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Kendal Calling 2015: Day 1 Roundup (Part 2)

 
By on Friday, 7th August 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

Missed part 1 of Martin’s coverage of day 1 at Kendal Calling 2015? No worries. It’s right here.

Something a little closer to home is Hyde and Beast, the retro-mellow-rock outfit of Wearside provenance. If you’d have told me the the Futureheads‘ drummer would create a side project that could rival the excellence of his main band I’d have laughed in the face of your folly, but today’s incarnation of H ‘n’ B is the finest I’ve seen and easily the equal of its forebear. Replete with horn section and many guitars they casually invoke the mellower side of ’70s glam rock, and, if you squint your ears, a hint of the country influence of The Eagles and Lynyrd Skynryd for good measure, all filtered through the Sunderland prism of unexpected arrangements and jazz chords pressed into action for less hifalutin purposes. Dave Hyde looks quite the dapper part as co-frontman, and it all serves to reinforce the fact that, in music like in football, Sunderland are beating Newcastle regularly these days.

After a long wait, it’s my first time seeing Flyte, and they don’t disappoint. The London four-piece look as if a gentle breeze might knock them down, but no bed-wetters are these: in addition to their finely-crafted ’80s-tinged pop songs, they really rock out. Delicacy and power in equal measure? Just the ticket.

Daniel Waples plays the hang drum, a relatively obscure percussive instrument which serves up rhythm, bass and melody just by hitting it, at which Waples is very good indeed. With a sparse violin accompaniment, and later some overlaid spoken-word from KP Kev the Poet, it’s an admirably funky set even before you consider the primary instrument.

Cocos Lovers, also in the Chai Wallahs tent, come highly-praised, and indeed they meld folk and world music in a very clever way. Their tunes are jolly vignettes with a gentle undertow of melancholy, violin and acoustic guitar often paired with Johnny Cash’s trademark train rhythm. Decent enough, but their considerable reputation preceded them, and I was perhaps expecting something more spectacular.

Spectacle certainly wasn’t lacking at Twisted Tubes, a brass collective from Manchester. Kendal Calling is big on pop-brass bands, with particularly stiff competition from the Riot Jazz Brass Band, but Twisted Tubes are a little different – yes, they do the pop covers stuff, but they’ve got a chap that can do a bit of urban-style singing too, so they come across like there’s a proper originals band there wanting to break free. Plus, there’s nothing more exhilarating than a load of brass at full chat – you simply can’t have enough of it.

Since I last saw them, Temples have developed into a proper main stage band, their driving and droning psychedelia and enormous hair filling the main arena with a strong fug of ’70s nostalgia. I’m pretty sure there was liberal use of backing tracks, but I’ll forgive them that because it suits their larger-than life persona: these guys really are living the hippy dream, with their expensive vintage guitars (note the singer’s particularly nice heavily-checked Gretsch) and authentic vintage clothes as much of a draw as their music itself.

Laura Doggett is an otherworldly presence – barefoot, dressed in black underwear and lacy dressing gown, by turns she fiercely emotes during songs, and giggles between them. Her ditties swing between glitch-folk and more conventional indie-folk epics, all overlaid with her dusky tones, like Florence Welch’s really weird younger sister. Quite astonishingly powerful in full flow, there’s a witchy quality about her that’s at times genuinely unsettling, but didn’t stem the tide of marriage proposals from the large, refreshed crowd. None of which she accepted, funnily enough.

Antimatador are an urban funk-soul collective from the South West, and seemed a little perturbed to be playing to a rather modest crowd in the Chai Wallahs tent after such a long drive. Certainly few of the festivals new, younger fanbase appear to want to spend time there, presumably in lieu of a spot of face-chewing in the Glow tent. Anyway, Antimatador’s epic, funky journeys were well worth the trip, in my opinion, especially since they had a spot of actual vinyl mixing and scratching: a rare treat these days.

I think even the man himself would be prepared to admit that this wasn’t a classic Gaz Coombes set. It seemed there were a couple of technical hitches, and the Calling Out tent has a really tight time schedule, so perhaps he wasn’t feeling at full emotive flow when he took to the stage. That elusive element of specialness wasn’t quite there somehow. Despite that, his material just gets better and better, so even an average reading of his songs is still something rather special. He continues to mature as a songwriter, and given the strength of his back catalogue, it’s easily possible to make the case that Coombes is top of the Britpop songwriters, still just as relevant now as he was 20 years ago. Quite some feat.

Slamboree’s music wouldn’t necessarily be top of my desert island discs playlist, but by the good lord of rock they give an impressive show. Their larger-than-life vocalist Kathika Rabbit deserves special mention for being the most impressive female rapper I’m ever likely to see. She acts as mistress of ceremonies while chaos ensues around her in the form of – as they call it – “Pyro Circus Dub Rave”. I can’t do better than that description, frankly, only add that it doesn’t quite describe the alternately glamorous and ghoulish characters that come and go on stage. In the interests of not giving away spoilers I won’t say any more. Suffice to say, it’s an unforgettable way to round off a very long first day at Kendal Calling 2015.

 

Kendal Calling 2015: Day 1 Roundup (Part 1)

 
By on Thursday, 6th August 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

Before we review this year’s Kendal Calling 2015, we must spare a moment to remember Christian Pay, the unfortunate soul who lost his life at the festival in the early hours of Friday morning. Four others are ill in hospital, two critically, after taking substances they thought would help them have a good time. Few of us can honestly say that we haven’t at some point put something of unknown provenance in our bodies, the safety of which could not be guaranteed. Most of the time we get away with it but in this case the outcome was the worst one imaginable. The pain that his family and friends must be feeling is simply indescribable in words. For what it’s worth, my, and no doubt our readership’s, thoughts and prayers are with you.

Solemnity turns to anger when one considers the turn of events that has led to this tragedy. I am utterly sick of hearing of people being regularly harmed and sometimes killed in the pursuit of chemically-enhanced happiness. Anyone who takes a legal drug – caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, prescription medication – has access to a quality-controlled supply of goods from a responsible retailer at a reasonable cost. Indeed, alcohol enthusiasts are particularly well-served, even though said drug turns a significant number of those that use it into slurring, staggering, incontinent, occasionally violent, husks. Those who choose something other than drink to help their party experience along are forced to buy from the black market, with all the risk that entails. Our drugs policy is killing our children. If you accept that people will always take drugs, and that legislation is largely ineffective at stopping them, then prohibition is revealed for the folly it is and always has been. Nobody should have to die in the quest for a good time. In this writer’s opinion, MDMA and cannabis should be licensed for public consumption. If that had been the case, Christian Pay would have spent a night full of love on Friday, rather than everyone who knew him enduring a lifetime of pain.

This year saw the biggest and best Thursday night ever at Kendal Calling – a superb way to celebrate the festival’s tenth birthday. Yes, there were some teething troubles getting so many Thursday visitors onto the site – those who turned up early queued for 3 hours or more. Personally, I drove over after work, encountered no traffic at all as always, and parked directly opposite the festival entrance. Depending on where you’re prepared to camp, Kendal Calling has surely the shortest car-to-tent distance of any comparably-sized festival, a bonus when all you want to do is get the tent up, crack a beer, and listen to the first band of the weekend.

James headlined the Thursday night party, and were a superb choice. Where their compatriots have faded away, against all the odds James are still looking and sounding both fresh and expertly sharp after a quarter-century of practice. They’re not necessarily relevant to everyone (the teenagers camping around me had blank looks when I mentioned I was going to see James – “Who’s he?”), and I must make the personal confession that I thought they were finished after 2001’s ‘Pleased to Meet You’, but that’s my fault, not theirs. After all this time, they’ve mastered the art of the teasing slow-burn buildup, both on the micro level of a song – ‘Sit Down’ being a case in point, the whole thing reimagined as an admirably restrained ballad – and the macro level of a whole set. There’s no two ways about it, a great headlining band.

The alternative was the equally compelling Future Dub Project in the always-reliable oasis of hot comestibles Chai Wallahs. Their sound melds reggae rhythms and electronica, a male rapper and a superb female singer.

Friday saw rain of the kind that is commonplace for Kendal. Wet, dreary, mudogenic. Judging by the vast number of sodden-brown appendages that used to be sneakers, not all of the crowd have grokked that Wellington boots are essential festival accessories. Ah, the folly of youth. The beauty of Kendal Calling is that, in contrast to some of the nation’s bigger events, all the stages are but a matter of minutes stagger away from each other, so one can see a year’s worth of bands in a single weekend. At least you can on Friday, when the spirit is keen and the legs fresh.

Louis Berry is a Scouse rock ‘n’ roller – one can infer from his reference to ‘Her Majesty’s pleasure’ that he may have been something of a naughty boy in the past – but he’s clearly discovered the redemptive power of music. Being blessed with a veritable roar of a voice, he and his sharp band seem perfectly at home on the big stage, the songs drip with Liverpudlian heritage (La’s, Cast, er… The Beatles) and do the massed ranks of Merseysiders proud.

Rhain is a startling discovery, her modest Bristolian twang belying a genuinely world-class singing voice, as if Björk, Kate Bush and Kiri te Kanawa were reimagined as a bundle of flapperish trustafarian kook. She accompanies herself with a bit of minimalist piano, but it’s really her voice that steals the show, as powerful as an opera singer one minute, squeaky and coy the next, all delivered with such disarming modesty that endears one to her even more. I didn’t hear a finer or more notable voice all weekend.

Having been reliably informed by my considerably younger camping buddies that Fuse ODG is the next big thing, then I had to pay him a visit. It’s dancehall, Jim, but not as we know it – self-nominated as the sound of ‘new Africa’, Fuse himself is a singer and rapper, and he’s got a decent band with female harmony backing and a big Notting Hill sound system blasting out the tunes. Exciting enough, and apparently he’s the most successful Ghanaian singer on iTunes, but I must confess this sounds much like all the other dancehall-inspired pop I’ve ever heard.

 

An Update on 2015’s Music Festivals

 
By on Friday, 10th October 2014 at 11:00 am
 

Photo above amen from Martin’s coverage of Kendal Calling 2014

The long, sunny days of summer festivals are now fading into distant memories. But behind the scenes things are moving apace. Autumn is the time where festivals are awarded their baubles – most toilets per head, gloopiest mud, highest concentration of dreadlocks per square mile, that sort of thing. And planning for 2015 is already under way. For those of us pining for those heady days and nights, here’s a quick update of the state of play for some of TGTF’s favourite events as we head towards the season before the season of festival season 2015. Or something.

Glastonbury

There’s a new record for Glastonbury ticket sales, many of which sold out before they were even released, leading keen industry observers, and many physicists, to further speculate about the invention of time travel devices in the not so distant future. Which would also explain Radio 4’s spookily accurate racing tips this week. Critics of such a theory point out that surely a time travel device could be put to better use than simply jumping the queue for festival tickets. Which is a fair point, although consider involvement of Britain’s favourite pin-up physicist, Brian Cox – it all starts to make sense. If D:Ream feature on Glasto’s bill next year, the hypothesis will be considered proven.

Kendal Calling

Everyone’s favourite non-mainstream mainstream festival, Kendal Calling has been nominated for four awards at the “prestigious” UK Festival Awards. They won Best Medium Sized Festival last year, and considering this year it was only a bit bigger, they’ve got a good shot at winning again. Suede’s performance is nominated for Best Headline Performance, which it was, at least for this correspondent. I’m not so sure about Best Toilets though – cubicles with no toilet paper or sanitiser within the first hour of the festival are hardly best practice. Mr A. Loos needs to do better. They’re also nominated for Best Family Festival, which brings us neatly to…

Deer Shed Festival

Never ones to rest on their laurels, Deer Shed have announced an expanded site and an expanded time-frame, introducing Sunday night camping for the very first time. Just like every other festival then, although the lack of Sunday camping has long been an attraction for parents wanting to get their kids (and, for that matter, themselves) in a comfortable bed at a reasonable hour for school on Monday morning. It’s back to the past for the first band announcement, which sees Dave Gedge’s Yorkshire indie pioneers The Wedding Present back for their first gig since headlining the first ever Shed. Early bird tickets are on sale today, Friday the 10th of October, at the bargainacious price of £89, so don’t delay if you like punky indie on the hottest North Yorkshire weekend of the year.

PS The Wedding Present are releasing several of their back catalogue recordings as multi-disc sets this October. With previously unreleased audio, TV footage, and ‘ephermera’, these will be for completists only. It’s nice to know there are still some out there.

Liverpool Sound City

And finally… Sound City have opened the application process for bands wishing to play the event in 2015. So for any readers with an unrequited passion to play at a world-renowned career-launching industry event, get your applications in without delay. You can’t fare any worse than Willy Moon.

 
 
 

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