Since I first heard about UK quartet Black Midi earlier this year, it has been a pretty wild ride trying to figure them out. During the first few times listening to their debut record Schlagenheim, my verdict was constantly flip-flopping somewhere along the spectrum between creative genius and aimless noise, but at some point, it made sense, and I was immersed, hooked. It’s clear on arriving at Fouf’s for their first visit to Montreal that I’m not the only one; the place is absolutely packed, and the anticipation is palpable.
Its always entertaining at a show when the opener is absolutely nothing like the headliner, and that’s definitely the case tonight, as Brooklyn-based Houston native Fat Tony kicks the evening off with slick hip-hop beats. It’s a pretty diverse set though, as he takes various detours from rapping over heavy beats to sampling electronica icons like Devo and Le Tigre and even spitting rhymes unaccompanied at one point. A complete departure from the Black Midi sound, but a well-received one.
The place is dimly lit and filled with smoke by the time Black Midi arrive on stage, and they waste no time in raising the decibel levels to max with a huge wall of noise of blazing drums, synths, and guitars. Near DT, MI marks a frantic start to proceedings, though the next chunk of the set sees the Schlagenheim record get cannibalised before our very eyes and ears, with regular songs chopped up and mixed in with prolonged seemingly improv jam sessions led by the incredible drums of Morgan Simpson (unless they are new songs I just don’t know yet; with no setlist fixed to the stage, its impossible to know for sure…). Guitarists Geordie Greep and Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin duel guitar notes discordantly over Cameron Picton’s wandering bass, before accelerating into an extended face-off between the two guitars, which suddenly cuts to the monotone strum of Speedway. A few thrashes and jam-outs later, and the furious, ironically titled Reggae arrives.
With that, the Schlagenheim record begins to take shape once more. Matt’s grating riffs merge into the comparatively delicate, spooky intro of Ducter, though the respite is brief, as things build quickly to the colossal breakdown as Geordie bellows “HE COULD NOT BREAK ME!!!” A circle pit and crowd-surfers seemingly arrive out of nowhere to make the floor resonate even more than it already was. The song devolves into another breakdown before returning for the calamitous outro. Album opener 953 is thunderously sludgy before the show wraps up with bmbmbm (pronounced “boom boom boom”), which is unsurprisingly sung completely differently to the version on the record, with Geordie throwing freestyled Yeah’s, No’s, and Woah’s into the already bizarre lyrics.
Crowd chants of “one more song!” fall on deaf ears, as there is no encore, though everyone sticks around for a further 5 or 10 minutes just in case. It’s a breathless 50 minutes, and an unforgettable introduction to the Black Midi live experience. Here’s hoping it’s the first of many of those in our city!
Review & photos – Simon WilliamsShare this :