September 20, 2018 at Brighton Music Hall
It’s been nearly forty years since the conception, and subsequent reign, of the single most revolutionary music genre: punk rock. As the decades have trailed on though, disciples of the genre have fearfully wondered, “Is punk rock dead?” Many speculate that if it’s not dead yet, it certainly must be on its way out soon. The truthful answer though, as evidenced by IDLES’ incendiary live show last Thursday, is a resounding “No, and it’s not going anywhere”. For those unfamiliar, IDLES are a Bristol-based band currently shaking the punk scene to its core, offering up some of the most relevant music of the genre in years. They’re currently touring off their critically acclaimed album Joy as an Act of Resistance. Thanks to my WRBB press pass, I was able to witness firsthand the rebellious fury this group is bringing to the table.
Upon prepping for the show, I knew I was in for something special, but nothing could have prepared me for the electrifying, near-transcendent performance that took place. The set began with the slow-burning introduction ‘Collosus.’ Only two members were on stage, drummer Jon Beavis and frontman Joe Talbott. As the song went on, the additional band members assembled. First came bassist Adam Devonshire, adding a deep and ominous groove to the skeletal opener. The crowd was somewhat static, but their suspense grew. Then came guitarists Mark Bowen and Lee Kiernan, one of which was dawning a stunning outfit consisting of just his Calvin Klein underpants. Now fully rallied, they prepared to let loose. The bass and drum groove stopped and silence filled the venue. Then Talbott, after an intense staredown with the crowd, commenced the rightful start of the show with a vicious, “ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR!” The band detonated a sonic assault of distortion, anthemic vocals, and driving drums. The crowd reacted appropriately by erupting into a full venue mosh pit, reminiscent of a movie barfight, or perhaps a real-life warzone. Beer cans shot through the crowd, soaking anyone who dared get close to the action. From overhead, crowd surfers and stage divers thrashed about.
This energy did not dissipate over the course of IDLES’ seventeen song set. Highlight songs included the anthemic, ‘Mother,’ ‘Danny Nedelko,’ and ‘Well Done.’ I’m familiar with sing-alongs during concerts, but this was something more along the lines of a scream-along. A notable highlight came when the two guitarists jumped down into the pit and used their instruments for a round of, believe it or not, mosh-pit limbo (38:30).
When the show concluded, exhausted, sweat-drenched fans filed out of the unassuming Brighton Music Hall. The set was a certain type of chaos that isn’t for everyone, the faint of heart namely, but aggressive music never has been. That’s not to say punk music is exclusive though. In fact, punk has always been about community, and now more than ever it’s pushing for unity. I left thinking to myself punk rock isn’t dead; it’s alive and well in the form of IDLES.