Standon Calling 2012
Standon Calling this year was for me much like a desperately curious trip to the seaside to visit relatives, you want to go because you aren't sure just how much longer they will remember who you are.
For the most part, it remains the same. It is full of savvy locals, die-hard music fans and returners who come back year after year in search of an eclectic mix of escapism. It has a reputation as the place to be heard: Mumford & Sons, Florence & the Machine and Delphic being a few of the stars to rise from its charming Hertfordshire setting.
However, there was some casualties this year. The Cow Shed is usually a fantastical late-night retreat, decked out year-on-year with intricate artistic creations which are drunkenly explored with childlike curiosity. Perhaps turning the venue into a daytime spot for music is the reason behind it losing some of its charm by night this year. as the quirky side-rooms' décor is reduced dramatically.
The theme, too, suffered. It seems 'Journey to the End of the Earth' is too interpretative and became lost on the punters. There was a noticeable lack of interesting dress up, which was a shame considering it aids in producing real excitement and togetherness.
There's still plenty of the little things to smile about: the alcohol limit is a stringent 'reasonable amount'; the main stage is sizeable but not distant; queues for food and drink are never obscene and it's still the only festival in the country with a swimming pool.
This year the music maintained it's grandiose reputation in terms of rising 'buzz bands' and time-worn favourites who chose to play Standon because they know Beuna Vista Social Club played a couple years back. It's the casual playground of the musical greats, those who need not tour all year round.
[!!!] Chk chk chk! performed their only UK gig this summer at Standon and lead singer Nic Offer chucked himself around in a ballistic display of passion, illustrating the tested dance-punk sounds coming from the rest of the band. Other crowd-pumping performances included head liners Fat Freddy's Drop, entertainment re-upholstered, as brass and beats clash to breaking point. Trombonist Joe Lindsay, who was a sweaty heap for the entire headline slot, stripped down from bomber jacket to Royle Family-esc vest and therein won the crowd's elation.
Death in Vegas and Beardyman headlined, too, showcasing Standon's gripe for variety. Vegas were a pertinent addition, injecting their low-fi electronica into the hearts of all sitting and standing in unison and Beardyman performed an adorably humble set to probably the biggest collective of punters this year in the first headlining slot of his career.
Foxes were a delight, led by Louise Rose Allen, a female-vocalist who manages to control the unleashing power of the intelligent electronic music coming from her band with courage. She has a subtle prowess which oozes star quality, perhaps Standon have sprinkled their gold dust here.
Field Music's stripped back experimentalism is threaded over five albums with a self-conscious musicality which opts to fight against the book, another highlight.
Casiokids were back, too! 2011 marked the first missing year in some time for the Standon veterans, whose power in the electronic circuit never wanes. An extended version of 'Fot I Hose' plonked around in the early evening sunshine with re-assuring comfort.
There was plenty of acoustic sounds too, atop this list was Willy Mason, performing in the adorable Folk Tent which literally houses around thirty people. Hundreds of punters sat on the grass outside immersed in his languid tone, a lyrical bliss amidst a bustling circus of events.
Unfortunately, King Charles' sycophantic Bubblegum-Folk got a rapturous welcome to the main stage. Both he, and the audience lapping him up, have serious issues with jumping on the Zeitgeist; but with some luck this lazy, uninspired act will become a sign of the times.
It would be nice to see a wider consideration given to the arts in a larger sense: bar an interesting black and white photography stand and one hard-to-come-by theatre company, there is little else in the way of 'other' experiences here. Even the cinema-come-theatre has this year become victim of the Cow Shed renovation, its space literally now a part of the bigger aforementioned venue.
Standon Calling needs to imagine re-developments through the eyes of Alex Trenchard and his friends, the festival owner and his original festival-goers, who began all this with a BBQ by the pool and some good music.
The music is still there, never conforming to the tragic independent festival formula of has-been-cluttered line ups, but the BBQ needs to be kept alight through a consistent theme represented across the whole site, and ingrained in its' every move. This way, Standon Calling will remain exceptional for years to come.
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