Live Review: Black Midi at The Slowdown…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , — @ 12:43 pm October 10, 2022
Black Midi at The Slowdown Oct. 8, 2022.

by Tim McMahan,

The warm-up music for Black Midi at The Slowdown Saturday night was lilting jazz from Wayne Shorter, falling on the ears of a mostly young audience packed into the bowl in front of Slowdown’s main stage. Not a sell-out audience, as the balcony was closed and you could easily get around, but still a healthy crowd, nodding their heads to Shorter’s “Adam’s Apple.”

No doubt the jazz playlist was the band’s idea. Though they have a rep for being a very hard art-rock band, at Black Midi’s core are elements of progressive jazz. So it came as a surprise when the lights finally came down at around 9:30 and the band entered the stage to the strains of The Verve’s “Bitter Sweet Symphony.” They took their respective places and preceded to crush it for a little over an hour.

Playing as a four-piece, most of the vocals were handled by guitarist and founder Geordie Greep, who switched between spoken-word phrasing a la Murray Head and a loungy croon that (for some reason) reminded me of Bobby Short. For a few songs, Greep handed over the lead vocals to bass player Cameron Picton (Greep himself taking up the bass for those songs), who either sang or had a shrill delivery akin to John Lydon.

None of that mattered because at the heart of the performance was Black Midi’s music that swung between a kind of lounge-prog to straight up art-noise, performed with acute precision and driven forward by Morgan Simpson’s drumming, which was nothing less than spectacular. Simpson gave a clinic on remarkable stick work, no stroke or beat wasted on a style that ranged from machine-gun bursts to glorious fills to shimmering cymbal work — here was the best drummer I’ve seen in years.

And Greep knew it, taking cues from Simpson, whose kit was set up off to the side of stage left, pounding away as the crowd moshed in a large pit out front. Between all that moshing and Greep’s beat poet/scat singing, the night had a sense of theater about it. It was Broadway crooning atop raindrop keyboards and aggressive punk married with slam poetry – a strange, wonderful combination.

Greep’s guitar work was angular and precise, reminiscent of Robert Fripp / latter-day King Crimson, while Picton’s bass was staccato fill rhythms when not carrying the weight of the chaos melodies.

The majority of the set was dedicated to the band’s latest release, Hellfire. Solid takes on “Sugar/Tzu,” “Welcome to Hell” and “27 Questions” were the standouts. Unlike the recording, no horns, but what are you gonna do? Late in the set the band performed what felt like a shortened version of “John L,” and I could see Greep look at Simpson and sort of shrug.

Though the crowd was clearly into it all night, there was no encore (as apparently there hasn’t been throughout this tour). Greep instead thanked each member of the band and the sound and support folks before leaving the stage.

The line for the merch table was long and deep. Homer’s should have set up a merch tent with used vinyl in the parking lot. Of course a band as complex and challenging as Black Midi could only attract the best music nerds, hungry for limited edition stuff and vinyl versions of the album they already own digitally, and no doubt played in their cars on the way home (as I did).

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Black Midi, Homeless Gospel Choir Saturday; BFF tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 1:13 pm October 7, 2022
Black Midi play at The Slowdown Saturday.

by Tim McMahan,

London trio Black Midi is on the forefront of a new progressive rock movement that is quietly making a mark on the indie music world. The band has released a number of albums since forming in 2017 that feature intricate rhythms with abrupt stop-start time changes performed with military precision, angular multi-key melodies and spoken-word vocals about abstract, obtuse subject matter. They used to call this art rock or experimental rock or avant prog back in the ‘70s, today it’s considered noise- or post-punk.

Whatever you call it, Black Midi’s music is adventurous and challenging, and attracting a niche following among indie music fans many of whom very likely will be in attendance Saturday night at The Slowdown. Just how many show up is the question. This is not a band that gets local radio play and doesn’t really have a presence on Sirius XMU. How people are finding them is a bit of a mystery. I point toward online publications like Pitchfork, who gave 2019’s Schlagenheim (Rough Trade) the coveted Best New Music honor along with an 8.2 rating (the record was also nominated for the Mercury Prize). Joining Black Midi Saturday night is abstract producer/lyricist Quelle Chris. 8 p.m., $30.

Also Saturday night, fabulous O’Leaver’s is hosting its monthly free rock show. The headliner, Pittsburgh’s indie rockers Homeless Gospel Choir, is on tour supporting their just-released Fourth Dimension Intervention (2022, Don Giovanni). No Functional Purpose opens at 9. Here’s hoping this one doesn’t start on time so I can catch the the Choir after Black Midi. Did I mention it’s free? Oh yeah…

I almost forgot that tonight is the first Friday of the month and, hence, Benson First Friday. Check out the art and excitement along Maple Street. Also this Saturday, Farnam Fest is happening over in the Blackstone district.

That’s all I got. If I missed your show, put it in the comments section. Have a great weekend.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


New Azure Ray via Flower Moon Records; some reopening info and new stuff (black midi, Iceage)…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 11:26 am March 25, 2021
Azure Ray circa 2021. The duo has a new album coming out June 11.

This morning Azure Ray’s publicist announced the duo will release its first new full-length album in a decade, Remedy, June 11 on Maria Taylor’s Flower Moon Records.

Produced by Brandon Walters (Lord Huron, Joshua Radin), the band worked individually through the COVID-19 pandemic across three separate recording locations in southern California,” sayeth the press release. “With Remedy, Taylor and Fink sought to explore new structural arrangements and sonic dynamics, providing Walters with both the creative direction and freedom to expand upon the bands long-established ambient sound. Reoccurring themes of tragedy, chaos and anxiety present from the very first Azure Ray record (as a result of immense personal loss) reveal themselves with new meaning set against a world – not just their own lives – in turmoil.

Sounds uplifting. But no one goes to an Azure Ray album expecting to dance. Preorder the album here, and check out the first single, the title track, below.

For young readers who may be wondering why I’m writing about Azure Ray since the duo doesn’t live in Omaha — here’s a bit of history. Azure Ray used to be on Saddle Creek Records and were part of the Omaha scene starting way back around 2003 when Hold On Love was released. Can’t believe it’s been nearly 20 years.

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WOWT Channel 6 posted a story that says Blackstone District will be hosting a Farnam Fest in mid-May followed by a barbecue fest of some sort later this summer. No doubt there will be a performance stage. The story also has info about The Orpheum’s upcoming season, which includes full-capacity shows. More signs that COVID is finally leaving (and vaccinations are under way).

If you’ve been keeping an eye on the One Percent Productions website, you know their clubs are getting back in gear, with The Waiting Room and Reverb hosting a couple shows earlier this week. They also announced a Mt. Joy show May 4 at Falconwood Park with Rough Trade hippie-psych band Hello Forever.

Things are still pretty slow, though. I’m still looking for my return-to-the-clubs show, especially since I’ll be fully vaccinated come the first week of April. Right now the only gig on my radar is the May 28 Those Far Out Arrows show at The Sydney with Marcey Yates…

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Just noticed that Omaha World-Herald killed its Go! Section. I assumed they probably did this when music reporter Kevin Coffey left the paper. Turns out they killed it when COVID began last year. No events, no advertising. With COVID waning, with the OWH bring back GO?

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A couple things on my hit list:

This new video for black midi’s single, “John L,” is intense, just like everything the band releases. They’ve got a new album, Cavalcade, coming out May 28 on Rough Trade. Check it.

Dutch band Iceage made a splash on Matador Records back in 2013. They were red hot back then. Not so sure these days, though I dig this new track, “Shelter Song.” They have a new album, Seek Shelter, out May 7 on Mexican Summer.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2021 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.