The Standon Calling Festival returned this year for another round of music, art, and fun, bringing together people from all over the UK to the idyllic Hertfordshire countryside. This year's four-day event featured an impressive lineup of musicians, artists, comedians, and performers, catering to all tastes and ages.
From the legendary Madness to the rising star Billy Nomates, from the nostalgic Sugababes to the innovative English Teacher, the festival offered something for everyone, creating a unique and vibrant atmosphere of energy, excitement, and creativity.
Day One: Thursday's Early Arrivals
For the first time in the festival's history, Standon Calling extended to four days, with Thursday offering a streamlined but nonetheless noteworthy programme for the early arrivers. The day started with the heavy monster sound of Madness, tempting many of us to arrive early enough to catch their set. Work shirts, shiny shoes, and previously purchased Madness merchandise made the opening day appear to be full of the oldest festival goers we've witnessed for some time, as the over fifties and their children got stuck in straight away. Meanwhile, up high on the hill, the teens and the twenty-somethings (in their new tents that they would eventually leave behind) were hanging around with crates of lager, slowly easing their way into the weekend.
Local heroes The Subways, Gabrielle, and The Skints followed, bringing their unique styles and talents to the stage, setting the tone for what was to come in the following days. The night ended with Madness delivering a predictably pleasing set of classic hits, with Suggs delivering between-song banter with all the energy of a slightly drunk dad at a family barbecue, treading perilously close to saying something inappropriate.
Day Two: Friday's Punky, Deadpan, and Breezy Performances
Friday saw Billy Nomates stomp onstage to Laundry Meadows with her deadpan, vocally-delicate punk offerings. Arguably, Billy Nomates' lyrical content is her biggest strength, with creative expression exploring societal inequality, class, and power imbalance. Billy Nomates exuded a positive and collective force, both lyrically and sonically driving and empowering as she delved into the pessimistic fields of the human experience with grace and tangible narratives.
Later on, the mellow musings of Porij poured out into the afternoon, the four-piece delivering their trademark, breezy indie pop with delicate vocals, delivered with assurance and grace to The Dive Bar. The night ended with the reunited Sugababes line up performing their iconic hits, including 'Push The Button', and some more recent, lockdown-penned songs.
Day Three: Saturday's Eclectic Mix of Genres and Performances
Saturday was a day of eclectic mix of genres and performances, starting with the high-energy, post-punk band English Teacher. Their jagged basslines wobbled beneath plucked, crunchy guitars, and speedy hi-hats matched the lights, and above all, lead singer Lily Fontaine towed the blurred chasm between singing and spoken word. It's indecipherable whether she's doing either, or both; some syllables are sung and some are spoken, and naturally, these vocal inflections lead to associations with post-punk. English Teacher resent 'getting put under this one general umbrella' and would likely appreciate their music being labelled under the 'English Teacher' genre, which, given their unique approach to alternative and spoken word, is apt.
As the set went on, their performances even began to draw from a jazz logic, exercising quick tempo changes, as well as movements between 3/4 and 4/4 time signatures, evidencing their sophisticated and controlled yet wild and disorienting affair. This juxtaposition continued into the lyrical themes, where a line was towed, like Madness, between seemingly random colloquial verse and curiously insightful meanings.
Over at our first trip to DJ-centric stage, Electric Willows, we caught Feeling Gloomy, who spun an interesting mix of melancholic indie ballads, with tracks from The Smiths, the Cure, Joy Division, The Jam, and Human League to name but a few. With the majority of these acts being out of circuit, Feeling Gloomy was a welcomed and appreciated addition to that day's lineup.
Later on, the festival-goers were treated to the upbeat and energetic performances of the legendary Sister Sledge, who took the crowd on a journey of their classic hits, including 'We Are Family' and 'Lost In Music'. They were followed by the indie-pop band, Everything Everything, who delivered their unique sound and style to the festival, ending the night on a high note.
Day Four: Sunday's Chill Vibes and Nostalgic Tunes
Sunday was a day of chill vibes and nostalgic tunes, starting with the indie-folk band, Flyte, who brought their mellow and laid-back style to the festival. They were followed by the rising star, Arlo Parks, who enchanted the crowd with her soulful voice and introspective lyrics.
The festival was then treated to the iconic tunes of the legendary Craig David, who delivered his classic hits, including '7 Days' and 'Fill Me In', as well as some new material, keeping the crowd dancing and singing along.
The festival ended on a high note with the performance of the indie-rock band, Black Honey, who brought their unique sound and style to the stage, ending the four-day extravaganza of music, art, and fun in Hertfordshire on a high note.
The Standon Calling Festival 2022 was a unique and vibrant festival experience that brought together people from all walks of life to celebrate music, art, and community. From the legendary Madness to the rising star Billy Nomates, from the nostalgic Sugababes to the innovative English Teacher, the festival offered a diverse and exciting lineup of musicians and performers, catering to all tastes and ages. The festival's layout, reminiscent of the walk from the Pyramid to the Other Stage at Glastonbury, created a unique and vibrant atmosphere of energy, excitement, and creativity, making it a must-visit event for music lovers and raver communities. And as a dog-friendly festival, furry friends were everywhere, adding to the fun and joy of the festival. We can't wait to see what Standon Calling Festival 2023 has in store for us.