English experimental rock act black midi’s Monday night show at the Fine Line in downtown Minneapolis was the best way to start a week. (Take that, Garfield.) By the end, I stood dazed, my body abuzz after what felt like an hour-long aural epiphany. I couldn’t help but wonder just what music is supposed to be and how it’s supposed to make me feel. black midi are masters at turning musical foundations on their heads, adding discordant melodies and polyrhythms that make it hard to choose a beat to clap along to.
With tracks like “Marlene Dietrich,” it’s clear that the band could make pleasant, arguably perfect-sounding music if they wanted to. But they would often rather spread their wings and have fun with mind-melting manifestos like “Hogwash and Balderdash” from their latest release, Cavalcade. From the looks of Monday night’s show, it’s clear that black midi are having the time of their lives and their fans are more than happy to be along for the ride.
The Fine Line was packed with fans wearing band T-shirts featuring Sunn O))), King Crimson, and Merzbow; all artists that have made conscious efforts to change perceptions of what music should be. black midi’s opener L’Rain did their part in showing the value and beauty of experimental music as well, making sure fans out of the adoring crowd. Singer Taja Creek sang with her mic stand covered in roses and sprayed essential oils around the stage, matching the band’s ethereal sound. L’Rain’s songs took many shapes during their set — some light and rounded, others heavy and jagged. Ultimately, they all had the same effect on the audience: bliss. Many stood still, eyes closed, heads pointing upwards, and feet nearly lifting off the ground during the dreamy synth and vocal segments and cacophonous crescendos alike. L’Rain made a perfect complement to the black midi set that followed.
As a wrestling announcer introduced them as the leanest and meanest band straight out of England, black midi took the stage dressed in a perplexing mix of 1950s door-to-door salesman style business casual, tank tops, and trench coats. They wasted no time going straight into “953,” the bombastic intro to their 2019 debut Schlagenheim. It was a struggle to take photos while being pelted with the knees and elbows of the crowd whipped into a frenzy behind me. I saw a group of moms straddling the barrier in front of me. I prayed for their safety as I joined the maw that took up the entirety of the middle of the floor.
My body twisted and writhed along to drummer Morgan Simpson’s dexterous polyrhythms. I let out a year’s worth of pent-up primal screams to saxophonist Kaidi Akinnibi’s screeching notes during “Chondromalacia Patella.” A person in a lace crop top took the opportunity of a crowd clearing for a mosh pit for some impromptu break dancing, and did a great job. A guy with a Suicidal Tendencies jacket nearly kicked my head in as he crowd surfed. My lungs nearly collapsed during the band’s brutal one-two punch of the heavy-hitting tracks “John L” and “Near DT, MI.” I held my girlfriend’s purse as she ran into the abyss to do her share of moshing during “Slow,” the final song of the night.
I ran a half marathon a month back, and without a doubt surviving a black midi mosh pit was just as difficult. Being swept up into that tornado of souls is an experience that I won’t soon forget. Monday’s show might be the only time in my life that I have an opportunity to mosh to someone shredding a saxophone, and for that, I will be forever grateful.
After the show, I checked in with the three women I had noticed straddling the stage barrier earlier to know see they were there and if they survived. It turned out that Socorro Feliciano, pictured below on the far right, was there to chaperone her daughter and her friend. She said if she had to go, then her sisters had to, too. Their take on the show was mixed, but they all noted both band’s skill and experimental value. One thing they all agreed on, though, was that they were glad to be at the front and not in the pit.
black midi was born of jam sessions, so it’s no surprise that they’re an incredibly tight live band. Half of the songs they performed Monday night are yet to be released, yet they have a clear, polished sheen that can only be achieved through rigorous practice and genuine chemistry. Moments like guitarist and lead vocalist Geordie Greep playfighting with keyboardist Seth Evans and the band’s ear-to-ear smiles and glances toward each other show that they have this in spades. Drummer Morgan Simpson told me that it feels surreal to be back on stage and that Minneapolis was his favorite stop on the tour so far. Greep ended the show by telling the audience, “Until next motherf***ing time, bozos.” With unrequited calls for an encore, it’s clear that this crowd of bozos can’t wait for more from black midi.
black midi Setlist:
Welcome To Hell (unreleased)
The Defense (unreleased)
Faster Amaranta (unreleased)
Near DT, MI
27 Q (unreleased)