Standon Calling review 2011
Alex's review of Hertfordshire's 'boutique' festival last summer
Thanks to channelmogo, I was lucky enough to get free tickets to Hertfordshire's most talked about festival to tell you all about it...
Standon Calling is a small but perfectly-formed festival. Every August, an array of stages and marquees are set up in the grounds of a 16th century manor house where hundreds of people flock to this beautiful bit of Hertfordshire countryside for a three-day party.
Though it is tiny compared with Glastonbury orReading (2,500 people max compared with Glasto's 150,000) it has a reputation for booking the most talented up-and-coming bands and artists in theUK just before they make it big:Florence and the Machine, Friendly Fires, Mumford & Sons and the Noisettes, all pretty much unknown at the time, all played Standon.
Divine or devilish - take your pick
Each year there's a different theme to the festival. This year it was 'Gods and Monsters'. There were sculptures and standing stones (not actually made from stone!) dotted around the whole site and on Saturday everyone got into their fantastic god or monster costumes. They really were truly impressive - the imagination, effort and level of detail that went into some of them was just incredible!
There were at least three different Loch Ness Monsters (each consisting of about 20 people) roaming around, loads of Monster Munch people with hands (and hats and earrings!) the shape of Monster Munches cut out of sponge…dead creepy grim reapers, decomposing Egyptian mummies, angels and devils, vampires and ghouls, flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz… and loads of beings that could have been gods OR monsters - who knows?
The Tree of Wisdom, pictured below, with hundreds of wise quotes hanging from it, stood outside the Magpie's Nest - one of the smaller music tents devoted mainly to acoustic/folky stuff this year.
And there was a mysterious huge 'obelisk' standing tall at the back of the main arena that opened at the end of the night (but although it smoked, didn't burst into flames and the 'Big Reveal' was a total anticlimax!).
Music…of course, but so much more!
Standon Calling always delivers a VERY diverse range of music - genuinely something for everyone - guitar bands, Dub-Reggae, Hip Hop, Funk, Folk, Cuban, DJs/discos as well as and other world music, theatrical entertainment, literature events, comedians and loads of fun stuff to get involved with.
Ever played goggle football? Everyone wears a pair of goggles that distorts their vision - but in a different way to everyone else's. Tricky to play (or even kick the ball when it's right by your foot) but hysterical to watch!
Much seventies-style fun to be had at the Hopper House
You could also join in with drumming or singing, take part in writing and drawing workshops, pagan Pilates or even play a game of Carrom - an Indian board game popular in South East Asia that could be described as 'finger billiards'.
Lovely people - but not enough of them!
During the day the atmosphere was very relaxed - everyone just chilling in the sunshine - but by night things livened up and there was a great party atmosphere. Night or day everyone was always friendly, open to meeting new people and full of fun.
The lack of overcrowding at the festival is one of its main attractions in my opinion, but it really needed just a few more people to get a bit more of an atmosphere going. I don't think it sold out, which may well have had something to do with Spiratulized, the main headline act, having pulled out at the last minute. There weren't really enough people to get any energy going at the main stage during the day - even when the music was good - which it usually was. It wasn't until the headline acts came on that the enthusiasm got going.
My favourite place was Twisted Licks - the second biggest stage, inside a massive marquee. A young band called Tripwires with their gorgeous swirling guitar noise (watch my video, see the link below!) was one of the best. Also look out for '2.54' - tipped for immanent greatness. Revere, who have played the festival three years in a row now (and sound a little bit like Editors) were also excellent.
The anarchic hillbilly barn-dancing squad, 'Cut a Shine' were (strangely) popular - the minute they took to the stage people started piling into the little Magpie's Nest tent for a good 'ole 'hoedown'. Whilst there was a set programme for the five main stages, there were also spontaneous acts that set up in various parts of the site. These were often the most enjoyable - a small area starting with one DJ and around 10 people, growing to 60 or 70 people within twenty minutes.
Lamb's set (pictured below) was probably my musical highlight, despite having a bad cold, Lou's voice was haunting and the music mesmerising. The film-work on the screen behind the band was brilliant and really made the set headline standard.
Quote from one festival-goer: "Friday night's headliners - Battles - amazing live show! Still had their songs in my head five days later ."
How much will it set you back?
There is a special teen ticket for 13-17 year olds for £100 but under- 18s do need to go with someone over 18 (tickets still good value at £120 for the three days and four nights camping). The food is excellent and reasonably priced-I had a falafel that kept me going all day for £5.50 - the guy even let me off the 50p as I had no change.
I was there...
But the best thing was just hanging out with mates and meeting new people in a relaxed and happy atmosphere and, of course, discovering great new bands so that I can say "I saw them at Standon Calling before they were famous".
Roll on Standon Calling 2012…
Visit the official Standon Calling website here.
Visit Lamb's website - there are tracks you can share for free here.