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I’ve Got The Blues ‘Cause You Rock My World

A glimpse into Thursday night at the Union with JazzWorks and RockSoc

From Oasis vs. Blur to The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones, musical rivalries have gone down in history for turning passionate fans pugnacious. St Andrews, more specifically the Union, plays host to a lesser-known duel: Jazz Night vs. RockSoc, both of which it hosts every Thursday night. While many observe Main Bar’s jam session, VK in hand, as its musicians cycle through a spontaneous list of standards and more obscure tunes, rock aficionados upstairs in Beacon Bar bond over a love of another often overlooked genre. Though some may hop between the two areas, many attendees plant their feet solely in one. What’s more, in fact, the relationship between the two is much less of a rivalry than one might think.

Jazz Night provides jazz musicians in town, whether students or not, the chance to play in an authentic jam setting regardless of ability. The result is playful and often impressively polished-sounding sessions segueing almost seamlessly between tracks and players. It’s no surprise that the music draws scores of knowledgeable fans and less clued-up supporters alike to watch. Having, when the spirit (usually rum) took me, tried my hand at rehashing any remaining saxophone improv skills from Big Band at school here, I was immediately inclined towards this Main Bar jam. Led by President Leon Tasch, who says that while it ‘used to be hardcore jazz cats ripping tunes’, it has become more accessible over time. He notes that what’s special about jazz night is that it’s St Andrews’ only opportunity to hear music generated ‘in real-time. Even tonight there are new (and old) players.’

Conversely, I had in the past been intimidated by the idea of RockSoc: I felt that my classic London girl Ed Hardy x tank top combo wasn’t quite cohesive with members’ much cooler black band shirts, coloured hair, tattoos and eyeliner. I prefer romanticising my beach walks listening to Muna rather than Megadeth. However, attending changed my tune: RockSoc is actually a very welcoming space and has humble origins, originating as a meeting between music-loving friends in 1991. This week’s event was a collaboration with Saints LGBT+, a ‘Drag Club Night’, its energy audible far from Beacon. While RockSoc’s committee itself declined to comment, attendees seemed thrilled with the event. The Beacon setting provided five drag queens with the perfect stage for fabulosity. Even Avril Lavigne was not off limits for the musical accompaniment. However, I was alerted to the fact that for RockSoc, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing in recent times, having been relocated from their prime location in Sandy’s. As Amber Richardson, a faithful member, explained, RockSoc now “no longer receive(s) the foot traffic from jazz as they have been moved up to Beacon Bar. I personally started going to RockSoc because it was conveniently located. I found the society so inviting that I’ve kept attending in my second year.” It seems sad that its inaccessibility is keeping potential members from discovering a welcoming musical community but judging by the enthusiastic crowds for its drag event, it was, on this occasion, a great success.

So, while Jazz Night can offer spontaneous improv, it certainly can’t compete with RockSoc on drag magnificence. However, if you prefer a more hands-on experience, JazzWorks rule OK. It was emphasised to me during my time at both that there was really no animosity between the two - what really became clear to me was that both groups thrive on a passion for underappreciated genres, as noted by Leon. Though it might seem difficult to break into these musical niches, RockSoc and JazzWorks certainly prove that this is just a misconception and both provide truly fun nights out. So, in my opinion, both are equally worthy Thursday night activities, maybe it’s time for me to face the music…

Illustration: Ruby Pitman

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