It’s not often you find yourself watching Slaves alongside a Fila-wearing fifty-nine-year-old and a glittered-adorned ten-year-old. Yes, it’s a bizarre juxtaposition, but it’s actually a testament to the way Standon Calling navigates the typical pitfalls of a family-friendly festival. Kids and parents aren’t shoved into a corner to fiddle about with arts and crafts all day; they’re successfully integrated with the rest of the festival– even during the most unlikely of times.
Slaves’ barrage of brutish guitar and blood-curling bellows feels like a sound you should shield your children’s ears from, but frontman Isaac Holman prancing from side-to-side whilst taking swipes at his drum kit is enough to make any youngster giggle. Along with guitarist Laurie, the duo tear through a set of lightening-fast songs– all the while demanding every ounce of attention with their boisterous onstage antics.
From one Kent-hailing duo to the next, brothers Phil and Paul Hartnol aka Orbital arrive onstage in a light-wielding juggernaut, just as night is falling. The pair mesmerise with their ability to shift, twist and match complex beats, like mastering a Rubix Cube. It’s a dynamic and progressive set that reminds punters why Orbital sit at the helm of their genre.
Then it’s over to Cindy’s Motel for Jax Jones’ hotly anticipated set. Teasing his chart-bothering anthems ‘You Don’t Know Me’ and ‘House Work’ from the off, Jones knows exactly what this crowd are here for– though he’s too clever to play his best hand first. He’s masterful in the way he toys with the crowd’s excitement, working hits such as ‘Shape Of You’ into the mixes without ever letting them drop– after all he’s the star of this show and doesn’t Standon know it. The aforementioned calling card hit closes the show and choruses of ‘oh na na ey’ carry on long into the night.
Saturday proceedings kick off on the Laundry Meadows stage with hot new prospects Yonaka. With no sympathy for the hung-over or bleary-eyed, the four-piece launch into straight into their brand of dynamic alt rock. Despite the meagre turnout and midday slot, the band delivers all the tenacity of a main stage act. Front woman Theresa is the star of the show here though: her remarkable swagger is just as impressive as her vocal dexterity. In the blink of an eye she’ll switch from a low, languid vocal to an ethereal warbling tone that soars high above the bands razor-edged riffs and rolling drums. By incendiary closer ‘Bubblegum’ they’ve gained the crowd that they thoroughly deserve and re-affirmed their status as ones to watch.
Next up are Tangerines, who do a fine job of chasing the clouds away with their flowery blues-rock. Noodling guitar and blue-skied melodies are all part of the charm, but it’s the band’s mischievous nature that seems to be most contagious. With the arrival of Idles, the energy continues on an upward trajectory. The Bristol-based band batter through politically induced cuts from 2017 debut Brutalism, led by the gruff bellowing of frontman Joe Talbot. But the music is only half of the entertainment. When they’re not poking fun at the audience by getting them to participate in silly dance moves, they’re heckling each other onstage. It’s an evocative and unforgettable performance that’ll go a long way into securing them a rep as one of the best live bands around.
Over on main stage, purveyors of pop rock Fickle Friends deliver sugary-sweet hooks and sun-drenched choruses by the bucket-load. Though they don’t manage to put an end to the persistent drizzle, Tom Grennan’s acoustic set on the BBC Introducing stage set offers a welcome shelter. Despite the stage’s off-putting proximity to a bustling bar, the 21-year-old’s gravelly timbre slices through the noise, demanding the attention he deserves.
Nothing But Thieves proves themselves worthy of next year’s headline spot, with a formidable performance over on main stage. With pint-sized frontman Conor Mason’s unbelievable falsetto and the band’s slick stadium rock, it looks likely that the Essex bunch will follow in the footsteps of predecessors Muse.
A stone’s throw away in Cindy’s Motel, DJ Yoda pays tribute to Netflix’s most beloved series, Stranger Things. The turntablist delivers a history lesson in the 80s’ most influential hits, to a montage of clips featuring Finn and the gang. Dolly Parton and Joy Division samples go down a storm, but it’s the show’s most iconic pick, ‘The Clash’s ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go’, that earns the biggest sing-along.
Unsurprisingly, chart-topping threesome Clean Bandit draw the biggest crowd of the weekend for their Saturday headline set. The trio take to podiums in white, individually style get-ups– looking every bit the alternative pop stars that they are. It’s not long after they’ve launched into their single-studded back catalogue when technical difficulties kill the sound and it looks as if the most anticipated set of the weekend may have come to a premature end. But half an hour later and the band are back with more energy than before. ‘Real Love’ proves to be a highlight but it’s other Jess Glynne-featuring hit ‘Rather Be’ that steals the show. From the popping visuals of otherworldly landscapes to the whole-band dance routines, Clean Bandit put on a modest-but-mighty, inclusive show. It feels as if Standon couldn’t have chosen a better headline act to represent what this festival is about.
Words: Lisa Henderson
Photography: Giles Smith and Gobinder Jhitta