Summerfest 2017: A Hint of Campus Culture

Michael Zacharatos

Often jokingly denounced for encouraging the myth that UTS has any semblance of a social life, Summerfest is one of the university’s two annual social festivals hosted by the UTS non-profit organisation, ActivateUTS. It provides what you’d hope to get from any major university party: impressive local lineups dispersed across a variety of stages, a decent selection of bars, and an atmosphere that only the avidity of first year students can inspire. ActivateUTS kindly provided Vertigo with some very serious looking media passes to report on the event.

However, our first impressions were peculiar.

Like the opening scenes of a dystopic teenage fiction, characters stood outside the barred fence on the Broadway footpath, reaching in to their friends. Outside, because there was an austere 9:30 lockout policy. While there was plenty of signage, and mild investigation reveals a single post made on the event (though not attached to the event’s description) explaining that entry was only permissible between 6:00 and 9:30, many students (including us) missed the memo.

Maybe it’s reasonable to expect adults to arrive within a 210-minute timeframe, or maybe it’s short-sighted, seeing as most uni students are economically-savvy enough to destroy their livers in the privacy of their homes before dropping money on drinks at a bar. Maybe it’s reasonable for ActivateUTS to not want to staff the door all night. It’s certainly not a unique university policy, and I was too buzzed from my own pre-drinking to dwell on it, instead just glad we’d cut into line at 9:28.

As we, the last granted entry, shuffled through, a member of staff lamented that there ought to have been more entrances and exits. If I were a better reporter I might have interviewed her: Would there be more next year? Had there been an incident earlier? Could more access points have allowed those already cut-off a later entry? But I didn’t, because I was buzzed.

Unsurprisingly, it was crowded; tickets had sold out on all releases. The venues retained the sense of being filled and bustling with large audiences enjoying entrancing acts until sometime after midnight, at which point those who were left migrated towards the mosh pit in the Underground.

Since the evening saw Vertigo erratically hopping between venues with little method, I’ll recount the various stages.

 

The Underground

It was with slow, calculated steps that I descended into the dark depths of the Underground. I’ve been to too many awkward trivia nights, heard accounts of too many failed ‘balls’, and seen too many science students gearing up for lab coat pub-crawls to be anything but apprehensive

The Underground just seems to have both a lot and nothing wrong with it all at once. High ceilings create the illusion of a great, vacuous space that needs filling, but any crowd is always invariably squashed by the narrow stage and dividing walls. The redeeming feature, being the armchair-cave-chillout area, was taped off. Not unreasonable — there’s a long list of things that could go wrong in there.

Tonight it was teeming with people, by far the busiest and most ‘festive’ of the venues. A well-regulated line stretched back from the bar to the opposite wall, the dance floor had spilled across the main foyer, and the performers were receiving positive, shrieking responses from the crowd. A definite highlight was when, clad in the signature helmets and robotic getup, ‘Discovery – Australia’s Daft Punk Tribute Show’, regaled the room with authentic covers from their inspirers.

It’s probably the most I’ve ever enjoyed the Underground, which might not sound like a compliment, but it is.

 

The in-between

Outside the plastic strip doorway from the lower Underground led to a populated clearing. This was a sensible place for a bar as it was a crossroad between the three venues, though with only two people staffing at any given time it was here you’d find the most tedious queues.

Designed as a hangout area, there was no music other than what could be heard from the Underground. Plastic chairs had been set up, and people could also sit on the low alley walls. This was a recuperation zone, a place for students to rally themselves — a purgatory to loiter about while planning where to go next.

Here gave the only opportunity for some semblance of journalism.

One student complained about the interior decorating. Green plastic felt had been laid to cover the sloping alley floor. She said that it was ugly, and that her heels kept getting snagging in the fabric. I said it was likely prettier than what lay below, though wearing Vans I had no way to corroborate her second misgiving. Our interview ended there.

“They should hand out diapers, or build more toilets,” said another student, having endured an extensive bathroom line.

The ‘in-between’ was a pleasant addition to break up the stages; though it was often the site where fatal night-out ending conversations could be overhead:

“We still got ten minutes to get into Scubar if we want.”

“Yeah. Or — like, we could just get a kebab.”

 

The Laneway

The Laneway is that seedy alleyway you might walk down when attempting to get from Haymarket to the Loft in as few steps as possible. ActivateUTS did an impressive job dolling it up into a silent disco.

Three stages littered the alley, each shimmering a colour corresponding with the available headphone channels: red, blue and green. Silent discos are fun additions to events since they encourage dance floor socialising. You see someone on a different colour boogying out, they make eye contact and point insistently at their headphone; their colour. You make the switch, and now have a transient friendship.

The narrow, dingy alley almost replicated the vibe of the funky, urban clubbing scene of Berlin. Almost, if not for the hulking presence of the Tower looming above, and the start of semester just around the corner.

The Laneway was a hit while it lasted, closing off near 1:00 as the last crowds dried up. Unconfirmed reports suggest Vertigo may or may not have been the reason they couldn’t pack up 15 minutes earlier.

 

The Loft

There’s not a whole lot to say about the Loft; it almost always works, and Summerfest was no different.

Taking advantage of one of the few scraps of greenery at UTS, students could enjoy drinking in the leafy courtyard around the fairy light wrapped tree. Away from the chaos of the bar, people were free to enjoy the acts without worry of beer being slopped all over them.

And good acts they were. Standouts were Thandi Pheonix, whose dance/electro mixture had the dance floor of the Loft just as fervent as that of the Underground. Later, and undeservingly with a thinner crowd, Winterbourne charmed the room with their languid and mesmerising indie folk renditions.

The combination of killer acts, and the liberty of choosing whether to lounge upstairs or mingle in the courtyard meant the Loft was for many a festival favourite.

 

Conclusion

The crowd’s makeup at Summerfest is mostly first year students, ensuring the fourth year Vertigo reporters felt properly ancient. That said, with the right company the event should cater to almost anyone; the atmosphere is one of (perhaps naïve) anticipation and excitement, and there’s enough variety in the acts that some are bound to be appealing.

You’ll likely also notice high attendance from international students; a melody of different languages blend together beneath a single roof, everyone united by drinks and music.

For $20 to $35, depending on when tickets are purchased and whether or not you’re a UTS student, you’re not doing yourself a disservice by giving future iterations of the event a shot.

Vertigo will likely try and scrounge up tickets for Winterfest, generally held at the beginning of the Spring trimester, so long as we can remember to hop in line by 9:30.