Standon Calling Festival

23.08.11 Words by: Zara Wladawsky

Standon Calling is a festival in Hertfordshire surrounding a manor house for a few thousand festival go-ers. Every year the theme is as different as festival, and this year’s Gods and Monsters flavour permeated every crevice of the grounds and the punter’s brains. It was all a bit next level from the last few Bestivals for eagerness and effort, and I got the feeling that people spent far more time on their get-up than running down to Camden’s Escapade shop a few days before with a sigh and a grumble. People here were PSYCHED and it was contagious. We went down for the Saturday and caught the bug.
This year’s festival was considerably less busy than last year, due to a slightly silly story about a Tesco company credit card and an obsession with throwing an awesome festival, but the crowd of mostly county locals buzzed with more energy than the much larger Field Day or Lovebox punters I’d seen earlier in the summer. The well-placed Standon Radio, at the entrance to the all-night literally “rave cave,” was sorely missed, but other great touches like the manor’s swimming pool and Beerwolf Books were back. The latter was a welcome respite when the sight of topless viking clad goddesses in wooden cages and twenty six person human centipide-like green monster outfits got a bit too much. We interviewed the Beerwolf family last year for our podcast) and it was a joy catching up with them and picking up some great literature for a few quid. They’re opening up their own store in Falmouth, Cornwall and might have to reign in their festival schedule next summer sadly.
We wished Beerwolf Books well, walked a few metres, and found ourselves watching performance artist and punk poet John Cooper Clarke in mid recitation of “It’s Rotten Here In Jail.” As Clarke ranted at the somewhat confused audience of all-ages, a terrifying looking man with a fake voicebox and mask that made him look like a post-apocolyptic burns victim made a baby cry. That and Cooper
Clarke’s routine started to do our heads in a bit so we headed into the campgrounds to see more wacky costumes get put together for the evening’s festivities. Someone had attached fourty plus black balloons to her back resembling an ominous gothy sea urchin, and a clan of green painted hulk types in football uniforms had joined forces with a group of clowns wearing tutus in some sort of impromptu dance-aerobics class. This was a highly enjoyable freak-show.
Standon is still predominantly a music festival, which I was quite glad to see amongst the emergence of the healing and spiritually minded boutique bore-fests cropping up these days. Not a festival to cater to any one genre in particular, the four stages, tents, and clubs served up an extremely varied programme of acts. Musical highlights from the Saturday included Toronto’s Egyptrixx. David Psutka, aided by another synth and laptop wielding musician, blasted the crowd from daytime mode into full on dance mania with his droning blend of UK funky, glitchy minimal, and rolling techno. Hercules and Love Affair were a pleasure to see live as well; their new line-up and sound had a lot more boom in it and even old classics like “Blind” and the encore “You Belong” had a snarling freshness about them. Andy Butler, Kim Ann Foxman, and co. kept their chat to a minimum and danced their hearts
out to a party hungry crowd that lapped them right up. The band was the most in their element I’d seen them ever. Unfortunately Spiritualized had to pull out of the Saturday headliner slot due to illness, but the onsite club kept everyone going until after we left around 6am. It was a stark contrast between the family-oriented folk during the day, but the Dollop curated lineup of Hyetal, Julio
Bashmore, and residents injected the wide-eyed costumed weirdos with pumping bass and energy. For those that found the club a bit too obvious for late-night weirdness, there was also a massive glowing obelisk in the main field with chanting mostly naked ghoulish creatures setting off fireworks to the light of the full moon.
Whether you were a God, a monster, or just a few mates out to have a great time only an hour away from London, this festival was both well-executed and odd enough to satiate most everyone’s needs. Oh, and those guys dressed as rioters and riot-clean-up types (Monsters and Gods — geddit?) … nice one keeping it relevant.

Submit your music Close