IDLES at the Great American Music Hall, by William Wayland
Idles (photo: William Wayland)

Words by Elaine Blakely

IDLES, a hardcore rock band from the “other port city” Bristol, England (band’s reference to San Francisco) plays the first of two sold-out shows at Great American Music Hall.

IDLES, originating 10 years ago by lead singer Joe Talbot and bassist Adam Devonshire, consist of members Jon Beavis as their full-throttle drummer, Mark Bowen, lead guitarist performing shirtless in American flag leggings and a handlebar mustache, and rhythm guitarist, Lee Kiernan whom Talbot celebrates having achieved decade-long sobriety.

In two years, IDLES have won critical acclaim for both their debut album in 2017 and last year’s 2018 release, Joy as an Act of Resistance, which tackles head-on a range of social injustice issues with brutal honesty: toxic masculinity, women’s rights, LGTBQ rights, immigrants’ rights, substance use, and sobriety, and losing a child at birth. IDLES break down stereotypes of men and address honest, real issues unlike any rock band.

Their show juxtaposes masculine thrash-riot and an annihilation of male stereotyping with lead and rhythm guitarists Mark Bowen and Lee Kiernan prancing around the stage as merry-makers. Throughout the night, Talbot rolls out long introductions dedicating each song to someone, whether it be his mother or to an audience member. Their performance of their song “Television” best summarizes their message best: Talbot punches his head, spits and belts out, “If someone talked to you / The way you do to you / I’d put their teeth through/Love yourself.”

And just when you think there are no more surprises, Talbot further connects with the audience by giving an anti-racist speech or thanking the staff bouncer by name or inviting a handful of female audience members on stage to play random instruments. Talbot is always keeping the crowd accountable in being full of love and rage at the same time.

Opening for IDLES is Irish band Fontaines D.C.. In strolls Grian Chatten in leather trousers and coat, pacing the stage, waiting for the opening bassline to begin chanting like a young Mark E. Smith.

Just after this April’s release of their musically versatile debut LP Dogrel, Fontaines D.C. have placed Top 5 in the UK, rising from a no-name act to a full-on slamming record deal on same label as IDLES. If you love Joy Division, if you love the Fall, if you love a good Irish accent, then you will enjoy listening to Fontaines D.C. In a slower style than their headliners, Chatten sits down at one point on the stage as guitarists Carlos O’Connell and Coner Curley strum building feedback while Tom Coll on drums and Conor Deegan on bass give that distinct dark percussion.

After listening to their LP Dogrel at least 15 times, there is not one song that sums up the band. And it is the same with their performance. It’s not shoegaze, nor is it post-punk or neo-punk. Fontaines D.C. have their own sound and their own presence. If you missed them, you must catch them on their return to San Francisco on the 24th of September.