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Keg at Standon Calling 2023

Festival Review

The Standon Calling Festival 2023

East Hertfordfordshire

Who let the dog's out?

 Around for a good number of years, the Standon Calling Festival has an ambience at it's heart of a village fete gone large, no mean feat as it's 17,000 visitors will declare. There are touches that set it apart from your average fest such as a Saturday Fancy Dress parade, Sunday Morning Dog Show and the comedy tent next to a swimming pool, sited on what looks like a bowling green. A lot to take in and enjoy though most of time I was purely focused on the musical side which this review will centre on.

The Sherlocks

With a wide ranging roster of artists to take a peek at over the 4 days, a fair amount of legwork was needed to get between stages. The DM boots were ideal to stomp the varying weather conditions that prevailed over the weekend. A tale of two halves with Thursday & Friday very warm and comfortable but with a wet downturn on Saturday with some improvement on Sunday.

 On to the music, The Sherlocks gave us some traditional indie/rock that was very agreeable on the main stage while a truly gut busting performance was to be taken up at the “Laundry Meadows” stage where Wunderhorse showed their crowd why they are hotly tipped for the future, confidence from a catalogue of classy modern rock anthems shone through, tight robust playing kept us enthralled. They were performing under the “BBC Introducing” moniker as were a lot of the bands over the weekend, Wunderhorse were the highlight of the day other than the headliners.

The Sherlocks Standon Calling 2023
Wunderhorse Standon Calling 2023
Wunderhorse Standon Calling 2023
Wunderhorse
Wunderhorse

KT Tunstall worked her Scottish magic, it is hard to believe that "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" first caught our ears back in 2004 with it’s unusual folky stomp, played as expected along with a long list of great songs. Make way for Phil Oakey, still possessing that low mechanical vocal delivery, always note perfect. The Human League hits just kept coming but the songs from Dare still stood tall and we can only wonder what it must have been like to hear those songs for the first time as they are so ingrained in our minds. The backing band -who were obviously too young to be there- then added to the overall spectacle along with Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley still swaying like it was 1981. Phil’s attire was not too dissimilar to something you might see sported on a certain Harry Styles; with enough flare in the trouser department to hide several of the small dogs in the audience. What hit you most was the awesome sound of the synths recreating the eighties to perfection… brilliant!

K T Tunstall
K T Tunstall
K T Tunstall Standon
The Human League
The Human League

 Day 2 started with 49th & Main passing on their cool, poppy soulful beats and vibes letting the sunshine warm our backs while sipping a coffee to grease the cogs of the mind. Meanwhile the mainstage had a pop protégé, showing far too much energy for the time of day but with obvious young person appeal. Thomas Headon has an abundance of “instant” Pop earworms so I can only forecast good things for his career, though pure pop is not my speciality and pop being very fickle, could he be out of sight and mind in a year? I hope not as I enjoyed his show.

 A great run of artists were up next on the second Laundry Meadows stage, starting with the wonderful Flowerovlove, she oozed charisma and star appeal, displaying a calm, cool personality belying her very few years on planet earth. I also loved the songs, they are breezy and full of space though hard to put in a box. Next up Sprints came at us with speed infused venomous blasts that brought us up to full interaction level. You can’t calmly relax while they play, Karla Chubb was swinging her guitar around like a loaded weapon and not afraid to use it. There seems to be an influx of Irish bands at present, across the water to Liverpool we have Stone, again a post Punk/ Garage band who are straight on delivery of a raucous, scouse infused performance. It feels like We Are Scientists have always existed, they provided a very professional show, Keith Murray coaxing chunky sounding rhythms from his guitar while spinning around the stage, they were on it and I was glad to see them for the first time.

49th & Main
Thomas Headon Standon Calling 2023
Thomas Headon Standon Calling 2023
Thomas Headon Standon Calling 2023
Ellie Dixon Standon Calling 2023l
Flowerovlove Standon Calling 2023
Flowerovlove Standon Calling 2023
Flowerovlove Standon Calling 2023
Sprints Standon Calling 2023
Sprints Standon Calling 2023
Stone Standon Calling 2023
Stone Standon Calling 2023
We are Scientists Standon Calling 2023
We are Scientists Standon Calling 2023
We are Scientists Standon Calling 2023

 Carrying on the Post Punk/indie type genre, Squid were next to perform . The stage seemed so full of musical equipment that there hardly seemed room for the 5 Bristol based Band members to reside. They are tighter than the proverbial snare drum and were a joy to watch as their different parts intersperse to complete a song, sometimes looking like they were all playing out of time at the same time in an alternate universe. They mastered time and space like musical Doctor Whos. It had certainly been right up my street on the second stage so far.

 Squid at Standon Calling 2023
 Squid at Standon Calling 2023
 Squid at Standon Calling 2023
 Squid at Standon Calling 2023

 Mainstage provided us with probably the most Pop of the Pop artists of the weekend, Caity Baser had the younger crowd captivated with dance moves and song interaction to behold. More towards MOR Rock Dylan has the look of a star already, I will eat my cowboy hat without seasoning if she is not a huge star in the next two years. A natural performer totally at home on the big stage she was treating us slightly older “Generation X” babies to a brief Guns ‘n‘ Roses routine in between her well crafted tunes. Rightfully headlining Friday night Olly Alexander aka Years and Years had the frenzied audience in a desperate state while he arrived in the dark on stage in a dimly lit Telephone Box while performing Night Call. He emerged togged out in small leather shorts to dance with his extremely well coached dance troupe. It was full on old school showmanship for an hour and a half including a nod to electronic Pop masters The Pet Shop Boys with a version of It’s a Sin

Caity Baser at Standon Calling 2023
Dylan at Standon Calling 2023
Dylan at Standon Calling 2023
Audience for Years & Years Standon Calling 2023
Years & Years Standon Calling 2023
Years & Years Standon Calling 2023
Years & Years Standon Calling 2023
Years & Years Standon Calling 2023
Years & Years Standon Calling 2023
Years & Years Standon Calling 2023
Years & Years Standon Calling 2023
Standon Calling 2023
Standon Calling 2023
Standon Calling 2023

Saturday emerged with the threat of some of the wet stuff dropping from above, we didn’t let that stop a good thing. Positivity is an attribute of Hannah Grae, the Welsh singer-songwriter treated us to a lively display of Pop/Rock songs that sparked us all into life on the second stage. A taste of R&B with George Riley was followed by a great Rap set from Ayrtn, Standon Calling was really mixing it up on Day3. Up next were another weekend standout in the shape of The Murder Capital, an Irish Post Punk Band that model a New York “Street” cool, (think De Niro in Mean Streets). Powerful songs delivered with just the right amount of attitude made them extremely popular with the audience. Sad Night Dynamite demonstrated how to look like they want to tie your laces together and laugh in your face, a highly enjoyable set that started like early Beastie Boys and then veered off towards Kasabian at the end. With a new Album to plug up next were Django Django, tracks duly played from Off Planet, the ability to see how good some of these bands are up close was pure joy. The way this festival works means anyone can get to see fantastic music.

Hannah Grae
Hannah Grae
Hannah Grae
Ayrtn at Standon Calling 2023
The Murder Capital at Standon Calling 2023
The Murder Capital at Standon Calling 2023
audience at Standon Calling 2023
The Murder Capital at Standon Calling 2023
Sad Night Dynamite at Standon Calling 2023
Sad Night Dynamite at Standon Calling 2023
Sad Night Dynamite at Standon Calling 2023
Django Django at Standon Calling 2023
Django Django at Standon Calling 2023

  Lynks were dressed for the occasion, supplementing their full-on upbeat music, dancing was their desired outcome and certainly the audience delivered. Choirs have become a common entry in the line ups of many festivals but the next one had a twist by performing well known House tracks. House Gospel Choir obviously had a good time and it purveyed to the crowd who though struggling with some precipitation took part in the sing along. Next on the main stage was a bit of a change in direction with the well crafted mid paced songs of Bear’s Den, a band I was happy to catch up with again. Maybe a bit at odds on this Saturday main stage lineup, they would be more appropriate to a hot sunny afternoon, absolutely fine all the same. After the interlude it was back to the upbeat dance dynamics of Confidence Man. 10 out of 10 for outfits, the David Byrne oversized suits were a winner, as were the multi coloured brazier accoutrements, you certainly couldn’t take your eyes off them (the two artists of course!) Last up on the big Saturday headline slot was Self Esteem. With an ever growing catalogue of hit songs Rebecca Lucy Taylor endeavoured to produce a standout show which she achieved using various ideas such as the backing singer/dancers that were choreographed to give eye-catching results. I was reminded of some of Madonna’s look in her shows, no bad thing. Songs of relationship struggles, and self-worth were popular as always and after last year’s performance lower down the bill Rebecca Lucy Taylor is rightly where she now deserves to be.

Lynks at Standon Calling 2023
Lynks at Standon Calling 2023
House Gospel Choir at Standon Calling 2023
Bear's Den at Standon Calling 2023
Bear's Den at Standon Calling 2023
Confidence Man at Standon Calling 2023
Confidence Man at Standon Calling 2023
Confidence Man at Standon Calling 2023
Self Esteem at Standon Calling 2023
Self Esteem at Standon Calling 2023
Self Esteem at Standon Calling 2023
Self Esteem at Standon Calling 2023
Self Esteem at Standon Calling 2023

 Sunday began with brighter skies, Etta Marcus provided dreamy guitar soundscapes, in the style of Mazzy Star just perfect for this time slot. She deserves further listening on my return to base. Nigerian-born R&B Singer Shae Universe demonstrates her roots in her vocals and fashion that took us on a trip to her world between Africa and the UK. Sultry songs were again another strong highlight of this weekend. From Nigeria to Manchester and another contender for artist of the weekend went to The Lottery Winners who in Thom Rylance possess a multi talented lead singer who could as things go nowadays end up on TV with his show, he demands your attention had us all laughing and smiling within seconds of joining us. With great bravado he stepped straight into Freddie Mercury’s shoes to start with Live Aid style “ayy - oh” sing and response, immediately taken up by the eager crowd. When they got to playing the songs from their no 1 album Anxiety Replacement Therapy the sound was spot on, while Rylan enjoyed every chance to play to the audience I hope he keeps the joie de vivre he has for ever. 

Etta Marcus at Standon Calling 2023
Shae Universe at Standon Calling 2023
The Lottery Winners at Standon Calling 2023
Audience at Standon Calling 2023
The Lottery Winners at Standon Calling 2023
The Lottery Winners at Standon Calling 2023

  On the main stage ex Spice Girl Melanie C knocked out all her top numbers with a few well known Spicy tunes, showing off her well toned physique, she has abs I was extremely jealous of. Still strutting around the stage, her well known personality was still popular with all in attendance. Up next The Big Moon played their soft indie/rock which was very pleasant to drift along to while the nation awaited the entrance of the one and only Rick Astley. This was the most packed the front had been up to now a big draw for the reborn artist. Wearing a pastel suit he entered as the sun dipped on the horizon, so bathed in a beautiful light he energised the watching thousands with a dapper show including covers of Harry Styles and AC/DC where Rick dazzled with a turn on the drum kit cranking out Highway to Hell. Hard to follow and with again a turn in the weather, a lot of the crowd turned tail for the safety of their tents or the nearest cover, it was the task of Bloc Party to end the weekend on the Main Stage which they did in their own style. I still don’t think they have bettered their early single Banquet, the punchy song just a piece of perfection.  

Mel C at Standon Calling 2023
Mel C at Standon Calling 2023
The Big Moon
The Big Moon at Standon Calling 2023
The Big Moon at Standon Calling 2023
Rick Astley
Bloc Party

 Depending on your musical tastes there will be something for every soul who bought a ticket for this years Standon Calling Festival, I haven't touched on the many Dance options that were available. For me it was a blessing to be able to try genres I wouldn't have normally caught in action. Some may like a genre specific line-up but I like the variety. Sunday night finished with my last band who I enjoy seeing immensely, a great way to conclude, thank you Keg for being onstage at midnight on Sunday!

Keg

 2024 DATES ANNOUNCED, WITH EARLY BIRD WEEKEND CAMPING TICKETS ON SALE NOW FOR 25TH - 28TH JULY

Available now from the website

https://standon-calling.com/

 To finish I will leave you with the words of Standon Calling Festival’s Founder and Director Alex Trenchard to reflect on the weekend…
“Yet again I’m blown away by the incredible atmosphere and spirit from everyone involved in Standon Calling.  The smiles on the faces of our fabulous festival goers, all the artists and performers across a multitude of stages and the team who work behind the scenes to make this show such an enjoyable and inspirational place to spend four days, makes me enormously proud and happy to produce a show that people genuinely love and return to year on year.  I truly believe this is the friendliest festival in the UK with such a diverse line-up and audience and I’m massively inspired by what I’ve just witnessed to create something even more special in 2024”

All photographs by Dan Reddick

Review written by Dan Reddick

Edited by Marvin reddick

 Dance Stage at Standon Calling 2023
Standon Calling 2023
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