Credit Otto Hampden-Woodfall

Review: Black Midi @ Old Fruitmarket

By Otto Hampden-Woodfall

Music Editor Otto Hampden-Woodfall witnesses the formation of a cult in a mosh pit.

It was halfway through an extended jam at the mid-section of their song John L that I realised Black Midi had truly captured something special in the hearts and minds of mullet-clad 20-somethings everywhere. In anticipation of the song’s bruising, angular refrain, a pit had opened up, baying back and forth with tentatively shirtless dudes prancing about, waiting to be swamped when the noise returned. But rather than merely sticking the landing, guitarist/frontman Geordie Greep and keyboardist Seth Evans exchanged in a surreal polyrhythmic duel: bright and etheric chords ping ponging back and forth, rhythmically falling over each other as drummer Morgan Simpson fluttered through his signature fills and flourishes. It kept the pit in a kind of stasis; there was Gangnam Style and mentalist crowd-killing in equal measure, and under bright lights it sort of resembled a cult. We all rushed forward when the return of Cameron Picton’s thunderous bass brought the song back to life, and the noise continued through to a euphoric conclusion. 

It’s this variety of nonchalant madness that Black Midi have twisted into a functioning career at the very heights of the burgeoning UK indie scene. What began as hard-nosed, bullish and angular in 2019’s studio album Schlagenheim is now a finely tuned machine careening through tender balladry (in The Defence) and an array of absurdist characters (in Sugar Tzu) brought to life by hyperactive neo-prog. Their setlist neatly encompasses this high octane progression: there’s enough off-kilter energy in Greep’s musical theatre-meets-David Sylvian vocal delivery to anchor anything the band spits out in a sort of tender weirdness, while Cameron Picton appears frequently at centre stage as a welcome contrast, more straight-laced than his counterpart but capable of emotional resonance, as in setlist highlight Still. When everything culminates in fan favourite 953, the opener from Schlagenheim, it feels less like a closing and more like a symbol of progress: “Look how good we were, and think how we’ve gotten even better”. Besides, its double-time final section provides some great moshing, enough to drag my sweaty body over to the water jugs at the end of the bar, just in time to wave the band goodbye.

The Old Fruitmarket proved an excellent venue for the occasion, its ceiling somewhat resembling a Viking boat and the cavernous floor more than capable of holding the heaving mass of fans, with ample balcony space above for the less eager dad contingent of Black Midi’s listener-base. Openers Dos Monos, too, were excellent, leaping around in a hectic ballet to abrasive, saxophone-driven Japanese hip hop, although the acoustics of the room seemed unfavourable for their style, squashing the transients and turning guitarist Zo Zhit’s squealing noise into more of an ineffectual soup. The energy was still palpable though, and essentially did not let up until a final blast of lockstepped guitar and drums from the main event brought heads and soggy hair swinging to a stop. Black Midi are a live band worth waking up at 9am to guarantee tickets for, worth dashing out of a lecture at 11am to hurriedly remember your Ticketmaster login for, and worth binning off that early tutorial the next day because last night was soooo goooood for, and I sincerely hope they are back in Glasgow soon.


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