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Kendal Calling 2013: Day 1 Roundup

 
By on Monday, 19th August 2013 at 2:00 pm
 

If one was to hold a competition to find the most picturesque view in festivaldom, what would be on the shortlist? Certainly the legendary vista of the entire site from Glastonbury’s stone circle. Perhaps the imposing aspect from underneath Primavera’s vast concrete solar monolith across the Mediterranean sea. Equally as impressive, in a considerably more natural way, is the view just past the entrance barriers into Kendal Calling. The grassy site stretches out down a gentle slope, pocked with multicoloured canvas. Billowy cumulonimbus hang in a vast sky graduated between royal and baby blue, whilst on the horizon sit the imposing peaks of the Lake District. Just into the distance, tantalisingly obscured by trees, can be seen the tents and stages of the arena itself.

The geographical fortune of Kendal Calling doesn’t stop there. Being located roughly equidistant between the conurbations of Manchester, Glasgow, and Newcastle upon Tyne contributes to a heady melting pot of accents from three cultures that, let’s be honest, aren’t renowned for being shy of a bit of a party. And Kendal seems to specifically for their requirements: there’s guitar music aplenty, sometimes with a distinctly ‘laddish’ slant, and non-stop dance music until 3 AM for those so inclined towards a bit of an uplifting boogie. Which, as it turned out, for one night only, was me.

Concrete Knives Kendal Calling 2013

The rest of my time at Kendal mostly was spent at the Calling Out stage, a modestly-sized tent featuring less well-known and more up-and-coming acts than the household names hosted on the main stage. The very first act of the festival were Concrete Knives (pictured above), given a cruelly short 30 minutes in which to get across their funky Gallic guitar-pop. They rattle through several from debut ‘Be Your Own King’, Morgane Colas apparently floating in a self-induced trance when singing. They’re a rare treat, funky, cerebral and humorous all at the same time, and I can’t wait to see them do a full headline set (5/5). Champs have a lovely, summery take on the songwriter duo; something like ‘My Spirit Is Broken’ is just the sort of keening, sweetly-harmonied ditty that you want to hear emanating from a warm afternoon tent (3/5).

Waylayers Kendal Calling 2013

Waylayers turn up the tempo somewhat. Theirs is the sound of guitar songwriting meeting Balearic beats and synths as on the anthemic ‘S.O.S.’, which is dancefloor-worthy even without needing a remix. Harry Lee has enormous physical presence, dominating both the stage and the little keyboard from which he generates any number of uplifting synth lines. His vocals are often the spit of Diagrams’ Sam Genders, while the music treads a similar path to other practitioners of the dance crossover genre such as Friendly Fires; the fact that ‘Fires’ was produced by Ewan Pearson of TGTF former faves Delphic is surely no coincidence. Are they still unsigned? Surely not for long (4/5).

Misty Miller Kendal Calling 2013

“I washed my hair for you / I shaved my legs for you too” – the first couplet of ‘Next To You’ neatly summarises Misty Miller’s brand of guitar-based feminism, and the enormous blues riff which explodes seconds later indicates how serious she is about it. This is properly dirty garage rock, as simple as it gets: two, maybe three chords, drums bashed as hard as possible, and as generous a dose of swagger from the eponymous young frontwoman as one could reasonably hope for. Nothing particularly complicated here, but a generous dose of attitude and a nice loud electric guitar go a long way, and considering Misty is still only 19 years old, this is a particularly impressive performance (4/5).

Clean Bandit (pictured at top) are an unusual proposition, with their uneasy blend of dance music overlaid with a variety of classical stringed instruments and some MCing – effectively an updated version of the Dads’ car stereo favourite ‘Hooked On Classics’. A couple of minutes into this year’s ‘Mozart’s House’ single, the beats stop completely and the strings play a few bars solo, before the inevitable four-to-the-floor kick drum reappears, and it all goes hands-in-the-air again. The MC mines the depth of cliché in his classical music references – staccato, pizzicato, they’re all there, sticking out like four crotchets in a bar of waltz. One can’t help but think that fans of neither genre are served well – do dance heads really want strings all over their music? And it’s a rare kind of classical music fan that thinks, “what this string quartet recital really needs is a nice 909 bassline!” Nevertheless, there is some virtue here – the twin female vocalists give good show, the whole thing could act as a decent, risk-free primer to the charms of dance music for débutantes, and overall it’s all pretty good fun – if you don’t mind a bit of cheese in your mid-afternoon sandwich (2/5).

The Heartbreaks Kendal Calling 2013

Whether or not it’s the fact that Morecambe’s The Heartbreaks are treating Kendal Calling as something of a homecoming gig, what with them being just a quick trip up the M6 away from home, there’s something in the demeanour of Matthew Whitehouse and co. that demonstrates that they’re not just making up the numbers here. They would end up playing three times in the same day, including an acoustic set, but the Calling Out stage set was as good as any place to catch them. Clearly steeped in the aesthetic of the swinging ’60s, in many ways The Heartbreaks are keeping alive the straight pop of the pre-grunge ’90s, with a sweet, upbeat songs about girls. There’s a clear Smiths influence, which is no surprise given the band’s enthusiasm for them, but they come across as far more joyous than the Mancunian miserabilists. If you’re in the market for slice after slice of optimistic guitar pop, The Heartbreaks are who you should be listening to (5/5).

A few minutes in the company of Willy Moon soon assuages any doubts that his underwhelming Liverpool Sound City performance was anything other than representative of the usual standard of his work. His set consists of vignettes of self-aggrandising cliché; he himself is an obsequious musical magpie that steals the shiniest but most worthless musical baubles. For example, a compilation of lyrics from recent album ‘Here’s Willy Moon’ tell their own story:

“ain’t coming back no more / yeah yeah / how you like me now / one, two, three, four / I got what you need / got a strange affliction deep in my soul / I wanna be your man / when I was young my mama said / I put a spell on you”

Make no mistake, the first time these musical ideas were invented, they worked, because they were new and exciting. But to simply rehash them and sell them on as one’s own work, isn’t just plagiarism, it’s insulting the intelligence of one’s audience. Moon has an obvious talent for performance, but a desperate hole where there should be some decent, meaty bits of song – pretty much all of which are under 3 minutes long, and some are under 2. Usually brevity in music is to be applauded, as long as what is presented is an original idea, concisely expressed. In Moon’s case, his are underdeveloped foeti of songs, birthed at too young an age, dressed up in the glitter of production to disguise their weakness (1/5).

Public Enemy Kendal Calling 2013

Public Enemy, on the other hand, have a lot to say, perhaps quite a lot more than can be easily understood on first listen by a white Yorkshireman. The show is highly theatrical, with Flava Flav making an appearance ages after things have got going; in fact it was three songs in, because the photographers were preparing to leave after the customary three songs, only to be called back by Flav because he hadn’t had enough of the limelight – the first time in my experience that an artist has called for more photographic exposure rather than less. And certainly the first time that terms have been overruled directly from onstage. Flav makes an impassioned tribute to the unfortunate black American teenager Trayvon Martin, to whom he dedicates his continuing to wear the clock around his neck. There’s entourage scattered around the stage, seemingly just standing there most of the time, but overall it’s a pretty highly-charged affair, set amongst what it could be said is a fairly inoffensive, apolitical bill. And there’s nowt wrong with that (4/5).

 

Preview: Kendal Calling 2013

 
By on Tuesday, 9th July 2013 at 3:00 pm
 

What do you need to know about Kendal Calling? It’s taking place this year 26 to 28 July and it’s situated in a beautiful part of the Lake District, easily accessible from Scotland, northern England, and even somewhere like Coventry is less than 3 hours away. The entertainment lineup is superb this year, possibly one of the best ever, and the festival has already been dubbed “The Glastonbury of the North”. This may be so, but its sensible size means there’s still a pleasant local feel to the event. The great news for TGTF readers is that at the time of writing there’s still a handful of tickets left for Kendal Calling this year, so let me tempt you with some tasty morsels of what’s in store…

There’s two excellent places to watch bands – the Main Stage with its big names, and the equally promising Calling Stage with up-and-coming and alternative acts. The big headliners appear to come in pairs each night, and Friday sees Chuck D, Flava Flav and DJ Lord taking a brief holiday in rural Cumbria – yes, it’s Public Enemy, fresh from a triumphant Somerset set, looking just as angry as ever, and ready to rip your ears off with their politically-charged flow. And who better to get the first evening’s party started than Basement Jaxx, the perennial pop-dance outfit with a string of hits longer than a wet weekend in Barrow-in-Furness.

For those of a less party persuasion, the Calling Stage has some real gems on the first day. Concrete Knives were twice superb at Liverpool Sound City, and they’re back across the channel for a rare UK apperance with their funk-laden musique raffinée. Foy Vance and his incredible voice will surely deliver a soulful, acoustic interlude, Waylayers add an early afternoon dance vibe with their summery, Balearic-influenced tracks, and TGTF favourites The Heartbreaks (who editor Mary just interviewed in London a couple weeks ago at the Scala) will supply their stylish, upbeat, typically British guitar-pop sound as the sun goes down.

And for night owls, there’s any number of DJ sets, the biggest of which take place in the Glow Dance Tent, where your late-night shenanigans are enhanced by the no doubt head-scrambling presence of LEDs, lasers and enough UV light to bring on cataracts ten years early. Friday will see Oneman, remixer of The xx and TLC and purveyor of minimalist yet grimily atmospheric techno, young Brightonian Dismantle who specialises in “sort of dubstep”, young Lancastrian duo Bondax and their intimate, blissed-out electronica, before climaxing with Artwork, who, as one-third of Magnetic Man, released one of dance music’s biggest albums in 2010.

And then it all happens again on the Saturday! Highlights from the Calling Stage include Welsh art-pop from Sweet Baboo, delicate folk stylings from Fossil Collective, and an opportunity to see what all the fuss is about London Grammar – are they just an xx rip-off or is there something more there? Unmissable on the Main Stage are Mike Skinner and Rob Harvey’s intriguing project The D.O.T.; there’s an opportunity for people of a certain age to rock out like it’s 1996 with Ash, and I Am Kloot bring their delicate songwriting and ensemble melodiousness to life just before Saturday’s headliners The Charlatans (pictured at top) reveal whether or not they’re any good any more.

Sunday is surely the strongest Main Stage lineup – having had to suffer the ignominy of being Tom Watson’s favourite band, hopefully Drenge will play with even more venom and spirit today; and I don’t really need to explain anything about what is effectively a triple-headline bill: Johnny Marr, Seasick Steve and Primal Scream bring the whole affair to a resounding climax. As if that’s not enough, there’s a distinct drum ‘n’ bass flavour to the Glow Tent on Sunday, with Grooverider warming up for none other than Sir Roni of Size. World-class stuff.

And of course there’s stacks more going on around the site. There’s an entire jazz strand called Riot Jazz. Chai Wallahs have their own acoustic and chill out stage. The Houseparty is apparently someone’s front room transported to the middle of a field with loads of random stuff going on: world-class DJs, punk bands, and perhaps a bit of karaoke – and don’t forget Leeds’ Wind-Up Birds – the underground tip for set of the weekend. There’s the Woodlands stage (maybe that’s in, um, a wood?), where all the acts with the best names are playing; the Soap Box, a lighthearted variety show which has previously hosted Howard Marks and John Cooper Clarke; and a tea shack run by Tim Burgess himself! Not forgetting the little ones: there’s the Ladybird area with different fancy dress each day, and crafts and workshops galore.

With so much going on, and the festival capacity limited to just 13,000 people, Kendal Calling is surely every decent festival rolled into one – the music is top-class, but with just a fraction of the crowds which you could expect at a bigger event. As we go to press there’s just a handful of tickets left (go here for more information), so you’ll need to be quick if you want to be there!

 

Public Enemy / May UK Shows

 
By on Wednesday, 6th February 2008 at 5:14 pm
 

Public EnemyPublic Enemy have announced that they’ll play their 1988 album ‘It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back’ in its entirety on three UK shows in May. It’s all part of the “Don’t Look Back” season of gigs when bands play their classic albums in their entirety.

Tickets go on sale at 9am on this Friday, 8th Feb. Catch them at:

Friday 23rd May – London Brixton Academy
Monday 26th May – Manchester Academy
Tuesday 27th May – Glasgow ABC1

 
 
 

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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 was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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