It’s the final blow-out of fresher’s fortnight, and it’s the night that the last 14 days have been building up to. First year students are made to scrub away the Jesters grime, forget about their paralysing freshers’ flu, and prepare for six hours of mayhem. As the crème de la crème of uni partying, pressure is piled on the Freshers’ Ball to be the best night, with the best acts, with your new best friends. Last year’s extravaganza was far better than previous events, with Greg James DJing, Verne Troyer running around SUSU, and even a fresher marriage proposal; so could 2013 top it?
The whole event was spread out across Garden Court, Stags, the redbrick, The Bridge, and The Cube, so with so many venues, attendees were certainly spoilt for choice. A glamorous sheen had been added to the union buildings with drapes adorning the doorways and a plush, red carpet leading into the night’s main entrance, the old Union building. The layout had been organised like a pathway; after entering, you were taken through Garden Court and Stags, across the redbrick, through the concourse, downstairs to level 3 and down again to The Cube.
Unfortunately, this system failed to work, and instead meant that freshers missed Garden Court completely and heading straight through Stags, meaning that the turn out for the first act of the evening, Scarlett’s Roses, was sporadic. Beginning their first track, the seven-piece ska pop band awkwardly muttered “there’s more of us than there are of you”, but by the end of their set the audience number had matured to… twenty. It’s difficult to see why even those people were attracted though. The band themselves – whilst not particularly offensive – were like a dodgy Butlins troupe, with no chemistry and some awful song choices, like ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’ (“I bet you lot are having sex this evening!”).
Thankfully, the evening picked up from this point although Garden Court remained fairly empty. For a band who have a sperm for their logo, Catfish and the Bottlemen were surprisingly good. Awkward banter about gang-bangs aside, their set was tight and their tracks like ‘Rango’ and ‘Homesick’ sounded brilliant live; and an inclusion of genres other than drum ‘n’ bass was appreciated. A change of genre straight into pop, ex-Britain’s Got Talent contestants Luminites also put in a solid performance. Their single ‘Do Something’ stood out, sounding even better live than on the record, and they finished with Britain’s Got Talent favourite ‘Hurts So Good’, which everybody seemed to love
While hundreds of freshers raved to Modestep’s drum ‘n’ bass filled DJ set in The Cube, plenty more students could be found enjoying the delights of The Bridge’s silent disco. Elsewhere, BBC Radio 1’s Dev played to an embarrassingly quiet Garden Court, but it wasn’t long before Ms. Dynamite was to take to the stage in The Cube. She may have arrived 15 minutes later than scheduled, but she was certainly worth the wait. Sassily strutting around the front of the stage for over half an hour, she played a flurry of urban and house tunes including her collaborations with Katy B, Redlight, and her new Shy FX produced single ‘Cloud 9’. Whipping the crowd into a frenzied mess, the thunderous bass and blinding lights were spectacular, and Ms. Dynamite had the personality to go with them with her energetic stage presence. If anyone was disappointed that she didn’t play ‘Dy-Na-Mi-Tee’, her closing performance of the DJ Zinc produced track ‘Wile Out’ should have more than made up for it.
The students’ union must be given credit for the additional touches which made the night special. Stags remained open for the duration if anyone fancied a slightly quieter drink, whilst the redbrick played host to a fairground ride and a variety of food vans. Level 3 also provided some alternatives to live music with a professional photographer, and a SUSUtv set up where you could get filmed in weird outfits. As the night went on, it was Surge Radio’s broadcast from the concourse which began to draw in a considerable haul of students. Playing a massive range of cheesy classics to modern day pop, those who didn’t fancy the heavy rave that was going on in The Cube could come here for a twerk, and that’s something they certainly did.
However, as one of the headliners who had been so hyped in the build up to Freshers’ Ball, Garden Court was once again hit by an audience curse, as the room was less than half full for Grandmaster Flash’s set. Perhaps it was their inebriation, laziness, or because they didn’t even know where the place was, but it was a poor turn out. His mixes were slick and he tried to foster some audience participation, but the lack of people affected the performance.
To the relief of everyone involved, there was no repeat of the Example Grad Ball fiasco, and the culmination act, headliner Sub Focus turned up and delivered a full DJ set. With the impressive, imposing decks in front of him, the DJ managed to exceed expectations creating an electric atmosphere. Freshers bounced around like springs and any couple who tried to get intimate on the dance floor were soon knocked apart by the amorphous mass of flailing limbs. With CO2 canons, strobe lighting and incredible lasers, it was an unforgettable set up. It proved so popular, in fact, that bouncers had to stop any more students from entering The Cube near the beginning of his set, but luckily this soon died down. Regardless of the fact that it was a DJ set, the biggest cheer came when Sub Focus played ‘Tidal Wave’, although this did prompt one fresher to exclaim “I’ve heard Tidal Wave, now I can leave”.
Unfortunately these events never run completely to plan, but for £25 this was certainly a bargain. The quality of acts – especially in The Cube – was impressive, and the problems with too few people in Garden Court and too many people in The Cube, seem to have only been minor details. Hats off to SUSU for an incredible night, and probably the best Freshers’ Ball in years.