As the Darlingside quartet take to a dimly lit stage, the Mash House audience, which has filled the entirety of the concert room, cheer excitedly in anticipation of an atmospheric evening. This atmosphere is immediately created as the Massachusetts-based ensemble collects their instruments and begins to sing. From the very first song of the gig, Auyon, David, Harris, and Don, crowd themselves around a single standing microphone to perform their tightly bound four-part harmonies. This creative decision not only succeeds in blending the group’s voices so effortlessly, but also creates a uniquely intimate performance. The four are intensely united with one another on stage, which translates into the sense of intimacy shared with their audience.
If for nothing else, it is worth going to see Darlingside for their impeccable musicianship. Each band member changes instrument multiple times throughout the set, most swapping between three during the performance, whilst singing in some capacity on every song. Just when this mastery over multiple instruments becomes normalised, Auyon Mukharji, places his rather large mandolin onto his shoulder, picks up his bow, and proceeds to play the instrument as a violin. Providing no comment for this somewhat strange technique, for the next song he is again strumming it as normal.
Throughout, there is an enjoyable contrast between slow and fast songs. Just when the band is in danger of sounding too ‘same-y’ with their extensive repertoire of slow, lyrical ballads, they play an upbeat, energetic song, which awakens the audience and gets the crowd moving. Although their performance is entirely simplistic, with little in the way of production, the foursome manage to create a lively and vibrant atmosphere. At points, Auyon plays his instrument in a way one can only describe as ‘shredding the violin’. If it weren’t for their perfectly tuned folky harmonies, one could mistake the stage for some hard-core rock concert, if hard-core rock concerts included delicate violins and folky harmonies.
The crowd is excitable and loud, frequently shouting and whooping during some of the band’s more up-tempo tunes. Not inclined to remain quiet themselves, there is a fair amount of conversation between the band and the audience. The group tells us about their experience in Scotland, tonight having been their fourth time in Scotland, but their first in Edinburgh. They each take it in turns to tell us something they have learnt during their day in the city, resulting in some crude banter, which is thoroughly appreciated by the, by now, rowdy crowd.
The band proceed to tell us that they are now going to play an ‘end of the earth’ section, giving us some political context to the songs that follow. There is a clear frustration in the lyrics, a frustration born out of the current political climate of their home country, the USA. For their last few songs, the four band members bring on support act, Hannah Reid, to join them. She plays the violin in accompaniment and is very well received by both the band themselves and the audience.
It is easy to judge a band on the atmosphere they are able to create and Darlingside clearly demonstrate their skills as beautiful storytellers, capable of creating both a calming and dynamic atmosphere. At the end of their set, the many shouts for an encore are proof enough of the audience’s appreciation, and they will be thoroughly welcomed back to Edinburgh when their next UK tour approaches.