Kendal Calling - Kendal - 31st July - 2nd August
Middleman are an affable, rockier Just Jack from Leeds. The vocals sound very much like Just Jack but the band have poppier moments, a natural rapport with the crowd and a touching song about the importance of friendship. A great start to the ever expanding Kendal Calling and the first real highlight of the day
The hits may have dried up and the novelty worn off, but you cant keep a comedy rap band from Newport down for long. Goldie Lookin Chain charm the crowd, make them laugh, sing a long and join in the fun. We are treated to new songs like "Graham The Bear" with sleazy stabs of synths, dance routines and chorus so filthy and degrading it should come with a public health warning. The funky "I Need It By Any Means Necessary" has Maggot in rapture but lacks the humour of their much earlier work. Adam Hussain raps over a sample of All Saints "Never Ever" to the backing of the GLC Male Voice Choir wearing their vintage leisure wear with pride. GLC pray to the god of moshing, refer to Michael Jackson as the Prince Of Paedos and perform the hits everybody wants to hear. "Guns Don't Kill People Rappers Do" still hasn't dated since it was released in 2004 and is catchier than swine flu. The politically incorrect diatribe regarding transgender individual "Your Mother Has a Penis" is the icing on the cake, crude but all the better for it, safe as f*ck
Headliners The Streets have four albums under their belts so there's no shortage of songs to choose from. Mike Skinner and his cohorts have drawn a massive crowd and opening the set with "Lets Get Things Started" is a masterstroke with its deft blend of ska and insightful lyrics, Skinner gets the girls as the front to disrobe at an alarming rate like cage dancers at a Motley Crue gig. After that though some of the songs on "Everything Is Borrowed" are so humdrum that the band should be re-named Cul-De-Sac as the songs simply don't go anywhere. Thank the lord that "Don't Mug Yourself" livens up the crowd and one of the new albums better songs "Heaven For The Weather" sounds like a showtune for the hippy 60s musical Hair. at this stage the naked girl count is now up to six.
After about an hour Designer Magazine has had its fill of The Streets with Skinners weird mix of brummie and cockney drawl a little bit weary, but they go on for another fifteen minutes. Respect is due to the heartfelt, tender ballad "Never Went To Church" which is a rare touching moment
Nine Black Alps from Manchester have a floppy haired frontman and a beardy bass player who behaves like he's in a metal band throwing his instrument around like an audition for Queens Of The Stoneage. The fans at the front sing back each lyric back at the band as they play watered down grunge, not unlike Nirvana. Their songs aren't bad and the band play well but the Seattle scene of the early 90s sounds a bit dated in the 21st Century. The less frantic songs have a 60s whimsy, but come on lads, don't be lazy, adopt your own identity, be adventurous and see what happens.
Sunshine Underground from Leeds are less ravey than they used to be which is a pity as that is what used to give them an edge. The John Lydon style shouty vocals and the rock tunes certainly have the crowd dancing in a frenzy and new song "Spit It Out" has epic written all over it. "In Your Eyes" has more of a baggy vibe though and Sunshine Underground have enough good tunes to entertain the increasingly drunken and bizarrely dress crowd.
Young, raw, passionate, angry with a punk attitude. Twisted Wheel are exactly what music needs at the moment, a band with guts, energy and genuinely powerful. Three chords, three minutes, heavy duty throbbing bass screeching guitar and drums almost destroyed by high velocity force. The mosh pit resembles a crime scene with mud flying around, limbs flailing about and heads banging furiously. Twisted Wheel aren't a band for the faint hearted. "Sheila The Dealer" and "Lucy The Castle" are gems and while there are occasional lapses into Oasis riffs, their recent single "You Stole The Sun" is 100% Twisted Wheel, a real powder keg of a tune, bristling with pure unadulterated undiluted force.
Designer Magazine has some good news and bad news regarding The Zutons. The bad news is that the band were recently dropped from their record label, a bitter blow after their recent departure of guitarist Boyan Chowdhury, but fear not because the good news is that as a four piece the band have upped their game somewhat and have never sounds better. Kicking off in spectacular fashion with the bluesy riff of "Always Right Behind You", its a crowd pleasing set from beginning to end. Unsurprisingly the most well received song of the night is "Valerie" which is much better than the Amy Winehouse version. There's not an awful lot of crowd interaction from the band but with such a party vibe going on and a well selected set list who cares? "You Will You Wont" turns the Kendal crowd into thousands of backing singers. Sadly everyone waits with baited breath for the obligatory encore after the band take a theatrical bow at the end, but the pursuit of an encore to come was a fruitless exercise as the band do not return
On the We Are Calling Stage 5 youngsters from all over the country met at Salford University and formed Belle Vue, a promising band with real prospects and a natural talent. They have a stand in drummer as their original member couldn't make the show. Its a really good turn out for such an early show. Crystal clear impassioned vocals, Smithsonian guitar licks pepper the Belle Vue sound with a great rhythm sections. "Amber" and Platform 1" are two great songs from an undiscovered unsigned band. Must see band
Tjinder Singh, the frontman in Cornershop is so timid, uncomfortable being centre stage but possessing an original vocal style whether he's singing in English or Punjabi. With his regular band mate Ben Ayres on guitar and tabla plus a motley crew of musicians which include a percussionist who resembles a lost member of Goldie Lookin Chain, Cornershop are back with new album "Judy Sucks A Lemon For Breakfast". The eclectic mix of Indian and English music works beautifully. "Sleep On The Left Side" is charmingly quirky and a cover of Manfred Manns "Mighty Quinn" is a pleasant surprise. The original version of "Brimful Of Asha" (so superior to the Fatboy Slim remix) and "Who Fingered Rock And Roll" off the new album is simply sublime.
When a band like Rumblestrips use brass to pop perfection it reminds us of Dexys Midnight Runners with the the Londoncentric eccentricity of Madness. Using good ol fashioned showmanship and being the most animated performers of the entire festival, Rumblestrips are here to entertain. Sporting a magnificent quiff Charlie sings like a man possessed whether on the catchy "Girls and Boys" which features a triumphant sax solo or the more reflective ballad "Daniel". The energy never ever lets up as Rumblestrips are a great party band and with their 2nd album produced by Mark Ronson its no wonder.
Idlewild are one of those bands who are dependable, sold and always deliver the good live. Their guitarist is sat down due to a back injury but that doesn't poison the joy one iota. "Roseability" is a fine cracker of a song with Roddy Woombles distinctive folk tinged vocal unmistakable as the voice of the band. " A Little Discourage", another hit from their past is an underrated gem, infectious and melodic. While its interesting hearing new material for the first time the results can be disappointing, case in point is a track of their as yet unreleased forthcoming album, a song called "Sooty Hall". A bit dull and worthy despite encouraging harmonies and not a brilliant preview of the new album. Thankfully all is not lost and normal service is resumed with the bittersweet ballad "American English" and all is forgiven. Lets hope the new album is a winner when its released.
Ash are festival veterans and have the honour of being the highlight of this years Kendal Calling. The eternally youthful leader of the trio, Tim Wheeler hasn't lost his touch playing to the crowd, yet Mark Hamilton on bass had a misjudged Brian May style haircut. Despite the sound quality at the beginning being a tad amateur it soon improves. Festival goers expect the bands to play the hits while they get increasingly drunk dancing like loons and who can blame them. Ash know this and deliver the hits in abundance and there are plenty of them, more than you realize. "Girl From Mars" Goldfinger" and "Orpheus" are all classic pop rock singles and deserve recognition for it but the new songs unveiled tonight (part of their plan of releasing 26 singles in twelve months) are simply brilliant. "Spare Shot" is bass heavy with synths, futuristic with a typically brash Ash chorus. Believe it or not but "True Love 1980" sees Ash go disco on this ballad with a bouncy chorus. Unlike the Zutons who last night, Ash are all too willing to perform an encore culminating with the superb "Burn Baby Burn". With a tour planned for October Ash are on the verge of a successful comeback, fully deserved
Nicholas Paul Godkin
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