Celebrating 30 Years of Rock at St Andrews
When thinking of a ‘bustling Rock scene’ you’d struggle to think of St Andrews, but I am here to change your mind.
On February 4th St Andrews will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Rock music Society at the university. The celebration is set to be a big one, marking this milestone will be one of the largest gigs at the university with student bands Downstem and Verbatim set to hit the 601 stage headlined by the society’s alumni band Best Of the Old Bastards (affectionately B.O.O.B.s). This society while having remained rather niche has withstood the test of time. So, what is Rock Soc?
Growing up listening to rock, going to gigs and dreaming of rock stardom I’ve always been eager to have a community of people with whom to share this passion, and it seems the founding members of Rock Soc had these same thoughts 32 years ago. While the international stage was electrified by grunge in the early 90s, the St Andrews scene remained quiet. Rock was out. As the first Vice-President of the society Graeme Hunt explains “Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana would clear the dancefloor [...] you'd have a hard time getting Queen played”. So, a small group of friends took it upon themselves to form a society which would be their own but welcome all: Rock Soc.
The society, founded by Yvonne Probert, had a hard time getting started, with virtually no funds and no rock scene to speak of. Now it's 1991, the rockers secure the Fraser Suite with a corridor outside turned into a makeshift dance floor, relying wholly on hand-drawn posters photocopied at the Union and the word of mouth to gather a crowd. “In St Andrews in the early-mid 90s Rock soc was the rock scene” recalls Hunt. The very first event manages to gather a crowd creating a heavy “party atmosphere”, this event would cement Rock Soc within the university to this day.
By 2010 the society had amassed a solid following. But despite the popularity of emo in the 2010s, the consensus was still that “in St Andrews [the scene was] non-existent, except at Rock Soc”. The society gathered at the Union to dance and sing along to Evanescence and Linkin Park but most importantly they did it for the sense of community. A 2010 member Alice Marinina recalls she “felt most at home and at ease there” surrounded by people who shared more than just their taste in music.
St Andrews in 2023 is a long shot away from being the hotspot for rock, but from the sounds of it we’ve come a long way. With two of our rock bands performing at the anniversary and few more around the campus, there is certainly a promising future for rock at St Andrews.
Rock Soc alumni all emphasise the importance of community, an atmosphere of camaraderie between self-proclaimed outcasts and a sense of fun, albeit at times rowdy, family. Integral to its ethos is inclusion, emos, metalheads, Beatlemaniacs, dad rock fanatics and those just curious have been warmly welcomed for over thirty years. Delayed by two years due to Covid the long-awaited celebration is well on its way, once again opening Rock Soc’s doors to all.
Image: The First RockSoc Poster by Hal Bonella