The Friday night before this year’s reading week, as I prepared fully to leave my work until the last minute, something amazing happened. No, I didn’t get off my backside and head to the gym for once. Instead, I made the decision that enough was enough, and I needed a proper night out: not paying through the nose for drinks, not having to sell vital organs for a kebab, and not paying my admission fee to a ‘club night’ to find myself walking into a school disco. No, on the bus to Dundee I went. By the sound of it, I was far from the only person who has made this shift. This is why, with mine and Annabel’s frankly unparalleled expertise, we will detail exactly why Dundee is so worthwhile and what our Union can do to make itself appealing again, with me looking at the experience and Annabel the music scene.
Upon arrival, Dundee Union (DU) didn’t look that great. Of course, I had heard the rumours that this place heralded a Secret Garden-esque experience for many a St Andrean not over-thrilled at the prospect of going to a ‘Meme Bop’ (whatever that is). DU, from the exterior, looks much like many a students’ union across the country. If nothing else, it looked a bit bland. But boy oh boy, can first impressions deceive! While our Union has a meagre four venues, DU trumps that with an impressive four floors , each with a different theme and atmosphere, as well as a stunning, and fully serviced, outdoor patio area. I was in heaven, and even more so when I saw DU’s piѐce de résistance – the £6 pitcher. Considering a Pablo, a small affair, will set you back a fiver, you could say my gob has never been more smacked than when I found out that a literal jug of booze was only a quid pricier.
After several drinks on the second floor, I ventured into the depths to the DU’s nightclub – where the theme was “Nicki vs Cardi”. Now, if you know me, you’ll be aware neither Nicki nor Cardi are my cup of tea. However, somehow, whether it was the DJ’s ability or just the atmosphere of the place, I didn’t need any effort at all to have a good time.
Then I remembered: this is what a night out should be like. I shouldn’t proudly wear my Bop wristband to then find myself heading to Sandy’s to hang out with those who had the sense to use their £3 on two shots, spending the night belting out Don’t Look Back in Anger at the top of their lungs.
Now, I’m not being ungrateful, the Union does get some things right. Occasionally the Bop theme is good, such as the recent 00s night. However, recently, the Bop has seemed to have been struggling. It’s not surprising that the photos from the aforementioned ‘Meme Bop’ predominantly feature Main Bar, considering how woeful the attendance appeared in the pictures from inside 601. Moreover, I’m not exactly dumbfounded at the fact that the Union had to offer free entry to ‘Back to School Bop’ considering how that theme is probably the most tasteless and nonce-y thing I’ve ever seen. But this is why we need to look at the Bop, and the Union more generally. It is of paramount importance in this town, with little to no nightlife otherwise, that our only real substantial late-night venue remains open, profitable and, above all, fun. While I guffawed at the images that emerged from Meme Bop, and how I’d avoided it, a portion of me was sad: sad at the fact that 601, a place where I’ve made many memories with my mates, looked as if it were at death’s door.
But there is another way. There are some simple things the Union can do to fix the reputation of the Bop. Chief amongst which must be to ditch weekly themes. To those of you who say they’re our niche, I say to you that silly themes are probably niche for a reason. Put on a quirky Bop theme and many people just aren’t going to bother attending. Put on a Bop that encourages people to dress up in school uniform, and you’re going to put many people off (quite frankly, everybody should be put off). I’m not saying themes don’t have a place – every club in the country probably has an 80’s night – but they should be the exception and not the rule. The ‘Legless’ event was a welcome sea-change, so why not have that as standard?
Secondly, I mentioned that DU makes use of a patio area – fully heat – ed and serviced with a bar and music. This makes me wonder, what on earth is the Union doing with its own outdoor space? Nothing, literally nothing. The fact that the Union’s outdoor area adjoining Main Bar is rarely used should be a crime. There is no reason whatsoever that the Union couldn’t use that area up to make the space seem less cramped, as well as giving an outlet for those students who do smoke to fill their lungs without standing out in the wilderness near Market Street. While the Union may need to adjust its licenses if they want to sell alcohol and/or play outdoor music, it would be a great addition to the space and well worth the effort.
Next, we must take aim at the Union’s abysmal alcohol selection. Unless you fancy frittering your life savings away on fancypants drinks in Beacon (aside from the Blowjob – which at £2.50 a go is a pretty good rate), there isn’t much for you besides standard bar drinks. If these are your thing, then great! If not, you’re humped. Serving pitchers, or something similar, would be a kind and welcome addition, spicing up what is an otherwise dreary menu. The last of my recommendations would be to question why on earth the mid-week drinking deals, such as the Tuesday £1.50 spirit/mixer, aren’t available in some form on weekends. While every Friday night across the world has pre-drinks, they’re not borne out of necessity in the same way as St Andrean pres are. Unless your surname is Rockerfeller, expect to be skint by the end of the night if you fail to arrive at the Union several pints down already.
As for the music, St Andrews is brimming with talent. If I’ve said that once, I’ve said it a thousand times. In my time at The Saint , I’ve focused most of my articles on local musicians and events, and every time I start one, I’m once again astounded by the skills harboured in this town. Those skills can be showcased in many ways. Do you know where they definitely can – not be showcased, however? At the ‘Memes and Mashups Bop’.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but music is a pretty integral part of a night out. Any self-respecting party host would go to murderous lengths in order to avoid that One Direction-obsessed girl from getting hold of the aux and blasting ‘What Makes You Beautiful’. And, contrary to popular opinion, a good night out doesn’t necessarily involve an overcrowded room full of drunk people shouting, “COMING OUT OF MY CAGE AND I’VE BEEN DOING JUST FINE.” I know, because I’ve had good nights out in this town. Frankly, though, not one of them has taken place on the dreaded Friday night at 601.
Music taste is incredibly subjective, and yet I reckon I could easily replicate the playlists that are – for – give me – vomited through 601’s speakers every week. And this is coming from someone who, though it may not sound like it, genuinely enjoys almost every genre of music out there. I recognise that there is a time and a place for ABBA Bop, and if I’m honest with myself I’d be the first in line with my flares, ready to lose my voice from screaming ‘Does Your Mother Know’. But there’s a reason why the alternative music scene here is thriving, and while I’m a huge fan of the diversity and go to almost all of the electro nights here: it speaks volumes about the quality (or lack thereof) of entertainment provided by the Union.
Groups and collectives like ASHA, Szentek, and Wax were ultimately bred out of a desire for a better mu – sic scene. We’re a three-street town with no nightclub (in case you hadn’t heard), so the Union has a massive opportunity to provide students with a decent nightlife – and the extent to which the student body has cultivated its own entertainment is pretty demonstrative of the Union’s failure to do that. There are so many incredible DJs and performers in this town that could fill many Fridays with great artists and never have to endure another Meme Bop. Union, please press pause on Mr Brightside and give the students what they want!