it's the fans that make or break bands

Standon Calling Festival 2014 – Saturday

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Saturday began at Standon with a torrential downpour, but it was kindly arranged to occur before most people had even got out of their sleeping bags; by the time the arena opened the sun was shining again.

Saturday was Carnival, a day to don the ‘Lost in Latin America’ themed costumes, and these were in abundance everywhere. A llama, several military dictators, and a brilliant Christ the Reedeemer statue, along with the entire 1970’s Brazilian football squad and hundreds of grinning ‘Day of the Dead’ skulls. A fair few beer bellies were on display, not at all concealed by the Mexican Wrestlers capes.

Amber Run appeared relaxed on the main stage, and delivered a strong set, much enlivened by the addition of a dancing Taco and a 2-metre high Paddington Bear. These are not part of the standard touring equipment, but were pulled from the crowd by a clearly delighted Joe Keogh. Hopefully they’ll be signed up and used on all future tours. With or without their new dance troupe, Amber Run are on the up-and-up, and set like this will only boost them further.

Walking away from this set, your reviewer fell to chatting with Big Jeff, the legendary serial gig-going music addict. He’s been a regular at Standon (amongst many other festivals) for years, and seemed to manage to be leaning on the rail, front ‘n’ centre,  for virtually every artist that came on. He had some strong views on the various artists at Standon, and valuable tips as to acts to look out for.

Big Jeff’s first tip was, in the Big Top tent, the Bohicas.  They delivered a solid performance – rock-hard sound, driven at speed by some powerful drumming. Let’s “knock things up a notch “cried Dominic McGuinness, and the gritty guitars duly did.

Photos by Mark Underwood

Eliza and the Bear are another band with a great future ahead of them, and on the basis of this set, really very soon.  A wall of noise –  a lot of guitar and a lot of vocal crammed into every song – had everyone leaping enthusiastically in the afternoon sunshine. The large crowd were treated to a debut of new single “Light It Up”, which is likely to propel this talented group still further.

Another Big Jeff suggestion were THUMPERS,  in the Big Top Tent. The capital letters used in their name give fair warning of just how very loud they are: like a bass-heavy Chvrches, especially with the swirling keyboards.

Back on the Main Stage, the much anticipated performance from Clean Bandit kicked off as the sun began to set. As they played in the golden light, to a huge and excited crowd, there was contrast across the band members. Most were unsmiling, straight-faced – perhaps nervous? Whereas Grace Chatto, as cute a button,  was full of smiles from the start; when not playing her electronic cello, she happily waved her bow in time to the music. All the hits were delivered flawlessly, to the delight of the young, largely female front row, who sang along rapturously. Clean Bandit didn’t have to come far from Cambridge to get here, but they’ve come a long way in 2014.

Saturday Headliners Public Enemy confused many festival-goers by coming on 15 minutes early, causing a surge to the front from those who thought they’d had time for one more beer.  They started well, and audience was right behind them, but they seemed to leak goodwill with frequent, somewhat misjudged ‘we are the world’-style rambles.

When Chuck D asked for a shout-out for “..the people of Malaysian Airlines and .. err .. that other ‘plane that crashed..” the crowd wondered what it had got itself into. Still, the hits kept coming, Flava Flav flung himself into the crowd for a spot of surfing and the die-hard fans were very happy. A combination of a chill wind and a lengthy set saw a lot of people drift away before the end, and the late-opening bars were full of heated argument as the merits of the set. Perhaps an American group just doesn’t fit into a mostly Brit-band festival?  Discuss.

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Relieving my mid-life crisis with large doses of live music. Usually the oldest guy in the mosh

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