This post was originally posted on primzreviewseverything.com
Exclaim! stated on the cover of their Summer 2019 issue that black midi is “making rock exciting again” and their performance at Lee’s Palace last night was a perfect attestation of that statement.
I kept hearing a lot of buzz about this band surrounding the release of their two singles that were released in March and April of 2019 respectively (“Crow’s Perch” and “Talking Heads”). However, when their debut album Schlagenheim came out this past June, I was instantly hooked. Listening to it the first time on a TTC subway ride into the city from the suburbs, I was enthralled by the crazy transitions of banjos to distorted and noisy guitars. I felt energized by the unison of the bass of Cameron Picton and the drums of Morgan Simpson to carry a song like “953” to the point where I wanted to jump out of my seat and drop kick the group of University of Toronto frat boys trying to do push-ups on the subway upper handrails in front of me. black midi is such an exciting, interesting band because of their ability to merge so many styles. The post-rock dissonant guitars and the spoken word verses by Picton in a song like “Speedway” remind me of Swans, while the tuned down, heavy bass with almost out of tune amp effects on the song “Of Schlagenheim” remind me a lot of Daughters (which I saw in March at Lee’s Palace, which is turning into Lee’s House O’ Noise, it seems). The ranting vocal stylings of Geordie Greep are steeped in the similar stylings of Primus’ Les Claypool. The banjo and country elements of a song like “Western”…I dunno? Rockabilly? This band is wild.
Their concert was no different. After teasing us from the infamous Lee’s Palace green room window by acting like they were going to jump out of it (Greep even brandished an umbrella to break his hypothetical fall) black midi hit the stage and without a word spoken, they launched into their noisy math-rock style hit “Near DT, MI”. As Picton screamed about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, the crowd immediately launched into a mosh pit and screamed along with him. A powerful song to begin the set with, black midi on this track remark on the almost unbelievable situation of a large, manufacturing-based city in the industrial capital of the world having poison in their drinking water by stating “I’M DRAINED BY THE WATER, ARE YOU LOSING YOUR MIND”. A mentally draining, ludicrous scenario that band and crowd united in declaring.
They continued their set and we jumped around to cuts off Schlagenheim like “Years Ago” and “Speedway” as well as “Talking Heads” and a lot of extended jamming that the crowd gladly ate up. Greep and Picton remained focus (besides many Elvis-style finger gun points from Greep) while guitarist Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin whipped and swung his guitar around, jerked around sporadically and even threw himself on the ground. He reminded me a lot of Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead.
They ended their set with “953” which made me crash into the people of the mosh pit extra hard with visions of faux-exercising TTC commuters on my mind. This was followed by one of the wackiest songs in the black midi discography (and that’s saying a lot when your band has a song about leaving someone in a ditch and a new song about going to 7-11 and then being hit by a truck) “bmbmbm” in which Greep maniacally repeats the phrase “SHE MOVES WITH A PURPOSE” over and over again. In the live version we witnessed, he even added in some French vocals. Perhaps he was preparing for their show in Montreal the following evening. Here is a low quality video I took on my cell phone from the pit.
I gotta do it, I gotta make this comparison…
Also, it always amazes me that such a seemingly niche band can draw such large numbers. You’d think they’ve maybe only reached the ears of a few internet dwellers here and there, spread out from all across the world. Nevertheless, Lee’s was completely sold out with happy fans excited to see black midi’s first show in Toronto. God bless the internet for uniting all of us weirdos, I guess. Poignant Scott Pilgrim panel to follow.
I really enjoyed this show. My only criticism is that the jamming evolved into a bit of excessive noodling, taking up precious moments of their set time where the crowd could have been treated to more songs. Also no “Reggae”, which is perhaps my favourite song of theirs.
TOP 3 SONGS PLAYED: “bmbmbm”, “Near DT MI”, “953”
UNEXPECTED SONG: “Talking Heads” (Thought they’d do “Crow’s Nest” instead of this one)