Your Cheapest Whisky and Soda, Please, for Dumb-Fashioned Fun.

If there is a Platonic image in the crumbling caverns of my withered brain about where you should find a music venue, the approach to the Mash House is pretty close to the venerable filth of the ideal. The Mash House is in the Cowgate, one of the only areas in Edinburgh where people don’t sulk too much at the idea of noise and music leaking out and staining up the place. In the drinks cabinet of Edinburgh suburbs, Cowgate is a sticky half-finished bottle of knock-off Sambuca. The Mash House itself is located down an alleyway, past some bins, and just when you’ve been walking a second or two longer than you think it should take and you wonder if there’s nothing there, you climb up some worn stone steps around a corner and half way up on the right there it is. I’m fond of those stone steps the very first time I lay eyes on them, steps that never get cleaned unless it rains, steps that host a tiered garden of shabby smokers just outside the entrance.

Some days Embrah’s music scene feels like a fragile thing, especially when compared with its sibling city, the sprawling and sauntering Glesga. Fuck knows why. Maybe Edinburgh gets too worn to death every year by the festival. Maybe the walls of the city are too old and thin to hold in amplified music safely away from sleeping neighbours, but while I can still arise, I suppose I should try and support what music I can here, and that’s why I’m at the Mash House to see De Staat. As it turns out, they didn’t really need my feeble piss-weak support at all.

Inside, there isn’t much remarkable about the barroom of the Mash House, although they do have Famous Grouse on for me, which is bloody thoughtful of them. The gig room out the back looks like a community dance hall in a fading ski resort. Also, it’s bad fucking luck for me, but there is nowhere for a wreck like myself to sit. I’ve had a good run. Going face down into my first pair of whisky sodas back in the lounging section of the bar, I consider staying where I am, sitting in sight of the double doors that lead into the venue. From here most of the noise gets through, and whenever somebody comes or goes, I can see glimpses of the stage through the gap of the swinging doors. Unfortunately, this perch is also right by the line of women waiting to get into the toilets, and there’s a distinct top note aroma of dirty piss in the air. No, I have creaked through the soggy Sunday night of Edinburgh to come here and support the general idea of live music, and by Satan’s steaming balls, that’s what I was going to get up and do.

De Staat are a wild-eyed band of Dutch werewolves, or as they would pronounce it, weerwolves, each of them with a different level of grooming – the drummer, naturally, the most long-haired, through to various levels of shagginess for the other members, while the frontman is a thinning cartoon wolf in a natty suit. He does comedy uncle dances from the elbows, and the crowd fucking love every moment of it. There is a warning about strobe lighting on the printouts around the Mash House, and they were not bullshitting around. De Staat uses strips of strobe lights that are like KITT and some Cylons getting off their tits on pills and raving out. After around five seconds of the performance, all I can see is glowing thumbprints in front of my broken eyes. De Staat’s accompanying music is a bass-heavy growling breed of europop, a strolling bouncy ridiculousness with a slight snarl. The wooden floorboards of the room vibrate on the beat, and then the crowd start pistoning up and down and the timbers feel like they are going to shiver apart.

Grouse and leaning against the wall at the back of the room keep me going for about two and half songs before my bones start to fail. I couldn’t get any further forward anyway. The room is packed and pushed right towards the stage, with none of that coyness you get with some audiences too shy to get close to the band. Thank fuck one of the bar staff had deserted his post to watch some of the gig – as soon as he decided his stool is too rickety to stand on, I collapse right in there with the swooping grace of a broken-winged eagle falling out of the sky.

‘Would you perhaps like to dance with me a little bit?” offers the front weerwolf to the entire audience, who are definitely up for it. A tiny young lady in a backpack keeps leaping into the air like a salmon, clapping as high as she can and never quite hitting the beat, carving up the low air with finger dancing and all the lyrics. Another gal and a pished guy are grinding about the place, and the fella is dangerously close to giving me an accidental lap dance. It’s the first time I’ve seen a proper lunatic moving crowd in the stone city, and while my physical days are long gone, it warms my guts to see a whole room of people lose their minds and fling themselves all over the fucking place.

De Staat do one of the songs off their new album ‘Bubblegum’ – a track called ‘Pikachu’. I don’t get it at all. The song is low intoned repetitions, like a demented kid’s tune.
Here are some of the lyrics:

‘I’m at the bus stop
Outside the club
I’m in the bathroom
In bed at night

Everyone in this room is having a fine fucking time, expect for my knees, which are gently burning. Worse than the burning is that I am the sort of cockunt who has to think about his knees at all. Nobody else here is thinking about their shitty knees. They’re up and down because De Staat are playing the big single ‘Kitty-Kitty’, which is probably about a wee-coloured president, but I’m not sure how much the music cares about that, as it lopes and jerks, with a big swooping epic Vangelis-style synth bit in the middle that washes across the crowd like religious ecstasy. The roof is throbbing. The crowd want nothing else but the build up and aching release of noise.

As the band leaves the stage, thinweer reminds everybody: ‘Don’t forget to have fun’. The crowd walks with a bright sheen on their faces, carrying their fun lightly inside themselves. Outside, the stone streets shine wet and I try not to slip. A passing prick in a white car speeds leisurely through a muddy puddle and splashes the lingering fun right the fuck out of me.

Total Number of Whisky and Sodas: A sober drop at four.
Hangover: Twinging aches brought on by spiritual rising damp.

De Staat:

-Larry Dives

back in that hole

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