Standon Calling 2011 review

Laura Foster reports on The Monster Mash

Photographer:Al De Perez

Laura Foster - 15 August 2011

As the saying goes, controversy sells. And the organisers of Standon Calling certainly discovered this in 2011, as music fans returned for a weekend of creativity and japes despite the festival’s unfortunate news in February.

The boutique festival made the papers for all the wrong reasons as founder Alex Trenchard was found guilty of defrauding his employer Tesco of £355,000 in order to pay bills for the festival in previous years. Jailed for 30 months, the remaining festival organisers insisted that the show would go on no matter what, and they pulled it off with panache.

The Trenchard family once again open up their beautiful grounds – and heated outdoor swimming pool – to punters amongst the farmland of Hertfordshire. The bookers have programmed a line-up of diverse established and up-and-coming artists across all genres to keep the hungriest of music fans satisfied.

The unfortunate cancellation of Spiritualized due to illness does leave a gaping hole amongst the headliners, but Battles and Lamb do an excellent job of making up for it.

New York three-piece Battles (9/10) roll out their visceral and visual live show on Friday, playing in front of screens that feature the different vocalists from recent album ‘Gloss Drop’. Former singles ‘Atlas’ and ‘Ice Cream’ are stand out songs tonight.

Taking top spot on Saturday night, returning trip-hoppers Lamb (7/10) play a set full of classics for the gathered fans. Singer Lou Rhodes is struggling with a cold, she says, but it doesn’t show as her mellow voice rings out.

Chrome Hoof (8/10) play a bonkers set of orchestral electro space rock-funk while adorned in metallic space capes. Singer Lola Olafisoye struts around the like a soulful Bollywood diva, and is reminiscent of The Noisettes’ Shingai Shoniwa.

Washed Out’s (8/10) 80s chillwave pop grooves enrapture everyone and prove that you should believe the blogging hype surrounding this band. DJ Derek’s (8/10) set of reggae classics on Sunday evening pulls a big crowd of people happy to get down to Toots and the Maytals. It’s just a shame that everyone’s having such a good time that we can’t hear the old DJ’s announcements between songs over the chatter.

A surprise set by Beans on Toast (9/10) in front of the Poonarnia toilets is fantastic, as the delightful and gravelly-voiced Jay sings hilarious songs – often with serious messages – to an enraptured crowd. From racial bigotry to falling in love while taking drugs at a festival, he has the crowd in stitches during a self-deprecating set.

Africa Express Soundsystem (7/10) close proceedings on the main stage this year with their revolving door of performers entering and exiting stage in front of a massive screen of visuals that make reference to the collective’s spiritual home continent.

Sound of Rum’s Kate Tempest makes a surprise appearance onstage after AES spotted her performance earlier in the day and invited her to join them. She looks overwhelmed, but delivers a flawless flow of words in front of a clearly impressed band.

Standon Calling is about so much more than the music, however. This year’s theme is Gods and Monsters, and the divine mixed with the disgusting as Shiva boogied with the Cookie Monster.

Much of what makes this festival special is here again – the friendliest festival-goers on the planet, a varied and interesting selection of food stalls, the fancy dress competition on Saturday and the dog show on Sunday.

But the best things never stand still, and improvements have been made. The layout of the site has changed this year, in many ways for the better. A small healing field has been added, the cowshed that boasts one of the best dance floors in the country has been opened up to let more people in, the second stage is a little further away from the main stage to avoid sound clashes.

And a special mention has to go to the toilets, which are all flushable, constantly stocked with loo paper, and always have running water in the sinks. It’s an impressive feat that makes all the difference.
Standon Calling 2011 may be small in size, but what it lacks in stature it certainly makes up for in substance.


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