Call us cold-hearted, but we weren't sad to see Big Live go. We actually didn't see it go at all; squeezing down Sanlitun Houjie is never an attractive proposition, so we stay the hell out. Traversing it on your way to Sanlitun North is akin to being funnelled into check-out lines at Western supermarkets with a pick your-poison candy wall on one side and stacks of trashy sensationalist tabloid drivel on the other. Add to that the smoke, stink and muck and you wonder why a property there ought to be considered ‘prime real estate,’ despite the heavy foot traffic.
Like sexting a college student, partying on Houjie is the sort of reputation-sullying activity that disqualifies a person from ever seeking political office. But we won’t blame you for checking out MASH, at least if you can handle the cold winter nights. Occupying what was once Big Live, MASH is setting its sights high with a 400-square-metre rooftop that provides much-needed respite from the tumult below; we hurled ourselves upon it like shipwrecked sailors grasping for driftwood.
During our visit it was largely unoccupied and strangely serene. They were bumping ‘Hope’ by Siphiwo Ntshebe, the South African opera tenor who died days before his performance at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. What is this, their ‘bawling your eyes out’ playlist? But one wack track isn't enough to spoil what is otherwise an impressive rooftop, with free-to-play pool and plenty of tables to park yourself for some pub grub.
Do we have to mention the ground level floor? We’ll say this: it exists. It holds up the rooftop. It serves alcohol. On that note, the cocktails (50RMB) we ordered there were a mixed bag: some average, some abysmal. The black Russian in particular was a disgrace to Russia and all things black. Money better spent at Heaven Supermarket, obviously. The multi-tiered stage is the place to be if you want a ragtag bunch of drunks to rub up against you, provided you’re reasonably hygienic – ie not covered in toxic waste. In all seriousness, though, the dance floor, taken together with the run-of the-mill electronica the DJs spin, is still the best of its kind on the street, and proof that MASH can, in fact, work on multiple levels – and not just the second one.