Kendal Calling 2012 - Festival review

'A triumphant pay off'

Kendal Calling 2012 - Festival review

Photographer:Jason Downes

Jamie Barker - 29 July 2012

Kendal Calling has developed something of a stranglehold on the 'Best Small Festival' award over the past few years and the throng of people clambering through the gates is an immediate reminder that this year's event sold out well in advance.

It's an air of expectation then which fills Lowther Deer Park, the beautiful Lake District setting full of striking landscapes and rolling countryside, as The Lottery Winners (8/10) take to the stage. With a similar sound to The Futureheads but with a dash of charming, boy-girl vocals they provide a gleeful opening to proceedings as the early arrivals lie sprawled across sofas placed by the stage.

Trophy Wife (6/10) have been gathering media mentions for a while but are still working on a debut album. Today they show that their dance-influenced indie sound is developing but, unfortunately, today it all feels a little more 'canal barge' than 'Tall Ships'. Elsewhere, Karima Francis (8/10) is bestowing her charming folk sounds on the Chai Wallah tent. Her soulful vocals evoke images of someone much older than her years. Her version of 'Tears Dry on Their Own', a tribute to the late Amy Winehouse, gives the brooding original a run for its money.

DJ Yoda & the Trans-Siberian March Band (10/10) provide the most audacious festival set 2012 will bear witness to. They blend Yoda's supreme mixing skills with brass throughout a set which doffs its cap to dub step, Dr Dre, Tetris, 80s pop and the Inspector Gadget theme tune. It shouldn't work but it's an outrageous triumph for all concerned.

As the day draws to a close the dance/hip hop influence becomes much stronger and both Ghostpoet (8/10) and Scroobius Pip (8/10) deliver strong sets to their respective crowds. Maximo Park (7/10) draw a huge crowd and the singles provide scenes worthy of a main stage headliner. Unfortunately a lot of the new material falls flat and large sections of the crowd seem to lose interest before they're done.

Over in the Glow Dance Tent other revellers are choosing to conclude their first day experience with Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobious Pip (7/10). Recent live appearances have been rare and the crowd love every second of it. Unfortunately Pip seems a little worse for wear, including having to start once song three time before he gets the words right. It might be the pressure of playing two sets or it could simply be the bottle of red wine he's been clutching whenever we've seen him.

The second day begins with a lot of sore heads and the first warning signs that the weather might not play ball for the whole weekend. On the main stage, Little Roy (7/10) pushes the rain clouds out of minds for a little while longer as he romps his way through a set of life-affirming reggae. The fact that most of his set is drawn from his Nirvana cover album is slightly lost on many but those who do notice can't fail to spot the irony of people bouncing along with dark material like 'Polly'.

In Tim Burgess' Tim Peaks diner, the wooden walls are at risk of falling down with so many cramming themselves in. Those who succeed witness the sets of the weekend. Firstly, Tim Burgess (7/10) gets himself into the swing of things with a short set before Roddy Frame and Edwyn Collins (10/10) become a rotating cast of accompaniment and provide genuine goosebumps for the first time all weekend. As the three of them join forces to close with 'Girl Like You', more than a few eyes are misting over.

On the main stage Dodgy (5/10) are also evoking memories but it often falls a bit flat. That starts a fairly disappointing main stage run, as Spector (5/10) fail to impress with their 'quirky' indie and The View (6/10) only manage to fill forty minutes of their hour long slot and leave without so much as a goodbye.

On the Chai Wallah stage Benjamin Francis Leftwich (8/10) has drawn a huge crowd but sound issues delay the start of his set. When he does, eventually, get started he floats through a selection of ballads so intimate and touching that the storm starting to rage outside is long forgotten. Dizzee Rascal (9/10) packs out the main stage area, leaving the smaller members of the audience scrambling up trees to get a better view of their hero. It's been a slow, steady climb to the top for Dizzee and tonight he blows his way through all the singles that have gained him a place at the top of the pile. As 'Bonkers' explodes from the speakers, complete with fireworks, lazers and streamers it's clear that Dizzee has everyone eating from the palm of his hand.

Sunday morning breaks with absence of The Lightning Seeds which, while previously announced, seems to disappoint a few early risers. The Mexinines (6/10) provide a more youthful alternative and deliver a solid, if slightly pedestrian, opening set. Ultimately though, it lacks the singalongs the aforementioned act would surely have provided.

Following that, Liverpool's Tea Street Band (8/10) provide a refreshing alternative to Twisted Wheel's main stage lad rock. Their opening number may sound a little like U2's 'Beautiful Day' but the rest of the set does more than enough to cleanse the audial pallet.

The Lancashire Hotpots (7/10) have never claimed to be anything other than a novelty act and they raise a few smiles amidst the mud today. When Beans on Toast (9/10) takes to the Calling Out stage it marks the point at which most of the Kendal Calling crowd miss out on something really special. He carefully selects the choice cuts from his back catalogue (already a colossal number for a relatively new artist) and tailors his brief set to the festival crowd; touching upon such pressing matters as sleeping with an ugly girl at a festival, accidentally encouraging 15 year olds to dabble with drugs and the mythical British water drought.

We Are Scientists (7/10) are not on top form today, perhaps due to Keith's ongoing vocal issues, but they still get the day's biggest singalong so far with, early single, 'The Great Escape'. The Woodlands is a new area for this year's event, a magical stage tucked away amongst the trees at the very top of the site. Grand Pocket Orchestra (8/10) hail from Dublin and deliver a charming synth and glockenspiel-led set in the festival's delightful party forest.

Feeder (9/10) have been ploughing their furrow for a long time and although they're not the commercial juggernauts they once were they are still a sensational festival band. With the hits they deliver and the crowd reaction to everything but the newest material, they could just as easily have been headlining tonight.

Alas, that honour falls to James (9/10). Now in their 30th year the set spans the festival generation gap and gives everyone a moment to consider their own festival climax. Aside from the obvious anthems it's a spine-tingling version of 'Just Like Fred Astaire' which proves a real highlight. While this year's  line-up may have been slightly less eclectic than previous offerings there's still been something for everyone to enjoy if they were looking in the right places. Kendal Calling 2012 - a triumphant pay off at the end of a lot of hard work.



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