Heading into The Observatory, I was
hesitant to break my personal no contact rule with the boyish black midi fans that had previously been easy to avoid. I felt like a skeptical pastor Bob Larson entering a Slayer concert, eyes wide and cross in hand, ready to have the air knocked out of me the second I entered the pit. But melodrama aside, seeing black midi live was as close to life changing as any concert has been for me.
Whether one was there to maul about in the pit or to experience black midi’s music the way it’s meant to be heard, the reactions between the two groups was indistinguishable; we head banged, moved however possible. The pit, only a burden to the security guards, was dedicated to a level of disruption that would never dare to agitate the highly held performers. Black midi, as much as they are unserious and bizarre, proved their prestige with this concert.
My friend and I, after some careful evaluation, stationed ourselves in the middle of the venue where, we would not know until after the show, would give us the shittiest possible photos. But being the coward that I am, I refused to do some shoving and pushing into the pit where I knew my geriatric 20 year old bones wouldn't stand a chance. Shows like these beg you to imagine yourself as a middle aged man, few of which I saw at the show, sitting quietly outside black midi’s main demographic, watching with some cynicism as teenage boys carelessly pummel each other to music that you still love, but maybe not as much as them. If a violent physical reaction can be any indication to how much one enjoys music then I was amongst fervid zealots.
Completely unfazed and with little introduction, opener Anysia Kim, only accompanied by her guitar and a semi defective drum machine, gave a raw performance. In her 30 minute set she produced some truly hypnotic glitch hop tracks that sometimes felt like watching a young Massive Attack. An audience that I expected to lose interest in an artist so laid back responded graciously when technical difficulties began to overrun Kim’s set.
The speakers that failed Anysia Kim, doubled over and died with black midi’s explosive drums and frenzied guitar riffs. The ill fated audio quality couldn't subdue the entire performance, where the sound system failed, the band overcompensated.
An hour and a half of brutal, technical prog rock should be kinda overwhelming but the spryness of the performance keeps you on your toes. There was never a moment where drummer Morgan Simpson wasn't just murdering every expectation I had for his performance, which I knew would be great but the punchiness and rigor in person is just otherworldly. Black midi’s strengths that are obvious on their recordings glow in person; the fantastical, witty lyrics, loved as they are, take a back seat to the standout that is their insane instrumental ability. As much as I was looking forward to seeing my favorite songs live, I was almost glad when songs like “Welcome to Hell '' and “Of Shlagenheim '' were cut down in favor of long winded instrumental improvisations.
From the opener to the last sacred seconds, black midi concerts divide the tireless fans from lesser men. Looking from the pit to the surrounding fans, there was a quiet divide between us, those playing chopsticks in the pit and the onlookers who understandably grew tired of music so carnal that they gradually without disturbing anyone, stopped moving, clapping, and without any bitterness, resigned themselves to the performance. This left room for me, the guy next to me discreetly doing coke, and the remaining fans to celebrate. Without sounding too priggish, I'm being honest when I say black midi’s tour isn't for everyone; but if you can withstand and maybe even be enamored by 10 minute guitar solos between loose interpretations of our beloved songs, then you and I will find ourselves in the same boat.