Black²: Black Midi, Black Country, New Road blow slanted roof off of Mohawk Austin

Chandler Rowley, Life& Arts General Reporter

Fresh off the release of their eclectic and frenzied album Hellfire, London-based indie-rock outfit Black Midi commandeered two sold-out nights at Mohawk Austin’s outdoor stage. The venue stood as a brief pantheon of alternative rock, with the critically acclaimed band Black Country, New Road opening both nights. 

Very seldom does a supporting act demand a near-equal amount of love as their headliner. However, BCNR proves that second-billing cannot stifle the sheer talent and cohesion of one of the best up-and-coming bands of their genre. 

BCNR christened early 2022 with the release of Ants From Up There, garnering admiration from fans and critics alike. Days before the release, broody lead singer and guitarist Isaac Wood exited the band due to mental health struggles. The band’s monthlong stint supporting Black Midi’s North American tour marks the first time US audiences will see the group’s new six-piece configuration. 

BCNR, who collectively decided not to perform material from their time with Wood, debuted eight new songs over the past several months of touring. From the opening notes of Lewis Evans’ undulating saxophone in “Up Song,” audience members could hear a pin drop on the storied floor of Mohawk Austin’s pit. The song culminates with Tyler Hyde leading the band in the cathartic proclamation, “Look at what we did together / BCNR friends forever.” With alternating vocals from Lewis, Hyde and May Kershaw, the group displayed their virtuosic musical prowess and proved that BCNR becomes more than the sum of their parts. 

The opening strings of The Verve’s “Bitter Sweet Symphony” swelled as Black Midi made their way onto the stage to the deafening applause of the audience. Geordie Greep, dressed as a pseudo-Heisenburg, moved with fluidity as he grooved to the droning wall of sound that accompanies the song “John L.” The track served as the central motif of the set, with the band performing various parts of the song throughout the night. Although touring to support their latest LP, Black Midi performed a diverse setlist with an equal amount of songs from each of their three albums. 

The measured chaos of Black Midi’s discography and propensity towards the avante-garde may not fit into the formulaic molds of mainstream music, yet their musical genius proves their transcendence beyond their contemporaries. 

 

Loud music doesn’t equate to good music, and while Black Midi will leave an audience’s ears ringing, the complexity of the group’s sound can’t be understated. If one were to focus on an individual band member amid the chaos of the track “Welcome to Hell,” they would observe a musician wholly enveloped by their craft. Arguably one of the best drummers in the music industry, Morgan Simpson’s tight beats drove Greep’s frantic chord progressions in songs like “Sugar/Tzu,” a jazz-infused ballad about a fighting bout between Sun Tzu and Sun Sugar. Simpson’s drumming boasts an unshakable foundation for one of the best bands in music today. 

The pairing of Black Midi and Black Country, New Road seems as natural as peanut butter and jelly — or West Campus and never-ending construction. In the succinct words of the mystical narrator in the track “Sugar/Tzu,” “The audience won.”