There aren’t many festivals that start with a covers band on the Thursday night, there are even fewer that require you to walk past a Disco Shed on your way there, but Standon Calling has upped its game for its 15th birthday and done exactly that.
The dog and family friendly festival has ensured everyone’s music tastes are catered for and those unable to have someone look after their pooch have even got their own area to take their four legged friend, complete with dog show and helpful talks.
With everything so close, even small children can manage their way around the, site with minimal effort and so it is that Thursday night gets going with Disco Inferno, a band playing funk and disco covers from the 70’s and a few more modern hits with the same feel and vibe to them, such as, Get Lucky, and after 18 months of not being able to do anything, the crowd lap up every single note rejoicing in being able to dance with not just friends, but like minded strangers, a theme which carries on through the rest of the weekend and, in all honesty, it was just as enjoyable to watch the audience as it was any of the acts because everyone was just there to have fun.
Once the full arena opened on Friday, the energy just increased with several bands playing for the first time ever, demonstrating just how powerful a tool the internet has become. The first act on the main stage is The Daniel Wakeford Experience, featuring none other than the very popular Daniel Wakeford who first won the nation’s hearts on The Undateables, making him the first non-tested main stage performance in the UK, following the recent Download Pilot test. As Daniel runs on stage, brimming with confidence the crowd cheers loudly and loves every minute of his 30 minute set and after PlayBoy Girl, leaves the stage to people chanting his name because you just can’t help but like the guy.
Over on the Laundry Meadows stage it’s time for Baby Queen, whose songs are basically an up tempo pop, but with a slightly rock tinge. She might be a bit sweary for such a family friendly festival, but everyone in attendance is happily bobbing and swaying to her songs about partying, the internet and mental health. As she closes on American Dream it’s clear she’s leaving with some new fans.
Picture This sound a bit like an Irish One Republic complete with screaming girls for literally the duration of their set, despite singer Ryan Hennessy looking like he’s still in his pyjamas. Clearly they have a good following, which can only have been increased when Ryan stepped off the stage because he “wanted some human contact” and is proven with the big singalong of Take My Hand.
As the night sets in and the day winds down it’s over to Bastille to give us a career spanning set of songs reworked with an orchestra and choir. It’s only through hearing it you can suddenly realise how much their music does lend itself to an orchestra with the strings, and of course the choir voices, just adding whole new levels the audience eagerly soak up, while a simple yet effective light show brings everything and everyone together.
Another main stage artist from today, Griff, joins the band to run through their crowd favourite cover of Rhythm of the Night, which now comes complete with yet another act ripping off the classic “everybody sit down” moment Slipknot made famous. Unfortunately, this orchestral version lacks the feel to even make you want to tap your feet, nevermind jump up. It must be said the version of Pompeii they have produced is fantastic. Stripped back and raw, almost gospel, opening with a female singing the chorus rather than the popular “dey-ooh, dey-ooh” bit… Oh you know what I mean… Anyway, I thought it was brilliant, but I think the girl stood on a picnic table shouting for it all night was a bit annoyed she couldn’t get her dance on. It’s not often you see orchestras and choirs at festivals, so it was a welcome change of tone for the weekend and the band are clearly going from strength to strength as the crowd leaves with beaming smiles after the set ends on the live debut of Distorted Light Beam and Good Grief.
Last band of the day is the infamous Elvana. Since they changed singer I’ve not enjoyed them as much, but I don’t know if I just got used to it now after a few festival spots, or whether it was because it wasn’t stupid o’clock in the morning at Glastonbury, or maybe it was just because I was finally at a festival again, I found myself really enjoying it and even singalong to Smells Like Teen Spirit. The band were great, the crowd were great and trying to kick oversized yellow balloons with the infamous Nirvana smiley face logo on them was also great.
Bob Vylan are possibly the greatest angry punk rock rap band you might not have heard of. Imagine if you will a London born Zack de la Rocha performing with a live drummer and backing tracks and you’ve basically got Bob Vylan. Despite the fact he sounds like Russell Brand when talking in between songs, frontman Bobby Vylan (amazing), is the first person I’ve ever seen on stage truly match that Zach anger that prevails through the RATM back catalogue. He leaps over the barrier to perform two songs from the crowd, drops the first onstage C-Bomb (that I heard) of the weekend and after a raucous rendition of We Live Here, insists on ending the set with a group hug. Catch them on tour right now.
Mae Muller is another one of our first time performers and, again, the fact she’s on the main stage proves how musicians are able to make the internet work FOR them. I can’t guarantee any staying power for artists these days, but at least they can get out there and have a good shot of living their dream. Mae’s music is full of summer vibes, in terms of style and it’s a shame her Saturday set wasn’t on the gloriously sunny Friday. She is also the only performer I saw to apologise for the language in her songs, although she didn’t really try and do anything about it. There is a certain Anne-Marie vibe to Mae as well, both how she sings and how she chats between songs and as she closes with Therapist, it’s not hard to imagine we’ll be seeing her again soon.
As the evening draws in it’s time for Sister Sledge to get the party started. Opening with Lost in Music and Everybody Dance (ooh, woo, clap your hands, clap your hands….sorry) the huge crowd is soon bobbing and swaying and raising hands in the air (it is unclear at the time of writing whether they just did or did not care). With such a plethora of hits, the set was never going to be anything but flawless, even without the cheeky little segment of Rapper’s Delight the ladies throw in for good measure. Sister Sledge 100% needs to be performed with a live band not backing tracks. I’m guessing it’s a budget/travel thing so I’m not hating on them for it, but I personally would have enjoyed seeing a rhythm section actually playing those jams.
Eventually it’s time for my newest discovery (I’m VERY behind the times these days) Hot Chip to headline the main stage. Opening with Huarache Lights and One Life Stand it’s clear they are an excellent choice of band to headline a Saturday night, and as they periodically swap instruments I suddenly realise how you never see the singers from Hot Chip and Weezer in the same place… A festival treat comes in the form of Jarvis Cocker, not once but twice, as he joins the band for Hungry Child and then the live debut of his collaboration tune Straight to the Morning. It’s the end of the set that really brings the house down though with covers of both Sabotage and Dancing in the Dark, which is literally what everyone heads off to do as the music stages close down and the dance areas keep burning the midnight oil. I’m still not convinced I didn’t just watch a Rivers Cuomo side project though…
With the forecast stormy weather seemingly been somewhat off base, the mainly dry Saturday rolls into a sunny Sunday and it’s over to Dick and Dom’s DJ Battle, which had no right being as enjoyable as it was. Shouts of “BOGIES!”, hilarious shoutouts of “who loves Dom? And who loves Dick?” and wall to wall bangers ring out across the Electric Meadows field and I swear to God the ground was shaking to everyone’s dancing and bouncing during Sandstorm. Playing I Wish it Could be Christmas Everyday felt like a step too far though.
At 3pm it’s time for one of the few bands to take the Beefy Melons stage, which has been mostly home to DJ’s the rest of the weekend, Punkband. Unfortunately, there are no prizes available for guessing what sort of music they play, but I can confirm it is good old fashioned “proper, real” punk as I like to call it. What I mean by that is the band have more in common with The Sex Pistols and The Anti-Nowhere League than Green Day or Sum 41. Clearly the word has spread about them though as despite performing on the smallest stage at the festival, the tent gets busier and busier by the time they take the stage, with frontman Toby Ergatoudis announcing “it’s our first gig – so if it’s shit you know why.” In fairness, to the band they then rip through some good old fashioned bouncy punk and cursory glances around the audience sees a pretty even split of old fashioned bouncy punk rockers enjoying themselves, young fashionable bouncy people filming on their phones, plus people being drawn in by what their ears are picking up.
Unfortunately, it was very soon after this that the weather took a very nasty turn and the whole festival was forced to stop because the arena had flooded – one employee was overheard describing “two weeks rainfall in one hour” – so there was no Craig David, no Sophie Ellis-Bextor or even a Primal Scream, but across the weekend there was a whole heap of smiles, singalongs, dances, bounces, memories and more importantly A RETURN TO NORMALITY.
If you are a family looking to go to a festival together now the kids are getting a bit older, you could do a lot worse than Standon Calling and you can even bring your dog. If you are a single guy or girl, looking for a slightly smaller festival to go to for a weekend of The Lol’s then Standon Calling has you covered too. Great festival, great times, shame about the uncontrollable weather.