Standon Calling review: Rick Astley and Mel C perfectly embody the festival’s persistently positive vibe

On the final afternoon of Standon Calling, Melanie C can’t quite gauge the age range of the crowd before her. “I don’t think many of you are old enough to know my early work, are you?” asks the former Spice Girl. She’s as right as she is wrong – because Standon Calling is as much for the kids as it is for their parents, grandparents and so on. Even the family dog is welcome. The festival’s clientele is a curious combination that sees tweens bopping to the Eighties synth bangers of The Human League and their grandparents getting down to the lusty, queer pop of Years and Years less than 24 hours later.

What began as a garden barbecue for festival founder Alex Trenchard’s birthday in the early 2000s is now a major event that brings 17,000 people to the Hertfordshire countryside every June. This year marks Standon Calling’s 17th anniversary and it’s clear that in the nearly two decades that have passed, this festival has truly shed its “small-town” roots. It’s multidimensional enough to give larger festivals a run for their money. Like a mini-Glastonbury, the festival offers poetry workshops, hip-hop karaoke, sound baths, gourmet dining experiences, tarot readings, comedy sets. Even a dog show.

But now, onto the music. An early main stage highlight is Anastacia, whose strut into view on Friday afternoon immediately takes the crown for the weekend’s sassiest moment. The singer jokes that she first came out as an artist “50 million years ago” – but her experience is only a benefit here. Anastacia’s powerful soulful tones thrill the crowd as she belts pop hits such as “I’m Outta Love” (2000) and “Paid My Dues” (2001). Tenacious dancers either side of her power through Latin and ballroom routines. By the time we reach the Chicago native’s closing hit “Left Outside Alone”, the mood at Standon is celebratory and cheerful.

Across four days, there’s a fantastic range of indie and emerging artists. From the bubbly multi-instrumental sounds of Ellie Dixon to rising R&B star Shae Universe and riotous indie pop group The Lottery Winners, these acts shine – making new fans out of the uninitiated. By Sunday, those who’ve been camping since Thursday are admittedly feeling a little worse for wear – but the lineup does enough to rejuvenate weary (or hungover) revellers. Melanie C embraces her Sporty Spice nickname, taking to the stage in a cropped black vest and Adidas shorts. She dedicates her acoustic ballad “Northern Star” to “all the incredible mums out there”, before following up with her Bryan Adams collaboration and dad-certified banger “When You’re Gone”. Though she has enough solo material to hold her own, there’s no denying the burst of energy that surges through the crowd when she launches into a triple bill of Spice Girls hits: “Spice Up Your Life”, “2 Become 1” and “Who Do You Think You Are?”.

The sun sets on Standon’s last day as Rick Astley takes the main stage. Following rave reviews at Glastonbury last month, the Eighties pop legend attracts a buzzing audience. Astley is well aware of the fact that nearly everyone here is waiting for that one song (you know the one) but he is clearly having an excellent time warming us up, reeling through his other tracks, including his second-most famous hit “Together Forever” and a surprising rendition of Lizzo’s “Juice”. Concluding with “Never Gonna Give You Up” – what else? – Astley perfectly embodies the persistently positive vibe of Standon. It may not be the coolest festival out there, but it’s a damn good time.

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