Festival Review: Kendal Calling 2019

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Fresh from the fields, we return from Kendal Calling with an open mind, big heart and incredibly muddy wellies.

Set in the heart of the beautiful Lake District, the festival delivered a non stop weekend full of family friendly fun, flares and a fair bit of rain. Arriving in blazing sunshine and leaving in torrential rain, we sure didn’t let the British weather get to us.

We kicked off the festival with The Big Moon on the main stage, and what a way to begin! The band attracted a large crowd and whilst their set was short, it certainly created momentum for their second album.

Next up were The Pigeon Detectives, who delivered a nostalgic set of catchy singles. The first flares of the weekend appeared in the crowd as fans jumped around. Leaving us with the message “Fuck the Tory’s and fuck Boris Johnson”, this marked the first political engagement from musicians across the weekend.

We headed to the Woodland Stage for Calva Louise, a band with next level energy. Since the release of their debut album earlier this year, Calva Louise have gained growing recognition, which is extremely well deserved.

Walking back past the main stage we caught the final couple of songs from Reverend and the Makers. Following on from Yorkshire mates The Pigeon Detectives set, they set the atmosphere perfectly for Miles Kane, who was up next.

There’s no doubt about it that Miles Kane is an outstanding frontman. Taking on many different avenues across the years, his solo career is now at the height of success. I might be biased because he’s a personal favourite and I’ve got nothing but praise for Miles Kane, but he is a true performer with a rock star attitude.

Clashes come hand in hand with festivals, so the debate of who to cover for our Friday night headliners was in full swing. I went with my heart and decided to head to the Calling Out stage for Mystery Jets, who I’ve been a fan of for years. Yet my head was telling me I should definitely be watching Nile Rogers and CHIC. The only right decision was to go half and half, and there’s no regrets as both bands pulled off stunning headline slots for many different reasons.

The first of the rain came down heavy, but the night wasn’t over yet as we took shelter in the House Party tent for Good Cop Bad Cop. Handing out copies of their album, it appears frontman Joe Carnall came dressed as the Good Cop, whereas I’m pretty sure he was the Bad Cop when I saw them last? Nice concept.

The rain came down heavy overnight and didn’t stop for the whole of Saturday. We spent most of our day hiding at the Calling Out stage, which was undercover but lucky for us had the best running order.

Pulling in a huge crowd, Easy Life kicked us off. I’d been hearing nothing but good things about this band for a long time, and with their single ‘Pockets’ on the FIFA 19 soundtrack, they’ve been making waves ever since. 100% go and see them if you get the chance.

I’ve been waiting patiently to see Zuzu live, and lucky for me my day had finally come! A perfect mix of pop songs, comedy chat and great outfits, it’s impossible to not like her. Already boasting a big following, I have a little prediction that she’s going to go far, and rightly so, this girl is a Scouse icon. 

Following pursuit from Zuzu’s super fun performance, next up we saw the dreamy Dream Wife. It’s been a long time since I last saw this band, but it’s so good to see their confident stage presence and dedicated fan base again. A true gem, Dream Wife were a Kendal highlight.

Just a few days before the festival slowthai and IDLES were announced as shortlisted artists for this year's Mercury Prize, and lucky for us we were about to see them both back to back.

There’s been a massive hype for slowthai recently, an artist who has rapidly gained recognition as a grime, but not quite grime, artist. Arriving on stage in a raincoat, hood up and zipped right to the top, by the third song he was already shirtless. Bursting with fresh ideas, political engagement, and a role model status, slowthai is a winner.

Rain was dripping quite heavily into the packed out tent, but this didn’t stop IDLES! Their chaotic headline set on the Calling Out stage was another festival highlight, this band have worked tirelessly to get to where they are, and have the backing of a loyal fan base.

Amazingly the rain cleared up for our final day at Kendal Calling! Sophie and the Giants got us into the festival mood with good vibes all round on the Calling Out stage.

Next up were The Fratellis, who mixed newer singles amongst their indie bangers for a memorable main stage performance.

It was finally time for Sports Team on the Calling Out stage, a band I’d been waiting all weekend to see. Coming out to ‘Let Me Entertain You’ by Robbie Williams, their set was full of wild energy. I’ve certainly got a new favourite band, check them out if you’re late to the party.

The crowds were out for Kendal Calling’s special guest, Sir Tom Jones! I’m not sure where all of these middle aged women had been hiding all weekend, but they certainly weren’t holding back for Tom Jones, who had a beaming smile on his face from start to finish.

The time had come for Manchester's finest Courteeners to finally grace the stage. As a band I’ve seen more times than I should probably admit, Courteeners are the perfect festival headliner. They’ve got the tunes, the charm and the attitude and completely pulled off an unforgettable Sunday headliner slot. They waited a long time to be at Kendal, but the wait was well worth it. There was a constant buzz during their set, with flares lighting up the sky and a real sense of unity amongst the crowd. God bless the band.

And just like that, it was time to head home! Thanks for having us Kendal, you were an absolute blast! I cannot recommend this festival enough, tickets are on sale now for the 15th edition, it’s gonna be a big one!

Words and Photography by Abbie Jennings