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If I had to pick just one…I think it would be The Royale. It’s one of those venues that has an entry that you can easily just drive right past, a cozy intimate feel that still has room to breathe, and it was the stage for an exhilarating and boundary-pushing performance by the enigmatic British collective, Black MIDI.

Before their set however, opening act PIERI had the daunting task of getting the crowd warmed up – a task she did effortlessly. Packed with so much energy, a BOOMING bass that shook the floor, and an overall energy that you couldn’t help but dance to. The way she bounced from stage left to stage right while the backing tracks were played live on stage was truly captivating, and although this was my first encounter with her, I’d be quite surprised if it was my last.

But then…it was time. As the lights went down, and they were introduced to the stage by an announcer who had to have been straight out of the WWE, Black MIDI emerged, launching into their set with a burst of raw energy. From the first moments of the opening track, the crowd was moshing in the pit like at a hardcore show. While it will come as no surprise to the people that known and listen to Black MIDI already, the setlist was a carefully curated journey through their unconventional catalog, blending elements of post-punk, math rock, and avant-garde experimentalism with a hint of jazz.

The band effortlessly navigated complex time signatures, intricate arrangements, and unexpected shifts in dynamics with Geordie Greep's distinctive vocals and virtuosic guitar work leading it all. The interplay between Greep's jagged guitar lines, Cameron Picton's pulsating bass grooves, and Morgan Simpson's relentless drumming was nothing short of awe-inspiring. The crowd was entranced as Black MIDI weaved their way through a diverse array of sonic landscapes. From the hypnotic and haunting "Near DT, MI" (my introduction to MIDI), to the frenetic chaos of "bmbmbm," the band displayed a remarkable ability to captivate and challenge their audience. The musicians seamlessly transitioned between moments of ethereal beauty and explosive intensity, leaving no doubt about their technical proficiency and versatility. One of the standout moments of the evening was the performance of "Welcome Home" - a track that showcased Black MIDI's ability to create an atmosphere of tension and release. The song started with a slow-building, brooding ambiance that was one-part discordant chords, one-part jazz groove, and so much more that gradually intensified, culminating in a cathartic explosion of sound. The crowd responded with ecstatic cheers, fully immersed in the sonic experience.

The minimalistic stage setup allowed the focus to remain on the musicians themselves, who commanded the space with their sheer presence and musicianship. Throughout the evening, Black MIDI's stage presence was enigmatic and magnetic. Greep's eccentric and idiosyncratic performance style, combined with the band's synchronized movements, added an element of intrigue and unpredictability. Their presence on stage was simple and calm, yet somehow still exuded a raw energy that infected everyone in attendance – I don’t think I saw the pit stop moshing once.

For a group I had come across by way of a Mario Kart Twitch streamer, seeing Black MIDI live defied all of my expectations and pushed the boundaries of musical experimentation. Their show at the Royale was a testament to their unique vision and unwavering commitment to artistic exploration. The band's technical precision, combined with their enigmatic stage presence, created an unforgettable experience for all in attendance. Black MIDI continues to be a beacon of innovation in the music industry, and their live performances are not to be missed.

Zak DeFreze

Photojournalist - Boston

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