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Standon up for rap

03 August, 2017 — By Alina Polianskaya

Kentish Town’s Akala on stage at the Standon Calling festival over the weekend

LIKE a giant glowing spaceship squat­ting in the middle of a field in Hertfordshire, dance music pioneers Orbital had landed.

It was Friday night at Standon Calling, the charming festival just up the A10, with a musical policy that is as big as any party in the UK today.

Two little silhouettes, with glowing alien eyes, pumped out trippy, futuristic sounds from behind the decks as blue and white lights filled the sky. It had a sci-fi feel, with projections behind them adding to the vibe. While some re-embraced a group they had known for decades, younger listeners discovered them for the first time and, with that performance, they undoubtedly won over new fans.

Orbital light up Standon Calling

Yet Standon, which started out as a birthday party for founder Alex Trenchard in his back garden more than 10 years ago, likes to offer something for allcomers, with the catch-all proviso “as long as it’s good”. He has a proud record of spotting and breaking acts before they go global (examples include Florence and the Machine), so while headliners such as Orbital offer the tried and tested, the curious can find something here that they can later nod sagely, stroke their chin and claim they heard them first.

Kentish Town’s Akala proved a particular highlight. As comfortable performing in a packed-out tent as he was in a Queen’s Crescent playground doing a show a few years back, this talented rapper explores subjects such as politics, class, race and identity. His intelligence shines through his lyrics. Using subversive videos, he presented Ten Years of Akala – a man clearly a man at the top of his game, chatting to the audience as he shared his musical journey.

The former Acland Burghley student spoke out about how mainstream radio doesn’t play his songs and praised platforms that do, such as SBTV and Charlie Sloth’s Fire in the Booth, which he dedicated a song to.

The Dig It Sound System

Sunday afternoon’s set by the hilarious, disco-y, hip-hop-ish crew the Cuban Brothers showed a group who have every right to take themselves seriously, with their brilliant vocals and stunning dance moves.

At this point, it’s worth us publishing a disclaimer: the Dig It Sound System, run by the New Journal’s Dan Carrier, plays Standon every year, so we have a soft spot for the festival. Their tent never failed to get the party going, delivering a blend of reggae vibes, house music and much in between. The mobile music machine headed up by a talented group of DJs got the crowd dancing.

During the day, parents and kids enjoyed the family-friendly activities, such as a Horrible Histories show and hula-hooping. A heated swimming pool proved a popular draw despite the rain with pool-side discos for those who didn’t fancy taking a dip.

Standon were also early originators of asking punters to rock up with a little bit of extra effort gone into their packing.

The “Tales of the Enchanted Valley” fancy-dress theme saw fairies and elves galore: Oberon and the Mad Hatter proving popular choices. Human toadstools roamed the fields. Even the dogs (of which there were many) got involved.

Furry friends got their moment to shine in the ever-popular dog show on Sunday, with ribbons handed out for the best in show, the best child handler, and the best fancy dress. No dog went home empty-pawed with ribbons given to all who took part.

While daytime at Standon was wholesome, when the sun went down, the proper raves kicked in. As well as Dig It, The Cow Shed pumped out banging drum and bass till 4.30 in the morning.

As misty smoke filled the sky, cut up by coloured light beams, people danced through the night as the bass thumped away.


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