Blackbird Raum are an acoustic anarcho-punk band from Santa Cruz, California. Liverpool is a portside city in the North West of England. Both are dead good.
Towards the end of May I was travelling around with Ash and Dan, and we had a pretty fun sounding show booked in Liverpool with Blackbird Raum. We were excited but first had to navigate the treacherous Liverpudlian one way system despite my terrible sense of direction and Dan’s legendarily tiny bladder. Highlights of our epic journey include a pricey and totally unnecessary detour through the Birkenhead tunnel and generally doing a Mario Kart number of laps around the ring road. Eventually, we did actually make it where we needed to be and were rewarded for our effort by getting to spend a couple days in the excellent company of Paper Wings, a group of great humans who also happen to put on shows and make incredible music together.
We had a great time wandering around the city, did some busking and hung out in the beautiful garden part of the cathedral. I also had my very first Eat4Less baked potato which involved an obscene amount of budget beans and jalapeños. I really wish I could get my hands on one down south. In the evening we made our way to the show at Next to Nowhere; the Liverpool Social Centre that also hosts a bunch of interesting events including a vegan kitchen and cool film screenings. The Next to Nowhere space is also associated with News From Nowhere, a radical bookshop and not-for-profit workers co-operative in the building next door.
By the time Blackbird Raum began to play the energy in the room was just incredible. If you’ve never heard them before try to imagine melodic but heavy, doom laden black metal being played by a five person traditional folk band. As with a lot of “alternative” acoustic musicians the band initially picked traditional instruments for practical rather than aesthetic reasons and perhaps as a result have always been committed to playing them in their own way. Meaning they can absorb the flavours from both folk and metal but transforming it all into the extremely singular fusion that has become Blackbird Raum’s signature sound. Explicitly political in their operation, attitude and content – right down to their band name; Raum is a reference to a crow formed figure in demonology who steals treasure from kings and destroys cities. Very cool.
The confrontational intensity of a Blackbird Raum performance reminds me of hardcore punk at its edgiest and best, but with a political direction to the raw emotions and anger being expressed. The main tangible aspect of this for me is that it always feels like everybody present is a co-conspirator in the expenditure of this energy, as opposed to the occasionally divisive and self-destructive atmosphere that can be prevalent at other boisterous punk gigs. Blackbird Raum played completely unplugged, as they often do, and without the restrictions of cables and microphones were able to move through the crowd during their set. It’s so loud and ragged and raw like this and the slick professionalism of their performance takes absolutely nothing away from the spontaneity and energy.
For the duration of Blackbird Raum’s show, the atmosphere in Next to Nowhere was positive and welcoming, energetic, politicised and generally everything you could want from a great gig. The dominant feeling in the crowd was rowdy but inclusive; people were dancing enthusiastically but remained considerate of those around them. I think this indefinable feeling of camaraderie surrounding a shared experience is a big part of what makes any event a really great night rather than just pretty good. It is a direct result of the kind of venue you’re in, the nature of the band you’re watching and the general feeling emanating from the people around you; that everybody present is in the same mental and emotional space as well as physical. Being part of an event that makes you feel so great is a testament to everyone involved in the show and in this case I think is thanks to the power of both Blackbird Raum as a live band and Liverpool punks. Both are bloody lovely.