Black Midi at The Workman’s Club on January 31st 2019
There’s a huge amount of hype around fledgling Selhurst outliers Black Midi, with an old-fashioned word-of-mouth hurricane having swept firstly around South London and eventually throughout the UK and across the Irish Sea to The Workman’s Club. Black Midi have the blessings of indie darlings such as Shame, who christened them as being “disturbingly brilliant”.
The quartet arrived in Ireland with the announcement that Rough Trade had won the similarly old-fashioned record label scrum to sign the quartet – their only release to date, a 12” vinyl, selling hand over fist at the merch table as people realised it would soon become a possible collector’s item.
It was unsurprising then that the likes of Girl Band, Feather Beds and Myles Manley were amongst a musician-heavy audience of inquisitive souls from the kookier side of Irish music circles assembled to see what all the fuss across the water is about. After all, all we have to go on ahead of tonight’s performance is some poor-quality YouTube clips and a smattering of tunes on SoundCloud. For all and sundry, this was very much a step into the unknown.
The unenviable task of killing time between doors and the main event fell to Jerskin Fendrix. He takes to the stage in his socks for his one man and a laptop show, which, let’s face it, isn’t much of a visual feast but Fendrix overcomes this with his dry, self-deprecating brand of humour, with much of his material pulling on the raw kitchen sink threads a young pre-fame Jarvis Cocker once did. With the audience geared up for a blitzkrieg, the quiet riot of Jerskin Fendrix inner monologue seemed a bit brisk by comparison but tracks such as Swamp are unexpectedly captivating, with Fendrix throwing every sinew of his being into the delivery.
The first thing you realise when you see Black Midi in the flesh is just how young they look. Lead singer Geordie Greep looks like he’s borrowed his father’s trousers.
They take their cues from a number of musical avenues: Primus; Jeff Buckley; Talking Heads; Ought; Deerhoof, and the Thin White Duke. Indeed, Geordie Greep’s voice at times resembles that of Les Claypool on helium – his Rubik’s Cube, non-linear, stream of consciousness style lyrics the perfect indistinguishable foil to the constantly pulsating and evolving swell and retreat of noise the band creates. Bassist Cameron Picton nestles in the Workman’s Club stage curtains for much of the show, the price tag still visible on his Rickenbacker. His vocal offering a more traditional respite from the manic nature of Greeps.
One of the most impressive things about Black Midi is just how tight they are. Their arrangements, while not overly complicated, have progressed passed the traditional verse, chorus, middle 8 landscape into a space where anything goes, as long as they enjoy it and even though each has a defined role within, it is very much a sum of the parts creating something bigger than any of them could possibly offer on their own.
Having studied at the Brit School, perhaps nobody should be surprised at their musical proficiency. Instead the most impressive thing is their ability to create something beyond the norm, not out of any arrogant sense of elitism but out of pure love and desire to create a musical space for themselves. And with tracks such as Ducter, bmbmbm, you can see that they have a great basis to build upon.
However, because they are still very much a band in their infancy, much of the material on offer tonight probably won’t be in their sets in a year or so. For all Black Midi have going for them, the scariest thing is that, right now, in terms of their development and their potential, they are nothing more than Bambis finding their feet. And that should worry every other left-field band.