Photo by MATT SHAVER
Bristol post-punk outfit IDLES is not the heaviest band out there, and they certainly aren’t the edgiest. They are, however, indubitably one of the angriest bands around. The fundamental rebelliousness that is the driving force of punk rock music, in the case of IDLES, manifests itself through a twisted (though profoundly humane) depiction of love. You heard me right: the thematic heart of IDLES’ punk-ness is a kind of re-imagined Flower Power. Their two debut full-length records, Brutalism and Joy as an Act of Resistance are both unashamedly anti-fascism and an unconditionally inclusive call for community. From powerhouse lines like “This snowflake’s an avalanche” on the track “I’m Scum” to the screaming middle finger to masculinity “I don’t wanna be your man!” after four minutes of repressed rage in “Colossus,” it’s not difficult to see and agree with IDLES’ urge to obliterate all that WASP nastiness through authentic love for your fellow human being.
I saw them perform an extremely intimate show with an unparalleled mosh pit at First Unitarian Church last year, pushing probably around a 200-person crowd. In just over a year, IDLES has upgraded to a sold-out show at Union Transfer last night, and quite frankly I was anxious to see how the band — and the crowd — would adapt. Let me tell you up front: the onstage energy from these guys was unreal and among the best of the concerts under my belt, not to mention an all-but-consuming moshpit, from which the only escape seemed to be the bar, bathroom, or balcony. Antics included but were not limited to a live guitar thrown into the crowd while the amp cord was fed and retrieved by stage crew, and a “loving embrace” among the fans that would be known as a Wall of Death anywhere else. Banter included Joe Talbot, lead singer, dedicating the song “Television” to his daughter with the message, “it’s about ignoring the c*nts, the patriarchy that makes you feel ugly, small, and stupid.”
“Rottweiler” was the closing tune, just as it is on the album Joy. The song proper lasts about two and a half minutes followed by a two minutes of heavy, instrumental outro. Last night, this ending translated well into the live version as Talbot left the microphone to pound extra toms on the drum kit for a total run time of at least six minutes. During this, I was one of many to bring the mosh pit to a halt, and I personally began making my rounds and hugging my peers, particularly those who I’d given (and been handed back) an especially rough time. I’ve always felt that a moshpit is at its best when the participants try to have fun and let out their excitement instead of trying to hurt each other. In the context of an IDLES concert, there’s a truly palpable element of love thrown into the mix — a perfect example of the band’s redefinition of angry punk rock tropes. IDLES has proved their ability to keep up with their increasing popularity, and through some aggressive, beautiful form of love, brought another successful show to Philadelphia. — PEYTON MITZEL