TVD Live Shots: IDLES and Gustaf at The Fonda Theater, 11/5

PHOTOS: JULIA LOFSTRAND | Out of the gate, IDLES’ Brooklyn based openers Gustaf captivated with their 5-piece art punk performance. Inspired by ESG, an early ’80s dynamic dance funk rock group, their music is part conversational irony and equal parts whimsy.

Their set, featuring songs from their newly released Audio Drag for Ego Slobs, was for these times and clever. As Talking Heads progenies, the flirtation with anxiety is there in conjunction with the bounciness of The Slits. Frontwoman Lydia Gammill’s teeth gritting and off-kilter dance moves paired with Tarra Thiessen’s rubber chicken fist pumping in the air felt like an improv comedy session for serious musicians. I was delighted by the brilliant lyrics of “Dog” and how they captured the love you might have for your ex’s pet—and not your actual ex.

It seems that “loads of people don’t fucking like us,” IDLES lead singer Joe Talbot told NME magazine in an interview last year, referring to the press maelstrom they found themselves in. After striking the ire of fellow British bands Sleaford Mods and Fat White Family for “appropriating” topics like class-warfare and racism in their music, the pushback was aggressive. IDLES are not the only musicians (think Bruce Springsteen) to inhibit a character to tell a story. I was confused.

Three sold out shows at The Fonda Theater in Los Angeles indicated to me that IDLES were much more loved than hated. Waiting for the instruments to change, a feeling of anticipation filled the room as a guy in a pink cowboy hat paced back and forth next to me. “You preparing?” I turned to ask. “I’m so ready. You gonna jump in the mosh pit with me?” he asked with a golden smile. “Probably not,” I laughed. As the band took the stage, the lights lowered, and a light tapping of the drums started. A distorted guitar droned on until Talbot’s voice crept in.

A departure from the normal stiff LA crowd, this show was respectful anarchy. From crowd surfing, water bottles flying in the air, a mosh pit that women wouldn’t get groped in, to Talbot spitting on the stage as he dismantled toxic masculinity before our eyes, it was probably one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. In a society that tells you to hate yourself, IDLES’ message is a machine of overcoming self-hatred and the dissonance of bigotry and callousness—while guitarist Mark Bowen shimmies across the stage in a long-sleeved floral dress.

In a technical sense, all members of this band are exceptional, and to see their intricate use of guitar pedals live is an overpowering experience. Their 20-song set was fury of tracks from their previous albums and a few previews of Crawler, their much anticipated fourth studio release. A well-executed mashup of The Cure’s “Love Song” with The Ronettes “Be My Baby,” Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round” with Sinéad O’Connor’s “Nothing Compare 2 U” (and a litany of other songs) was the backdrop for IDLES’s ferocity and perfection.

When Tablot, a diminutive man with a voice that sounds like it could crush you through the microphone, screamed the lyrics “I kissed a boy and I liked it” (“Samaritans”) and then self-proclaimed himself “The Princess of Wales” at the start of anti-royalist song “Reigns,” I stood there thinking well, yeah, obviously.

For pro-immigrant anthem “Danny Nedelko,” Talbot called a “friend” up to the stage and I see my dude in the pink cowboy hat being pulled up. He absolutely crushed that song. On IG I found he’s a superfan named Femi who travels to their shows looking for the next high. I get him. Earlier in the day, before the show, he dropped a comment about badly wanting to sing that song, and it’s gracious that they made that happen. There is a reciprocated kinetic and visceral energy between IDLES and their audience that I’ve never experienced. This is THE band to see, and maybe you’ll catch Femi too.

GUSTAF

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