Joy IS the Act of Resistance – IDLES Play The Lincoln Hall

Some people think mosh pits are scary. They can be. Daunting or intimidating may be better words. To me, someone who’s been in enough pits to respect their potential greatness, I think they’re the opposite of scary, daunting, or intimidating – rather they can be inviting, communal, and jovial, and I quite like them.           

I went to see IDLES at the Lincoln hall last Friday night, on the 15th. They’re a punk band from the UK. In fact, The Guardian claims that they’re the best punk band coming from England today – a bold claim considering you have bands like Shame, Goat Girl, and the whole South London scene breaking into America as of late, but after witnessing this show, I just might have to agree. That show was the first on their American tour in Fall 2018 and the band Bambara opened for the band – who were also great.

Now, this pit was a rough one, but I didn’t leave it once. I walked out of the show with bruises on my arms and legs. I think I got kicked in the back of the right leg because it kind of hurts now, my chin hit a bunch of people’s shoulders and heads and I bit my tongue a few times and it bled a little. People were surfing the crowd, including members of the band. I’ve never been more sweaty, or covered in more beer in my life, and my shirt has a little blood on it which I’m fairly sure is not mine. But I’d never felt better.

IDLES’ new album, Joy as an Act of Resistance, came out earlier this month. It’s got all the typical labels attached to it – “punk,” “post-punk,” “heavy,” “raucous,” whatever. It is all those things, but it’s also an incredibly cathartic listen and the band’s lyrics are one of the best parts. They’re incredibly socially conscious, political lyrics that cry out against sexual violence, anti-immigration, political hierarchy, and they champion the letting out of emotions, the acceptance of people who are different from you, among others, and those words are accompanied by the twin wailings of pummeling guitars, loud and driving as hell bass playing, and drumming that sounds like a tribal warrior has been overcome with anger. 

In a live setting, these songs are no less cathartic and bombastic. The two guitarists were not stagnant players. They blast out discordant yet melodious chord progressions with such veracity, the stage wasn’t enough for them at times, so they took to crowd surfing a couple times. The vocals, delivered with the most satisfying accent and anger drew you in and made you pay attention, even if some huge sweaty guy just plowed you to the ground. The tremendous energy didn’t take away from the message, however. “This song’s about why I love immigrants so much,” “this song is about depression,” and “this song is about men sharing their feeling’s for a better future.” That last line is how their song “Samaritans” was introduced, off the new record, it was my personal highlight and I’m not ashamed to admit I reveled in every word and almost cried.

The set was built by a lot of cuts from the new album – “Colossus,” “Danny Nedelko,” “Great,” “I’m Scum,” to name a few, as well as some from their 2017 debut Brutalism like “Well Done,” (another highlight), and “Mother.” “Rottweiler” off the new album closed the set. They closed it with a ravenous barrage of guitar feedback and pure volume, strobe lights too. I remember standing there near mesmerized by the terrifying display of glorious noise until being pushed back into reality to keep one of the guitar player above the crowd yet again.

That pit was rough. But it was done right. “We’ll all take care of each other yeah?” was asked of us. If I fell (which I did, the floor was slippery), someone picked me up. Somebody lost a hat (which they did, I caught it)? I raised it in the air and it’s owner took it gratefully. You’ve had enough of moshing (which I didn’t)? Well anybody that did was helped out and not bothered. That crowd plus that band and that music made for a show I can confidently say was the best show I have ever been to in my whole twenty years to date.

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