Festival Review: Standon Calling 2019


Festival season is in full swing, and last weekend brought our summer adventures to Standon Calling! With both a variation of acts and weather throughout the weekend, here’s what we got up to…

Standon Calling may be slightly lesser known compared to the likes of Kendal or Stockton, but it definitely proves to be able to compete with any of the current big hitters when it comes to variety and all-round enjoyment. Set in Hertfordshire, this year had everything from sing-a-long ballads from Lewis Capaldi, to a Nirvana tribute band fronted by none other than Elvis Presley… yes, really him.

When it comes to inclusivity, it doesn’t just stop at the lineup at the festival, where they can only be praised for their army of staff happy to help with any query, along with a dedicated team situated in the separate accessible camping area for those who need it.

We kicked off our weekend of music by catching Kawala on the main stage. Their upbeat, relaxed indie-folk brought smiles and dancing from the crowd and set a high standard for what was to come this weekend. Next up were The Japanese House, in which Amber Bain and Co. continued on with the chill vibes on the main stage for her harmonious indie-pop set. As the temperature was rising, so was the tempo as Sea Girls came on to bring it up a notch with a blistering and energetic set. Tearing through their recent hits it’s easy to tell they are becoming accustomed to festival stages, and joining the crowd during their set!

Getting in to the business end of the night, it was clear to see the pride and elation on Rory Graham’s (Otherwise known as Rag’n’Bone Man) face walking out to the crowd for Friday’s main stage headline slot, and who could blame him? The singer has gone from his debut single being released only three years ago, to headline festival performances, and tonight he showed why. 

Despite all of the amazing acts on show on the first day, a personal highlight for me were IDLES headlining the Laundry Meadows stage just afterwards. Considering it was past 11pm, and the band had not long ago played a set at Truck Festival, it would’ve been fair to say tiredness was on the cards for everyone, this was nowhere near the case though. Bundles of energy from both the band and their fans made it a sweaty and crazy affair. The contrast of going from Rag’n’bone Man to this is exactly what festivals are all about, and everyone seemed to agree. One of the biggest cheers of the night came when Joe Talbot dedicated ‘Scum’ to all their doubters, off the back of just been announced as a nominee for the Mercury Prize. 

When it came to Saturday morning, either everyone was still recovering from the night before, or was just massively put off by the rain. Nevertheless Emma McGrath and her band gave a brilliant set to start off the day. Despite some early sound problems, her ability to style it out with the crowd, at only 19, was great to see.

Later on in the day, when someone says to you there is an Elvis-fronted Nirvana tribute act coming on, many may think the drink is getting to better of them as there’s no way that’s a thing. It most definitely is a thing and they were most definitely one of the highlights of the day, if not the whole festival. Right from the off Mr Presley had the whole crowd on strings, to which by the end of the second song the crowd had at least doubled in size. 

As it had done on and off throughout the day, the heavens decided to open when Friendly Fires came on. This was never going to stop them however in bringing their summery anthems along with the electric energy of frontman Ed Macfarlane. Hertfordshire’s own received a heroes welcome of sorts, and showed no signs of them being away at all, let alone for eight years!

Our top two stage headliners for the night were Kate Nash and Wolf Alice. The rise and fall of Kate Nash is very well documented, and it was great to see how she is now back to her best. Parading around the Laundry Meadows stage in a big pink dressing gown there wasn’t a single person around that wasn’t enjoying it, herself included. We thanked the scheduling as we headed back towards the main stage for Wolf Alice, as we didn’t have to miss any of either of them. The crowd was sent wild just from the opening bass-line, kicking the set off with the instantly recognisable Moaning Lisa Smile. Many would save one of their best-loved songs for the end of a set, but Wolf Alice aren’t here to just be part of the norm. I guess you could call it… beautifully unconventional (sorry, it was there for the taking). This being their first weekend of headlining festivals, it was most definitely a victory for the band, rightly celebrated by bassist Theo partway through the set with a bottle of champagne.

Before you know it the last day of the festival has come along out of nowhere, and a soggy day it was. Things kicked off as usual around lunchtime, and word clearly hadn’t gotten around about how great Inhaler are, as the second stage was quite quiet. This didn’t stop them however pull off a brilliant set. You could hear the murmurs of “Don’t they sound like early U2?”, and with frontman Eli being Bono’s son, their sound is unmistakable. A future headliner for sure.

Some may have thought Sunday was going to be a reasonably chilled day after a weekend of hard partying, but The Cuban Brothers we’re having none of that. Keeping the crowd waiting, they more than made up for it with a hilarious, backflip-filled set. Following on without a doubt the biggest crowd of the whole festival, it was clear to see people had bought day tickets purely to see Lewis Capaldi. I guess it makes sense considering anywhere you find him playing apart from festivals for the next year or so is already sold out. Even if his songs are all sad, his set was a joy to see.

Coming towards the end of the weekend, The Big Moon headlined the Laundry Meadows stage armed with a handful of new songs. We’re itching for the return of this band and the taste we got here at Standon of their upcoming second album has only heightened those expectations! The weekend came of a close with whom can only be described as legends, none other than Nile Rodgers & Chic. Effortlessly performing hits such as I’m Coming Out and Le Freak, disco was well and truly in the air for the final set of the festival. With silver wigs and fancy dress all over, it seemed only right that the set ended with a stage invasion, and a huge one at that. 

Same again next year? You can count me in, and with next year being the 15th anniversary, you’d be mad not to do the same.

Words and Photography by James Baker

Standon Calling will celebrate its 15th Anniversary in 2020, with limited Earlybird Tickets on sale now from: https://standon-calling.com/tickets/