Five thousand people in a field ‘aving a paaaaaartaaayyyyy -Yeah!! Yeah!! and YEEEEEEEEEEEEEeahhhhhhhhhhh again!!!!!!… For Louder Than War Keith Goldhanger samples the delights of Hertfordshire’s Standon Calling – one of the UK’s loveliest festivals.
The Sold Out Signs have been on display with still a week to go before the gates open. The site’s been tweaked a little, as it does every year, a few rules have changed and one or two rules appear to have been made up as we go along which have a few of us scratching our heads in confused states before we’ve even tucked into our Haribo’s and Rice Crispies.
Welcome to Standon Calling.
The toilets are as clean as at home… well work….. As clean as they are at work.
At home NO ONE shits on the floor. (If they did it’d be clean within two minutes).
There’s bog roll in them.
On the whole (see what I did there) they sparkle.
They have little bits of soap and paper towels to dry our hands hang invitingly from their metal dispensers and I mention this because you want to know this stuff don’tcha?
And there’s bands on stages.
Four stages, and a few clubby DJ bit’s scattered around.
Lots of bands, lot’s of DJ’s and LOTS OF 24 hour Party people who are mostly dressed up to the nines and a few shillings short of a pound.
There are some cool bands that attract big crowds, some cool bands that attract small crowds and some terrible bands that’ll have everyone throwing things at me and telling me I’m just a party pooper and wrong about them being terrible once I start naming names. There simply are a lot of artists here that everyone seems to love for one reason or another and have us arguing around our tents (or sitting in trees) until the sun comes up. Bands that we love, bands that we don’t and bands that everyone else loves or misses because they’ve had other things to attend to.
It’s the result of a diverse collection of artists that are the result of a festival with a few years under its belt now that always seem to spring a few surprises on us when we simply aren’t expecting them.
This festival began twelve years ago with a few people sitting around drinking and having a barbecue. By 2004 a stage was erected, a few bands were brought in and a one day festival was extended to the current three day event with a capacity currently (and hopefully kept) at 5000 – It was funded by founder Alex Trenchard who was assisted once or twice by stealing the odd pork pie from a well known shopping store – got caught, said sorry, did bird, paid back what he owed and is probably fed up with people writing about it time and time again (especially those who ignore the real facts altogether and just make things up that aren’t exactly accurate)
Standon Calling has a swimming pool.
Mustn’t forget to mention that.
Next to it is a small gazebo it hosting DJ’s hour after hour, day after day whilst revellers mostly dressed up in garb associated with this years theme “Escape from the circus” dance around the pool, the hedge, a tree, a food stall,…anything nailed down and within earshot. Families mingle amongst the party revellers and party revellers mingle with families. Basically everyone’s a party animal at this event whether its a sixty year old man riding a unicycle or a six month child barely standing but standing nevertheless with hands in the air.
In another corner we have a trapeze.
Oh yes ! A Trapeze about forty or fifty feet high that children and adults are climbing and swinging from (obviously supervised) before falling onto the safety net below. Kids’ll tell you. Alton Bloody towers can fuck right off…this is the place to be, whether dancing to a sound system on the back of a bike or involving themselves in some life drawing adjacent to one of the bars, in this place everyone is happy and no raised voices of anger are heard all weekend.
The sun is shining and WE DON’T NEED ANY CASH ***. (More of that elsewhere…) We have a beer in our hand and a field in front of us…let’s go…
We begin with a young band on the main stage called MADDOX who, if they ran about, jumped up and down and went yeah! yeah ! Hey Hey! during every verse would give the Kaiser Chiefs a run for their money. But they don’t, so we get to hear another band that probably owns all the White Lies albums there is to buy and we tap our feet agreeably and give them the thumbs up without getting too carried away (or standing up as some people call it)
LAZY HABITS & MISS BABY SOL swear a bit, apologise every time they swear and shout and tell us to stand up and wave our arms in the air. There’ll be a lot of this going on over the weekend we suspect. Miss Baby Sol, looking gorgeous enters the fray after a few songs and together we get two artists combining to wet our ears for a bit of hip hop that we’ll no doubt get more of later.
We wait for SHIELDS to give us something to cherish but have to wait for the tail end of the set before we are truly back on our feet…..buying massive ice creams and beer to keep us happy in the blazing sun.
REVERE do what we think might be a little similar to those Arcade Fire lot but fail to impress and TOY arrive and we leave at the sets conclusion breathing a sigh of relief that they’ve actually done a decent gig for once.However, the live Toy experience still doesn’t do justice to the recorded output of this band. Its a bit glum to watch, a bit dark and grumpy. We crave the happy button – the happy button that the Horrors inadvertently once found and a happy button that’ll keep the interest up in this band. Wearing a pink shirt is a start but musically we get riffs, riffs, more riffs and a bit of groaning over the top. We’ll still keep going to see Toy because under that racket are some decent tunes but we hope that one day they’ll be a little more cheerful to watch and find that golden chalice of world domination (that’s the bit just outside Dalston in case you were wondering).
BASTILLE appear to be on the verge of world domination nowadays however not in everyone’s world. We don’t care about their number one huge selling album ….Some of us hear better tunes everyday – however many don’t . So whilst one or two tut loudly as hundreds sing along to those catchy choruses that go “hey!” and “yeah!” and “whoooooo oooo !!” and scream as lead honcho Dan Smith enters the crowd, it’s decided that a hasty retreat a few yards in the opposite direction to have a look at the THE JOY FORMIDABLE is in order. This turns out to be the pick of the pile here this weekend. Vocalist Ritzy Bryan is as cool if not cooler than Karen O who we’ve been swooning over for a few years now. She plays a mean guitar and the The Joy Formidable have huge, monstrous, passionate tunes that won’t go away and won’t disappoint. They’re loud, they take charge and they are ace !
So what more would we want now its dark and nearly approaching our bedtimes? Well, its a warm evening, the bars are still open and we have on the main stage German duo DIGITALISM who entertain those still standing with the simplest most agreeable electro house, dance music that is a perfect soundtrack for any party you’re likely to hear anywhere in the UK on this hot barmy night.
Once over, the night is still young as we wander off to dance on a few tables as we meander at approximately 0.3 mile per hour back to our nests visiting everything that’s pumping out stuff varying from french techno minimalist break beats to Meatloaf ” Bat Out Of Hell” sing-a-longs.
At some stage during the proceedings we have what is known as Saturday arrive and a glance at the forthcoming artists on today’s schedule is enough to make some of us stitch our tongue between our teeth and sit back to appreciate that one mans superstar is another mans Lulu.
THE CORRESPONDENTS – (ducks from flying bottles)….Look ! We can’t like and enjoy EVERY bloody thing we watch OK? Some of us have seen this chap a few times at festivals over the years and everyone in the world loves the Correspondents at a festival EXCEPT ME. He’s comes across, whether intentionally or not as a very posh man that reminds us of Lord Charles, the ventriloquist dummy of 1970’s entertainer Ray Alan. He may have some very catchy tunes gets everyone up on their feet turning the field into some kind of massive keep fit exercise class but after about ten minutes we’re out of breath just watching him gyrate his muscles, kick his legs up in the air every five seconds and sweat. The last time we saw someone as animated as this guy was when Timmy fuckin Mallet ran after all those kids with that bloody great hammer….look ! he ain’t my cuppa tea…. excuse me while I leave…I shall move on. You stay there…it’s a free world….
We return to find another Charles, and this time the big time Charlie is the ever so popular KING CHARLES who is better to watch live than to sit at home and watch his videos of him gallivanting all over the shop like some kind of Elizabethan multi millionaire with big hair and moustache singing songs that should be listened to by people in jester hats holding mandolins and eating half a roasted chicken leg before throwing it behind themselves for underpaid servants to sweep up…ahem…another crowd pleaser.
Meanwhile over at the back of the field a lone man with a beard, cowboy hat and poncho, slides away, without a friend in the world to unload his grievances over.
PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING will save the day surely….well no, not really as we’ve had enough of this lot too recently. Their climb to the top of the entertainment world is accelerating so fast now that we’re really now hoping for something a bit different. Those samples are ok, the music is OK. The witty electronic banter between tunes is OK but I think it’s time to liven this act up a bit now isn’t it? – get dangerous, get loud, fuck it up a bit…We’ve got the Lemon Jelly CD’s in the glove compartment still, there’s no room for any more. Second album please, We’ve finished with the first one now. It’s good, it can sometimes be great background music for our summer barbeques but it’s not doing the business on the disco floor for some of us any more.
DUTCH UNCLES serve up all the good tunes from their first album along with all the good tunes from their second album and give us a Brucie bonus of a cover version in the form of Grace Jones’ Slave to the Rhythm. They may sound like an ice cream van crashing into a door bell factory but the racket they make makes some, ‘nay ALL of us dance.
Every bloody time we hear them.In a very silly way.
It’s OK though…no ones watching us.
This band are ace. They may not have had the largest audience of the weekend but we’re loving this moment of mad dancing and tempo changing tunes that have us swinging our arms and legs around for a good while.
We hang around to have a sneaky look at The D.O.T. and remember that this is the latest project that The Streets Mike Skinner is involved in with the guy from The Music, Robert Harvey. Their mellow electro grooves might be a little too mellow for some but we start to get a bit carried away, swaying to and fro and losing ourselves for brief moments however once tunes end and lights come up it doesn’t take long to realise that the night is still young or the afternoon is a bit old and we shouldn’t be losing ourselves this early. The D.O.T. don’t sound like The Streets and they don’t sound like The Music. They sound OK though and may suit a later slot on a future date.
Some of us just aren’t in the mood to stand still for BAND OF SKULLS which another time and in another place we’d probably give them our fuller attention however tonight, in a field, with the sound of a booming bass drum coming from over the horizon, we go and seek out a new life, a new civilisation and to boldly go where no man has gone before….which in the case of this writer, was up a tree for a few hours which I’m proud to say managed to hold my weight, keep me comfortable and while away the hours.
Sunday … How about a forty piece female choir singing MGMT songs to start the day then? – oh yes we squeal and sit down for our early afternoon entertainment. We get That White stripes song as well as that one about being a Teenage Dirtbag and not for the first or last time this weekend a version of the Eurythmics tune “Sweet Dreams”. I’m reliably informed this lot are called LIPS CHOIR and Lips Choir are so damn cool that they throw us their own version of the song of the summer (and it is !)….oh, you know the one, the one that tells us we’re staying up all night for various reasons (none of which are relevant at the present time).
SAID THE MAIDEN, a three piece, with a violin, and a flute , a guitar, part acappella , part……er…sorry I fell asleep.
For the whole show.
Well not all the show.
I saw the instruments and remember the introduction and something that went “yum di diddly diddly yum ya diddely diddelly um diddle da…..”
I’m sorry “Said the Maiden” but it takes a lot for this to happen but I was there, pretty close to the front. I owe you one OK?
CHLOE HOWL might need one of those make overs that Marina and the Diamonds had a few years ago. She keeps crediting everything to herself and not giving enough credit to the other three that must certainly be good enough to be part of this act….they…sorry SHE reminds us of another one of those French Eurovision acts we see year in and year out before losing and being replaced by a similar combo 12 months later. However we liked this, we hummed their ..sorry “her ” songs all the way to the bar and await the day she appears with all her hair shaved off with a beware tattoo etched on her forehead so we don’t get her mixed up with the similar looking lady who sold me a burger a few hours earlier. LONDON GRAMMAR appear gobsmacked by the size of the crowd they’re attracting whenever they appear at these sort of events. A tent full of people having a good chin wag throughout the show but they’re here. they could be anywhere else but they’ve coming to this tent because something’s going on with this lot who sound a bit like that Florence woman singing the intro’s (only the intro’s mind) to a couple of XX tunes. It’s good stuff, it’s early days, you’ll hear a lot more of these in months to come and in a couple of years they may be on that golden list that Standon Calling have when boasting about previous artists who have played this festival “before they became household names”.
DE LA SOUL arrive to entertain those of us still standing and we’re treated to a pantomime performance that wouldn’t be out of place at a US wrestling match. “This is hip hop and we tell you what to do and YOU DO IT! ” they boasted early on. And DO IT was what we all did except for the hands in the air thing swaying from side to side (that’s taking things way too far) When they say “Hip” we shout “Hop” when they go “Yeah” we all go “Yeah!” when they go “hippittty hoppitty yabba yabby Boooo” we all go “hippittty hoppitty yabba yabby Boooo” …you get my drift…. Musically they’re fantasic, visually it’s just three blokes shouting at us and getting us all wound up about the people in the other half of the audience who in turn think they’re better than the crowd on our side of the stage. This may have been how football violence started but this crowd are far too polite for that nonsense and all the booing, cheering and seeing who could sing the loudest was soon forgotten.
However, this is De La Soul and this is exactly the kind of nonsense we expected when we sloped away from the swimming pool to have a look at. We get reminded that they’ve been around since the late Eighties and we get reminded what “me myself and I” sounds like and we sing along whilst we all bounce up and down stick three fingers up in the air (something about magic numbers, I wonder what they’re up to nowadays?) make noises like guns say “yeah !” and “hippittty hoppitty yabba ………..” a lot and wave our arms in the air (except me, I didn’t do that bit), as well jump up and down a few times.
The night may have ended there for the sensible but the not sensible amongst us who wouldn’t be able to sleep anyway due to our afternoon nap visit the “Cow shed”. We’re not sure if it really is an actual cow shed but it’s a nice area tucked away in the corner that has people queuing up to get in once the witching hour has passed. To clarify that this is the Cow Shed as mentioned in our programs the sides of this small dancing space are covered with big pictures of…..yes, you’ve guessed it, Monkeys.
We watch and dance to a DJ called Colleen “Cosmo” Murphy who seems to be looping the same riff over and over and occasionally throwing in a few other bits to keep us entertained.
She does keep us entertained.
Whatever this young lady is doing (or not doing) is fab and we lose ourselves for quite sometime and crawl out on all fours before we have to be carried out.
We get about five feet out of the cow shed when we hit upon the “Dig It Sound System” which is basically a sound system on the back of a very long bicycle. These guys had been held stationary inside the camp site for a few days but this evening they’ve donned their clips unlocked their padlocks and are coasting at an average of about 0.1 mile an hour around the site dragging along punters that simply find it impossible to escape. By passing this contraption on regular intervals over the weekend we manage to hear not one dud tune all weekend. This is what keeps the revellers happy and considering there seem to be the same guys hanging around taking charge of the tunes, it keeps them reasonably happy too.
So all ’round, a very happy time was had by all but a festival wouldn’t be a festival without regrets that things were missed. Like the fabulous SIVU who we caught a few days later and the Rockingbirds who we saw a few days earlier. We missed the dog show and we missed a nights sleep or two and I’m sure we missed a lot more that we havn’t even found out about yet and maybe won’t until another time.
The “cashless” episode was an interesting experience. We couldnt wait to spend a penny once we’d cashed up late Sunday night and returned to using the queens shilling and we were confused by one or two things that the security were telling us. Like how we couldnt get back into the campervan field after 11pm which wasn’t true anyway and the (what seemed) a sudden change of mind about cans of beer being taken into the main arena which had two entrances, one with security telling us this and one with no security whatsoever. There appeared to be a problem on the same entrance regarding unaccompanied children getting back into the main arena during the night even though their parents were in there waiting at an arranged spot. Of course, the second entrance was used mainly for clever childeren and can wielding adults.
Small problems that may not even be necessary to bring up but also worth mentioning because that was ALL we had to say that was slightly negative (oh! and there could have been a few more food stalls and Ladies toilets).
It’s a great weekend away for all the familly as well as those that simply like to stay up and burn the midnight oil wearing their dancing shoes and Scooby Doo outfit and as long as this festival tries not to be too clever trying to improve itself (that recent years has showed us punters doesn’t necessarily need improving much) by experimenting with things like the cashless experience that the jury is still out about then long may Standon Calling reign.
All words by Keith Goldhanger. More work by Keith on Louder Than War can be found here.