Arcsoc Cabaret

JOE BATES almost forgets the naked ladies of Arcsoc’s Cabaret.

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Arcsoc Cabaret, The Union, Saturday 4th February. £8


Arcsoc has now reached the point where it would have to try pretty hard to put on a bad evening. Not only does it have a huge following and little competition, it also occupies a unique niche in Cambridge’s nightlife. It manages to successfully combine “decadent” and “alternative”, which makes for a consistently top night out.

The thing that is most consistently striking about Arcsoc is its aesthetic. Which is as it should be – these people’s course is essentially a degree in making buildings look nice (I think there’s some ‘making them stay up’ involved as well). The Union is a particularly difficult space to get right; its grandiloquence is the opposite of the kind of cool that Arcsoc seek to foster.

But they did a damn good job – the keys hanging in the entrance were spectacular, the origami cranes were fun and the hanging cardboard cutouts in the chamber were a hell of a lot better than they sound. But the most striking thing was the use of the Union’s Societies Room. They had changed one of the dullest rooms in the building into an Arcadian ‘salle acoustique’ (French, how sophistique), with fake flora and guitar-wielding fauna.

The acoustique sets seemed a fairly eclectic assortment. I caught Jake Alden-Falconer’s plaintive piano ballads, which were a beautiful way to start what ended up as a rather hazy evening. The next time I return I was treated to what seemed to be post-ironic ukele covers, which stretched my taste a little, but were quite fun.

But the dance floor in the main chamber was where the action was really happening. Unfortunately, the DJs started off pretty poor. The lack of transitions and the seemingly minimal mixing meant it sounded a lot more like an iPod shuffle than a real set. Thankfully, around 11.30 things began to kick off. The DJs for the core of the night were pretty impeccable in terms of technique – some of the mixing and transitions were really imaginative. But most importantly, they kept people dancing late into the night.

The only thing that really marred my night was the queuing. To get in, I waited a good fifteen minutes right outside the door. I expected it to be packed when I got in, but it was almost entirely empty – the system was obviously just not working for them. The bar was always thick with people – they really could have done with more bar space. But worst of all was the coats. After paying for coat check, I came to collect to find they’d totally screwed the system. Coats were just strewn about the place with a really arbitrary means of collection. It may sound really petty, but a half hour queue is the last thing I need at the end of a drunken evening.

These logistical failings were perhaps in keeping with the context of the night – drink-addled bohemianism and efficient systematisation are not the most natural of bedfellows. The key to the evening was that everyone was pumped up for it. Everyone I saw was dressed to kill and up for a good time. In fact, I’d say that it was comfortably the best dressed night I’ve been to. With that kind of energy, Cabaret was pretty much a guaranteed success.

P.S. There were topless women on a billiards table. I almost forgot. How remiss. I think it was life drawing, although plenty of people didn’t seem to have a pen in hand.