The weather just about held up for day three at Kendal Calling with bursts of breaking sunshine through the overcast sky. However, grey clouds were certainly not going to stop the ravenous festival goers at Lowther Deer Park from enjoying what was a stellar Saturday of music.
I made my way through the camping area into the main arena as the greyness of the clouds dawned above. I was grateful that the site had managed to remain relatively easy to navigate after a night of rain. A quick trip to the press area first and then straight off to the main stage to catch Daytime TV. The 4-piece indie rock band from Edinburgh didn’t just look good on that stage they sounded it too. Fronted by a charismatic presence in guitarist and vocalist, Will Irvine, they effortlessly commanded the crowd’s attention, uniting us all in a celebration with their spectacular stadium-ready sounds.
I didn’t plan on moving anywhere as next up on the main stage were ‘Madchester’ legends Happy Mondays. Taking the stage with unapologetic swagger, they returned to Kendal Calling as icons, igniting arguably the biggest crowd of the festival so far at 1pm no less. Their performance was a testament to their enduring legacy, that transported the audience to hedonistic days gone by.
It’s good vibes for everyone here and I couldn’t agree more with Sean Ryder in his observation of Bez’s performance. The man still moves likes he’s in his 20s with a stamina to match, so fair play to him. The crowd surrendered to the infectious grooves, confirming the Mondays’ indomitable ability to make the present moment feel like an eternal dance floor. The glorious performance and support they had it felt like I’d already seen the headline act of the day.
Next up it was as stroll through the arena (Which was starting to become a little bit of mud bath) to the colourful Calling Out tent. I arrived here just in time to catch Brighton quartet Chappaqua Wrestling. Jake Mack & Charlie Woods, guitarists of the band and principal songwriters, catch the eye immediately, their raw energy and parred back arrangements on full display as they bound around the stage. Throughout the set, we were treated to pop punk, shoegaze and a twist of indie (almost Brit pop). With these kinds of sounds, genuine authenticity and likability its clear to see this band are only heading upwards.
It was then back to the main stage for Lottery Winners as they continued to write the next chapter in their well documented past with this Festival. Having played in the smaller areas over the years, they now arrive this afternoon on the main stage. It’s this intimate connection and journey that the band have been on which united the crowd in pure musical communion. Their set was full of relatability and unassuming charm, personified in their singer and guitarist Thomas Rylance.
Transforming the stage into a heartfelt haven of shared experiences and joyous commemoration, the band’s relatable lyrics and feel-good melodies ensured that their performance felt like a collective celebration of life’s ordinary magic. Joined by Frank Turner as they drew their set to a close with hit single Start Again, their exit from the stage left me feeling nothing but the positive energy that resonated inside.
The coffee addiction was real at this point but no time for grabbing one as KT Tunstall took to the stage. Tunstall’s voice was a force of nature, a perfect blend of grit and vulnerability that resonated deeply with every lyric. As the crowd sang along to every word, it was clear that her music had become an integral part of their lives. But it wasn’t just her vocals that commanded attention; it was her skillful musicianship and effortless stage presence. With her guitar in hand, Tunstall effortlessly shifted between tender ballads and rousing anthems. Her ability to evolve her sound while staying true to her core essence was an inspiration, leaving me with a renewed appreciation for the power of music to connect, uplift, and transform.
I grew up loving the Young Guns movies as well as the hit show 24, so I was never going to miss Kiefer Sutherland as he took to the Parklands stage. As the first chords resounded through the crowd, I was immediately drawn into a world of brooding emotion and heartfelt storytelling. Sutherland’s gravelly vocals wrapped around each lyric with an intimacy that felt like he was sharing his innermost thoughts with all of us.
With each track, he unveiled a new layer of his musical identity, blending Americana influences with his own unique perspective. Kiefer Sutherland has proven himself to be a captivating storyteller, not only on the screen but also on the stage. As the final notes of his set lingered in the late afternoon air, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of gratitude for the experience.
I then made my way through the vibrant crowd back to the main stage for the performance of Confidence Man. The Australian duo’s reputation for delivering infectious dance beats preceded them, and I was eager to see how their neon-infused energy would translate to the festival stage. From the moment they stepped out, it was clear that this was going to be a dance extravaganza like no other. With a striking visual aesthetic and stage presence they moved with an infectious swagger.
Under the pseudonyms of Janet Planet and Sugar Bones, they oozed confidence and playful charisma. It was impossible to resist the urge to dance as they commanded us to Boyfriend (Repeat) and Catch My Breath. It was my first time seeing them and it’s clear to me now why they are regarded as one of the best live acts around.
Next up it was Rick rolling time as the man behind the iconic hit Never Gonna Give You Up took to the main stage. Introduced by the Star Wars title theme, Rick Astley was more than happy to have a laugh and dance at the same time. The opening beats and synths of Together Forever kicked in, and Rick’s unmistakable voice soared above the festival grounds.
It was as if time had folded in on itself, transporting us back to an era when his music was the soundtrack of a generation; a moment not lost on Rick as he asked the younger patrons of the crowd “How many of your mums had my face on one of their CDs?”, erupting the huge audience gathered here, bringing a large smile to not only his face but all of us. As the set progressed, it became evident that his reinvention wasn’t just about the music – it was about breaking down barriers and defying expectations, which is exactly what he did. Mission accomplished, Rick.
Then it was time for a casual stroll through the merry crowd and into the Parkland tent for Frank Turner, who ignited a folk-punk firestorm that epitomised the very spirit of Kendal Calling festival. His rapid-fire lyrics and anthemic choruses united the crowd in a fervent dance of movement and emotion. His set was an unapologetic declaration of the power of music to evoke both introspection and unity. There was also a touching tribute to fellow musician, Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison, the anecdotes adding a personal touch that for me certainly fostered an immediate connection with the audience. Members of those both inside the tent (and outside) all joined in with each song. These sing-alongs were a testament to the emotional release that his music provides, reminding me and everyone else there of his status as one of the UK’s best live acts around.
Having already experienced a stellar Saturday it was then time for tonight’s headline act, Blossoms, who were championed by the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham before taking the stage. Stockport’s best arrived under the lights with undeniable charisma. The opening notes of Your Girlfriend were met with a roar of approval from the crowd, and it was clear to me in that moment that this was a band with a devoted following. Celebrating their ten year anniversary, Blossoms showcased their versatility, seamlessly transitioning between danceable indie-pop tracks and introspective ballads. Their ability to craft melodies that are both infectious and emotionally resonant was truly captivating.
Tom Odgen commanded attention in a way that made it almost impossible to take your eyes off of him. He told the crowd that Kendal Calling was the first festival the band had ever played back in 2015, only two years after forming. Well, eight years later he had everyone singing along as if the lyrics were imprinted on their hearts.
With four albums under their belt now, they had plenty of material to draw from but it was evident that Blossoms were here to do more than just play their music; they were here to create an experience, a collective moment of musical celebration. The pinnacle of the night came as they closed with fan favourite Charlemagne, a track that without question seemed to bring all of us together as we danced. The chorus became a moment of unity as everyone sang along with unbridled enthusiasm.
Blossoms’ headline set at Kendal Calling was a celebration of music’s ability to unite and uplift. As the echoes of their final notes lingered in the air as I made my way back to my tent, I knew that this was a night I would remember for many reasons – mostly as a reminder of the power of live music to create moments that resonate long after the lights have faded.
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