As someone who is completely unfamiliar with the underground music culture of St Andrews, I had absolutely no idea what to expect from Szentek 2019, but I can say with confidence that despite my apprehensions, it was by far the coolest event I’ve attended not only in Kinkell Byre, but even in St Andrews as a whole as well.
Walking into the venue, I was already surprised at how the Szentek team made Kinkell Byre their own: it felt like a completely different venue than that of events like Christmas Ball or Welly Ball, and they seemed to use all the space offered to them to their advantage.
The concept of Szentek, to my rookie understanding, is three spaces dedicated to different DJ performances and music: one tucked away inside, one on the main stage and one outside next to the food truck, all of which were equally busy and attracted their own kinds of music lovers.
The main stage featured Max Dupa B2B Neb with Too This for That, Eclair Fifi and Optimo (Espacio). When I first entered the venue around 9:30pm, I immediately felt “blast from the past” vibes not only because of the colourful, psychedelic backdrop behind the stage, but also because of the insane saxophone solos from the first act behind DJ tunes. It felt like the collaboration between Max Dupa B2B Neb and Too This for That was attempting to achieve something beyond what we consider traditional electronic and ’80s tunes, and as someone who saw their performance, I can say that they definitely succeeded. Additionally, this collaboration and the standout saxophone solos set the tone for the night of a fun-loving escape from the Week 10 blues of University and a chance to dance the night away.
The second stage was in the room between the coat station and the toilets, a space often underutilised by other balls and events, and featured music from Peverelist, IDA and Palidrone. While the performances here seemed to attract a more niche crowd, the art aspect of Szentek was on full display here: DJs projected strange shapes and colours on the wall behind them during the performance, creating a funky, removed-from-reality atmosphere, and in the room behind the music, attendees could sit on comfortable sofas and big chairs watching cartoons like “Hey Arnold” and other films on the projector (without sound, of course). This area also saw one of the most interesting art installations at the venue: a figure made out of Tennents cans, outlined with RGB lights. I was unsure of what to expect with the art at Szentek, but this piece in particular combined sustainability with a representation of a figure who loves to drink and dance, quintessential to the Szentek vibe, in my opinion. It was personally one of my favourites, and I could only wish there were more pieces like it around the event.
The third and final area for music was located outside in what typically sees food trucks and a smoking area. Though this was also an area for that at Szentek, it was a smart move to bring some music out to people who were already in that space, and despite the cold weather and occasional rain, I was surprised at how many people were enjoying the tunes and dancing their heart out — a testament to the Szentek spirit that no matter the weather or looming deadlines, the party didn’t stop.
In terms of food, more free options could have been offered to guests, but Szentek did provide several paid options for guests, including the food truck outside with burgers and chips and a crepe station inside. The crepe station, launched this year and featured at events like Starfields and Welly Ball, was something I had personally not seen before at an event yet loved the sweet options available, providing something different than the normal Jannetta’s stand at other events.
One of the most interesting aspects for me personally at Szentek was the fashion. From a fuzzy pink cowboy hat to black-and-white checkered pants, kimonos to a tiger onesie, and glitter galore, the varied and, dare I say it, unusual fashion choices represented the spirit of the event that regardless of who you are or what you were wearing, everyone was accepted. It felt reminiscent of Woodstock or hippie movements in the ’70s that forgot race, politics, gender and appearance and revolved solely on a love for music and thus a love for life. This was also seen by the variety in style with regards to formality: while some wore formal dresses and heels, others were wearing sweatshirts and trackies, and yet no one seemed overdressed or underdressed, a trait not seen at many other St Andrews events.
I was a bit disappointed with the art installations at Szentek; though the graffiti in the main hallway caught your eye, there could have been more interactive or virtual art pieces, like the films or the aforementioned Tennents piece. I did appreciate the comfortable seating in the event space where attendees could take a break from dancing and zone out to cartoons or films about dinosaurs; it was a Szentek-specific element and one which did not go unnoticed.
Over the years, I feel that Szentek has acquired a negative reputation particularly from people who don’t traditionally attend events like Wax Collective or enjoy that kind of party scene. However, as someone who wasn’t a typical Szentek attendee, I can say that if you like to dance and have a good time, you’ll enjoy Szentek. The atmosphere and music meant you could honestly dance all night long, and everyone there seemed so happy. It was definitely worth the price of around £30, especially compared to a £40 ball which seems to offer less than Szentek. Overall, if you’ve been on the fence about Szentek, make a plan to attend next year and give it a chance! It was by far one of the best events I’ve attended in my three years at St Andrews, and I don’t think I’ve ever danced more in one night than I did on November 21st in Kinkell Byre.