What is it about a disco ball that makes the world more serene? Not so long ago disco was the scene of ultimate debauchery, not unlike a club or rave is today. Yet in the presence of a disco ball everything is cool, soft, brilliant. The way it slowly rotates in a pitch black room casting pillowy fragments of light to every corner, it’s hypnotic. Zebulon must know this to some degree, and while I doubt peace is what they aimed for when they hung a disco ball from the ceiling it is what they received. And tonight in the discordant lights of the disco ball and the frantic guitars of black midi we all found peace in the chaos.
As soon as Mary Lattimore started all you could think is that they were staggeringly beautiful. The entire audience was struck into stillness by the glistening soundscape despite the disco ball hanging above their head. The music was so stunning that it actually captured the attention of the entire crowd, nearly all of whom were here to see black midi instead. They may have even made the room smell better. Much of this beauty came through in the unique combination of instruments that they played, a deeply distorted trumpet and a twinkling harp, all laid atop a bed of heavy drone. The fully realized product was not too dissimilar to the more relaxed portions of Godspeed You! Black Emperor songs. What truly stood out was that Mary Lattimore actually made a case for themselves through music alone. So many openers are overly thankful, groveling, or simply there to be ignored but Mary Lattimore truly stood head and shoulders apart from other bands to the point that black midi should’ve felt a little fear.
It was somewhat surprising to see the crowd size in the room, which was even larger than one might anticipate. Despite this being the third of three nights that black midi had played Zebulon which would lead you to believe that most who wanted to see them likely already had. But as large as the crowd was, more importantly they were eager. The eagerness was unfortunately not met with promptness, a long sound check pushed back the start time of the set by almost twenty-five minutes. When they finally took the stage the music was fabulously loud, possessed with a chaotic fervor that seemed ripped out of the sky itself. Earplugs only turned the volume down to something barely tolerable, and when removed the air bristled and warped around your eardrum as if it were a trillion devils shouting at once. Then as soon as it arrived it was gone, lost in a soft jazz noodling, then back again to cacophony. Perhaps no show we have ever attended fluctuated with such wild intensity, flashing from chaos to order with an effortless flair. The skill of it was not lost on the audience, though they could hardly choose between moshing or bobbing along which left them all twitching awkwardly, without rhythm or melody, which is really the only appropriate response when greeted with such madness. One thing that was tremendously apparent, particularly during the song “Speedway” is that their unorthodox approach to guitar carries over flawlessly to their live show. This group isn’t necessarily redefining the guitar, but they approach it in a wholly unique way that crosses the boundaries between noise rock, metal, and math rock. The closest comparison that can be summoned might be Primus but even they are not as frenetic in nature. What comes out of the speakers is something you have to look upon to believe, the creativity and technicality are all operating on such a high level that it blows the mind. Having only released one album, they played nearly all of it from “953” to “ducter” and did so with an energy, performative flair and technical grasp that it was hard to believe that they have only been doing this for a few years together if that. Anyone who lives within fifty miles of a black midi show owes it to themselves to see them, it’s the type of show that renews your love for live music, and you don’t need to know a single song from them to love it.
A disco ball and black midi are not so terribly different. Both take something we see often without thinking much about them, in this case a guitar and light, and refract them in a way that shatters expectations, exposing new sides that we wouldn’t have considered otherwise. It’s not hyperbole to say that black midi is out here delivering one of the best concert experiences you can possibly obtain, and for now they’re doing it for prices that are laughably affordable. Like the disco ball, we should all hope that black midi persists, continuing to push boundaries and expose new forms of music that we have yet to anticipate. And like the disco ball that hangs in Zebulon, we hope they return, and soon.
4. (Unknown) (New song that starts/stops… more )
6. Talking Heads
7. Ducter (Bass played on synth. Extended synth outro.)
8.(Unknown #3 from Marc Riley… more )
9. (Unknown)(Unreleased song)
10. Near DT, MI