By Jake Paterson, Co-Deputy Music Editor
Since their emergence from the Windmill scene in Brixton, black midi have become synonymous for ruthless and absurd experimentation and a frenzied live show. As much prog rock as they are post-punk, their style is ever changing and their output intense – it’s impossible to attend a black midi show without hearing at least one track that’s never been put out before.
Having caught them near the release of their latest record Hellfire at PRYZM in Kingston, my first live taste of the band, having listened to them for upwards of three years after becoming entranced by their debut Schlagenheim, was this strange mix of jubilation and ravenous intensity. A 90 minute set spanning their entire discography and covers of ‘Happy Birthday’ and ‘Mamma Mia’ it was clear that despite their unwavering talent and ability, they know how to have fun and not take themselves too seriously either.
The band have already covered ‘O Christmas Tree’ in Manchester for this UK tour and walking on to ‘The Combine Harvester’ for this show was testament to their insanity - the hazy mass of troubled twenty-something white boys belting it back with oomph.
Being the first time I was over the front of the barrier with a photo pass, opening track ‘953’ hit with an unwavering adrenaline pulsing through me. Having been in perpetual motion in the crowd when I last heard this song live, the stillness and calm of being on the other side was somewhat shocking.
Rolling into another cut from Schlaghenheim ‘Speedway’, and then lead single from Hellfire ‘Welcome to Hell’ we were deep within the chaos within the space of a few minutes. Frontman Geordie Greep had to tell the crowd to “be quiet” snappily after a period of incessant ‘GREEP’ chants as if it were idolatry religious incantation. He came off as skittish but deeply collected and in control – dripped out in a blazer, shirt and reading glasses for the majority of the set.
The frenzy ensued over ‘Lumps’, and even the acoustic guitar led ‘Still’ had the crowd in ecstatic motion. At times this led to genuinely worrying levels of being crushed through the sheer number of bodies throwing themselves forwards. Guitarist Cameron (‘The Machine’ as Greep would dub him at the end of the set) asked everyone to take a step back and take care of each other as a result and leading into ‘Eat Men Eat’ did little to make a headway in the ravenous desire to partake in the unfolding action at the front. It was part primal instinct and part utter jubilation.
After joining a conga line during ‘Sugar/Tzu’, another nod to the absurdity of the whole night, a “F*** Ed Sheeran” chant ensued after calls for the band to play their infamous diss-track ‘Ded Sheeran’. Greep responded by saying “I’m not saying I disagree … but I find that rather distasteful”. Framing the night as “all about love” instead, the cathartic release of the show was brought back down into a unity to get lost in the crowd and the chaos unfolding on stage.
This was exacerbated by Calvacade cuts ‘Chrondromalacia Patella’ and the irresistible ‘John L’, the latter having an absurdist guitar refrain that somehow the crowd can sing along to as if it were an indie rock hook. Now devoured by blood, sweat and most likely tears, the crowd smelled awful – as if the sensory sensations weren’t enough already.
Closing with the delicate new song ‘Magician’, with some of Greep’s finest storytelling and worldbuilding to date, we then clattered into ‘Slow’. With the overhead lights now on, Greep took the opportunity to thank everyone involved in every aspect of the show from the lighting to stage design as if he were accepting an award for best live band in the UK.
They’d certainly deserve it. “Play that song Crazy Eyes”, he called out to the sound guy at the back, dusting off his jacket and putting his glasses back on having barely seemed to have broken into a sweat. As the song – a classical and polite track – finally came on, everyone looked around to find their friends in disbelief at the show they’d witnessed.
I doubt I’ll ever see the heat or intensity that black midi delivered hit the floor at SWX ever again.
Featured Image: Jake Paterson
Have you seen black midi live?