Pembroke May Ball

**** a bloody good knees-up


Being asked to review a May ball as a teetotaller did worry me slightly. After listening to the intercom reports coming in from my neighbour’s room regarding the transferral of yet another batch of booze, a worry did emerge that I was going to be a very lonely boat of sobriety adrift in a sea of totally gazeboed people. But as the sun rose quietly over the college grounds in the early hours of Thursday morning, it was hard not to have been impressed by the party put on by the committee team. While many people were quite happily snoozing on tables or collapsed on garden lawns, for even the most sober person The Moonlight Masquerade had been a well run and highly entertaining event that was well worth the entrance fee.

I entered the May ball at just past nine due to a combination of keen queuing and active pushing to ensure that I was pretty near the front. First impressions on the decoration front were good. The already pretty college grounds were illuminated with shimmering lights, a projection was cast onto the Wren Chapel with the gardens taking on a mystical feel through well deployed smoke machines. Admittedly, there wasn’t an enormous amount of decoration around the college but the grounds provided an excellent canvas that didn’t require an over the top transformation and the careful considered approach worked well. The ice sculpture at the front of the college was an excellent spectacle until increased meltage caused it to fall under the power of head porter John Spelzini in the name of public safety, but on the whole the decorations worked well.

On the food and drink side, there was considerable choice to contend with. A pretty spectacular hog roast and pizza combo in the fellow’s garden was replaced by bacon butties early in the morning, while the Thai Green Curry proved particularly flavoursome, with the clam option less well received. On the sweet side, Fitzbillies provided some disappointment by failing to appear when advertised but made up for it with some tasty morsels, while the champagne marquee that sat opposite remained stocked beyond the survivors photo. A chocolate fountain and beer stocked bar in the Junior Parlour proved popular, while the graduate parlours soft drink bar also provided a welcome respite. The lack of energy drinks around the majority of the grounds did cause difficulty, and a lone complaint was made about the lack of ‘girly drinks’ but the general view was a pretty good effort on the refreshment front all in all. For this reviewer, a coffee, bacon roll and a copy of the times at five in the morning managed to reasonably make my day which perhaps explains why I generally stick to reviewing music.

Speaking of which, the musical entertainment was pretty damn fine. The silent disco in the Senior Parlour was suitably surreal, mixing the general weirdness of a headphone disco and placing it within the context of an antique drawing room. The Great hall hosted a Celidh, numerous dance performances and lessons for those willing to pick something up, while the library dance floor provided numerous top quality DJ sets from Fat Poppadaddy’s, SUAD and an early morning hit fest seeming to culminate in a rousing ‘Don’t look back in anger’ resonating around the grounds. But the real highlights were the acts booked to provide the main meat of the entertainment were impressive. The Antarctic Monkeys were highly entertaining and provided a thoroughly convincing alternative to the real deal, gaining an enthusiastic crowd while Meridian played a stoic last set to only a few stragglers and they provided some sterling Neil Young covers at the end. But Metronomy were the gem in the crown. There had been mutterings amongst some about how high profile a booking they were and whether they’d entertain suitably but they easily demolished the concerns quickly. Engaging stage craft, a highly polished set with some absolute belting sing alongs, they proved that they were well worth sticking around for. As the video in this review will show, they were excellent crowd pleasers and crowned a frankly excellent music line up, with acoustic acts in the chill out zone providing some welcome relief from the fury.



As for the remaining entertainment, it fitted nicely in with the remainder of the programme to provide lengthy distractions. The obligatory bungee run and bouncy castle were joined by an immense set of swings, the Casino in the old library was brilliantly run and felt like it should become a permanent college fixture and the laser quest on the Red Buildings lawn was popular and great fun. On the flipside, the chill out tent suffered from a few dud comedic performances, the wandering entertainment never really materialised fully and the Halo games in the Grad Parlour felt a tad baffling at times but the overall opinion was that entertainment was always to be found with plenty of time to relax but plenty of occupations to keep things going. Boredom didn’t really feel like a issue and though many things shut at 4, the doughnuts and butties provided more than enough entertainment and the chilled winding down seemed to suit the ball perfectly.

I know that it might just seem like a bit of shameless self college promotion on my behalf, but it was in all honesty a bloody good party. The £100 entrance fee was well worth it, even for someone who wasn’t aiming to drink their ticket back in the form of champagne, and even as I sit here bleary eyed typing for my cruel Tab Masters I still feel happy to do so because this ball deserves some solid praise. The problems I had with the ball were the small niggles I’ve mentioned throughout the review, with the general conclusion that the music, atmosphere and entertainment were a superb advertisement for what a May ball can be like. 

Metronomy – Heartbreaker Live at Pembroke Ball