Your Cheapest Whisky and Soda, Please, To Pop Back

The memory goes. My mind has seen better days, probably, I don’t remember, but anyway, my brain is a slovenly murky floating slush, so I have to write everything down. It’s been so long since I’ve taken my pen out at a gig to write on paper that the pen had an anxiety attack and spewed ink everywhere, horrified that it was suddenly out in the open air again after being comfortable in the cosy dark for so long. I feel much the same. This was my first time outside to see a band since the lock-up, when the plague of the times meant that feebly sickly individuals like yours truly were shut safely away. Ah, the sweet merciful quiet of those times. But one day I opened my eyes and realised with a sigh that I was still here, and that I should probably go outside and see if the world was still there too. The whole idea gave me the angst, right in the kidneys, because I’m not sure that I remember how to walk amongst the living and look them in their faces, but there I was somehow, shuffling reluctantly through the drizzling rain in the dark and worrying about my lungs.

That night I was drawn back into the city by unknown forces towards the back-alley entrance of the Voodoo Rooms, and up several pinched staircases of finery. All of Edinburgh is one narrow twisted thing built prettily on top of another. It makes the city look impressive, but none of it is much good for modern purposes. If anyone was more disabled in the legs than me, for instance, getting up into the Voodoo Room(s) would be a tough undertaking.

At the end of the stairs, the Voodoo Room looks like it was shoved into the cramped building to be a posh person’s bijou little ballroom back in fancy dancing times, somewhere you would bring your refined friends for a good solid evening of minuets or some spicy waltzes. There’s a lovely dome sculpted up inside the room where you would normally put a ceiling rose or a chandelier or some sort of intricate decoration. Instead, now there’s a fat disco ball lazily turning around in the dome, sprinkling little flecks of glittery light along the decorative ridges that ring the ceiling and flickering across the dark painted walls. To remind you that nothing in Edinburgh is designed to be used by living humans, one side of the Voodoo Room is roped off to make a slim awkward corridor so that waiters can carry plates of burgers and chips to other deep winding hidden nooks of the building.

The bar is a sort of sitting room off to one side of the main Voodoo Room, and presumably it was where the thirsty minueters of olden times would pop out to have a refreshing beverage before getting back stuck back into appreciating the shit-hot chamber quartet touring town. There are no optics behind the bar, only bottles laid out on classy old wooden shelves. The refreshmenting room is small enough that despite the older crowd showing their mature restraint on a Friday night, when everyone else has decided to get a drink the line is so long that you need another drink just to tide you over until you reach the bartop. I cleverly wait until the crowd is occupied with listening to the support band’s support band to nip in, and when I ask the young lady for the cheapest offering of the Room(s), she uncertainly offers me Monkey Shoulder or Jameson. My fear of monkeys and my past history with Jameson leads me to go for a pour of the sweet Irish stuff. I haven’t had a Jameson for a decade, but there was a time when it was a regular visitor when long ago friends were around, and the stuff would keep us going until much too late and loud in the evening. That was a time when a third of a bottle of Jameson was an affordable dessert for me, but fuck me if it’s cheap now though. Nothing is cheap anymore. In this economic climate it’s time to start only half boiling your cups of tea and switching to eating that cheap shitty bread that is completely devoid of nutrition, and if you are at home shivering from the cold, all you can do is get yourself another jumper and throw it on the fire.

While I’m running into that old Jameson friend I haven’t seen in years, I miss all but the last song or two of support support band V.C.O. Later, when I am confused about where the smattering of young people in the venue came from to see Bis, a band that formed in 1994, my sluggish brain eventually works out that they young ones are mostly members of the first support band. But fuck me if I don’t catch sight of a print-out of the next support band and if it isn’t those boys all called Michael from Slime City. I swear I had no idea they were going to be here. It’s possible they are stalking me, but honestly I’m always happy to see them, like you’re always cheered up to see your favourite bedraggled group of stray pups. The talking Michael from Slime City continues to have well-worked patter between songs, when other bands rely on shite cliches. Well done as always, Slime City. If I had room at home, I’d adopt the lot of you scamps. In fact, let’s hear it for the support bands, the eternal second-placers. I’m for those who are never quite successful, because it’s easy to go on when you headline life. The support bands of the world play songs nobody knows to confused crowds, and they don’t chuck it in despite that. There’s a noble artistic heroism in being unimportant but still doing your thing anyway in the face of the crashing waves of the ocean of indifference.

Bis (or bis? They don’t care much for capitalisation) of Glasgow, Scotland might be headlining this cosy Voodoo Room, but it becomes clear that they know their days of mass popularity were a long time ago. I expect the three of them to be old and exhausted, but ach, there’s such a brash nineties optimistic pop enthusiasm about them even now. They do ‘Kandy Pop’ and ‘Starbright Boy’, and the best of their music, new and old, still sounds youthful. Now, wistful nostalgia is mostly bullshit because the world has always been terrible, just in different ways, and you sometimes get confused because you hate your life and miss being young, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit there is something lovely about being able to bask in the upbeatness of Bis. Medically, I have naturally low levels of positivity in my bloodstream, so it does me good to sometimes feel the flickering warmth of joy. I don’t know where the band produce the energy from.

The nineties were a long time ago. I remember some of it. It isn’t the nineties now, but there’s such an undying ring of youth here. Manda Rin bounces around behind the keyboards in pigtails like a personification of nineties youth, while I can hardly stand up. ‘This is Fake DIY’ delights the crowd because they get to shout out ‘Raygun! Raygun!’. The centre Bis guy mentions afterwards that he actually hates that song because he feels like that was the end of the career of the band. The band hasn’t gone on unbroken since they first formed, but here they are alive again in the Voodoo Room, and I have to assume that’s because they want to be here. A new song – ‘Shopping for Tattoos’ is brought out live for the first time ever before our very eyes. Bis haven’t given up.

They do Eurodisco towards the end, and a greying crowd having left their kids at home for the night forget their age for a while and fucking love it. Bis have given a little group a shot of joyous youthful time, a little connection back to when your worries were simpler, when you were exploding with unlimited energy and incandescent with sunlight, when you didn’t know how stupid you were, but it didn’t matter, back when you were just excited about things without wariness, and didn’t fracture several times a week. Which is to say, there’s good in seeing a glimpse of something shiny and fun from another time. Thanks for that, Bis from Glasgow, Scotland. You’re so disco.

Total Number of Whiskey Sodas: Four. Cuts are being made everywhere in these harsh economic times.
Hangover: All-body stiffness, balanced by the sweet gift of the deep black sleep of exhaustion.


Slime City:

-Larry Dives

back in that hole

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