As a booming sound system filtered down The Scores on Saturday (25th April) passers-by would have been forgiven for thinking Lower College Lawn was playing host to another black tie event, another fashion show or ball, but how wrong they would have been. Starting in 2009 as the Masquerade Ball this event has been re-branded and reworked into its finest evolutionary stage yet: Under Canvas 2015.
At £38 a ticket the festival fairs well in comparison with other end-of-semester events – May Ball’s basic £45 ticket gets you one headliner: Under Canvas gives you 5 of the best and a plethora of acoustic acts. At the door guests were handed two free drinks coupons and if you found yourself one of the first 150 guests you could enjoy a beer on the house courtesy of St Andrews’ Brewing Co. With a new home at Lower College Lawn, this year’s event offered more, a lot more. The set up included a Music is Love stage – a welcome collaboration from one of the town’s most rapidly expanding societies – which catered to all your acoustic needs with local acts such as Josh Fuchs, Jason Varner, Chris Andrews and Amy Hill all strutting their stuff. There was also a “chill-out” tent from STAR which saw its fair share of melted party-goers throughout the night.
As pie-eyed punters lined up to get in Wovoka Gentle had already kicked things off on the main stage with their own fuse of folk-electronic: a dynamic range of psychedelic synths backed by heavy drums and chilling vocals this trio are one to watch. The latest project of Lights on the Mountain’s Mason twins and Stokes, William, Wovoka Gentle’s self-confessed “first gig” was an enigmatic performance which showed the musical potential of the trio. With the crowd warming up it was time to take things to the next level and who better to do the honours than Bristol based New Carnival. With their 80s guitar licks and funk bass the Indie trio put on an electric performance. Dropping a few crowd-pleasing covers in the mix was a smart move and by the time they finished up the main tent is filling up nicely. People are queuing for the bar to use up the last of their drinks tokens, not that it matters because everyone’s on tap water.
Vinyl baby: next on the main stage are St Andrews’ very own SOULPATCH who bring the techno. It’s refreshing, especially in St Andrews, to see two DJs who actually know what they’re doing and have superb taste in music, playing to a crowd that wants to hear it. These guys are talented and it’s always a joy to see them play, tonight’s set moved with a measured progression through Soul and Funk before landing on Disco just in time for Horse Meat Disco to take control. By now the condensation is sticking to the windows of the main tent and sweat is beginning to drip from foreheads everywhere. Heading outside in-between sets and you’ll find groups of shivering chain smokers talking incessantly of how “the bass is so good” and whispering “I love you man, I really do” as they touch each other’s faces. Everyone’s having a great time and it’s just past midnight.
For me, London collective Horse Meat Disco were the stand out name on the list of acts. With Glastonbury and Bestival dates later this year it was a real treat for them to show up in our tiny Fife town. The re-emergence of Disco into mainstream music has been prevalent in the charts of late and that really showed as the crowd looked at home with the chopped samples and throbbing bass of HMD. People love disco. As top of the bill act Mike Mago takes the stage the crowd is ready to lose control, the Dutch DJ transports the crowd to Ibiza with his bass-driven house and the atmosphere is electric. It takes serious mental effort to remind yourself that you’re in St Andrews and not some slam tent at Creamfields.
This is the main point though. Everyone always complains that St Andrews’ has no music scene and that you have to go elsewhere to have a good night, but I’m going to have to argue against this. If Under Canvas has proven anything it’s that there are hardworking, forward thinking students who want to bring the best possible music to St Andrews. Time and time again we are treated to outstanding acts but it’s the student population who fails to deliver. Last week (Wednesday 22nd April) The Vic played host to Theo Kottis, an outstanding DJ and one of the best that St Andrews’ will see this year, yet no one turned up. This happens over and over, whether it’s poor advertising or clashing dates with the multitude of events that go on in the town, something has to change.
Under Canvas 2015 is an event that packed a whole semester of great gigs into one exciting night of music. The diverse mix of attendees provided an interesting atmosphere wholly distinct from any other event in St Andrews: from the woolly-jumper-clad acoustic lovers to daddy’s-little-princess-who-just-dropped-her-first-eccie-and-now-she-wants-to-dance. It was a night for all.
In true St Andrews style you could have a good time while knowing that all profits from the event were going to charity. In this case Cystic Fibrosis. Big props to the Under Canvas committee for all their hard work!