“Where is this? Standon?"
!!! - Standon Calling 2012 - Saturday

“We’ve got some heavy beats coming from the Western quarter,” muses wandering minstrel Willy Mason, midway through one of the smaller, odder shows he’ll play this year. The wonderfully deadpan New Yorker, holed up in a bijou tent with just a guitar for company, is holding his own against a host of noisier attractions - and not just the other stages.

While many boutique affairs have struggled this rainy, fest-riddled summer, Standon have played it canny by avoiding big, temperamental headliners (Spiritualized pulled out of their Saturday night slot at the last minute last year) and instead have brought in a big telly, to show the Olympics.

And so, as the well-liked Kiwi collective Fat Freddy’s Drop round off Sunday night’s main stage action with a well-attended dub odyssey, a good hundred others are enjoying a pub odyssey, at the onsite Explorer’s Arms, watching Usain Bolt do his mutant big leggy business.

Among that pub crowd are a handy cross-section of the characters making this year’s Standon stand out. Lots of bleary-eyed punters still in fancy dress, thirty hours after yesterday’s competition finished. A troupe of the impressive drummers that enlivened the Olympics opening ceremony have also been invited along, still in their industrial revolution outfits. And that sprint is accompanied by a bloke playing a hybrid piano/bicycle (a “picycle”?). You do see some odd things here.

As for the higher-profile music, murky-haired King Charles seems to be proving popular when Clash arrives on Saturday afternoon, although admittedly his best-received song is the set-closing version of Billy Joel’s ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire.’ The much-respected Sunderland soundsmiths Field Music find it a bit harder going audience-wise, however, their intricate indie arrangements really being better suited to smaller stages.

But then stage two – in the transformed cowshed that turns into a dance area later – has been taken over by louche London bash White Heat, who bring along some suitably stylish outfits. Shaggy Horrors-alikes TOY make an impressive wall of sound (they’ve come a hell of a long way from Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong) while Revere are joined by one of Mumford and Sons for their folky take on the Joy Division template, which takes a bit of getting used to.

Back on the main stage and !!! are perfectly placed for Standon’s diverse crowd. Even if you know nowt from their now sizeable back catalogue you can’t help but shake a tail feather (at least one of the throng is dressed as a duck) to their irresistible disco-punk licks. Certainly frontman Nic Offer can’t resist it anyway, doing the full Napolean Dynamite, thrusting his busy groin crowdwards then leaping in for some one-on-one audience participation. “Hello… er… who are you?” he shouts, when back on stage. “Where is this? Standon? None of you live here!”

Actually founder Alex Trenchard does, as the festival takes place on his parents’ grounds, having started out as a birthday party back in the early naughties. There are still touches of classy country life – the nicely maintained but properly usable swimming pool, the chess set, and a surprising array of dogs wandering about. These aren’t the sorts of mutts you’ll see tethered to an old rope at some awful hippy get-together, but beautifully groomed Labradors, pugs and poodles all here, presumably, for the dog show. If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face at a festival, it’s puppies.

Words by Si Hawkins
Photo by PG Brunelli

Click here to read a review of Sunday at Standon Calling 2012.

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