IF MY MEMORY serves me right, there was a lot of crying at last year’s Summer Ball. As a third year, it makes a little more sense. A definite sense of finality lingers around most of my peers at this point, not helped by the fact that ASM’s end-of-year event, The Corbins, took place the next day. The May Ball (for there will only ever be the May Ball, regardless of rebranding) is designed to be the university’s biggest sendoff before graduation, and the Space Ball delivered in terms of production value.
Fair to say that emotions ran high.
2016 saw the Ball take full advantage of Penglais Campus again, starting with the makeshift theme park behind the Union, like a smaller version of the November fair on Park Avenue. ASM got to see exactly how faint-hearted I was on the larger machines. Less said about that the better. When we went back later in the evening they were just shutting down; almost definitely recognising that hundreds of students + alcohol + close proximity to food = an unmanageable mess.
Still, we like to think that the organisers listened to our requests from last year, since there were dodgems this time; nothing to distract you from the emotion of potentially leaving your society like crashing into them at full speed. A must for next year.
Setting out from the office to document the evening, our cameras followed us on our adventures, including to Rigatoni’s pasta joint just outside the main gate.
As the night began to close in and the union concourse filled out, it got clearer just how well lit this part of the event was. The adherence to the Space theme across the event as a whole was pretty varied for the most part, but the mood lights inside the tent at the entrance was a nice touch, as well as the returning gambling tables that greeted attendees. The tent also featured a full bar, and an outdoor stage with acoustic sets earlier in the night, opened by ASM’s Corbett. Moving the acoustic acts out onto the concourse was effective given their spot in the Cwtch bar previously, where music from other stages often bled through. Local talent deserved its place among the headliners, provoking the same, if not more excitement. Everyone loves a good Mumford cover, after all.
Later came the silent disco. There’s really no adequate way to describe the sheer humour of watching people yell along to the hits of the last decade and attempt to dance with giant headsets; thankfully, Aber has practice. The best thing about it was how in tune everyone present actually was, even with the cocktail bar twenty seconds away. The Space Ball, like all the Balls before it, is a strange experience when you’re sober as the day is long.
Inside, Black House. The old, reliable, neon-drenched standard for dance music in Aber, lived up to the warning shared among students before the event that the noise would continue until 3am. This year the main room of the Union lacked the nostalgia factor mixed with the UK Grime surge in So Solid Crew, but Black House was decked out with its signature stage setup, the Dubtendo games rig, and veteran DJs including jungle beatmaker Nicky Blackmarket. Some were so determined to stick to the beat that we left the room and came back multiple times and they were still going. Rave’s a marathon, not a sprint.
On the Main Stage, Everything Everything were scheduled to begin before 8PM. ASM wasn’t able to record footage of their set, so here is a picture of one of our cameras at soundcheck.
It seemed a weird move at first, putting the Mercury-nominated indie group on before a reformed Five later, but the efficiency of their performance told all. The Space Ball surely acts as a warm-up for the band before they embark on their summer tour; arriving in the Great Hall in matching uniform, crowd interaction by the band was at a minimum, their set by-committee.
Still, playing universities before handling bigger, better-paying crowds isn’t rare for a band of their stature, and their quality shouldn’t be overlooked – vocalist Jonathan Higgs’ falsetto is just as impressive live as it has been in the 10 years the band has been active, and there was an extra weight behind their recent hits “Regret” and “Spring / Sun / Winter / Dread” with a full live band.
Main attraction DJ Fresh, knowing his role just as well as Example in 2015, worked the crowd for all they were worth when he arrived on the main stage. The inevitable exodus to the town centre was slowed by the energy of his set and, again like last year, ASM watched from the stands as the full crowd in the hall below Lost Their Minds A Little Bit, as we would the day after. DJ Fresh closed out another loud, lavish end-of-year Ball; you’ll have to let us know if the entertainment on offer was worth the price of admission.