Editor in Chief Elliot Douglas reviews Bacchanalia – St Andrews’ most affordable black tie event. Photographs by Jessica Newell.
Now in its third year, the night of music and revelry which advertises itself as “St Andrews’ most affordable black tie event” is already well-established on the Spring semester events calendar. I, however, had never been before and had little idea of what to expect of an event which seemed to promise a mixture of ball, music festival and Ancient world-inspired frolics. As a fusion event, it certainly did not disappoint.
After my photographer and I spent a pleasant hour stressing out over what level of formality to go for in our outfits (we played it safe in the end with, respectively, me in my trusty kilt and her in a knee-length navy dress), we made it there as early as possible, normally a faux pas which I would do my best to avoid but in this case a necessity in taking in the whole space before it got too crowded. Greeted by a harpist in the foyer of Younger Hall, decked out with beautiful white roses to give off the impression of being in a garden of some Roman or Ancient Greek villa, we were immediately thrust into the world of Bacchanalia.
The space of Younger Hall had been transformed by the additions of a stage, a reasonably-priced bar and life-drawing area, complete with chaise-longue. As the crowd started to fill up, so did the music. The Roundabout Midnights, with jazzy numbers, got everyone dancing and the night started in style. As the hall began to fill out, it became evident that this was not your standard black-tie event; many people had eschewed the floor-length dress or three-piece suit for something more individual or glittery, even emulating the Classical influence in some instances.
The mish-mash of colour and style all came together for the headline event of the night: The Other Guys. I can take or leave a cappella as a performance style, but I’m no less averse than the next homosexual to twelve suited posh boys with perfect pitch serenading the crowds, and I cheered along with the rest. The energy was electrifying.
Downstairs, on the second stage, was a more acoustic, less high-energy vibe. This was a great space to come and chill out and listen to groups and strangers come together, the pre-prepared numbers and the improvised jams becoming indistinguishable so high was the quality and so relaxed was the atmosphere. Special shout is necessary to Guy Harvey and Thea Moe Bjoranger’s Joni Mitchell cover which brought me (ever emotional and two gin and tonics down) to predictable tears. In this space, guests could also pay for Pound Poems and Pound Portraits, provided respectively by ArtSoc and Inklight, or else for a fortune-teller, but such were the queues by the time I got to this that I didn’t manage either. Instead, I spent a great deal of time at the glitter table, explaining to a patient glitter artist that I wanted the glitter on my cheeks to be “asymmetrical but the same, you know?”
As the night continued the dancing became more full-on and the music followed suit, with the whole crowd on their feet for Whaleshark Daddy and Alfred and the Chameleons. It was unfortunate that BPM, the advertised final act of the night, decided for uncertain reasons to leave before their timeslot, but the organisers dealt with this with alacrity, ensuring that the audience were not left wanting for live music. It should also be noted that there were times when the space felt a little too large for the size of crowd, and however well it had been disguised, there is something a little disconcerting about, mid-boogie, catching a glimpse of Younger Hall’s vaulted ceiling and being forcibly reminded that graduation is but a few short months away.
Regardless, I had tremendous fun and the space had been fantastically used. Long may there continue to be a black-tie event which prioritises affordable tickets and quality music, a true rarity in this town where, for a tired fifth-year, all events begin to feel the same.
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