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Kendal Calling 2016 Roundup (Part 1)

 
By on Wednesday, 10th August 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

In the process of researching for this review (by which I mean spending lots of time in various sunny fields listening to a lot of excellent music and chatting to a lot of talented people), I found myself face-to-face with Andy Smith, a founder of and head honcho at Kendal Calling. Considering the number of priceless moments his event has provided me with over the years – countless superb bands seen; friends, belongings, and marbles found, lost, and then found again; memorable impromptu jams and karaoke sessions – one would hope to do better in summing the whole deal up with a blokey “Cool festival, man.”

So, here is my homage to Kendal Calling, and considering I have more time to prepare it, I shall attempt to be more fulsome than the above. 2016 was the safest, most grown up version of Kendal Calling yet, and though there is plenty I miss about what was subtly different to previous years, all things considered this was the best installment yet. Apart from a shower early on the Thursday, the sun shone consistently throughout the weekend, which makes an enormous difference to one’s perception and enjoyment of a festival. Speaking of Thursday, I can remember when the evening’s entertainment for those hardy souls who volunteered for a pre-festival night’s camping was a bonfire and vintage clothing stall. Not so of late, and it fell to The Charlatans to close the main stage on Thursday. Surely one of the most well-known bands in Britain, the survivors of the baggy scene do make a delightful, funky racket, and if familiarity has dampened their ability to seem truly special, their sheer exuberance, not to mention liberal applications of Hammond organ, always makes them a compelling watch.

There’s more to Thursday night than the main stage anyway. After hours, the Chai Wallahs tent takes the strain of thousands of people looking to start their weekend with a bang. I’d managed to misplace the new campsite friends I’d only known a few hours, leaving them to buy beer only to realise that it’s impossible to find anyone again at Kendal if you’re actually looking for them. Best to go with the flow, meet people who fate wants you to meet, and take it from there. I remember speaking to a couple of guys who’d come up from Brighton, pretty much the farthest distance it’s possible to travel from on the mainland, and proof of Kendal’s nationwide reach. In true get-it-out-of-your-system style, late Thursday evening was spent mooching around various camps, joining in impromptu singalongs, mostly of songs written by a certain Mr Gallagher

Kendal Calling 2016 - Too Many Ts-7915

None of which shenanigans prevents a large crowd gathering first thing in the afternoon for the lively flow of Too Many T’s. I’m personally not sure where these guys have sprung from all of a sudden, but they seem to be all over the place, with a brand of witty hip-pop that’s perfect for an afternoon at a festival. They’ve got a lot of decent tunes that don’t seem to have appeared on record yet. Come on lads, you could have some hits on your hands!

Kendal Calling 2016 - The Big Moon-7964

One of the enormous pleasures of Kendal Calling is the undercard in the Calling Out tent, or what should actually be called the New Favourite Bands tent. The Big Moon are four girls from London who make a brilliant racket, perfectly poised between sweetly innocent melodies and flip-the-bird punkiness. There’s such hooks here that even on the first listen to something like ‘Cupid’, it’s impossible not to sing along in raucous joy. Brilliant stuff. And so to our first band of the day that have actually released an album. Hooton Tennis Club betray their Merseyside origins with lazy yet rock-steady beats, some lovely discordant guitar work and jaunty lyrics. Like early Blur crossed with the Lemonheads. And they’ve got an amazingly enthusiastic bass player. Who doesn’t want that?

Kendal Calling 2016 - Hooton Tennis Club-8024

Manchester’s Gideon Conn was a highlight of my festival last year, and he’s back this with a longer set, except he doesn’t seem to know he’s actually got a full hour to showcase his delicately funky looped observational pieces, so his set climaxes about 15 minutes too early. No matter, because all the ingredients are still present and correct. His wordplay is second to none, and despite the sparse arrangements (keyboard, guitar, occasionally at the same time) he really can get a crowd going. Particularly when he ventures over the barrier and sings amongst the crowd. This year he ended up on someone’s shoulders in a particularly wobbly-looking shoulder lift. At least some random out of the crowd didn’t get hold of the microphone again. Despite the confusion there’s still nothing quite like a Gideon Conn set. Or Gideon Conn, for that matter – one is quite enough for this world.

Kendal Calling 2016 - Gideon Conn-8031

Catfish and the Bottlemen are astonishingly popular. I was told countless times by people that they’d bought tickets simply on the strength of their appearance. Van McCann’s words from my chat with him at Kendal a couple of years ago were still ringing in my ears: “I want to be bigger than Oasis.” Well, second on the bill here when Noel himself is headlining (a different day, but still) means that he’s still on the perfect trajectory to achieve his dream. It is difficult to objectively understand exactly what it is that Catfish do that countless bands that have gone before haven’t managed. Perhaps it simply comes down to the charisma of the frontman, because despite how well the songs work on a stage and with a crowd as big as they were blessed with here, what they’re peddling really isn’t anything new. But fair play to them – what next? Breaking America? [Something Oasis never did, did they? – Ed.]

Kendal Calling 2016 - Catfish 2-7290050

Rudimental put on a good show. They’re a big dance band, totally professional, and remind me of Basement Jaxx‘s set on the Friday a couple of years ago. It’s really what the first night of a festival needs: big beats, big tunes, more of which you recognise than you might think, and a really good show. So you wouldn’t think it’s possible for an act to follow that? Step forward the Conservatoire Folk Ensemble, led by violinist Joe Broughton. Who, if they haven’t got the prize for the most number of folk musicians on a single stage, really do deserve an honourable mention. A performance of the most remarkable power, primarily down to the sober dedication of the players – faced with a midnight crowd of hyped-up revellers, no mean feat. Their repertoire is varied, but it’s when they really let rip that their true power is unveiled. Bows fly unhinged across strings, a cajon is thwacked within an inch of its life, even the harp player throws a few shapes. There are even a couple of electric guitarists hidden in the middle somewhere, completely disguised by the swarm of instruments around them. This is traditional folk given an enormous shot in the arm. Exactly what it needs. A truly remarkable experience.

Kendal Calling 2016 - Conservertoire Folk Ensemble-7290060

 

Preview: Kendal Calling 2016

 
By on Thursday, 7th July 2016 at 10:00 am
 

As Glastonbury fades into the distance, the only evidence that it ever happened being clods of mud on the soles of one’s wellies, hours of BBC catch-up to plough through, and the occasional sweaty 3 AM nightmare featuring a gurning Charlotte Church. Oh, and several acres of Somerset farmland piled high with litter and abandoned tents. I’m sure we all had a blast. Whether you were there in body or only in spirit, those wishing to relive the hedonistic peaks and chilled-out troughs of a top-class festival, without, shall we say, the negatives of an enormo-fest like Glasto, should look no further than Kendal Calling.

Less crowded, less pretentious, (slightly) less muddy, and, most importantly, more Northern, Kendal Calling has occasionally been called the Glastonbury of the north. And in spirit, that’s certainly true. Fair enough, it can’t attract the likes of Adele as a headliner, but if you want a sweary Londoner there’s always Rat Boy. Kendal’s biggest strength is its party atmosphere: wherever you are, you’re never very far away from the hoedown that goes on in front of the main stage all day. This year will climax with sets from d’n’b stars Rudimental, Brit-ska legends Madness and a prime slice of dad rock from Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (pictured at top). There’s something for everyone on the main stage: hard rock from Band Of Skulls, The Hives and the Darkness, urban sounds from Sugarhill Gang and Too Many Ts. And, um, authentic North West humour in the shape of the inimitable Lancashire Hotpots.

Having said all that, TGTF’s favourite stage is the Calling Out tent. Want to know who’s going to be big next year? Look no further. From burgeoning youngsters like Sundara Karma, The Amazons and Rosie Lowe, through acts on the verge of mainstream breakthrough like Teleman, Eagulls and Spring King, this is where the smart money hangs out. Headliners Blossoms, Ghostpoet, and, astonishingly – if he turns up! – Pete Doherty, make Calling Out a mini-festival all of itself.

That’s not to mention the other little nooks and crannies of the beautiful Lowther Deer Park. Those fond of a hot spiked beverage can chill in the always-reliable Chai Wallahs. Obscurantists and beard-strokers are to be found in the Riot Jazz tent, hosting the unique brilliance of Gideon Conn (again, hurrah!), with the Riot Jazz Brass Band performances always a Kendal highlight. If you fancy a Tim Burgess-themed bacon sandwich, then head to the Tim Peaks diner. If, instead, you’re partial to a sit-down and some profound spoken words, Carvetti’s your spot (last year’s Aziz Ibrahim interview was particularly instructive). And let us not forget the 3 AMm intensity of the Glow Tent’s beats. There’s only a handful of tickets left at the time of writing. What are you waiting for?

The last few adult weekend tickets to Kendal Calling 2016 are available for £135 plus fees. To purchase yours, get them from Ticketline.

 

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.

 

Kendal Calling 2014: Day 3 Roundup

 
By on Monday, 15th September 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

All of Martin’s coverage of Kendal Calling 2014 is this way.

After Suede at Kendal Calling 2014, it’s time for Mr Scruff to funk the night away. The very definition of ubiquitous, the unassuming, ginger-bearded figure of Scruff is in real danger of becoming one of those strange beasts – the Super-DJ. Presumably only his down-to-Earth Mancunian work ethic prevents him from descending into David Guetta-style hedonism, a tendency encapsulated by his enthusiasm for a nice cup of tea.

The genius of Scruff’s performance can be summed up in three words: take your time. When thought of on the scale of an individual song, his build-ups give gentle but persistent encouragement. Each 2-, 4-, and 8-bar loop carry subtle variations: very rarely is anything repeated verbatim. The same attention to detail can be heard on the wider scale of a whole set: there’s an underlying breakbeat backbone to pretty much everything that he does, overlaid with various magpie samples and synth melodies.

There are occasional acid house tropes, like on 2011’s ‘Wobble Control’, where he threatens to throw caution to the wind and take refuge in cliché, but never does the temptation manifest itself into anything as common as a four-to-the-floor beat: he remains focussed on the funk throughout. The only criticism to be levelled at Scruff is that he’s a bit of a tease – because he’s so good at buildups, he won’t let himself really come to a climax, which as you can imagine can be somewhat frustrating. Indeed, some of his set tonight is dull to the point of becoming muzak. Only the ever-present childlike cartoon visuals provide something for the brain to do whilst the feet move as instructed by the beat, without any intervention of the intellect. Having said that, Scruff is the consummate professional and can be relied upon to get a tent jigging around like mad things, so perhaps repetition is indeed the essence of dance music. Who knew?

Etches are the lovechild of an electronica band and a conventional guitar-led indie outfit. Their songs are complex, structurally unconventional and melodically oblique. Being based in Liverpool, there’s naturally a hint of psych buried deep within their sound, all of which combines to birth a song like ‘The Charm Offensive’, which soars through the ether like a deranged seagull. The highlight of their set is a slowcore version of Marvin Gaye’s ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’, which is quietly astonishing.

If Etches have a hint of psych, The Lucid Dream have it running through their veins and printed through their marrow like a stick of paisley Blackpool rock. 2011’s ‘Heartbreak Girl’ is a noisy, scally cousin to Pink Floyd’s ‘See Emily Play’, with speed-ups and slow-downs galore and an utterly incomprehensible arrangement. Fast-forward to 2013’s ‘Songs of Lies and Deceit’, on which the folk-tinged lunacy gives way to full-on electric guitar stomp, absolutely swimming in reverb, echo and delay. Mark Emmerson swaggers around the stage like Liam Gallagher does in his own lucid dreams, when he imagines he’s actually cool and popular again. A somewhat bizarre melodica interlude notwithstanding (is there any less rock ‘n’ roll instrument than the melodica?) The Lucid Dream are perhaps the find of the weekend. A set of world-class psychedelia from a bunch of Cumbrian scallys – who’d a thunk it?

Perhaps I’m biased due to the Northeast roots of Gallery Circus, but by crikey they make a brilliant, cerebrally-challenging racket. To pigeonhole them as yet another novelty bassless duo would be in itself baseless; perhaps due to their being twins, Daniel and Graeme Ross have a psychic awareness of what the other is about to play, which means they are one of the most telepathically sharp bands one could hope to see. Their own songs are superb – from the patchwork virtuoso hard rock of ‘Supercell’, to the illegally funky white soul of ‘Club House Killer’, they know how to write a tune – and they know how to cover one too. Climaxing with a rendition of ‘Ziggy Stardust’ could be a recipe for disaster, given the regard in which the original classic is held – needless to say their cover is superb, respectful and note-perfect. They are well deserving of their BBC Introducing at Glastonbury shout this year – on this evidence, the first of many.

Razorlight were present and correct. An uncomfortable moment at the beginning of the set notwithstanding (Johnny Borrell’s guitar developed a fault in the first song and he spent the rest of it flouncing grumpily, directing evil stares at soundman and guitar tech alike), they sounded decent, looked every inch the sharp rock ‘n’ roll band, and nobody can deny the merits of their back catalogue. Quite what relevance they carry beyond being their own tribute band remains to be seen – Kendal does have a penchant for greatest hits sets – but Borrell remains a compelling frontman, and the crowd seemed to lap it up.

Most British nu-folk-rock is a load of old twaddle. See Amber Run in the first part of this review for further details. So how refreshing it is to come across a band who manage to combine a stringed instrument that isn’t a guitar into a coherence that doesn’t rely on discredited, worn-out tropes. The Mispers have a lovely driving sound peppered with elements of genuine English folk music. There’s a smart young lady playing a fiddle, the chap singing manages to pull off wearing nothing but a waistcoat, there’s electronica bubbling under the surface, and some decent electric guitar when circumstances demand it. 2014 single ‘Brother’ is a perfect case in point. A lithe violin figure frames a musing on family which builds to a firm climax without relying on the tired and tiresome quiet-loud-quiet structure (as parodied so brilliantly by Dion Beary in his ‘Every Mumford And Sons Song Basically’ video). The Mispers prove that folk-rock can be done properly, and, basically, prove how right I’ve been all along. Ha. Thanks, The Mispers.

And then Evil Blizzard arrived and the review must draw to a close at this point. No matter how many fireworks or dancing monkeys might appear later on in the festival, there’s no point in even describing them – in comparison with Evil Blizzard, they are nary a footnote in musical history, a pale imitation of what can truly be achieved with fancy dress, latex face masks and four bass players. If it was about the music, one could say something like, “‘Clones’ combines Rocket From The Crypt’s ‘On a Rope’ guitar riff, Bon Jovi’s ‘Living on a Prayer’ key change and John Lydon’s Public Image Limited plaintive, detuned vocal howl to generate an ear-pounding four minutes of chaos.” But Evil Blizzard aren’t really about the music as such, in the same way that what you hear at a rave isn’t something you’d take away and sit down on your sofa and listen to with a nice cup of tea. It all only makes sense in context, with the perspective of appropriate surroundings, and more importantly, in the presence of other audience members, if only to remind oneself that what you’re experiencing isn’t some particularly cruel hallucination, a flashback from the previous night’s “adult disco”.

There’s no point in trying to describe what the band look like – words cannot adequately convey the psychological discomfort that their appearance engenders. They stand, staring, mute, firing chaos from their basses, challenging the audience to stay and imbibe rather than run and cry. The heavens open; the blizzard arrives. “Evil” masks are distributed, which is when things become further surreal. Children don the masks – we are surrounded by tiny, faceless, black-eyed beings, foreheads “Evil”-emblazoned, where just moments before there was a gaggle of carefree children playing in the mud. Some somehow end up onstage, invited to pluck bass guitars, and are then held aloft, in a celebration of the essential innocence of children, even when they are surrounded and encouraged by such ambiguous chaos.

The baby’s-head theremin is unveiled, the lead singer prowling amongst the crowd, inviting them to stroke it, and, inevitably, to lick the baby’s bare scalp – several ladies are happy to oblige, to a soundtrack of increasingly pained squeals from the baby. Bass guitars are offered around; the music climaxes; the frontman wanders off into the crowd to steal someone’s drink. Eventually the 20-minute ‘Whalebomb’ draws to a stumbling denouement; everyone slowly emerges from their bad dream, as if suddenly being woken from hypnotism, or stumbling to the end of a particularly bad trip. And for the select few who had braved the Evil Blizzard at Kendal Calling 2014, nothing would ever be quite the same again.

 
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About Us

There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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