It's not always easy to find the centre point of a festival; to take part in that moment when it feels like you and everyone around you are deep in the bowels of Everything. After two visits to Standon Calling four years apart, I am convinced that not only are Rockaoke the very clattering heart of this particular event, but they might just be the most entertaining festival act on the planet.
By now, you're probably aware of the concept of rockaoke. Karaoke with a live band, right? Lovely. The band are a four piece armed with every power chord in the book, and Journey knows they're not scared to use them. The lead singer is a big shouldered, bespectacled, bearded chap. You'd probably ask him to be Santa at your Christmas party, which he'd do in exchange for free Jack Daniels and a pouch of Drum.
He's the glue, and his ability to hit the high notes is as important as his skill at making the singers relax in front of a crowd baying for glory. Everything flows through him. He introduces them onto the stage and cheers them off, pumps everyone and gets clap-a-longs going if things are a little flat. He swears like Ozzy, gently ribs those at the mic, more often the crowd, and ventures into the throng to appropriate parts of their costume attire. Without his vocal assistance on the chorus's, half the singers would die on their arse.
Stage left is the band's secret weapon, a guitarist who may or may not be called Steve but is the vein through which the rock and roll blood flows. From the very first strains of 'You Shook Me All NIght Long', played as a segue while the first singer nervously steps up onto the stage, he is bounding around, stamping, sweating, staring. Always fucking staring. His eyes are a thing to behold; bulging from sockets, not by drugs, at least I think not, but by a desire, a need, to fire himself up to a point where every single person watching him, them, is alive to the prospect that we are all rock and roll heroes. He spends a lot of time on his speaker before doing a faux scared face as he topples off; a classic van Zandt trick, if Stevie had been born in Braintree in 1989. It's tongue in cheek, but everything's done with the kind of manic verve of the man that believes every note.
And then, of course, there's the singers taking the stage. The dangerously shy girl- Nancy?- doing 'Teenage Dirtbag' with her dad was a joy on so many levels. First, the fact that she was actually doing it in the first place; nothing unites a crowd like a cute kid battling their 10 year old demons. But she was up there with her dad, who was having the time of his fucking life. Clearly masquerading under the pretence that he was 'up there for her' whilst indulging his own teenage dirtbag fantasy, his red-faced windmilling was enough to whip the crowd into a thoroughly well-behaved frenzy.
Most of the singers were pretty reasonable- when the girl stood up to do 4 Non Blondes there was a collective gasp (a gasp!) but she hit the all important note in the chorus, and was propelled off-stage by the thunder of a 100 filthy handclaps.
Then a Bon Jovi-off, with a group doing a surprisingly harmonious version of 'You Give Love A Bad Name', before a guy who tried hard but didn't quite have the welly for 'Livin' On A Prayer' . Fortunately, he had our main man behind him, not to mention Braintree Stevie, who went back to back with him as the song played out.
It's only a bit later that there was some actually shit people , with two blokes in their mid-40s doing 'Love Machine' the apex. But even then, at a festival when you're six pints deep with the first night still lingering on your tongue, a couple of maybe-virgins ruining Girls Aloud is really all you're looking for.
There's probably a lot of people that wouldn't enjoy this sort of thing, and if you genuinely hate the songs the novelty will wear off after 10 minutes. But fuck that. Festivals aren't about moments by yourself, they're about sharing something with a bunch of people you don't know and might not ever see again. And if that's the requisite, for all of 90 minutes this band of rock and roll brothers made sure we were all at the centre of the Standon universe.
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