Review: Kendal Calling 2011 [Live From The Fields]
Kendal Calling 2011 features more stand-up than any other year at the festival, with the likes of Danny McLoughlin, Barry Dodds, Gary Delaney, Mitch Benn and Dan Nightingale performing in the Soapbox Comedy tent. As ever we’ll be keeping you posted with proceedings, so check this page over the weekend for updates…
And we’re off. It’s Friday afternoon and contortionist comedian Chris Cross is keeping the 200+ crowd entertained in the middle of the arena. Cross certainly has the gift of the gab and fends off hecklers with relative ease, but the slight banter that holds together a street show can often be cliche – ‘men from Newcastle are untrustworthy and Germans don’t have a sense of humour’, for example. He’s an entertaining festival act (and of course that’s the crowd he’s playing to here) though I’m not sure how well his technique would transfer to the stage.
Just so you know, the stand-up comedy doesn’t start until 9pm tonight with an as yet unnamed line-up. Saturday sees Kill For A Seat present Jay Hampson, Tony Basnett, Pat Devine, Dan Bland, Barry Dodds, Jim Smallman, Silky and Mitch Benn. And be at the Soapbox for 8.30pm on Sunday to catch Chris Turner, Adam Staunton, Danny McLoughlin, Pete Otway, Gary Delaney, Martin Mor, Mike Wilkinson and Dan Nightingale.
This part of the world is simply gorgeous, but the work organisers have put into making Kendal Calling look extra special this year should be credited. Impressive modern artwork and fun activities and games can be found if you wander around the arena – they really add to the family-friendly feel of the festival.
Compere Jim Smallman’s got a difficult job on his hands tonight. The sound from the main stage is more than audible in the Soapbox and the audience are fairly unresponsive, too. Smallman’s got a range of safe material to draw upon, though, and his punk attitude goes down well.
Jay Hampson opens proceedings with a well-structured set. It’s a difficult crowd to deal with here at Kendal Calling and Hampson wisely sticks to his prepared material, which frequently displays good writing. A full review of Hampson’s set (at the Hilarity Bites New Act Final 2011) can be found on Giggle Beats.
There’s dad humour galore from second act Pat Devine, who opens with a forgettable Facebook anecdote but grows in stature. Devine’s piece on his daughter shoplifting is effective and his Girls Aloud routine shows promise, but sadly, like much of his material, it ultimately peters out.
Is taking a pop at the Michael McIntyre now hack? It seems every other comic’s doing it these days and Danny Sutcliffe does little to buck that trend. It’s poor form at the top of his set. But Sutcliffe’s otherwise flawless and raises the tempo (and atmosphere) in the Soapbox, with some nice pull-back gags on life in Manchester.
Hartlepool lad Tony Basnett is up next and he’s a popular choice with the crowd. It’s lazy to pigeon hole comedians but we’re at a festival and, er, you know, I’m feeling lazy. Basnett has a touch of Jason Cook about his delivery and presence, and you can’t fault this set either. It’s decent observational stuff interspersed by practical jokes – and that type of stuff will always impress at a festival.
Peter Brush also made an appearance, but, like opener Hampson, he was reviewed only last week by Giggle Beats. Again he impressed, again the crowd switched off – it’s something Brush probably needs to address if his excellent writing is to be recognised by more than just reviewers and fellow acts.
In case you haven’t noticed, the line-up we told you earlier – which was relayed from the festival programme – is totally incorrect. Bit of a let down, really…
Ending Friday’s festival comedy with two low-energy acts is madness and Dan Bland finds out why when one idiot shouts, ‘Get off, you’re shite.’ I assure you, Bland’s far from ‘shite’ and again the rowdy crowd don’t recognise the nuances of his act. It’s a persona with promise, with crisp gags and purposeful delivery. But that deadpan style will never win over a pissed-up audience who demands a laugh-a-second set.
Phew. MC Smallman brings things to a close here at the Soapbox and I’m now off to sample some of the festival’s real ales – it’s all part of the, er, reviewing process.
Good morning, Saturday. As you’ll be aware from yesterday’s coverage we’ll have to wait until 8pm to find out who’s performing stand-up tonight. Heard a few whispers that Mitch Benn is headlining but other than that your guess is as good as mine!
Just bumped into comedian Silky at The Charlatans’ performance on the main stage, who tells me Duncan Oakley is compering tonight, Silky himself is doing a set and we’ll be seeing Barry Dodds and Mitch Benn, too. Soapbox stand-up begins at 8pm tonight, by the way, and runs until 11pm.
It’s an absolutely gorgeous day here at Lowther Park. ‘Tops off Saturday’ according to band The Young Knives but I’m not so sure about that. I’m odds on for sunstroke by the end of the weekend. Pile your money on.
We’ve got the slightly unhinged Duncan Oakley compering tonight, who seems to be obsessed with his penis. It’s all well natured, though, and the crowd are pretty responsive to his musical comedy. Amiable, entertaining and hospitable – he’s what you’d expect from a festival compere.
Barry Dodds has just put on one hell of a show in the comedy tent, delivering a strong 20 minute set packed with laughs. His supermarket routine is one of my favourites at the moment – the audience seemed to enjoy it too – and his closing piece on Prince is the type of off-the-wall stuff festival crowds love. Everyman Dodds is my ‘act of Kendal Calling 2011’ so far.
Special mention to Silky (of Kill For A Seat), who booked the comedy at this year’s festival and is currently putting the audience through their paces on stage. ‘Some of these jokes can split a room’, he says, but that’s just the nature of Silky’s surreal stand-up – and risk takers get the thumbs up from me. Musical comedy returns once again, too, and his songs convey an imaginative use of language and allow for more natural laughter from punters.
By the time headliner Mitch Benn arrives the audience are well-versed with comedy sing-a-longs (excuse the pun). Punctuated by tales of festival frolics from years gone by – including the typical drug related stories – Benn’s songs lean further towards satire but are still silly enough to keep the drunken Saturday crowd entertained.
Tony Basnett, who appeared in the Soapbox again tonight, just tweeted: ‘Kendal Calling is ridiculous fun. Must fun gigs I’ve had in ages!’
Well, that’s us done for Saturday. Come back tomorrow and enjoy our final day at Kendal Calling.
Late start to Sunday, thanks largely to a dodgy alarm clock and a few late beers last night. We’ve got Gary Delaney, Dan Nightingale and a few others tonight to close the festival. By ‘a few others’ I mean ‘I don’t have a clue.’
There’s been a lovely atmosphere around Lowther Park all weekend. If you’re looking for a relaxing festival experience in a picturesque space then Kendal Calling is for you.
Gourmet seems to be the festival buzzword this summer. What it basically means is: ‘We’ll stick another £2 on your bill.’ I’m complaining, but the food here is, on a whole, delicious. Top tip: Pure Pie.
I know this isn’t really relevant, but Sunderland lad Martin Longstaff (a.k.a The Lake Poets) was simply magical in the Songsmith Solar tent tonight. If you get a chance go and see him or at least listen to his music online. I was blown away.
Just spotted Gary Delaney watching ‘Mr B, The Gentleman Rhymer.’ Delaney’s on at the Soapbox this evening for the final round of stand-up comedy at Kendal Calling. It’s just starting raining, too, so attendance should be high!
Mike Wilkinson’s hosting the comedy tonight and is instantly likeable. He starts with strong routines and moves seamlessly to audience banter – it’s a formula replicated throughout, and makes life a hell of a lot easier for the comics on tonight’s bill.
Wow. Martin Mor has the crowd roaring with a first class performance, taking his stand-up into the crowd and adapting accordingly. It’s impressive stuff – apart from the ‘hard Geordie’ cliches, that is – and he’s the first act this weekend to really involve the Soapbox crowd.
Peter Otway’s observational gags are decent enough, but the crowd are heading for the exits as Blondie begins on the main stage. How rude.
There’s only about 40 punters left in the tent for Chris Turner, whose one liners don’t get the laughs they deserve. He then enters a stunning improv-rap with comedian Silky that is better than anything that Debbie Harry woman can muster. Er.
Stunning word-play from modest genius Gary Delaney, who gets so many rounds of applause from the crowd that I’ve lost count. He’s giving them what they want here – dark gags, blue humour and, well, dick jokes – and it’s always great to see a comedian have so much fun on stage.
This review must be over 2000 words long by now – so please forgive me for keeping my comments on Dan Nightingale short. I’ve seen Nightingale many times; but not too many. For me, he can be one of the best headliners in the country. To see a comedian hold the attention of hundreds of people – especially a festival crowd – with just spirit and stories is a magical thing; and tonight, in the Soapbox tent at Kendal Calling, Nightingale was magical. Blondie had finished by the time he began, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. The laughter would’ve easily consumed the music.
I’m off to sleep now, but will be back in the morning with some final thoughts on Kendal Calling 2011. If you’re interested, pop back. If you’re not, thanks for reading so far.
Some final thoughts…
If we’re weighing up Kendal Calling 2011, the pros are so easy to spot: first and foremost, a friendly, tranquil atmosphere; a chance to see local acts, bands and performers you might not usually pay to watch, in a beautiful space; a modest ticket price; continually improving facilities (apart from showers, that is); and, most importantly, a safe festival experience.
But criticisms of this festival are much harder to come by. It’s certainly true that Kendal Calling doesn’t possess the richest of line-ups – though comedians Dan Nightingale, Barry Dodds and Gary Delaney certainly disputed that claim with great performances. The Soapbox tent, which housed the spoken-word acts, was far too close to Chase and Status, The Cribs and Blondie on the main stage. (There’s only so many jokes a comic can make about Debbie Harry.) And if you’re a vegetarian you should probably bring a packed-lunch.
This year, though, Kendal Calling delivered.
See you in the fields in 2012.