeared to be one of the un-friendliest places this side of Folsom State Prison. Staff were grumpy and unhelpful and smug with it, Cumbrian chavs out of their heads on super-strength lager went out of their way to start fights and irritate people, while everyone else must have gone to the same face-painter and asked for the Droopy The Dog style. But, as the festival went on and the weather went from torrential rain to glorious sunshine, the mood improved and it turned out the majority of people were actually really friendly. Especially the beer "recyclers" who went around the campsite delivering unwanted cans to perplexed campers late on Sunday night. Nice touch guys.


Nine Black Alps 8/10

You just can't beat the kind of youthful energy injected into Saturday afternoon by the Nine Black Alps. So these guys don't offer up anything that new - playing guitar with a drumstick is impressive, but old hat all the same, and if you squint a little you could be forgiven for thinking you were listening to ‘Bleach’-era Nirvana - but so what? They are loud, they have great songs and, most of all, they play bloody well.

Noah and the Whale 8/10

The sun is out, the Kopparberg is flowing and Noah and the Whale provide the perfect backdrop to a lazy Sunday afternoon. People aren't going visibly wild for these guys but they know that, like a big dose of Calpol, the beautiful vocals and flawless melodies are just the antidote to eradicating all the evils of the festival experience, including the mud, disgusting toilets and stiff backs from sleeping on the ground for the past two nights.

Idlewild - 8.5/10
It's official - Roddy Woomble can smile. And boy was he going for it at Kendal. It's the best feeling in the world to be part of a crowd which a band is obviously enjoying playing to, and judging by the Woomble's grin - and his regular trips to the side of the stage to survey the fruits of his labour - they were fucking loving it. Maybe they were just feeling lucky to have made it on stage at all as guitarist Rod Jones slipped a disk - very rock and roll - that morning and had to do the first half of the set sitting on a chair. But, obviously unable to sit still any longer after festival favourites ‘When I Argue I See Shapes’ and opener ‘Roseability’, he ditched the chair and endured the pain like a true rock star. The boys from Ash certainly seemed to approve, watching practically all the set from the back of the stage.

Ash – 8.5/10

The thing about Ash is that despite having been together for 17 years, with dozens of hits and albums spanning more than a decade, they can still pull together the ultimate crowd-pleasing set - and do it with all the enthusiasm of giddy 15-year-olds. ‘Kung Fu’, ‘Goldfinger’, ‘Oh Year’, ‘A life Less Ordinary’, ‘Shining Light’, ‘Girl From Mars’ and encore closer ‘Burn Baby Burn’ - need we say more? The crowd go wild for each and every hit offered up by the boys, and, in return, even give the same welcome to their new tracks from their forthcoming A-Z Singles Series. What an explosive way to end any festival.

The Streets - 8/10

Sex, nudity and Pizza Express – there were few things The Streets frontman Mike Skinner wasn’t happy to discuss in between playing such hits as ‘Dry Your Eyes’ and ‘Don’t Mug Yourself’. The headlining act on the opening night might occasionally have had to compete with the rain, but it was a no-contest as fans flocked to the main stage to dance in the mud to the Birmingham rapper.

Skinner has a reputation as a great live act and the wittiness of his lyrics translated to lively banter with the fans, and when one woman decided to go topless he happily followed suit. A lively set was closed with the trippy ‘Blinded by the Lights’ and the mood for the weekend was set.


The rain. Every festival's worst nightmare, but luckily, after a torrential downpour on Friday night and a couple of brief showers on Saturday night, it brightened up, meaning the site didn't turn into a complete mud pit.

The toilets. OK, so not very original, but all 6000 Kendal-goers will testify that these are the worst festival toilets in a long time. The mere thought of there only being about three different blocks for the whole site and the fact they were never cleaned is enough to bring up last night's burger.

The mis-spelling of Kendal as Kendall on the wristbands. A bit pedantic, but come on guys, it's not that hard.

Random Events

Possibly one of the most random festival moments ever were the Cumbrian Olympics, featuring traditional sports like gurning shot-put and the three-legged race. Compered by women dressed in 1940s tennis skirts, drawn-on moustaches and red bobbed wigs, the hilarious Olympics attracted bigger crowds than some of the main stage bands, including a certain Mark Hamilton from Ash. After choosing ceremonious "anthems" for the crowd to sing, the winners of each event were presented with Cumbrian Olympics medals - what a proud honour for any man.

At the risk of sounding like an evil bastard, one of the other funniest moments was the downfall of a one-year-old Superman who, after showing off for a good half hour in front of the main stage crowd, tripped over his balloon and fell face first into the mud. But alas, he lived to tell the tale and was spotted the next day playing with the circus toys and running round with what looked like a can of super ale.

By Gemma Fraser

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wrote on Wednesday 5 August :

By Sunday evening the toilets improved, thankfully... we had three kids with us so it was a bit more noticeable! Loved the music, atmosphere and food, and our kids loved the Tribe of Tat where they made 'robot' costumes which the organisers made a procession with on the Sunday.

wrote on Wednesday 5 August :

I meant Saturday evening!

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