Summer Ball: The musical main attractions

A QUICK run down of the different events and stages at Summer Ball this year.

Summer Ball

Photo – Tomos Nolan

Main Stage

In a few short months, the Great Hall in the Arts Centre will be used for graduation ceremonies for every department at the university, an incredibly dignified moment for all of the students involved.

For the Summer Ball, Example used it to put dozens of future graduates on the dancefloor into a headlock.

With control of the decks given to DJ Wire for the hair-raising set, Elliot Gleave (e.g., or for example – see what he did there?) took command of the well-dressed masses, bouncing around in neon yellow Nikes and asking the crowd to jump as high as they can in their heels or their dress shoes and eventually, asks them to kiss whoever’s next to them, and headlock them soon after.

“Are you still here?” Example regularly yells. Fatigue and alcohol claim more than a few, since it was after 1:30am before Gleave finally took to the stage, but chart-toppers like “One More Day” (subtitled “Stay With Me” so as not to be confused with the other, more popular  “Stay With Me”) and “10 Million People” kept most around. He surveyed the crowd in front of him, and up in the stands, foul-mouthed and pumped to deliver a show for the last big event of the year to the Great Hall, its capacity at nearly 1000.

Is Example a rapper who sometimes sings, or a singer that sometimes raps? On Friday night, his stage presence and the beats were more important. The music is club filler at its clubbiest and fullest; but club filler where, to its credit, the genres are mixed faster than at the cocktail bar outside.

It’s Ibizacore, it’s snappy piano-based loops, it’s the maximalism of Eurodance and it’s somber lyrics in songs mixed with expensive beats, a combination that goes down so well these days. “All The Wrong Places” is a trance anthem for people who like their trance like they like their hard cider; simple and familiar. It’s a cupcake with an irresponsible amount of sugar and dubstep is the cherry.

Example has never been to Yoko’s, but he knows what it takes to get the Yoko’s faithful on their feet, and off their face.

Blackhouse

Surprise! UK hip-hop is still great.

So Solid Crew, the grime and garage supergroup whose single “21 Seconds” hit Number 1 in the UK fourteen years ago, are still representing the rap scene in the UK, running the stage at Black House with all the energy they had back in 2001, when “Snapchat” meant texting on a flip phone. (Maybe.)

The smell of smoke machines and cocktails filled the main room of the Union. Around 10pm, The Joker and Mr. Bean led the dance to scratch artist JFB, lifting their rubber masks to down more cocktails. That, roughly, set the tone for the evening. Like Example, So Solid Crew started late. They didn’t fill the main room, but the front row were always with them; “It’s All Gravy” star Romeo picked up phones from the crowd during the set, filming them, filming himself, as Skepta hits “That’s Not Me” and “Doing It Again” revealed a few die-hard fans in the audience, who rapped along to every word.

Addressing their captive audience in the Union’s main room, Harvey and Romeo made quick friends with Aber natives by describing the roads the Crew had to drive down to get here. “… I risked my life to come here, so you’d better rave to this!” And rave they did.

It’s rare that a group who have one hit bigger than any other will start their set with that song. Wheatus, of “Teenage Dirtbag” fame, wait until the very end of their shows, the performance sometimes lasting 10 minutes or more to allow for stage-diving and solos. So Solid Crew were on an entirely different schedule from the start; after all, it’s only 21 seconds before they’ve got to go.

Welsh Acts

Emma Swindells opened the night on the Cwtch live stage, generally more laid back than the other ones; for every drum & bass sample at Black House, there were two guitars here.

It was a tough set for Swindells – punters passed through on their way to the bar or other stages at the beginning of the Ball but her clear voice impressed and many ended up staying, her covers of “Budapest” and “Iris” from The Goo Goo Dolls highlights from her set and the first drunken singalongs of many drunken singalongs to come.

If awards are being handed out for style, third act on at the Cwtch, Welsh rockers Y Reu, might take it. Frontman Iwan Fon paced the stage, head low to the ground, in the manner of a bandleader with decades more experience. Drummer Cai Grufydd appeared shirtless save a leather jacket vest, a far cry stylistically from Lloyd Steele on keyboard – musically, their sound was engagingly varied, as well; sometimes despondent Gwynedd punk, sometimes dreamy experimental.

From the young and vibrant Y Cledrau, whose sound was the most summery at the Summer Ball, to the suited four-piece Yr Eira, Welsh voices held their own well against more expensive bookings, on the night.