Black Midi's Geordie Greep. Credit: Guillermo Prieto/Irockphotos.net

In the days before Al Gore invented the internet (kidding), a Southern California music fan had to rely on trustworthy cashiers at Tower Records or Aron’s Records for concert recommendations.

Today, because the internet is so unreliable, and because those legendary record stores are defunct, I rely on random music tips from Stiles, a heavily tattooed and rather knowledgeable big-box-store manager. He was quite excited that Black Midi was coming to Pappy and Harriet’s. Stiles has a great track record with me—he recommended Starcrawler and Thom Yorke’s solo project pre-COVID—so if I am ever looking for a show recommendation (or if I ever need a tattoo), I know who to call.

At Stiles’ urging, I headed off to Pappy and Harriet’s on Saturday, Oct. 9, to catch Black Midi. The band’s music is definitely out there, but in an awesome way—as Matt King alluded to in his Black Midi preview piece. The outdoor stage space filled up slowly, including lots of youngsters who apparently got hairstyling inspiration from a young Che Guevara.

Slauson Malone opened things up with a sound that was manic, loud and disturbing—in a way that made you feel. With lyrics like “thunder in my tongue, lightning in my teeth,” I felt both confusion and joy as I tried to get into Malone’s head.

The audience enjoyed Malone, but they were very pumped up about Black Midi, as evidenced by the fact that people started to squeeze against the crash barrier in anticipation. The band is on tour promoting sophomore record Cavalcade, which was released in May.

Prior to the members walking onstage, a pre-recorded message, sounding like an old-time boxing announcer, introduced the band as “10,000 pounds of hard steel.” Lead singer Geordie Greep was dressed in track suit that reminded me of Suggs, the lead singer of the band Madness.

Black Midi led with “953,” which triggered a pogo pit in the center of the crowd. The band followed up with “Speedway,” which to me sounds like a tune inspired by Kim Gordon/Thurston Moore. Yes, it’s hard to put a label on this band, because they blast a blender of sounds that are meant to change one’s perception of how live music is performed. One minute, it is punk; the next minute, it’s jazz. Black Midi is indie and experimental at the same time.

Five songs into the set, Greep stated the obvious: “We are in the desert,” a statement which was greeted with screams.

Black Midi ran rapidly through the set. At one point, Greep yelled, “A motherfucker stole the set list.” The band, however, did not stop.

My favorite song of the night was “John L,” the first track on Cavalcade, and the third-to-last song of the show. “John L” has everything one needs in a song, with a saxophone, drums and throaty lyrics.

You could to spend an afternoon attempting to properly label Black Midi. Here’s my one-word description: Fantastic.

Guillermo Prieto

Guillermo Prieto is a graduate of the University of California, Irvine. That also happens to be the location of his first concert—which cemented his love of live music. A desert dweller for a quarter-century,...