Grad Ball is always a controversial subject in the run-up to the event. With students unsure of the venue, the acts, and the ticket pricing every year, it was a bold move for 2017’s committee to choose our very own Union as the site for the end of year festivities. Fortunately, it was one that entirely paid off.
Along with the university venue, we also got cheaper tickets, better drinks deals, and a range of acts to suit everyone’s tastes – enough to more than make up for those that worried it would be a rehash of Fresher’s Ball. Although there were no fair ground rides, the Redbrick was littered with mouth-watering food stalls, and there was more than enough to keep everyone entertained on the various stages. The queues were moved along quickly and no stage was too busy to get into, which was another improvement upon events of the past.
After being ushered through a fenced off version of campus-after-dark, the acoustic stage was set as the introduction to the evening. With melodic guitars and soft voices playing out across the outdoor venue, the subtlety of the stage was easy to appreciate, but also easily missed in the hubbub of excited students buying drinks, food, and catching up outside reception. In all honesty, Clara Bond, Danielle May, and Hannah Trigwell seemed to blur into one during their performances – with each offering soft-sung renditions of popular songs across the evening in a very inoffensive manner. That isn’t to say they didn’t perform well – they were just a lot less memorable and somewhat lost by the positioning of the stage.
In any case, Garden Court offered a much more exciting set. Starting out with Club Drive warming up the audience admirably, it wasn’t long before the room filled out with excited students ready for the headline act. Performing at much larger festivals and shows throughout the year, Don Broco was perhaps the most impressive act secured in the line-up – and they definitely delivered a performance to remember. With fan-favourites like ‘Automatic’ and ‘Hold On’ alongside the cult classic ‘Thug Workout’, and even a special request taken from the crowd, those in the audience were soon swept into one mass of well-dressed bodies. The one flaw was that the room was ridiculously under air-conditioned, resulting in some very sweaty, but happy, faces emerging once the set was done – an easy price to pay.
Over in The Cube, ex-Girls Aloud member Sarah Harding got the crowds moving in a DJ set full of house mixes. The decorations very nearly outdid her in the process however, with a jungle-themed tunnel guising the entrance to the lower levels of the union. Packed out with leafy walls and rain-forest vibes, it culminated in a huge tropical chandelier hanging over the heads of attendees. Appropriate for the genre of The Cube as well as proving to be an exciting transformation for a building most of us have frequented every day, it was astounding to see just how different the union could look with the right direction.
Tom Zanetti and K.O. Kane were next to take to the decks, with their popularity confirmed by a huge following surging to the room upon their arrival. Audience members were on each other’s shoulders, making mosh pits, and dancing in a strange parallel to the pop-rock of the Garden Court sets happening simultaneously, with both headliners leaving crowds happy with their tickets.
In contrast, the Silent Disco in The Bridge was a little off the mark. Drunken revellers enjoyed the novelty of the headphone-led music, but after ten minutes, it soon wore off. That being said, there was so much on campus to entertain the masses that one room being underwhelming can be forgiven, especially when it could clearly be seen how much effort went into turning the place into a venue as different as could be. It was entirely fitting to be ending three years at Southampton right where we all started, with the familiarity of the union melding perfectly with the nostalgia of seeing friends and acquaintances for the final time.
All in all, Grad Ball 2017 was a pleasure to attend. Not only did the Union provide a place that was easily accessible, cheaply priced, and catered to a range of audiences, but they also gave students a great night to remember their university experience by.