29th January | Rough Trade
For a band in its infancy, to sell out a venue like Rough Trade is an achievement that even established bands seek to emulate. Adding the fact that both Black Midi, managed by Rough Trade, and their support Jerskin Fendrix have released little to no material, with information about them hard to come by, made this event even more intriguing. Having limited knowledge of the artist’s musical style, but hearing about their ‘must-see’ shows through word of mouth just added to the anticipation of the evening ahead.
The minimal stage at Rough Trade lends itself to an experience in the blackened room where its easy to focus solely on the music itself. Opening for Midi, Fendrix meandered onto the stage, keeping mute. As he rigged up his laptop, the set developed into a succession of backing tracks running through the PA. It was from here on that it became glaringly apparent that the impending night would be far from ordinary.
Fendrix possessed a bellowing delivery, as he rambled through monologues of disgust at modern-day conformity. He was an enigma, where his demeanour of self-assured madness whilst mocking conventions welcomed you to his bizarre musings. From squealing in autotune in a fit of rage, to his off-kilter presence being highlighted when only addressing the audience with his back to them, the lyrics of unfettered chaos were underpinned by industrial distortion with tight electro beats. It’s here where Fendrix’s niche lies, in that his humorous yet unique works can ultimately be enjoyed through well-constructed music.
Following this solo act of hit-or-miss acceptance, Black Midi’s intro came with a booming, 90s house track. Like Fendrix, using tongue-in-cheek features, the four-piece kicked off with lashings of intricate math rock. Immediately, it became apparent that the quartet possessed advanced musicianship skills, as the set progressively ventured into intense territory. From dipping into indie-psych to propelling their sound with bluesy rhythm sections, Midi intertwined core structures which resulted in a hybrid of erupting genres.
The performance was largely led by George Greep’s menacing vocals; he had many qualities which made him commanding yet coy. Throughout the set, tracks became trio-fronted, where Greep’s David Bowie-like richness would be injected with spitting punk anarchy and Americana monologues.
Their work is theatrical. Black Midi can embellish on their predominant post-rock thrashings with ease. They are polished, whilst their live exploration and improvisation is climatic and overwhelming. Ordinarily, Brit School alumni who have produced this level of attention would have a mammoth campaign to accompany them, but not Midi.
Whilst spending time in their presence, it became clear that they aim to produce thought-provoking works that leave you contemplating how we receive music. As clichéd as it sounds, now is the time to get to a Black Midi show as they are going to have an evolving journey of longevity. With this gig aligning with Independent Venue Week, Black Midi embody how thrilling live music can be, proving that, already, they are one of the best live bands around.
Listen to ‘bmbmbm’ here:
Featured image by Holly Whitaker (www.holly-whitaker.com)