James, Elbow, The Vaccines and a surprise slot from the Super Furry Animals all provided strong sets at Kendal Calling this weekend. Even Snoop Dogg managed to get through some trouble with Italian customs to play the ‘Glastonbury of the North’ on Sunday evening.
However the lineup was far more varied, and at the side of the main stage there was a very strong undercard of bands who were there for much more than just making up numbers.
This glam Manchester band wore their influences on their (fine, sparkly, golden) sleeves. The frontman was very obviously channelling Brian Molko, in the best possible way, and the band had a very strong Placebo vibe. The drummer was also sporting the best moustache I saw all weekend, which for a festival full of hippies is no mean feat. Carsick Cars (video below) is a frenetic burst of alt pop that’s well worth your attention.
Hyde and Beast
These guys, a Sunderland act who brought a large crowd of Mackems with them, were probably the highlight of the whole ‘new band’ stages for me. They were certainly one of the largest to play the Calling Out stage, with 2 guitarists, one keys/guitar, bass drums, and a brass section. Dual vocals were provided by the bassist and one of the guitarists to great effect, and though they weren’t breaking any new ground in the genre, they played real nice. The absolute highlight of the set however, was just before one of the (numerous, extended) guitar solos, a member of the crowd shout “GO ON KEVIN,” which as encouragements go, will rarely be topped.
Plastic Mermaids struck me as the kind of hipster nonsense that any sane person would hate. They (just about) had more synths than band members, a singer with a silly hat and generally dressed like (to borrow a phrase from Ian Faith) an Australian's nightmare. Despite all of this, however, I really enjoyed their set. The band, based in the Isle of White, played an impressive blend of electronic, indie, with just a hint of normally intolerable jazz rock…and it was really rather good.
I was quite excited by Cactus Knife; that name alone is enough to sell me for a 45 minute set. Their set played out like a fuller sounding White Stripes, which was both a positive (a tighter, more professional sound) and a negative (lacking the raw, intense energy of the early Jack White opus). Still, well worthy of your attention.
The (depressingly) young lads in Lisbon played a couple of impressive sets throughout the weekend, drawing strong crowds for all of them, including a collection of “Spice Mums” for one of the performances. It was exactly what you’d imagine it to be. Their sets were full of energetic, indie pop, and the crowd of teenage girls (as well as the aforementioned mums) suggest that we might well be seeing more of Lisbon in higher profile stages in the near future.
New Palace Talkies
New Palace Talkies had some very interesting arrangements, and made good use of the band’s trumpet player. The lead singer’s tendency towards Jeff Buckley’ing his vocals just managed to stay on the right side of enjoyable rather than irritating. This was, admittedly, helped quite a bit by the strength of the rhythm section; the backing of which provided a much needed drive behind songs that otherwise might have been quite dull.
Turbowolf were just really, really great and probably deserved a spot higher up on the lineup than they got. A proper metal band, with killer riffs, a frontman who worked crowd excellently and a quite lovely and talented girl bassist. There’s not a lot more you can ask for.