live review:

black midi @ the marble factory 

Eve Rosenberg

Probably the most exciting, albeit unlikely, band to emerge from London’s ever-progressing music scene. Anyone who has seen black midi perform live will understand why they are one of the most hyped bands of the moment.

 

The band has surpassed being championed by the indie press and die-hard music fans, reaching a cult-like status. They draw a massive audience, easily selling out the huge capacity venue. Everyone is there: Radio 6 Dads to teens in streetwear all in hope of the same experience. 

 

The pre-show wait is lit with a red and blue haze, whilst a soundtrack of neo-classical, orchestral music plays. After much anticipation, the once four-piece takes to stage but with a change of line-up. In absence of lead guitarist Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin, they are joined by a saxophone and keys player. 

 

The band opens with what seems to be new material, steering slightly away from Schlagenheim’s guitar-based noise rock and taking on a jazzier sound. Frontman Geordie Greep is roadman-chic in his Adidas track jacket and freshly shaven head. He disrupts the instrumental piece with unintelligible vocals and horror-movie shrieks.

 

The hour-long set sees the band in deep exploration of their new elements. It is almost impossible to tell what is written, unreleased material and what is a journey down a wild, extended path of improvisation. Their sound is ever-evolving and hard to pin down. With nods to 90s math rock such as Don Cabellero and Polvo but also with technicalities and great musicianship that is not far from the likes of King Crimson. 

 

Crowd pleasers like ‘953’ have tinnies flying and circle pits forming. The riotous crowd truly reflect the chaotic, immersive sound that they deliver. Even during the more laid-back country guitar intro of ‘Western', the crowd is still insistently moshing.

 

What sets black midi out from other guitar-based contemporaries is the sheer talent of drummer Morgan Simpson. He is accordingly positioned side of stage, as he is not the sort of drummer to be tucked away at the back just ‘keeping time’. Throughout the set the constant precision yet uniqueness and creativity of his playing somehow gives a sense of order to the chaos; complex yet with a straight enough groove for the crowd to dance to. It would almost take the focal point if it wasn’t for Greep’s bizarre vocal delivery.

 

The show ends with mixed opinions as many are left waiting for fan favourites such as ‘bmbmbm’ and ‘Talking Heads’. This is no shock though as black midi are a band who set out to constantly defy our expectations, both sonically and within their live performance too. 

All photos courtesy of David Fearn (@shitshowdave), taken at black midi's LA gig in 2019.

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© Helicon Magazine 2019

University of Bristol