Being impartial is the great malady of reviewing an event. If it’s not friends whose future career as an investment banker apparently rides on their success as a ball convener, it’s the inherent rumour mill of reasons why the event will fail. Such it was that on the night of Szentek I was struggling not to pass judgement before I had arrived. Last minute selling of tickets on social media and the very early start of the event were both topics of conversation during pre-drinks, with some expecting the more reasonable bus times of 10:30 – 10:45 to be swarmed and not get everyone there: Could these assumptions be more than week 10 cynicism?
Despite the buses successfully delivering everyone to the venue, there was a sense of restraint as people walked in to the now perhaps overly familiar Kinkell Byre. It seemed that without the promised presence of one amazing attraction that the crowd was losing confidence only a few minutes in. Guests lacked the direction of other events, and I’ll be honest when I say I feared the worst.
As I stepped towards the bar, my eye caught on the dance area. While the central hall had been dedicated to the main DJing act, there was also a second room, in which a projector played a selection of black & white horror films. The reality that was to become evident during the night was that Szentek’s success came from something that nearly every other St Andrews event I’ve been to has failed at: the detail.
This isn’t a question of creating optimal performance from the bar area by streamlining cash transfer. It’s the little things, like that projector, that make you feel as though you’re not on your average night. Usually at Kinkell Byre, the only variety available in the men’s is at the taps, where you are either barely moistened or your trousers are soaked by a sputtering waterfall. No such trouble at Szentek, where you could amuse yourself by fulfilling your election-long ambition of urinating in Donald Trump’s mouth.
The originality doesn’t end here, as simple decorations like the painted material on the walls added to the surreal nature of the atmosphere. For those had come early or become famished by long sessions near the main stage, Szentek had an answer: in addition to the now iconic Ludo & Lolo’s Crêperie providing their first one hundred crêpes for free, there was a novel addition to the repertoire of St Andrews event food: Toro Tapas.
Some people, quite fairly, might equate the legitimacy of nachos without cheese as equivalent to a Michael Bay movie without explosions. And indeed, despite my ever worsening lactose intolerance that I make every effort to deny control, I was a little disappointed by the lack of cholesterol. Saying this the service was fast, polite, and when asked very quick to point out the need for a Tapas style aspect to St Andrean events. The very nature of Tapas is based around small and flavoursome dishes that you can walk around with and share, perfect for an event environment. As a real Englishman I must admit sharing isn’t my forte; indeed, anyone unfortunate enough to attempt to emancipate the garlic sauce from my Dominoes will lose fingers. Yet, as I stood around eating with friends, I realised that, despite my own view on nachos, this is a style of eating that is very suited and very much needed at future Kinkell Byre events.
It may seem that all these details stood alone from each other, but their presence all contributed to what quickly started to become a raging night. One moment you could be dancing in the space of main stage, the other plunging into the intimacy of the boiler room dance area before chilling in the movie section or having another crack at Trump in the loo. Here, phone clasping was indicative of frenzied photo taking, not a struggle against the poor reception of Kinkell.
Perhaps what truly won me over was the response when, late in the night, I walked around asking members of the rippling main stage crowd what they thought of the event. The responses themselves are vague a mind reduced to a jovial fog under layers of Tennent’s and Nikita Vodka, but I can remember that not one person at the event criticised it.
Before I departed the Byre, I returned to the toilet to find the row of Donalds nearly obliterated, a sight that would warm the heart of any drunk St Andrean. Arms bent into jackets, coats, and around the shoulders of stumbling friends as the crowd moved towards the buses in that strange orchestra that is a post-party. The high screams of high-heel clad Lambrini ladies made up the strings section, while the flutes and oboes of one night stands asked each other what course they did for the fifth time; the brass of “this is a lads night only” trumpeted their presence against the low percussion of “I’m so sorry,” as the heavier drunks were wrenched out of the venue.
Smiling, I hummed along to the strange piece. I looked at my watch and was surprised to find it was past two, before smiling again as we set off home, realising that Szentek had crowned the night with that stamp of approval so rare in a night out: I hadn’t checked the time once.