I am a staunch defender of this beloved and upstanding institution. In the interests of transparency and self-laceration, I will regretfully have to declare that I have been known to represent one of St Andrews music collectives (of which we don’t have nearly enough) and will declare such information with the appropriate disdain. It is worth noting that, like all things pertaining to St Andrews nightlife, the Vic is so dire that it’s endearing. One’s expectations are so low they’re practically subterranean, yet in those unfathomable depths there is charm to be found.
A night at the Vic is bound to be eventful. It is chaos incarnate. Entry cannot be dissimilar to a form of katabasis. If one has the patience to stand, inevitably freezing, in a queue that fans out as far as the squinted (and therefore stabilizing) eye can see, one will become privy to an anthropological extravaganza. For there are several demographics who frequent such an establishment, all worthy of inspection. The first species of study is the supercilious servant of someone, whose job it is to verify tickets. There is an unmistakeable air of superiority in everything they do, of that you can have no doubt. Flanking this individual and ensuring their protection from the baying crowds are the bouncers. Lobster fisherman by day, these gentle giants or short-tempered short-arses are a true enigma. They are either particularly irascible or surprisingly charming. Regardless of their temperament, these sentinels made their bones on the High Seas, they preside over the masses unfazed, remaining unruffled by birds of every feather. They are known, however, to miss those more brazen members of the student body, inebriated, stupid or desperate enough to hurl themselves into the smoking area from the heavens, an exploit which is allowed likely as a form of Social Darwinism. This extreme sport is tremendously amusing to witness and whilst I, nor The Saint, encourage or condone such behaviour, watching a friend or foe navigate the precipitous drop into the promised land is unprecedented in its entertainment factor.
So, by hook, crook or climbing gear the Vic has, at this point, been infiltrated. If you time it well, entry into the bowels of the venue will mean you are greeted with a cavorting mass of daylight dilettantes turned marauding miscreants. A wall of sound will hit you, as might the odd flaying arm. Seeking succour from such a racket you might take refuge in the smoking area, a sensible suggestion on the surface but no solution will be found. Rather than the yawp of the music, you will hear the mawkish cries of those intoxicated, aggravated by the incessant nattering of the garrulous St Andrews socialites. Not to mention the threat of being crushed by a falling philosopher or careering chemist. Having tried it on with one of several woeful Chalamet lookalikes found about the town and nodding awkwardly at everyone with whom you’ve ever eloped, it’s time for a drink. You head to a besieged bar, someone is chewing your ear off or vice versa, neither of you have any idea what is being said. You chuckle out of awkwardness and make your escape. Well-handled.
Time to visit the bathroom, if you’re a lady, you’ll spend the rest of the night in a queue bonding with fellow bachelorettes. As a gent, the queue will not be such an issue, however, you will have to splash through a fair amount of urine to perform any ablutions or ingest any evening enhancers. In my most recent expedition à la Vic, I was quite stunned to see a toilet attendant of sorts. He was a man of few words but of many perfumes, staked out in the bathroom. Whilst his selection of scents for sale may not have been a profitable venture, his fragrances fought the prevailing pissy aroma. It is these pioneering and progressive plays that differentiate between the Vic and its few contemporaries.
In spite of the peculiarities of such a spot, I have to praise the Vic extensively. Tickets rarely exceed a tenner and even then, most of the events hosted have a charitable element. The thrill of evading imperious bouncers and subverting socialites cannot be underestimated. The drinks aren’t too expensive, and the staff are generally very personable. Compared to its cousins in the town, there really is no competition. Madras is a creche, the union is the union and after that there’s very little worth mentioning.
Albeit coronated by a lack of competition, the Vic is king.
Illustration: Sarah Knight