Kendal: home to camper’s delight, the humble mint cake and, for one weekend only, multi-award winning festival Kendal Calling (sure, it’s closer to Penrith but that didn’t have the same ring, OK?)
From guitar guffaws with The Big Moon to tropicana brass bliss with Ibibio Sound Machine, Deputy Editor Cheri Amour dashes through the fields to round up the best broads across the stages.
Perhaps, it’s irony that a fairly forlorn looking Pete Doherty will lurch onto this very stage later tonight, cigarette jammed between his lips to a jam packed tent dotingly willing the front man on. Turns out, if they’d headed here some hours earlier, they would’ve found all the Libertines swagger and spirit they needed in guitar pop darlings, The Big Moon. Freewheeling ‘Silent Movie Susie’ is heavy in harmonies for the flighty Susie whilst former single, ‘Cupid’ has the turbulent chorus tumbles of a riotous festival sing along. Old school fairground synths greet us in ‘The Road’ and they’re continued in sparkling Los Campesinos’ cheer channeling, ‘Sucker’. A mid set cover of Madonna’s ‘Beautiful Stranger’ finds the unlikely chant of ‘Madge, Madge, Madge’ sounding through the fields which, to be honest, is a welcome alternative to lads, lads, lads, right? And speaking of lads, that was the thing about The Libertines, wasn’t it, and what will, no doubt, go on to shape these newly signed Fiction Record four: the joyous buzz of friendship. Tons of fun to be together and tons of fun to behold from the fields. We’re thick as thieves, you know?
Who is Actor? That’s the question the Leeds pop gem of the same name poses across the internet and, most likely, the conundrum today’s festival goers will leave with swirling in their heads. Enigmatic and endearing, Actor is, in fact, the nom de plume of singer Louisa Osborn, producer Chris Mulligan and drummer Ste Anderson and today’s whistle stop tour of the band’s upcoming releases give us a bit of an idea of what Actor sounds like too. Reverb drenched ‘Kisses’ has that youthful brilliance of much-missed pop princess, Sky Ferriera; a fuzzy swell of bratty pop hooks. But there’s something deeper to Actor and in new song, ‘Plaything’, there’s a hints of this snarled sensibility with an almost feral growl: “Am I just a play thing that you can drop or what am I?” It’s there in the grit of ‘Feline’ too which bears a haunting resemblance to Polly Harvey’s ‘The Letter’ (Who is left that writes these days?) Synth spangled, ‘Girls Do’ ends the set, lilting like Ladyhawke and similarly hypnotic, as Actor sings longingly to “do the walk those other girls do”. But you know what? Her walk is a strut above the rest.
West Country raised Rosie Lowe’s soul doused sounds should be ringing out in the Glow Tent closer to midnight. Instead, we find her carving her sultry ‘scapes in the hazy afternoon sun to the backdrop of those smart Swedes, The Hives, blasting out from the Main Stage. Nonplussed by the timings though, Lowe and the band woo with their synth triggered trickery. Releasing her acclaimed debut, Control, earlier this year, her set is littered with album favourites: ‘Worry Bout Us’ matches piano led soul with the sensitive subject of jealousy and insecurity in a relationship: “Just another loaded question, and I’m trying to find an answer to please us both”. The track also saw the Goldsmiths alumna team up with Ninja tune aligned, Machinedrum on production duties and his renaissance electronica weighs heavy in Lowe’s sound. ‘Run, Run, Run’ is similarly silky but with an underlying jab at a dysfunctional love interest. Lowe is soft in sound but fierce in flight, as she soothes herself: “I make you weak and break you down. It’s part of humanity”.
The last time we saw Manchester brood, False Advertising, we were snug in the backroom of a London club but the feeling remains the same. A glorious blend of alt-guitars from those guttural sounding TV channels of our youth (hi, Scuzz) as we dash to the remote to turn up the troubled sounds of Silverchair. But it’s not just dark, discordant riffs this trio have down, they’ve got that shape shifting form that much missed hard rock heads, Vex Red were all about too, with Jen Hingley and Chris Warr of the band tagging in and out of guitar and drum duties respectively. ‘I Don’t Know’ is stop-start cymbals and snare with Jen behind the kit, swiftly followed by a switch up to the front for ‘Wasted Away’ which finds our front woman wistfully contemplating “thinking under heavy skies”. But it’s ball busting ‘Dozer’ that packs a real punch round the chops with that buzzsaw guitar, racing tempo and Hingley’s blatant disregard. There’s nothing false about this lot.
Black Country post-punk lot, The Nightingales aren’t ones for brevity. Indeed, the band have been carefully honing their Beefheart belligerent post-punk for over three decades now. So it’s interesting to see the band, who have been touring extensively over the last few years from Portland to Prestatyn, blast through a succinct thirty minutes. In fact, regular Gales fans find themselves plunged into the very heart of the Nightingales’ ordinarily sprawling set. ‘Real Gone Daddy’ topples into a cowbell conducted outro from powerhouse, Fliss Kitson as maestro, Robert Lloyd exercises his sardonic social commentary: “You won’t find me in a batman suit dangling from St Paul’s”. The band crash through Mind Over Matter opener, ‘For Goodness Sake’ and quivering counterpart, ‘I Itch’ whilst promise of new material this Autumn takes us on a Troggs glam stomp around the decades and a warped flange that never sounded so good. As much as the Soapbox comedy tent wishes it was them, Robert Lloyd delivers some of the best one liners of the weekend (see No Love Lost’s ‘Ace of Hearts’) but it’s set closer, ‘The Man That Time Forgot’, that sees Kitson cry out for from her pedestal and stun a crowd into sun kissed silence.
You know what makes funk? Fun. Quite literally, it’s there in the core of the name and even assuredly asks you if you’re ready for such frivolity: “kay?” Much of what, self-professed Africa via London eight strong troupe, Ibibio Sound Machine seem to be about is just that: high octane movers and shakers from to an Afrobeat backdrop. The band’s focal point tonight shines of the fluorescent shades and sheer starlight emitting from British/Nigerian singer, Eno Williams who conjures up folk stories from her hometown in Southern Nigeria. Her motley crew flank her either side with horns galore and some neat Nintendo sound effects glitching out from the Paul Simon bass lines. Debut single, ‘Let’s Dance’ is a foot tap by numbers to get the crowd shuffling against the forest floor with Williams keeping time: “1, 2, 3, 4, let’s dance” and ‘I’m Running’ is a blast of tropicana brass bliss. Pass the mojitos, this one is fresh.
So we all read that Kelis is now a pop up restaurant connoisseur, right? Well, who knew the soul songstress was also brewing up such a diverse range of sounds for her headline slot at Kendal Calling this year. Foolish to think the singer would merely be ushering the boys to the yard with her sassy playground sounds, really. Instead, tonight’s set sees the singer saunter from soul pop diva status to Euro club clatter far sooner than you can knock back that hoppy ale, I’ll tell you. The throng lining the front of the stage swell for ‘Weekend’ taking us back to her noughties era catalogue sans the snappy Will.I.Am (no bad thing). Some expert DJ blends trip us through snatches of borrowed beats (most notably, Nirvana and Donna Summer) and straight past some of the singer’s ,arguably best, numbers; her cameo on Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s ‘Money’ becomes a four beat interlude and ‘Caught Out There’ is dusted off in a mere chorus line. But when you’ve got a catalogue like Kelis’, perhaps it’s a fine compromise. ‘Milkshake’thankfully sticks around for the full rendition, although again sees an inventive twist with a jazz remake, only entertaining our purist sensibilities for the final few bars in full volume. She told us back on her debut in ‘99, she was a kaleidoscope and tonight Kelis gave us every colour we could ask for.
Words: Cheri Amour
Photos: Gem Hall
Follow Cheri on Twitter @thedivinehammer