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Standon Calling 2012 Review (Part 2)

By on Friday, 17th August 2012 at 2:00 pm

Saturday at Standon Calling 2012, and a frozen smoothie gives potentially life-saving succour whilst ensconced in the Little Den, Standon’s kids’ area. A lie-in means baby massage and reggae nursery rhymes were missed; still, the tent is blessed with loads of playthings for little ones and is refuge from the midday rainshower that’s becoming a Standon tradition. But there’s plenty of toys for grown-ups too. Double Negative dark room have set up an example of the rare and elusive dark-tent, and are offering free portrait prints.

As one who has gone no further in analogue photography than home-developing the odd 35 mm film, the opportunity to see every step of the process that would eventually give rise to an A4-sized contact print is too good to pass up. The camera is as tall as a man, and exposes directly onto paper using powerful flash. That paper is developed, and the resulting negative is in turn exposed onto another piece of paper, giving rise to a positive image. One is allowed to agitate the developing trays oneself, and the image which emerges before one’s very eyes is quite magical – no two are the same, and mine came complete with wash marks and my own fingerprint on the border. Super.

Musically, the heart of the festival is the Folk Tent. Showcasing the finest in Anglian rockabilly, acoustic, and the occasional Anglophile American (yes, that’s you I’m talking about, Willy Mason), the vibe was eclectic yet accessible. Worth the entrance fee alone, this stage’s proximity to the pub, the fine lawn outside, and the swimming pool just around the corner meant it displayed the purest Standon vibe all weekend. Highlights include Delerium Tremens, Beans On Toast, Keltrix, Vardo and the Boss, and The Barker Band.

Better even than the music on offer, was the opportunity to chill out on a finely-cut lawn, fake statues scattered about, watching infants both young and old enjoy a couple of days of freedom from statute. Worth its weight in gold. Stealing Sheep, BigKids, King Charles and Field Music were all good value on the main stage, yet nothing could be more exciting than the almost half-hour effort of Mohamed Farah in winning the 10-kilometre run by the fabled country mile. To cries of “Go, Mo!”, and various choruses of “God Save the Queen” and “Rule, Britania”, the sweeping consciousness was one of the triumph of many years’ accumulation of aspiration, perspiration, and inspiration.

There was plenty of parallel perspiration at Revere’s performance at the Cow Shed stage. Singer Stephen Ellis is wrapped up warm in a tightly-buttoned black tunic, and virtually overheats as the set progresses, attacking his lyrics like they were mortal enemies; the string duo of cello and violin add a touch of glamour and depth to the epic tunes – and was that a Mumford up on stage just then? Ellis challenges the audience to respond, clambering onto the barrier and exhorting for all he is worth, and he is rewarded with rapture. The show ends with a note of genuine violence as Ellis smashes his guitar onto the pianist’s keyboard, which goes crashing to the ground – there’s a flash of enmity, then suddenly the stage is empty. If there were medals for intensity, Revere deserve to win gold.

Sunday dawned with the traditional downpour, yet it cleared bright just in time for Lips Choir. A west London group of singing women with no audition policy, this was the perfect Sabbath performance – as spiritual as any denominational service occurring simultaneously up and down the country, with the worship of pop music, rather than God, at its heart. Later there was a dog show, the second run of Standon’s own Olympics, and the highlight of my own weekend, and what put the whole event into perspective: an interview with Hon. Alexander Thomas Trenchard. Should any of our readers be unaware, Standon Calling is held within Standon Lordship, the family seat of 3rd Viscount Hugh Trenchard. Alex is his son and was jailed for 10 months on 3rd February 2011 for defrauding his employer, Tesco, out of £355,000. His parents repaid the money.

Alex expanded upon the story: the 2008 Standon Calling lost money, and he had no other way of paying the most pressing bill – that of security – than by using his company credit card. Several bills proceeded in the same manner, until a full 2 years and countless sleepless nights later, Tesco deigned to check their statements. This was the point Alex was asked to clear his desk, charged with fraud, and sentenced to 30 months at Her Majesty’s pleasure at Milton Keynes jail. After a brief and loving relationship with cellmate Paddy (it cumulated in a clinch summarised by Alex as “a combination of a Judo bout and a Scissor Sisters gig”), Standon Calling 2012 sees the return of the man who conceived the event as a barbeque for friends back in 2001, paying the ultimate price for his ambition. Your intrepid correspondent asked why it took Tesco 2 years to realise what was going on (“They trusted me, and I abused that trust”) – and whether the global grocer offered a plea-bargain event sponsorship deal so he could avoid jail (“I don’t think that would have worked”).

Such sentiment explains everything: the free use of the pool, the superb efforts of those in fancy dress, the willingness of so many to give so much of themselves just to prove that Standon is not simply the pipe dream of one privileged boy, that it can wash its face financially, and come back just as strongly after the ultimate setback. As Alex says, Standon has found its niche, and long may that niche prosper.

The Skints bring their UK street reggae along for a welcome chilled out mid-afternoon skank… Sunday night crescendos with the appearance of Fat Freddy’s Drop. The presence of musicians that have travelled from the opposite side of the globe is testament to the power of music to bring every disparate strand of society together – and the crowd make their appreciation heard.

FFD are essentially a funky vehicle for their brass trio to show off their chops, and that brass trio is essentially a vehicle for Hopepa the infamous bone man – the tracksuited, paunchy trombonist whose impossibly fluid frame skips across the stage, grinding and parping such that the cold reaches of the cosmos can feel his “rambunctious carry-on”. His is the culmination of a decade of hope, and when we pack up and head north in the cold reality of morning, Hopepa is the man who carries our dreams with him.

There is nothing like Standon Calling. It has its quirks, it has its foibles, it has a dedicated following of fans, and it has a deeply passionate team at its heart. I came for one headliner, but I will return in tribute to the place, the people, and the music. Standon on the shoulders of giants, indeed.


Live Review: The Guardian New Band of the Day Live at Camden Barfly – 11th April 2012

By on Wednesday, 18th April 2012 at 2:00 pm

For over 1,200 days now, the Guardian’s Paul Lester has been hunting down the hottest and fastest rising stars in music for his (aptly titled) New Band of the Day column, Such is the success of Lester’s up-to-the-minute scribblings, the Guardian have started showcasing some of the fresh talent on offer. Tonight’s show at Camden Barfly is the second New Band of the Day Live shows and features five names you’ll surely hear more from later this year.

The first name you may recognise from a certain family member. Opening tonight are the gloriously grungey Violet fronted by none other than Pixie Geldof (pictured at top) – yes, Bob’s daughter. Ignore your preconceptions, though, as Pixie delivers a serene dream-poppy performance that wows the audience – even Bob, himself. Similar to Warpaint, Violet’s soft yet powerful neo-grunge drowns the Barfly in a wave of operatic vocals and haunting music through upcoming single ‘Y.O.U.’, ‘Starlight’ and the harmoniously heartfelt ‘Feet First’.

Just a few minutes after Violet finish in the upstairs venue, downstairs the former Magic Number Michele Stodart is treating the sold out crowd of bloggers and blaggers to the Americanised, bluesy stylings of her new solo outing. Dancing between the upbeat and the sombre, Stodart and her minstrels get the floor moving. Slightly. At times it sounds as though you’ve heard the guitar before, but Stodart’s vocal prowess dominates the performance and the addition of a glockenspiel and accordion adds a welcome new dimension.

Back upstairs it’s a rapid change of pace from London’s most energetic two-piece BIGkids. Fronted by another famous daughter, Rosie Oddie (of badger hassler Bill) and featuring Ben Hudson aka Mr Hudson on electrics, this DIY danceathon gets the party into one monumental swing. The infectious, pop rhythms and bouncy beats send the hyperactive Rosie into overdrive, throwing shapes you’ve never seen before! The big band jazz ethic blends with the modern electronic style and funky bass undertone that spreads joy to the masses who are beaming. Tracks such as ‘You Are Amazing’ and ‘Coming Together’ see the dynamic duo firmly press their stamp on the evening, but it’s Rosie’s voice that can straddle the soul diva twang, London rap and overt popstastic loveliness that makes these stars shine bright tonight.

Closing the downstairs section of tonight’s celebration of new music is the only artist with a number one single under his belt – Josh Kumra. Since featuring on last year’s summer fave ‘Don’t Go’ with Wretch 32, Kumra has seen his notoriety spread throughout the UK. Staying firmly in the vein of Ed Sheeran, although his vocal ability has a wider variation, the ‘one man and his guitar’ shtick is beginning to wear thin. However, closing on an acoustic cover of MGMT‘s ‘Kids’ is a real crowd-pleaser that he adapts to fit his own style but manages to keep the original in tact. The audience’s applause appears to both humble and amuse Kumra who is obviously still getting used to the attention.

One singer/songwriter who thrives off the crowd’s energy is another man who has found success through Wretch 32 – Angel. Hit single ‘Go In, Go Hard’ is reminiscent of big players Tinie and Tinchy in its delivery but in a scene dominated by grime, Angel is keeping r’n’b alive. Hailing from Shepherd’s Bush, he’s a favourite with the London crowd tonight, and he knows it. Bouncing around the stage like a powerball in a New Era hat, Angel woos the women in the house tonight with his uplifting, catchy words in ‘Raining Girls’ and ‘Wonderful’. Throughout the set, rows of camera phones litter the eye-line to record what could be one of the most intimate shows Angel plays again. Tonight’s performance elevates the rapper and his crew to the heights of his peers with his multi-layered r’n’b that features wailing rawk guitar, dubstep-friendly bass and a jungle drum beat hidden beneath. All these elements comprise one of the freshest sounds coming out of London today that could see Angel ascend into upper echelon of mainstream music.


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