Nicole Entin reviews Down To Funk's most ambitious event to-date.
The stormy clouds brewing over St Andrews cleared just in time for the sunset to illuminate the misty grounds of Earlshall Castle, where Down To Funk was hosting one of their most ambitious events to date. Castle Sounds was promoted by its organisers as ‘an evening filled with food, drink, and high-quality audio-visual production’, featuring local Scottish acts including former St Andrews student and Wax Collective founder NEB and Edinburgh DJ trio Cooked.
The unique venue of Castle Sounds was what first caught my eye when we stepped off the buses that transported us to Leuchars. As the attendees trekked down a country road in their club night and festival finest, we turned a corner to see a forested path laden with garlands of fairy lights hanging from the trees. The marquee was set up so that its entrance faced the picturesque exterior of Earlshall Castle, built in the sixteenth century by a member of Clan Bruce who fought in the Battle of Flodden. On this day, however, the only fierce fighting was for a place in the queue to the Shawarma Grill food truck.
According to Jack Sellors, one of the organisers of the event, Earlshall Castle was chosen for its beautiful scenery and backdrop that would add to the atmosphere of the evening. As the sun set over the marquee, attendees took Insta-worthy shots with the castle in the golden hour light as their background, putting Castle Sounds in hot contention for the award of Best Event Photo-Op. In comparison to bigger venues where you’re likely to lose your friends for two hours if you look the wrong way, the Castle Sounds marquee was the perfect size. The event space itself was easy to navigate, featuring several seating areas that included one with plush couches and another with heating, and two bars that were never overly busy.
Castle Sounds appeared to be highly anticipated by its music-and-night-out-loving attendees. The people with whom I spoke were particularly intrigued by its location, going beyond the St Andrews Bubble and even outside of usual venues including Kinkell Byre and Falside Mill – although some did expect the event to take place in Earlshall Castle itself. I was surprised by the amount of first and second year students in attendance, and chatted with a group of freshers who were hanging out by the couches. One of them told me that a friend of theirs who had already been at the university for a while recommended Down To Funk’s events as a must-attend, and she was intrigued to see whether Castle Sounds would live up to the hype.
The quality of the music won me over to Castle Sounds, keeping up a consistent standard from its warm-up acts to its headliners. Rather than standard Union fare or club nights dominated by EDM, the DJs blended disco, soul, and hip hop favourites with deep cuts and bass-heavy beats. The DTF team chose an undoubtedly excellent pair of main acts. Sellors personally praised NEB’s wide range of song selections, which spanned everything from house to Afrobeat, and the crowd-pleasing electronic remixes courtesy of Cooked. I only wished that the crowd engaged more with the dance floor, taking a while to warm up and occupying a corner of the marquee which – being on the smaller side – should have had no trouble feeling busy.
Overall, Down To Funk hit several high notes with their first event outside of St Andrews. The unique venue and excellent DJs kept attendees entertained over the course of the evening, spinning tracks against the truly spectacular backdrop of Earlshall Castle. I eagerly look forward to seeing what exciting concept DTF has in store to follow Castle Sounds.
Photo: Nicole Entin