Natasha Franks reviews Starfields, held Thursday 10 September. Photos taken by Lorelei Pfeffer and Lindsey Wiercioch.
Having pulled off such a phenomenal event last year, the FS committee had high expectations to meet with Starfields 2015. When I toured the venue in the hour leading up to the festival, committee members demonstrated that they had certainly prepared for the long night ahead: flower crowns for sale just by the main entrance, a GoPro positioned above the DJ, and massive screens flanking the stage to advertise for the current act. As the first guests began to trickle onto Lower College Lawn, the anticipation grew. At £39 a ticket, the event would need to live up to all its promises and more if attendees were to feel fully satisfied.
As a seasoned St Andrean, I fully expected to queue. I didn’t expect to quite literally fight my way to the venue as the 9pm final entry deadline approached. Hundreds of students crammed their way into Butts Wynd, drunkenly screaming and shoving and stomping on each other’s feet as they waved their wristband-clad arms in the air. The path from the street to the Quad was nothing short of a nightmare, painfully inefficient and hopelessly disorganised.
Anticipating tired guests, the committee had strewn enormous pillows across the lawn. Some of the most enjoyable moments of the night were spent lounging on these pillows with friends (while attempting to ignore the couples getting frisky on their own pillows just a few feet to our left). Further highlights included face painting, munching on toasties at one of the many picnic tables, and taking in the elaborate decorations encasing the venue. The rest of my night spent not on the dance floor was occupied primarily by queuing – for the bar, for Blackhorn’s food truck, for the toilets. It was evident from the start that the event was grossly understaffed, and this translated to slow service on all accounts.
I briefly mentioned above the queue for drinks. I cannot emphasise enough just how disastrously organised the bars were. Over half an hour was spent waiting for a single drink as endless waves of students pressed against the counter, forming a mosh pit. Having a single bar set up in a corner kept the drink-seekers contained, but it denied us the option of attempting to find shorter queues. The only choice was to fight, just as we had to enter the venue, and pray that we emerged victorious.
Despite the bar scene being fraught with issues, the stage setup was undeniably impressive. The stage-side screens changed to reflect each new act, flashing the relevant brand as the DJ ascended to the table. For those unlucky enough to be quite a distance from the stage, being able to read which act was performing was our only way of identifying the current performer. Joe Jones, Alex Adair, Lexer, Nora En Pure, and Klingande all attempted to differentiate their particular brand of house music from their fellow performers’, but it seems many students could hear nothing but the same monotonous beat throughout the festival’s 6 hour runtime. For all the hype built around the headliners, the result was tragically underwhelming. Admittedly, I myself am no house music aficionado; Klingande’s set received rave reviews from my more knowledgable friends.
Thankfully, our exit was slightly more graceful than our entrance, as students were slowly herded out by bouncers and committee members. The open air venue made departing from the lawn itself a nonissue, though the tight squeeze out of the Quad proved again to be a bit inconvenient. Face paint smudged, flower crowns crushed beneath their feet, guests were left to ponder whether the night would have been better spent at the Vic, the Union, or a rival music festival (alas, there seems to be a dearth of the latter). The lack of an afterglow allowed the disappointment to set in fairly quickly: an evening characterised by queueing cannot be described as anything other than a shambles.
I’ve been harsh on the committee in this review. Their passion for this year’s charity partner SANE and for combating the stigma of mental illness cannot be denied; however, I would be doing them a disservice to pretend that their launch event was a success. Starfields suffered primarily from St Andreans’ affliction of arriving fashionably late, as students are intent on stretching their pre-drinks out to the last possible minute. The carnage of the entry queue could have been avoided with time-sensitive wristbands, with guests purchasing tickets for 6pm entry, 7pm entry, and so on. The bar and toilet queues, too, could have had some semblance of organisation to spare us a fraction of the wait time. Better distributed bars would have decreased the concentrated chaos, along with an exit strategy for the loo area beyond having to battle your way out against the crowd. The committee’s dedication to making the venue look pretty seems to have resulted in a complete lack of thought given to the logistics of the night.
I can only hope that the struggles of Starfields will better prepare the new team for FS, and I personally remain a fan of one of St Andrews’ most iconic brands.