Entering the Grand Gallery of the National Museum of Scotland from below through 2011’s vaulted entrance, one is stuck by the grand old space’s verticality. For the latest Museum Late, Monkey Business, the effect is heightened – if you will – by the exhibitions of aerialism that bookend the night. Accompanying the primate exhibits that run until 23 April under the same name, the performance of aerial monkeying around strikes the right opening tone.
Fanning out from the Grand Gallery, lectures, performances, and activities on the theme of the night fill the old building’s spaces. Young academics Dr Emily Messer and Dr Eoin O’Sullivan successfully engage the audience in the auditorium and make learning about primates fun, even if Eoin’s detours into economic theory mark him out as a primate psychologist. Upstairs, an event space offers a taste of primate food and the coming source of food security and protein in the form of creepy crawly cakes. Your reviewer happily tolerates a crunchy sprinkling of meal worms to get through to a deliciously dense brownie from Patisserie Maxine – and with a chaser of Edinburgh’s own Barney’s Beer from one of the bars dotted around the ground floor, they actually go down surprisingly well!
As the foregoing attests, there’s a real range of amusements on display for this Museum Late event, including a dress-up monkey house selfie station that continues the definitional destruction of the word selfie, a silent disco, and craft tables. We miss signing up for the immensely popular grownup facepainting, partly due to the night’s only grumble – that a number of the semi-official looking folks dotted around the exhibit spaces aren’t really that familiar with the night’s particular offerings.
But the attendees are all in good humour and enjoying a different sort of Friday night. The upbeat music from the Fresh Air DJs contributes to the feel-good atmosphere. I do worry, though, whether the acoustics of long, thin, and tall Grand Gallery will present the night’s bands in the best light.
I needn’t have worried. In their slot in the first half of the night, The Vegan Leather present a set of energetic pop powered by disco beats that suits the cheery crowd well. Then, as the night begins to draw to a close, the gallery fills in anticipation of a set from WHITE. WHITE take a different approach, filling the unusual space with crushingly catchy post-punk guitars and the big, irresistible voice that emerges from diminutive singer Leo Condie. Insistent disco resistance anthem Step Up gets the crowd moving, and it’s encouraging that hearing new track Sweat may be the highlight of an enjoyable night.
Then, all too soon, WHITE leave the stage to begin thinking about their upcoming European tour. As the night begins to wind down, we’re left to reflect on an eclectic, entertaining, and – Damn, did we accidentally get educated? – educational evening.
Photos courtesy of Ruth Armstrong.