Review: Jesus May Ball

Paul Norris 19 June 2018

Once past its lengthy queue, this ball made an excellent first impression: guests collected Prosecco, poured from bottles opened with a sword, then walked around Chapel Court to the entrance. As a ball venue, Jesus has the considerable advantage of being absolutely massive, and the walk round this court was the perfect way to introduce the epic scale of the evening. Past the curtain which divided the chapel court from the main May Ball the first music I heard was from the Jesus College Big Band, featuring superb, throaty vocals from a Cam Harris who was clearly enjoying himself.

Headliners Scouting for Girls and Fuse OTG were both awful but some people seemed to enjoy them (in the former especially there was barely room to move). The silent disco was nearly empty early in the night, but by 3am so packed there was a prohibitively long queue to get in. Throughout the ball it was hampered by poor mixing and track selection: songs would just fade out for another one to fade in, and late in the night songs were repeated. When talented people like Will Shanks and the ArcSoc DJs are on the decks one suspects that they were forced to compromise by the difficulties of mixing three channels at once. The musical highlight for me were KOG & The Zongo Brigade who played on the main stage at midnight. Their genre-defying, high-energy set quickly filled the pavilion with dancing.

With a college site this big (even though many courts weren’t used at all), it was easy to lose people, and there could have been a danger of missing out on an act or food because it was hard to find. This danger was ingeniously averted with a Jesus May Ball app, a concept which seemed ridiculous before I got to the ball but quickly made sense once inside.

In case you were wondering, the main reason this review is so detailed is that the food was universally excellent so I prioritised eating over drinking, to the extent that (to paraphrase David Foster Wallace) I understood the logic behind the Roman vomitorium. I tried everything, often several times. I won’t linger on the details, but needless to say it was very good, the only possible complaints being that most of it ran out by about 2am, vegan options were lacking, and some portion sizes (such as from Sticks and Sushi) were minute. Drinks were also fantastic and varied, although later in the night the only alcohol available was simpler fare, mostly spirits and mixers.

The carnival rides looked fun but for reasons not entirely unrelated to the content of the preceding paragraph I did not risk trying them myself. I didn’t spend much time in the comedy tents but heard good things from those who did, although seeing a student comic perform to a near-catatonic audience at 3.30am was one of the most depressing things I have ever seen (it wasn’t entirely his fault: he had one great line about sex and dentistry costing about the same which got no response).

My only remaining complaints will make me sound like a grumpy septuagenarian, but I will make them anyway: there wasn’t much going on inside (I didn’t really see the point of the casino area) and so I got cold being outside the whole time; the main stage tent was too small and got really crowded; the queues for the toilets were long; the survivors photo took ages and I nearly left. None of these things significantly detracted from my enjoyment of an evening which evoked that cocktail of euphoria, nausea, awe, guilt and exhaustion which is unique to a top-notch May Ball.