Most exciting thing we saw at Latitude Festival 2018? All hail - Black Midi.
With all the potential show-stealing moments happening at this year's Suffolk gathering, some might argue that Latitude Festival 2018 was all about Liam Gallagher's surprise slot in the BBC Music tent, which saw thousands attempt to cram in for a glimpse.
However, for a select few in the know - something else entirely new and unfathomable beamed down from another plane, planet or universe (actually, just Croydon) and mesmerised the crowd. At precisely 15:10, amidst the vibe-y pine forest, surrounds of the Sunrise tent - Black Midi delivered the best live show of the festival, and by the reaction of the dumbstruck audience perhaps the best live show of this year, so far.
"Clever buggers," one fan was overheard reacting as the band drew to a close and marched off the stage with as much intense intent as they entered with, and, that's the thing about Black Midi - they're managing to pull off being post-pretentious as well as post-hardcore, post-jazz and post-rock. Somehow, they've gotten away with the illusion or an unquestionable fact (tbc) that they're an artsy, intellectual experiment rather than just four talented starey-eyed punks making excellent, jarring, Math Rock noise.
It's no accident or small feat that Black Midi has been capturing the imagination of London's most serious muso types since November last year when they first hit the live scene. With an elusive online presence and only one recently recorded, Dan Carey-produced track online 'bmbmbm'
- Black Midi's live show is the only way to witness the band's transcendent magic, especially in the middle of a forest at Latitude 2018.
If the Doors were to emerge from Croydon in 2018, they'd be doing something like this. Inciting the audience to "break on through to the other side" by means of mobile phone played samples amplified through the guitar's six strings. With huge momentary sludges of guitar distortion, interjected by drummer Morgan Simpson playing at a severe angle from the rest of the band with insane ferocity and the bass player Cameron Picton reading a beat-esq poem in the style of Ginsberg, Kerouac or Burroughs. This is still only a fragmental description of the surreal s**t Black Midi do during this show.
Appealingly, the band is armed with a mega-wattage, superstar of a frontman, Geordie Greep. Clad in a black lab overcoat as he fizzes onto the stage, discarding of it before hyperactively pacing around, in possession of a nervous energy which translates into something so crackling and electric during the performance that most of the audience can't take their eyes off him. As Greep faces away from the crowd to deliver his unique and sparse vocal, there's a conflicting fragility and power emanating from him which attests to the gog-eyed audience and is a powerful concoction to behold in this setting.
Captain Beefheart is undoubtedly a touch point for the quartet musically. There's something Trout Mask Replica
about the fusion of so many styles in an abstract and occasionally jarring way. Krautrock's Can also spring to mind in the way Black Midi are without a single theme to hang a song upon and the semi-surreal vocal delivery. They're captivating to watch whilst maintaining an inaccessibility which keeps the audience on the outside - for now. There's something very exciting and unpredictable about Black Midi, it's a potential waiting to be realised and one to be watched unfold.
Photo credit: Jamie MacMillan.