Standon Calling 2013 - Live In Hertfordshire

Getting that family feeling with De La Soul and co...
De La Soul at Standon Calling by PG Brunelli

Looking around Standon Calling, a rare feeling emerges – the feeling that, probably, one could be a friend of any of these other attendees, kids included.

Whether hiding in the Forest Of Freaks at the crack of dawn, fresh from pointing to the sky with every tune, or deep into De La Soul’s crowd chanting their lyrics back that them, this is a festival of mates: both ones you already know, and ones you haven’t met yet.

And everyone’s a performer. The festival’s theme this year is Running Away From The Circus. On site, there’s trapeze rigging, an actual circus and a ringmaster. And amongst the punters: some imaginatively fancy-dressed sorts, albeit with some questionable sartorial directions.

The artists providing the music come in an extremely eclectic array of styles, scaling the genre totem pole from old-school hip-hop and house through to rustic folk and shanty songs.

Friday welcomes a legion of lethargic city workers all desperate to annihilate the memory of the last nine working hours through a vat of gin, and a highly anticipated set from Bastille ensures the night blazes alight, fires stoked further by a fusion of cover tracks ‘Rhythm Of The Night’ and ‘Rhythm Is A Dancer’.

Electro-punks Digitalism headline, but it’s The Joy Formidable that prove Friday’s real delight, the feisty rockers getting everyone head banging. The hoards then descend on Gilles Peterson’s DJ set in the Cowshed, creating a bottleneck and a one-in-one-out policy for those not lucky enough to get a space.

Spread across multiple areas, Standon does mystique and surprise very well. At 2am you’ll find several events to entertain you – and many of the best gems are hidden. Clash stumbles across a five-hour rockabilly set from The Secret Sailing Club in the Spoken Ink tent that runs until 5am on Saturday night. The guys keep the mob of dancing drunks in the packed yurt with a rendition of ‘Wagon Wheel’, encouraging audience members up to sing with them.

On Saturday, festivalgoers are treated to a kaleidoscope of musical genres. A Band of Buriers perform a number of hauntingly intense and atmospheric songs in the Big Top tent, including the beautiful ‘Filth’. Fronted by James P Honey, the outfit delivers alternative folk topped by spoken-word musings, embeliished by cello, violin and a female choir.

The Skints, playing on the main stage, fuse ska punk and their east London reggae sound perfectly, while The Correspondents’ set is utterly fantastic, firing the assembled throng up with ‘What’s Happened to Soho’. Frontman Ian Bruce’s dancemoves leave the crowd green with envy, too. The Mike Skinner and Rob Harvey collaboration, The D.O.T., disappoints though – theirs is one of the more underwhelming sets of Standon 2013.

Despite the fragile state of everyone in attendance, Sunday turns out to be another blinder.

The early afternoon eases us in with an amazing performance from the London-based all-female choir, Lips. With over 30 women harmonising a compilation of popular songs, it’s exactly what the hangover ordered. The resting crowd, basking in the mid-afternoon sunlight, sings along to dazzling versions of The White Stripes’ ‘Seven Nation Army’ and Destiny’s Child’s ‘Bills’.

London Grammar treat us to electro-indie beats, as Hannah Reid’s vocals swim through the ears of those in attendance, backed up by accomplished minimal sounds. AlunaGeorge follow with the soft voice of Aluna Francis appeasing festivalgoers with the duo’s popular hit, ‘Attracting Flies’.

Hip-hop legends De La Soul bounce around the main stage, full of good humour and friendliness. The trio spends most of the night, much to the pleasure of everyone watching, in an interactive mode, constantly shouting “Say ‘yeah’… Say ‘yabadabadoo’!”, and other chants along those lines. They check that the youngsters at the front aren’t getting squashed, and then jump into the audience to split it for a who-can-scream-loudest competition. The only downside is Standon officials pulling the plug when De La’s set dares to overrun a little.

One of the highlights and surprises of the entire festival is Craig Charles’ DJ set – absolutely phenomenal. With an arm-full of wristbands (a declaration of his credentials?), Charles fist-pumps the air while blasting out funk and soul classics like ‘Superstition’ and ‘Move On Up’.

It all adds up to the sort of festival where you feel like part of the family.

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Words: Natasha Culzac

De La Soul photo: PG Brunelli

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