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Down(stem) and out

Downstem x St Sizzle

Rising precariously from the beach and framed by the distant glow of ships on the horizon, Saint Sizzle acted as host to a celebration of student music. The ground-floor venue, set a few metres from the ebbing waves, flickered with aquatic green light as Raincheck, the first band of the night, took to the stage. 


The Downstem x Saint Sizzle gig on 23 March marked the end of Downstem’s musical journey. As their last official event, they were joined by fellow giants on the St Andrews music scene, Raincheck, The Herons, and a special guest band from Edinburgh, Woody and The Dogs. 


Brought in by the rhythm of the waves, Raincheck kicked things off with a brave, if improvised performance. Operating a skeleton crew, with only two of their members present, lead singer Emily and guitarist Paul nonetheless opened the night well. 


However, the event truly began with the entry of the next band: The Herons, who, though relatively new to the music scene, brought along a sizable following. Playing a mixture of covers and their own music, The Herons gave considerable energy to their performance, soon matched by the crowd as the band quickly became hidden behind a wall of bodies and bobbing heads. 


With a short technical interval, several students took the opportunity to drift upstairs, lured by the smell of delicious (and affordable) food. 


Next were Woody and The Dogs. Previewing their new single, the band brought fresh music that seriously raised the bar and re-energised the crowd. “There was an audible difference between a band that plays music for fun and one that does it professionally,” one student noted.


Finally, as Woody and The Dogs bowed out, Downstem stepped up to the stage. As they announced this was to be their last gig, a wave of anguished cries swept the crowd. In their short time at St Andrews, the band had gathered a considerable following, playing at numerous high-profile gigs, including the coveted Battle of the Bands, and additionally releasing music on Spotify. Throughout their performance, the band displayed their usual technical proficiency, however, it was the vocals of lead singer Mona that were a particular standout. 

At one point, displaying their ability to play a wide range of music, Downstem turned to a slower, more romantic song. As the crowd leaned in closer, some seemed a little put off by the change in programme: “Eww, emotions”, an anonymous voice said from somewhere in the back. 

Of course, no last performance would be complete without drama and towards the end guitarist Noo demanded a mosh pit, which almost ended in disaster when one of the security guards was caught up in the middle. 


As the event came to a close and people drifted off into the night, I turned to gauge the opinions of those who had turned out to watch. “I’ll remember the small touches,” one student said, “like how they drew smiley faces on your hands.”

Photo: Beau Thomas

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