Gig Review: Under Canvas

On 19th April 2014, Under Canvas promised an eclectic, diverse, and above all, exciting melange of everything we know and love about music. Held in St Andrews' historic and picturesque St Mary's Quad, the once comparably tranquil setting was transformed into an all-singing, all-dancing music venue with a main stage, 650 revellers, 2 bars and additional student radio tents. An intimate setting with a big-festival feel.

On 19th April 2014, Under Canvas promised an eclectic, diverse, and above all, exciting melange of everything we know and love about music. Held in St Andrews’ historic and picturesque St Mary’s Quad, the once comparably tranquil setting was transformed into an all-singing, all-dancing music venue with a main stage, 650 revellers, 2 bars and additional student radio tents. An intimate setting with a big-festival feel.

When judging a product, one must look at its list of ingredients. Ünder Canvas press kit includes “music” in the very first line. With such a focus on music and presentation, the event transports its attendees far away from St Mary’s Quad. With a focus on the spatial construction, the smoking zone, dancefloor, and bar area all offered meaningful transitions from one to the other. The iconic tree in the middle of the main tent does a great job of making the expansive space feel much more intimate. Utilizing these spatial techniques, the committee paradoxically broadened their horizons for music while compacting the open space of their event. Making the event seem busy with such decorative techniques allowed them to attract whoever might attend, but not rely on a high turn-out to guarantee success; the committee clearly recognized the need for spatial buffers to mitigate those crucial turning points where herds of dancers swarm the bars, step outside, etc that otherwise make the event seem to (in that exact moment) be dying down. The subtle decor also produced a positive vibe reminiscent of underground clubs and chic festivals; the drapes on the ceiling, the CDs on the tree (eventually draped around guests), and the STAR + ST.ART tents work together to foster the student creativity of the town in a collaborative masterpiece. Of course, the success of Ünder Canvas can be most readily traced to the event’s taste in music, and their line-up’s progression.

Before patrons even arrive, Maurice Bryson (Head of Production) set the tone for the evening, allowing the crowd direct access into the musical styling of the event’s committee; keeping the playlist relevant as the bands changed over, the music literally never stopped. Lights on the Mountain kicked off the evening with their folk-inspired vibes. Incorporating a variety of instruments such as a mandolin, fiddle, banjo, and a harmonium, the youthful band entertained the crowd with their eclectic instrumentation. Immie and Ellie, the band’s two girls (and sisters), have experience playing events in St Andrews in the past; this familiarity to their crowd shone through with their ability to keep the dance-floor buzzing as a precursor to the very different atmosphere that the night would progress towards. Covering The Band’s “The Weight” was a great decision as the crowd sang along to see the band off before Anushka took to the stage.

While Lights on the Mountain focused on their instrumentation, Anushka intertwined vocals with live production. With Max Wheeler on the decks and Victoria Port on the mic, this dynamic duo brought the energetic house vibes to the dancefloor while Victoria’s crowd interaction kept the mood thriving throughout their set. Performing songs off their new EP “Distorted Air,” the highlight of their set was the song “Kisses;” encouraging the crowd to grab a guy or gal and indulge. Other songs such as “World in A Room” capitalized on Ünder Canvas’ euphoric atmosphere; in that moment, the room did become the world.

Moodroom Collective was up next, and it was an amazing intermission whereby students bridged the transition from the vocal talent to the producer/DJ acts that would end the night. Incorporating all four members of Moodroom’s current line-up (Calum Bryant, Clara Engelhardt, Sarah Fahs, and Theo Borgvin Weiss), each member got a chance to display their technical ability on the decks as well as their own music tastes. The inclusive vision of Moodroom as a DJ “collective” at the very least offers a unique opportunity for multiple students to showcase their artistic interpretations on the night (as opposed to one student monopolizing the favorable student DJ spot in the night’s lineup). The night’s tone also gave them access to a unique music scene which Moodroom has actively vied for their preferred style of music since its creation in 2010: “a night of electronic music focused on the subtleties but doesn’t forget to bring the heat. Call it tech, call it minimal, call it deep, call it what you like, but don’t forget to let it put you in that movin’ mood.”

Smooth turnovers between the DJs kept the arms flailing and knees bent throughout the second half of the night. Ossie’s talent as a DJ shone through despite his role of a producer. This is a dichotomy which demands much overlap in today’s music scene, and when he played Hardrive’s “Deep Inside”, the crowd reciprocated their enthusiasm. A personal favorite, the track highlights his prowess as a music professional; his transitions were seamless, and his set never faltered. The smooth journey again let the crowd forget they were dancing in a small portion of St Mary’s Quad as the hours melted away. This penultimate set kept the crowd active and engaged, something which is difficult to do with such a unique music scene (in St Andrews, despite its pervasive influence worldwide).

As xxxy (triple x-y) prepared to take the reigns, everybody was bopping to the beat, and anticipation gave way to euphoria as the night saw its headliner take over. Occupying the final timeslot, xxxy had the most freedom to take risks – and showcase his abilities as an artist – stepping even further away from the “mainstream” house sounds and more towards his vivacious garage inspired house. The crowd, at this point, had been up and about for anywhere between four to six hours. Maintained by the body heat, lighting, and music, xxxy played for a crowd which had embraced the event’s successful vision of an event with a central focus on musical production.

The night refreshingly catered to a different crowd in the sense that it provided a platform for house variants (“classic” house, tech house, deep house, and vocal house) which suffers from an underwhelming presence within the town’s nightlife. These genres also thrive in the proper environment, which is another reason Ünder Canvas does such a fantastic job of properly presenting these musical styles in an otherwise unfamiliar St Andrean culture. Reiterating the lighting, the decorations, and the activities (ST.ART’s powdered photos; STAR’s popcorn pool) contributed to the theme of alternative creativity. Props to the committee and everyone involved; the event improved on the momentum of last year’s success and certainly continued their trend of providing the small town with a large-scale event that emphasizes music at its core. Overall, the Ünder Canvas committee has joined a minority of people who recognize a compelling formula for musical progression; moving from folk to dance to deep, dark house infused with familiar (to those who appreciate the genre[s]) fan favorites. With Ünder Canvas’ inception only coming to life last year, the committee(s) have continued to showcase their ability to “blend an eclectic mix of music, art and design under one roof, bringing a night of festival inspired revelry to St Andrews.” Only time will tell whether the town accepts their ambitions and allows them to continue their expansions, or if the town rejects their attempts to showcase the artists’ “eclectic” sounds.

Words: Austin Bell

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