black midi at the Sinclair, 10/18

In the days after covering Black Midi at the Sinclair, I’ve talked to several people who’ve asked “How was the show?” More often than not I’ve been at a loss for words, and answered with silence and a wave of the hand, indicating that I simply can’t describe it. The following is an attempt to do just that:

Muscling my way to the front, the crowd filled in quickly behind me, buzzing with anticipatory energy as L’Rain took the stage to open the show. Filling the air with a mist of essential oils, the layered upon layered tracks and sprinklings of looped laughter formed a totally ethereal experience in a sweaty, bro-y, mosh-happy crowd. Regardless of whether you’ve never listened to L’Rain before, or if you’ve already listened to 2017’s self-titled album and 2021’s “Fatigue” from cover-to-cover, you have to hear this group live. ‘Spellbinding’ is probably the most appropriate term for the experience, as the incantation and construction of track after track seemed to lift up the music out of the air itself as a part of some cosmic tapestry. 

With a final cloud of essential oils, L’Rain exited and the Sinclair filled with tension again. After a delightfully overblown boxing-match style introduction, Black Midi swaggered on the stage in an array of dress akin to a Tufts’ Crafts House costume party. Geordie Greep arrived in a trench coat, dress shoes, wraparound sunglasses, and Harvard baseball cap – something like a cross between American Psycho and a soccer dad. Kaidi Akinnibi on the saxophone wailed from behind a gold masquerade mask and an all-black getup reminiscent of the Princess Bride,  complete with a prop sword. Drummer Morgan Simpson set up his drums as the crowd called out “Morgan! You’re a beast!” “You’re the shit, man!” With focused precision and the speed of a madman, sweaty drumsticks flew as Simpson beat the hell out of song after song, the kind of music that you can’t help but feel. I had the honor myself of having a cymbal fall straight onto my shoulder, although I quickly spirited away as soon as it hit me. 

Right out of the gate, Black Midi hit hard with “953”, and over the course of the set sprinkled in a good mix of the old and the new, the hyperactive and the more mellow (as mellow as they can be— as for the audience, once the mosh started it didn’t stop). More recent singles like “Chondromalacia Patella”, “Slow (Loud)”, and “Cruising” found their place in the white-hot reception of the crowd’s excitement. “John L”, a personal favorite off of the band’s 2021 release Cavalcade built and built until it seemed to extend into eternity.

As silly as it sounds, having been to a fair few shows in the post-vaccine world, Black Midi puts on a truly moving show. Maybe it’s just my shot eardrums but the action, the sweat, the sounds; everything came together in such a harmoniously un-harmonious way that it brought the experience of live music down to the barest essentials of being. Don’t just sit there and read about it – if you ever get the chance to catch a live gig, Black Midi (and L’Rain!) are unforgettable. 

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