Show Spotlight: IDLES @ 9:30 Club, 10/14/19
Once again, please welcome Ben Kirst. Not that you should need much convincing, but Ben's full of reasons why seeing IDLES at the 9:30 Club tomorrow night should be at the top of your to-do list.
If you have precious tickets to the long sold-out IDLES show with Preoccupations on Monday, Oct. 14th at 9:30 Club (815 V St. NW, Washington, DC), you'll probably want to buckle up.
“The tone of our music is violent, and we want to sustain that, because we think that violence as a tone is a beautiful way of getting people’s attention,” singer Joe Talbot told Rolling Stone in August 2018. “It’s a real violent passion, but it’s also compassionate. I think some people misconstrue that, but when they come to the gigs and they see us kiss each other and saying loving things and having smiles on our faces, they get it.”
The Bristol, United Kingdom band is wrapping up a series of US dates in support of its sophomore album, 2018’s Ivor Novello Award-winning Joy as an Act of Resistance. The record encapsulates the sound IDLES has honed over seven years in the British underground: the anthemic catharsis of old-school hardcore, the angular weirdness of post-hardcore, and the pure joy of kicking up a punk-rock racket.
It doesn’t take a musicologist to surmise that this is also the recipe for live shows that border on anarchy.
“Live, IDLES are an orgy of euphoria and glee,” writes Jesse Atkinson of Gigwise, “held fast by a legitimate, unifying heart of protest, resistance and silly dancing.”
IDLES’ music, and all of the physical exertion, onstage and off, is life-affirming, positive, and even, as Atkinson suggests, funny. Band members embrace healthy living, mental wellness, and honest discussions about feelings, sobriety, and inner struggles. In doing so, they’ve cultivated a like-minded community in which it’s completely acceptable to come to a show and respectfully let the demons out without indulging the ugliest parts of hardcore culture.
“We're just people who have our own our own problems and try to deal with our own problems,” guitarist Lee Kiernan told KEXP.org in May. “[We try to] be mindful about the world around us and the people around us. We just love what we do and we believe in what we do. We're just so fortunate to have people feel the same as us. It's amazing.”
Be advised: if your idea of a good live show is the opportunity to go gorilla on a bunch of strangers while externalizing your own grim dose of personal nihilism, this is not your scene. IDLES’ “Never Fight A Man With A Perm,” a track with 5.1 million streams on Spotify, issues a warning to the type of muscle-bound, serotonin-crazed bros that traditionally call the front of the stage home:
“He said these boots are made for stomping, and that’s just what they’ll do / One of these days these boots are gonna stomp all over you / I said I got a penchant for smokes and kicking douches in the mouth / Sadly for you my last cigarette’s gone out.”
Be ready to be part of the event if you’re headed to 9:30 Club on Monday because IDLES provides an immersive performance. Talbot’s known for inviting fans on stage, encouraging crowd surfers, and generally bonding with the teeming masses in the front of the room. He and Kiernan, along with fellow guitarist Mark "Bobo" Bowen and bassist Adam "Dev" Devonshire, take turns wading into the thick of it, standing within (and sometimes on) the swirling throng.
It’s an embodiment of the ethos that’s as old as punk itself, the idea that the band is no different from the audience. It could just as easily be you up there, and there shouldn’t even be an “up there” because we’re all in this together. Strain out the toxic masculinity, which Talbot and IDLES rage against in interview after interview, and what’s left is beautiful, really, even if someone may occasionally lose a tooth.
If you’re going to the show, you likely know all of these things already and are well-prepared for the lovefest. And a lovefest it shall be — despite the aggression, the open borders, the guitarists standing on people’s hands, the breakdown of barriers, both literal and metaphysical, IDLES tend to put on a pretty clean production. The Austin Chronicle’s Alyssa Quiles noted security was taking a laid-back approach to the frenzy IDLES produced at the first weekend of the Austin City Limits Music Festival.
“I didn’t even need to go in there,” a guard reportedly told Quiles as Kiernan made his way into the crowd. “They’re so respectful.”
Regardless: keep your heads up, DC, and help up the people who go down. Otherwise, remember that shiners from a stray foot to your face gives you a good story to tell at work on Tuesday, and they look cool, too. Enjoy the show.
[words by Ben Kirst]