It’s true what they say, you always remember your first time…..be it your first kiss, your first beer or the first time you saw a band called IDLES.
A good friend of mine called Matt Freemantle who runs LEMONFEST (a great local Devon festival) had booked IDLES to play The Cavern in Exeter, owing to a fire, this was closed for refurbishment at the time of the show so it was moved to Exeter Phoenix instead.
I remember entering the main hall and seeing Joe Talbot pacing up and down the stage, we didn’t really know what to make of him, he looked scary, heavily tattooed with a menacing glint in his eye, he reminded me of a young Henry Rollins kind of character and we considered, “will he tear our heads off or give us a cuddle”….
The show was raw, energetic, brutal and immense and I swore then, in 2016 that this wasn’t going to be the last time that I saw IDLES play live, fast forward a couple of years and having covered them in London three times, Download Festival, Plymouth and Southend on Sea, I was pleased as punch when a good friend decided to let me have his tickets for the Bristol homecoming show at SWX as he had gone and booked a week’s holiday in Scandinavia, completely forgetting about the gig!
We left Exeter and headed up the M5 to Bristol and ventured towards the venue. We stopped along the way to pass a ticket on to a fellow AF Gang member at The Mother’s Ruin before arriving at SWX, I saw a pair of glasses and a beard and instantly recognised Brian Mimpress from the AF Gang Facebook page, we shot the shit for a few minutes, I asked him how he was feeling (he had a cold but was doing okay as was full of drugs and ale!) We shuffled into the venue and checked out the merchandise stall and saw Dev chatting to fans at the bar, he is the one who posts most frequently on social media so it was great to see that he is as approachable face to face as he is online, a genuinely nice guy (not that I’m saying that the others aren’t of course…..everyone has their role and Dev’s is clearly the face of social media!)
At 9pm sharp, Bristol post-Punk quartet Heavy Lungs took to the stage and played a blinding set featuring a lithe and toned looking Danny Nedelko taking centre stage as his sonic cohorts provided the backdrop for his vocals. In response to IDLES putting out “Danny Nedelko” on their JAANOR long player, Heavy Lungs returned the favour by writing a song called “Blood Brother” which is based on his long term friendship with IDLES frontman Joe Talbot, a touching sentiment indeed!
After a short break and a shuffle round on stage, it was time for the main act of the evening, a band who, in the space of a couple of years had gone from relative obscurity to selling out venues across the UK and America and gaining a strong, loyal following along the way, as the lights dipped, up went a roar as IDLES took to the stage in Bristol for what was to be one hell of a homecoming show!
Jon appeared first and started rattling out the opening beat to ‘Colossus’, Dev joined him soon after and pumped the opening notes on his bass, Joe was next, followed by Lee and Bowen, the track built slowly, layering and layering “goes and it goes and it goes….”, the crowd were going nuts as it rose to its crescendo and stopped…..the 10 second gap in-between parts 1 & 2 seems to get longer every time I see it performed live but my god, when part 2 kicked off, I thought that I was going to get dragged into the pit myself!
The set consisted of a great mix of tracks taken from both their latest album Joy As An Act of Resistance and their 2017 debut Brutalism, to hear classics like ‘Exeter’, ’1049 Gotho’ and ‘Divide and Conquer’ sent shivers down my spine but it was the newer offerings such as ‘Samaritans’, ‘GREAT’ and ‘Danny Nedelko’ (which featured the man himself launching onto the stage on the back of a friend) which really took the spotlight tonight.
Joe took time to interact with the audience, thanked them for coming and supporting the band, he even managed to single out his father in law who had taken refuge on the balcony!
The set drew to a close with ‘Well Done’, a fine track which always sets the mosh pit on fire and tonight was no exception, it looked brutal in there! I read some stories about lost spectacles and contact lenses and how the pits stopped and created space for people to gather their missing items before launching into one another again, THIS is what its all about folks, love yourself (and one another!) Towards the end of the song, the band invited people up on stage to play instruments, dance and generally let their hair down, it was great to see local Bristol legend Big Jeff up there moshing away in his usual style!
After this there were chants of “June’ rising out across the venue, I’d read that they have never played this song live and I ‘wish-ish-ished’ that maybe, tonight might be THE night when they decided to give it it’s debut airing in front of a live audience, but sadly it wasn’t to be….
Joe teased the audience by introducing the last song, reminding everyone that IDLES don’t do encores and that “we’re not at Butlins are we?”, the audience played along exactly as you’d have expected them to, like a bunch of naughty school kids and after a few minutes of thank you’s from the stage, they burst into “Rottweiler”, giving the crowd another excuse to lose their shit and send as many people over the barrier as possible with their feet in the air!
Joe killed his microphone and walked off stage to rapturous applause, leaving the remaining members on stage to noodle about with their guitar effects pedals, creating an almost dub like rhythm which they played on for a few minutes until the night drew to a close.
It was a tremendous evening of music, catching up with friends, laughter, drinking and moshing, looking around the room, it was amazing to see such a broad age range, I’m no spring chicken at 46 years old but I saw a few people even older than me (yes, I know, hard to believe!) and by the looks on their faces, you knew they’d enjoyed every second of this joyous night of entertainment.
In a time where crazy ideas stem from the Eton-educated lunatics that are at the helm of our great nation, IDLES’ music brings about a sense of reality which proves the world is fucked, advertising is pure evil and it’s getting worse every day, in the words of Joe Talbot “Love Yourself” and whatever you end up doing, get a fuckin’ helmet cos it’s not going to be an easy ride.
It’s been a LONG time since a band have come on the scene and made such an impression on people with their music, I won’t name names as I really need to go to bed but you know what I’m on about, go and create the comparisons yourselves, chat about IDLES and tell each other how YOU got into their music, let’s use this fabulous band as a way of reaching out to other fans via the AF Gang Facebook page and create some great friendships along the way!
Joe, Bowen, Dev, Jon & Lee, I salute the 5 of you for doing what you do, please don’t stop!
Fast forward 24 hours and I heard that IDLES have picked up an award for “Best Breakthrough Act” at the 2018 Q Music Awards in London which is a sure fire way of saying that they’re doing something right!
Words by Steve Muscutt
Photography by Rhodri Cooper
For ALL of the photos from the show, please click HERE