Review: Churchill Springball Music

CHRIS BANNON mingles with the acts that made the Springball. And the one’s who didn’t.

Blueprint Churchill hard day's night Jaguarsk skills spring ball springball the rumble strips

On Friday about 800 students bored of supervision work and general Cambridge monotony flocked to our ugliest college (sorry guys but it is) pretending that May Week had come early.  With an astounding 15,000 units of alcohol on offer (that’s an equivalent of three bottles of wine per person a Mathmo tells me) many probably won’t remember much of the ball.  Some musical performances did happen though. The Rumble Strips returned to Cambridge for a fourth year in a row to headline the main stage with Radio One’s very own ninja Jaguar Skills backing them up.

For most the night began in the dining hall, re-named Carnaby Street, where the university's band Ella-Funks were creating a fantastic party atmosphere, pouring out soulful renditions of well known songs including Outkast’s Hey Ya.  Guests were abandoning their paper dishes to dance to the tunes, possibly leaving the band slightly to blame for many a sorehead on Saturday morning.

Kentish town indie band Hipsters Fix opened up the main stage and impressed.  With their well spoken lead singer Patrick, they charmed the crowd and may well be looking at performing higher up the bill at balls in the future.  They were by far the most banterous in interview out of all the bands, describing our hallowed university as “overrated”, citing The Pixies as their main influence and pouring scorn on NME’s tip for the year The Drums: “fucking shit.”  Seriously though these guys were a right laugh and even had a few drinks with me at the end of the evening.  And they didn’t even rip me once. Legends.

Kingston foursome rock band Tellison were far below the Hipsters' standard though.  Their sound was an, ahem, unbeatable, combo of rock, pop and emo which never goes down well.  That said however, with one member from Kings and another from Cambridge, these guys know their Oxbridge and their May Balls, and they were well excited to be staying for the rest of it.  They engaged well with the crowd, but really none of their songs were particularly memorable.  Bog standard emo ordinaire.

But most importantly how were the headliners?  The Rumble Strips attracted the biggest crowd of the night and with a refreshing set with Charlie Waller’s dramatic vocals and the soulful Dirty Pretty Things-esque horns of Henry Clark and Tom Gorbutt.  Shame the crowd was rubbish.  The right hand side saw some dancing but the rest of the crowd might as well have been statues.  This to a degree was a fault of the band – I mean they aren’t that well known, and the majority of the crowd didn’t know their songs.  They didn’t announce their songs and didn’t talk to the crowd.  With songs as good as Daniel, London and Girls and Boys in Love however, they should have been better received.  Lead singer Charlie probably wasn't too impressed by a TCS interviewer and his frankly embarrassing questions: "Is a new album in the works?". They played new songs in the set, perhaps a hint….

Following three friendly interviews they had to be one dick of the night – stand up and take a bow Jaguar Skills!  Following a frankly average set which at the start had DJ skills comparable to a jaguar, he refused to answer any questions requesting that I email him instead.  Maybe I’m bitter – I can to an extent understand his frustration.  Following sound check problems at the start and a crowd invasion onto the stage (at least the crowd were keener for this set) he probably did want to make a sharp exit.  Despite the ball’s program predicting, “record breaking mash-up and more sampling than a swap at the Mahal,”  there was very little re-mixing until late in his set – I know it might be Churchill and not Kokos in London but that’s no excuse for not trying. At least he overran the set, just as it was starting to come together and the crowd responded.  He’s likely to re-appear in May Week – let’s hope his set then matches the form of the last half hour.

Blueprint's billing as "Cambridge's premier boyband" who would "reduce girls and guys to screaming Sixties groupie wrecks" might have overstated the male contingent in the euphoric group who flocked to see them, but the screaming was on the money. One particularly avid fan, who claims to have waited 2 hours after their ADC show last year in order to speak to "the one who winked at me after Back For Good", said it had "made her year". It probably didn't make mine, but Churchill's Springball seemed to have something for everyone.