Words: Karl Johnson | Photos: Jack Menzies
It’s 15 minutes until doors open at Hackney Church and pools of people are strewn across the garden grounds awaiting the early set of black midi’s back-to-back shows in support of ‘Cavalcade’, their sophomore album on Rough Trade Records. Vocalist and guitarist Geordie Greep is strolling down the pathway in a beeline to the grand stone pillars of the unusual venue, pockets of fans take turns to lovingly halt his progress – phones are held aloft on record and elbow handshakes are requested – before eventually he sheepishly turns away to enter the venue. He’s camouflaged as someone who’s just left the office, wearing an everyday shirt and tie and long collared coat, Greep seems just as startled by the attention as do the fans by his presence.
“Feel free to stand up and dance but please stay directly in front of your seat” states the announcement just before the band are due on stage. A luxurious idea that just a few people take advantage of. Black midi walk onto the stage dressed in chef whites – Greep completes his look with a bakers hat while bassist Cameron Picton plays the entire show with a dishcloth rested over his shoulder – the band’s playful sense of humour isn’t lost on their fans.
Black midi are bolstered live by saxophonist Kaidi Akinnibi and Seth Evans on keyboard and open their set with an unexpected rendition of the ‘20th Century Fox fanfare’ before tearing through choice cuts from their brand new full-length ‘Cavalcade’. A no-thrills stage set up is all part of the charm, each instrument a vital cog in the well-oiled machine. Where the shifting sands of improvisation starts and the re-structuring of their recorded tracks ends, at this point in the night you can only guess. Black midi thrive while the listener is kept on the edge of their seat, from titanic riffs to painting post-rock landscapes rooted in jazz tensity, the band’s power is in never allowing you to become comfortable.
Sombre organ tones sounding from the church’s first floor balcony lead the midi faithful in and out of the venue in awe of what they’ve witnessed. Black midi’s unstoppable live performances have catapulted them to dizzy heights, November of this year will see the band take on a London’s 10,400 capacity fortress and grade II listed building Alexandra Palace. A feat that only few artists accomplish in their careers, let alone over two albums.