May Ball’s putative point of pride lies in its status as the final black tie event of the year. We may have celebratory drinks or subdued house parties in the immediate wake of exams, but these minor fêtes fail to match the level of unrestrained revelry that takes place in Kinkell Byre on the first Sunday of May. Although this year’s calendar elected to place May Ball on the day of May Dip, St Andrews nevertheless rallied for a showing of over 2000 people, their exhaustion easily exceeded by their exuberance. The bars bustled and the dancefloor hustled, carrying the ball from twilight to midnight to the beginnings of sunlight with barely a moment’s rest.
The event began in the early evening, when dinner guests were greeted by The Other Guys and DJ Alasdair Todd upon their arrival at 5 pm. Three hours, three courses, and an unknown amount of wine later, the remaining 1800 or so guests filtered into the venue. A marked difference from previous May Balls was the location of the champagne reception: rather than being outside, the champagne-laden tables were moved indoors, to the Kinkell antechamber. Guests entered the room as a live band played, the abruptly crowded environment kicking the night off on a powerful note, a far cry from the small sense of anticipation associated with the classic outdoor reception.
Thanks to the efforts of the Kate Kennedy bejants, the dinner was cleared rapidly, allowing the VIP marquee to open its doors barely an hour after the meal had concluded. We were promptly allowed access to a delicious variety of benefits: a chocolate fountain, POPS champagne popsicles, Janettas ice cream, candies and marshmallows. Factoring in the reasonably priced bars and array of unique acts (including Opening Ball’s Normanton Street), the marquee did not leave VIP guests wanting. While the £25 price difference between VIP and Classic has, in past years, existed for little more than bragging rights, this year the upgrade truly did feel worth the money.
Often hailed as a staple of May Ball, the rides, too, did not disappoint. La Bamba made a triumphant appearance after giving Oktoberfest a miss, and the spinning teacups and bumper cars provided joy to the child and reckless driver in all of us. Aided by relatively warm weather and a distinct lack of rain, the queues for the rides remained lengthy yet fast-moving until their 1 am closing time.
Inside, the entertainment fell largely under the responsibility of the performers, be they bands or DJs. Sax n’ Beats impressed with their unique blend of bongos and saxophone, and the previously mentioned Normanton Street returned to town for a successful set of jazz numbers in the VIP tent. Alongside these outsourced acts, May Ball featured several familiar faces on its two stages: Asquire and Joe Jones each took a turn behind the DJ booth, much to the delight of their admirers from the Vic and FS respectively. Tea House, the newest star of the local music firmament, also made an offering to the dancefloor, the Tea DJs a welcome sight to fans of the brand.
DJ Ben Pearce, the night’s headliner, unsurprisingly proved successful at maintaining the high level of intensity already fostered by the preceding acts. Having said that, despite his talent and name recognition, Pearce’s appearance did not necessarily affect the crowd any more than his fellow performers’ did (a phenomenon also seen with Otto Knows at the DONT WALK afterparty). Short of Avicii, it is difficult to imagine an artist who would incite a noticeable fervour in the room; other than house music aficionados, the majority of the crowd is satisfied with decent music, regardless of whose name is attached to it. At this point, it is worth questioning whether big name acts are worth the money that may be spent more efficiently elsewhere.
At 2 am, wary guests ventured forth to join the queues for the buses, their eyes clouded with flashbacks of last year’s battle royale. Miraculously, however, this year’s queueing proved a civilised experience. Dull, chilly and lengthy, the queues were ultimately a nonentity in comparison to the high points of the night. This, while not a particularly spectacular experience, is really all we can ask for in a bus queue.
Aside from the musical acts, fairground rides, and VIP freebies, May Ball lacked any particularly note-worthy occurrences (an auction, the Christmas spirit, lederhosen, etc). It is for this reason, perhaps, that it stands as one of the greatest nights of the year. As revision sets in and flights home are booked, this ball is the final opportunity for us to drink, eat, and connect with friends from first to fourth year, the culmination of two semesters’ worth of socialising. Even as the dancefloor emptied out, guests remained in the quieter corners of the venue, sharing a few final drinks in the dying hours of the night.
Ball convenor Fernando Maluf, with his lineup of local acts and adherence to all of the classic May Ball traditions, channeled precisely what we want from this semester’s most portentous evening: to toast the year behind us, and look forward to the one ahead. The entire KKC, from the members running the buses to the bejants to one noble soul on crutches, must be congratulated on a marvellously organised night. As the final buses pulled away and the feedback began to flow, two words appeared in the drunken discourse: flawless victory.
Until next year.