Live Review: Standon Calling 2022

Live Review: Standon Calling 2022

Standon Calling 2022

Standon Calling 2022

Standon, United Kingdom

Before we get into things properly; a trio of vignettes from across the weekend which in their own way capture the essence of a barmy (and balmy) four days, presented without comment:

- Tailor Jae playing a jungle edit of 'Side by Side' by Sir Spyro, while a small child dressed fully as Darth Vader swings a lightsaber around, and a topless teenage boy does tricep dips on the front barrier

- Comedian Catherine Bohart telling a joke about sharing custody of a dildo in a lesbian breakup, while children (whose parents had been warned... repeatedly) play obliviously two feet away, to the soundtrack of Craig David on the nearby main stage.

- An entire family dressed as characters from Sonic the Hedgehog – including a bald-capped 6 year-old as Dr Robotnik – headbanging to the heavy metal of Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs.

This is Standon Calling.

Photo: Parri Thomas - Chuffed Digital x Zero Twenty

For the first time in the festival’s history, the perennial summer favourite was a four-day event, with Thursday offering up a streamlined but nonetheless noteworthy programme for the early arrivers – Nadia Rose, The Skints, local heroes The Subways, Gabrielle, and inaugural Thursday night headliners Madness all taking to the Main Stage across the day.

Suggs and co delivered a predictably pleasing set of classic hits; opening and closing with their early ska cuts and Prince Buster covers ‘One Step Beyond’ and ‘Madness’ – with tribute also paid to the ska legend during ‘The Prince’ – while Suggs delivered between-song banter with all the energy of a slightly drunk dad at a family barbecue treading perilously close to saying something inappropriate.

Photo: Giulia SpadaforaChuffed Digital x Zero Twenty

Questionable chat aside, the set neatly captured the sense of family fun that Standon Calling prides itself on, with grey-haired skankers and bouncing toddlers on shoulders equally entertained. That said, much of the sizeable teenage contingent of the festival’s audience across the weekend were seemingly absent, off revelling in the jubilation of newly found, end-of-term and post-exam freedom in their excitable masses.

It wasn’t just the teenagers letting loose though. As Craig Charles followed on Laundry Meadows – the festival’s second stage – there was no shortage of well-oiled dads throwing their finest moves to the funk and soul offerings; enjoying their own sense of festival freedom.  

There’s an extent to which the identity of the festival found itself a little muddled in its eclecticism and broad appeal – was it a family-friendly (dog very much included) affair in the mould of Camp Bestival? A school-leavers rite of passage a la Reading & Leeds? A place for panel discussions on life in distance solar systems, people’s susceptibility to conspiracy theories, and the future of AI? One for the BBC Radio 6 Music listeners? Or comedy fans?

Why not all of the above, I suppose? A festival is what you make of it, and there was plenty to keep all camps happy – even if, most often, separately of one another.

Staking an early claim for set of the weekend on Friday afternoon was Lynks, an infectiously boisterous whirlwind of hyper-camp energy and choreography, with an obvious admiration for Ballroom culture and contemporary queer club icons like the deeply-missed SOPHIE, and genuinely laugh-out-loud lyrics (plus an unexpected but brilliant cover of Courtney Barnett’s ‘Pedestrian at Best’).

Photo: Alistair Brookes - Chuffed Digital x Zero Twenty

It wasn’t long before that mantle was challenged, however, with the original lineup of Sugababes riding the wave of their recently resurrected popularity – particularly post Glastonbury – with a Main Stage set that put forward a case for them being the girl band with the highest volume of undeniable pop belters.

In fact, there was ample pop of all flavours throughout the gender-balanced and musically expansive lineup – from Friday night headliner Anne-Marie through to festival favourite Club De Fromage, via the now Mercury-nominated Self Esteem closing the second stage on Sunday night, Craig David, Sigrid, Example, Sam Ryder, Björn Again, Sam Tompkins and plenty more, mostly occupying the Main Stage for the families who had set up base for the day, finding some relief from the heat in the shade of the solitary tree.

Photo: Parri Thomas - Chuffed Digital x Zero Twenty

While the Main Stage was for predominantly for the poptimists, Laundry Meadows was the more alternative and eclectic place to be. On a stellar Saturday, things neatly moved from the confessional gen-z RnB of Kamal., to the conversational rap of ENNY, and the conscious hip-hop of Akala – punctuated with the aforementioned boisterous ferocity of Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs.

On paper, they would perhaps have been better-suited to the raucous energy of the Dive Bar, a new venue for this year’s festival which championed the more riotous and harder-hitting alternative sounds. A riotousness that briefly overwhelmed its structural integrity during one of Bob Vylan’s customary stage invasions, which sadly meant it had to be closed for repairs for a part of the festival and prevented some acts from appearing as planned.

As it happened, despite Pigs x7 frontman Matt Baty admitting they weren’t sure they were in the right place, the five-piece went on to draw a sizeable and incredibly enthusiastic crowd across the duration of a set that they clearly enjoyed immensely, perhaps surprising themselves with the rapturous reception they received at the end of another contender for set of the festival.  

On other days, the stage was a place to celebrate established favourites of the alternative world – The Cribs on top form as ever, Sleaford Mods suitably searing – and to catch recently emergent and ascendent stars; Yard Act, Dry Cleaning, Billy Nomates, CMAT, and more.

Photo: Parri Thomas - Chuffed Digital x Zero Twenty

Night-time revelry was to be found most fruitfully in the forest – the beautifully designed Electric Willows stage packing a punch with its soundsystem and lineup of dancefloor-focussed DJs and artists of all varieties.

On Friday, it was this stage where the festival's commitment to curating a gender-balanced lineup was most evident, with exclusively female and non-binary acts taking to the decks – from unfortunately under-attended early afternoon sets courtesy of two of the UK's most consistent purveyor's of bass-laden global clubs sounds in Tailor Jae and Tash LC, via the equally fabulous Elkka and Jamz Supernova, to fan-favourites on the night, Annie Mac and I.JORDAN.

Special shoutout to Bristol duo Grove as well, finally proving once-and-for-all that 'Sound of the Underground' by Girls Aloud is, in fact, a jungle classic, with a live set that displayed both their pop sensibilities and passion for soundsystem culture.

Worth a mention also is fellow forest-dwelling stage Groove Garden; a hidden gem of deep, funky and tribal house which saw DJs from The Lockdown Legacy – a group of friends who started DJing over Zoom – bringing the vibes to an intimate, enclosed venue with possibly the best sound quality anywhere on site.

Photo: Giulia Spadafora - Chuffed Digital x Zero Twenty

As festival founder Alex Trenchard took to the main stage on Sunday evening, either drunk, nervous, emotional, or a combination of the three – prior to Primal Scream's fittingly evocative headline set – he reflected on the growth of the now four-day festival, thanking his (titled) parents for letting him throw a pretty spectacular party in their (extremely sizeable) back garden, and how proud he is of how far it has come.

And he's right to be proud of what he has helped to create. At a time where festivals are struggling in the wake of a truly unprecedented time for the industry, this weekend in the sun felt like a timely reminder that whatever your age – from toddler, to teen, to triumphant old-timer – gatherings like this have genuine, tangible, and lasting value. Long may they live.

Header Photo: Parri Thomas - Chuffed Digital x Zero Twenty


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