I was a lucky old dog.
Not only had I recently arrived in the US with a lovely Hispanic border guard ushering me in with a wink and a smile after a manic and panic stricken two and a half years stuck in visa limbo up a damp Welsh valley as one administration merged into something a whole lot more… “difficult,” but my favourite new British musical tour-de-force, IDLES, were playing just down the road from my new home in SF.
What a lucky, lucky, lucky bastard.
IDLES, if you have not heard of them, are from Bristol, UK, the home of such musical experiments as Trip-Hop, The Pop Group and Roni Size’s Reprazent and like their forefathers carry their integrity in being just who fuck they are on their noisey sleeves. The loveable bastard sons of The Clash, Crass, Fugazi while they channel the rockabilly swagger of The Fall; they rock harder than you and unapologetically spit in the face of the current British and global political establishment/paradigm as the title of their latest and second album, Joy As An Act of Resistance, bears witness to. While their music is influenced by the past, these chaotic lot have one boot firmly placed in the present, both lyrically and musically at times combining the simplicity of early Oi! with the modernity of Sleaford Mods.
It was my first gig in the US and the venue, The Independent, was the perfect place for it, with great sound and view and a baying crowd loving every second of it.
The support band, who I had not heard before, were Bambara–a Brooklyn based noiserock outfit that trampled similar fuzzbox boards to The Birthday Party, Laughing Hyenas and Shellac with tunes that made my head bob… for a while. The Birthday Party seems an apt comparison as the singer came off as a close impersonation of a young more clean cut Old Nick without the blood and scrawny heroin goth chic to back up the swagger.
Then came IDLES. The air was electric. The crowd seemed to know something special was about to happen right in front of their eyes as the first bass rumbling of the slow-burner Colossus rattled the walls.
There is a reason why IDLES are considered the best live band touring right now. It is the vital energy; the sublimated anger; and the love and connection they create between themselves on stage and the audience. As they powered through the new songs off JAAAOR, like the catchy pro-immigrant barnstormer, Danny Nedelko, and such modern post-punk classics as Mother and Heel/Heal from their blinding debut, Brutalism, the joy with which they attacked each tune and the seeming surprise and humility at being able to do it shone through with infectious glee. The band danced, threw shapes, joked, crawled into the crowd, did headstands, sang Happy Birthday to Adam Devonshire, the bald, bearded bassist, and then came the singalong Exeter and the inevitable stage invasion.
There was no encore, as the singer, Joe Talbot, exclaimed that encores are just “weird”, but after a ninety minute set none of the smiling faces around me cried out for one.
Yes, they were that good.
Bio:Alex Clements is a California native, badasshorse wrangler and photographer… and she just happens to be Jason’s wife. Luckybastard. Her Instagram profile is @paint_it_black1987
Jason S. Michel has been a foolish being, wordsmith, illustrator, podcaster, human petri dish and was once the Dictator at the mighty Pulp Metal Magazine.
All words © 2018 JSMichel
All photos © 2018 Alex Clements