Standon Calling is out of this world as Friendly Fires light up the main stage

Standon Calling 2009 review

published: Thu 6th Aug 2009

around the festival site (3)

Friday 31st July to Sunday 2nd August 2009
Standon, Ware, Hertfordshire, SG11 1PR, England MAP
adult £89 for a weekend ticket with camping, teen (13-17) £65, 12 and under free
daily capacity: 2000
last updated: Wed 27th May 2009

The 2nd day of this petite festival brought the rain and it rained very hard indeed! However it was also the designated 'space themed fancy dress' day and the urge to dress up definitely outweighed the need to stay dry, as festival goers were adorned in all variety of space-inspired costumes from home made foil concoctions to full Storm Trooper outfits.

around the festival site (1)
The festival had a stall offering free space make up and it was nice to see that even the older couples were getting involved with a few stars and a splash of silver here and there.

The first major difference to the first day of the festival was that there was a much livelier feel in the atmosphere after everyone managed to drag themselves out of their tents after the 'heavy' first night.

In general the grounds were filled with all manner of extravagant costumes and a lot more people had arrived during the night and morning, creating a vibrant feel. There also appeared to be more activities going on, such as Rockaoke in the Galileo tent, which comprised of festival goers singing karaoke of their favourite rock song, backed up by a full live band. There were also Takeshi's Castle styled 5-a-side football matches in the main area, as well as the usual acrobatics and impromptu performances.

However, I was made aware of the first (and only) fault of the festival in the morning, which was that there was a severe lack of food options on offer. The festival only offered 4 small establishments to purchase food, which included 1 vegetarian place and a Japanese stall, that all had minimal choices. In the morning only 2 of these stalls offered breakfast food, which meant that the queues were excruciatingly long.

around the festival site (1)
This wouldn't have been a problem if it had been made clear before the festival but there had been strict instructions to not bring in any food, as there would be a fair selection on site. I soon learned that the more experienced Standon-goers had brought BBQs and food to cook at their leisure, which suited the intimate campsite experience perfectly.

The fancy dress competition was definitely the main event, as throughout the day cosmic costumes in the form of small children to adults gradually gathered in front of the main stage, preparing for the results.

The shortlisted winners were then given the opportunity to join Swedish electro pop group, N.A.S.A., on the main stage and 'jam' with them in front of the crowd. For a relatively unknown group N.A.S.A. were the perfect choice for the whole 'space' experience. The crowd were moshing about madly to the electro, faux Pet Shop Boys, robotic tunes and the N.A.S.A. guys did a great job revving up the crowd and the costume winners onstage.

Even when the heavens opened in what can only be described as a torrential downpour, I was amazed to see that there was still a moshpit right up in front of the stage, for the first time this festival.

The next act I caught was Paloma Faith, and I wasn't sure what to expect as I had not heard a lot about this Saint Trinian's actress/singer. I was pleasantly surprised though as it appears that this young lady is an extremely talented songstress. Her 50's style soul/pop music went down a treat in the Apollo tent and as the rain beat down outside, everyone inside seemed to be lost in a time warp and at times it seemed as if we were all dancing in the prom at Rydell High in Grease.

Faith had great stage presence and bounced across the stage in her burlesque – inspired costume, holding her lyrics strongly and consistently. Her performance was delightfully soulful and had the crowd’s hips moving; it was definitely a performance that would hold the likes of Duffy and Adele in great competition. The next stop was the Barbarella tent to catch the first hour DJ set of CantMixWontMixShdntMixDontMix. For me, this was the DJ set of the weekend and I was devastated to have to pull myself away, as they clashed with the headliners on the main stage that night. As DJs go, these guys are unbelievable, and they are the first DJs that have stood out to me in years. It may sound ridiculous but their name really does say it all as they managed to mix together the most varied selection of tracks with the smoothest drops, heaviest bass and most beautiful transitions. They had the whole tent heaving with bodies as they churned out the best tunes from all eras and musical genres.

The most refreshing thing to see was that when you looked up at the DJ booth, where they were mixing above our heads, it appeared that they were having the time of their lives too, as they jumped about behind their decks throwing their hands about and calling down to the eccentric dancers. If you are ever at a festival and these guys are playing, they are a definite must if you like a good old-fashioned boogie.

Friendly Fires took to the main stage next to headline the second day of the festival. After seeing them play to a huge crowd at Glastonbury, there was definitely something a bit special about having the opportunity to see them play on a stage so small, to a relatively minute crowd.

The rain had cleared for the day, it was a full moon and everyone was in good spirits as Alex Trenchard, festival organiser, took to the stage to introduce them, welcoming them back as they had played the festival a few years ago. Trenchard also thanked everyone for making the festival grow with him, as it had evolved so much from his BBQ birthday bash that it had started as several years before, and he also declared that this was a different kind of festival, where if you lost your phone and wallet, you would get them back because that's just how the vibe was there.

He was in fact right as this had happened to people I knew over the weekend and I myself had had my Dictaphone returned to me within an hour of dropping it on the ground somewhere. As cheesy as it was, I think we all shared a moment there as we absorbed that it really was a special place.

Then Friendly Fires took to the stage and although the Mercury prize nominated band were playing to a smaller audience than they were used to of late, they really delivered.

Front man, Ed Macfarlane, wiggled his snake hips away in his usual fashion and carried huge stage presence dancing as hard as the crowd to the tunes. The band as a whole delivered a perfect performance causing all ages of people to bounce about and throw some wild shapes to the tuneful and vibrant melodies, and although the set seemed over before it had really started (45 mins), the vast majority of the crowd had really thrown themselves into enjoying this performance.

As the lights dimmed on their set and they played out the final tune, it felt as if there could not have been a better choice of performer for that set on that night and it was a privilege to be part of it in such an intimate setting.

They Came from the Stars I Saw Them
As the programme was running late in the Galileo tent, I managed to catch the set of eccentric indie electro band, They Came from the Stars, I Saw Them. There's only one way to describe this band and their music – Marmite. You either bizarrely love them or strangely hate them. I was a member of the former club whereas my friend was a definite non-believer.

As the name suggests, these guys are eccentric and their lead male singer is definitely the most individual in the bunch. All donned in striking gold and white clothing, they played a handful of electro synthesised music mixed with live instruments including some really good trumpet playing.

The whole performance was very 'other-wordly' and dramatic with whispered lyrics, screeched howls and members of the band jumping into the audience and dancing around with dedicated fans.

The group's set was cut short as that stage was running behind and the next DJ was due, which led to the crowd chanting and booing at the stage managers, who eventually politely forced the band offstage and apologised sheepishly.

I personally felt that some of their songs were just the same generic processed sounds that someone with a synthesizer can produce, whereas others were genuinely genius and really well constructed in terms of musical arrangement. Whether electro beats are your cup of tea or not, it was definitely a great festival performance and an apt end to a quirky and cosmic day.
review by: Fiona Madden

photos by: Fiona Madden

Friday 31st July to Sunday 2nd August 2009
Standon, Ware, Hertfordshire, SG11 1PR, England MAP
adult £89 for a weekend ticket with camping, teen (13-17) £65, 12 and under free
daily capacity: 2000
last updated: Wed 27th May 2009

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