Highlights: Kendal Calling 2009

Katy Ratican | Monday, 03 August 2009

Highlights: Kendal Calling 2009

Following the problems with last year's location and unfortunate luck with horrendous weather, there was a feeling that Kendal Calling needed to prove itself this year.

With a line-up that perhaps wasn't as strong as past years, the festival sold out just a week before gates opened. And after revellers were handed a mis-spelled wristband displaying 'Kendall Calling' on entry, you'd be forgiven for expecting the worst - or, indeed, if the manufacturers got paid for their hard work.

First impressions count and Lowther Deer Park didn't disappoint, with some fantastic views of The Lake District through the forest on the muddy walk to the site itself.

With an above average number of people dressed in fancy dress and already decorated in face paint on arrival, the festival appeared to be at its near 7,000 capacity. That said, aside from long toilet queues, it didn't seem that busy throughout the entire weekend, with plenty of places for people to congregate without feeling like battery hens.

Manchester band Riot Jazz kicked things off on the main stage on Friday evening, swiftly followed by Middleman and the ever humourous Goldie Lookin' Chain all putting in a credible performance.

Friday's proceedings were slightly marred by loudspeaker warnings from organisers, after four people were taken to hospital, but by the time headline act The Streets came on stage, any worry or curiosity had waned.

Come Saturday, the usual festival features were apparent; toilets were overspilling, and people were looking more confused and dishevelled than normal. But spirits remained high amongst those who had managed to venture from the camp sites.

Saturday afternoon saw a general lull in activity, with most music tents empty and many bands playing to themselves - possibly due to over-excess the evening before. It wasn't really until early evening that a festival atmosphere emerged, which by that time had begun to feel like a waste of a day.

It was good to see organisers catering for all ages, with a 'Tribe of Tat' timetable for children. Kids games and robot-making workshops kept weary parents' children entertained, and as they could participate in the adult silly dancing and body popping, Kendal Calling pulled out all the stops to prove itself as a family-friendly festival.

The festival itself settled easily into its new location, but there were some teething problems. The promised shuttle buses from the town were very infrequent, and as the Park was so far from the town of Penrith, festival-goers were sometimes left waiting for unacceptable periods.

As is the norm at Kendal, there were dozens of locals acts putting in good sets, with notable mention going to The Witch and The Robot and Asleep Beneath Volcanoes.

There was slight disappointment to find that swine flu had kept The Lost Knives away from the Lakes, but people stuck around the We Are Calling tent to see one of the weekend's highlights, electro-poppers May 68, who delivered a terrific set-list with lead singer Jude rarely faltering.

There was no surprise to see the dance tent packed-out as Beardyman played his set, with Manchester's Twisted Wheel holding their own on the main stage at the same time. Saturday night headliners The Zutons delivered a sing-along set, which pleased a number of those watching the main stage, but for a closing set it lacked the spirit you'd expect.

The Alpine corner - complete with snow - was a hit, if a little expensive for what you got in return, and the Cumbrian Olympics went down a treat with those looking to work off the day's beer and burgers and get plenty of photos for Facebook.

The inflatable love church and complete wedding package was one of the more amusing parts of the festival, until a quick read of the programme left confusion as to whether it would all be one big joke. Those married in the church might now be wondering if their nuptials were legally binding and that it probably wasn't the most sensible idea to marry the person you shared your tent with the night before.

The strongest line-up all weekend came on the Sunday, with the fantastic Mumford and Sons displaying their bluegrass spirit following a performance at the Cambridge Folk Festival earlier in the weekend. Both Idlewild and headliners Ash took crowds back to the nineties, with strong sets and a passion that had perhaps been absent the evening before.

Kendal, or rather Penrith, had escaped the predicted bad weather and chaos that was apparent last year. Instead ticket-holders were treated to a weekend of music and poetry, where new talent emerged stronger than many established acts. A bit of tweaking with the headliners next year and this festival might be back on form.