Standon Calling is not your regular run of the mill summer festival. Situated within the grounds of a 16th century Hertfordshire manner house (luckily the organisers have a big garden), this “boutique” festival is a breath of fresh air, and it’s no surprise that it grows bigger and bigger with each year.
The first thing you notice about Standon Calling is how intimate the whole festival is. From the car-park to the campsite, to the main stage, to the bar, to the food stalls – everything is in relatively short walking distance. A quick walk around the site and you soon notice how extremely well organised this festival is too. It’s as if the organisers have cut no corners in ensuring everyone has the perfect hassle free weekend.
So what would one expect from a “boutique” festival? Well, there’s plenty to keep you entertained. Standon Calling focuses primarily on bringing up and coming artists on the cusp of bigger things to the masses. And admit it, there’s nothing better than claiming to have seen the next big thing perform to a handful of festival goers in somebody’s back garden. Standon Calling is also a family friendly festival, there’s a designated kids play area; a small marquee surrounded by a white picket fence where kids can watch puppet shows, hear stories or be wooed by reggae nursery rhymes.
There’s plenty to keep the adults entertained too. Obviously there is music – the main stage is huge and more than adequate for the bands that are selected to play there. There’s also a second stage, the Twisted Licks tent. There’s the Magpies Nest, where you’ll hear an array of acoustic music. Then there’s the Monster’s Lair where the DJ’s will drop all your favourite club anthems deep into the night. And if you get bored of music, then there’s a literary tent, the Nirvana chill out area, a swimming pool and even a book stall. It really is quite a middle class affair.
Each year there is a theme, and this year’s theme was Gods and Monsters, so it was no surprise to see gruesome ghouls dancing on stilts in front of the main stage. I arrived at the festival on the Sunday and immediately wished that I had stayed for the whole weekend. The music is quite eclectic and there’s a showcase of some seriously talented musicians. Brassroots, a nine-piece flourishing brass band act hailing from East London were a warm welcome in the afternoon sunshine. The crowd that had gathered in front of the main stage seemed to enjoy the collective sounds of the trombone, trumpet, saxophone and tuba.
As Sound of Rum took to the stage, lead vocalist Kate Tempest managed to coax the crowd into moving closer to the front of the main stage and launched into a barrage of lyrical masterpieces. Stand out track Icarus was captivating, but the poem, titled ‘Cannibal Kids‘ that Kate rapped out acapella style, in regards to trying to understand the melee of the riots that broke out in London last week was simply mesmerising.
Over in the Twisted Licks tent Bastille took to the stage and entertained a flocking crowd. Bastille are a band to watch out for in the future. Tracks such as Icarus and Flaws are perfect catchy electro-pop songs that are crying out for radio airplay. The front man invites the ever growing crowd to contribute to the aptly titled Pompei chorus and they duly oblige. If soaring vocals coupled with melodic keyboard beats is your thing, then Bastille will not disappoint.
Broken Record provided a nice change of gear on the main stage, straight out of a rainy Edinburgh. Songs that smack of Snow Patrol and Gas Light Anthem. “We’re going to try and make the sun come out for you” they claim, well they may not have achieved that but there’s a few more smiles around.
I’ll admit I was pleasantly surprised with Standon Calling. This is a great little festival that offers up a treat of brilliant emerging talent from all over the country. The planning and organisation is second to none and there’s just so much going on at any one time that there’s always going to be something to whet your appetite. It’s a family friendly festival, where dogs are even welcome. There’s a selection of multi-national food stalls to choose from, a host of musical stages, a swimming pool, a tree bar, a kids play area, a chill out zone – what more could you require from an intimate “boutique” festival?