It was almost two years ago when a good friend of mine and I were hot-boxing our ceremonious shed, courtesy of a late friend of ours when I was first introduced to Idles. Chef Rhys, his eyes all narrow and red announced that he had an amazing track to play me by a band that he had found and without hesitation and like always he queued it up to be played through his reasonably banging bluetooth speaker tube thing.
And so it was that I heard Well Done for the first time and at that point I accepted that it was a top tune. It wasn’t for a while after that that I decided to investigate the Brutalism album that featured that particular track. Two tracks in I was ordering it from my local record shop with a view to playing it through the ‘proper stereo’ – it was an album that I listened to over and over, appreciating so many facets of it without thinking much outside of what it was. I never looked the band up, no one else had really mentioned them to me and I certainly didn’t know they were from the area or that they had played so many local shows… in fact I have been kicking myself knowing that I have stood next to posters in the past for their gigs at small and great venues like The Stag & Hounds or The Exchange in Bristol – but somehow, I had managed to miss them! Slipped through somehow by my lack of observation.
My unconditional love for this band and its ever spreading social movement ignited simultaneously with the announcement of their second album and our fellow journalist and advocate Jeni-Hell announcing her undying love for them. It’s her I can thank for inviting me over to the AFGang paged which only served to fuel my appreciation of the band, the fans and the community that they had built.
I’ve never really felt the need to join any kind of fan club with exception to the Cardiacs online page as being in the Pond is an incredible experience and it was wonderfully joyous being part of the absolutely positive experience that saw fans come together all over the globe and raise money for the glorious Tim Smith. But I felt that as a fan of Idles I met the criteria and I was keen to see how this particular community worked in general.
I think I, like so many others who have been welcomed into the AFGang community would agree that it is a pleasant surprise and not necessarily what one expects from a fan page. It soon became apparent that this was (and is) so much more than a group of people talking about how much they love a band – don’t get me wrong there is a lot of that, naturally but this goes so far beyond it and it’s immense.
I hadn’t had the opportunity to see Idles up until a few Mondays ago, they played the O2 Academy in Oxford, I had missed lots of chances to get tickets to other gigs so I just thought ‘fuck it’ – I knew that seeing them live was an experience that I needed and I wanted to be part of the community and the best way to do that was to turn up and get involved.
In fact, that’s something I have seen within the community quite a lot, stories of people who would normally never dream of travelling miles and miles alone to a gig, the thought of which would send anxieties through the roof and yet so many have pushed themselves to go and not one person has regretted it. This was a reassuring notion that prompted me to get my ticket without as much hesitation as one normally has with that sort of thing – one ticket meant that Arbiter Titan would not be there with his laminated itineraries and eidetic knowledge of the local geography – I was on my own!
I say that, but that’s the thing… I wasn’t actually on my own… and as Idles have been telling me and every other one of their fans, none of us are – and that is a core component that makes one of the integral constitutions of the AFgang, no one is alone.
I’m going to be zipping about as I talk about all of this because it’s very exciting and I keep remembering points that I wanted to make and I know most people edit this stuff into order but bleh, if you’re a regular reader you know that’s not how we work here!
Y’see, The Brutalism album got me right riled up about the way of the world, I mean, I spend a good portion of my day riled anyway so it’s always nice to hear from other people who are also riled and then you can get riled together. Mother is a track that makes me feel angry and disgusting and I dare any guy to argue not feeling the same because it’s universal and you know what I mean.
Well Done, the first track that I ever heard by them is reminiscent of so many conversations had with family members or those friends who aren’t actually your friends – why don’t you get a degree? because fuck off that’s why.
It was and is for all intents and purposes a passionate, rile-fuelling punk album that focuses on modern day observations and sociological issues which in their entirety are the same issues that’s been taking place forever, but! it is a prime example of a piece of provoking art emerging at exactly the right time and in exactly the right way… it got people’s attention and that allowed them to really cause a stir with the album that followed, Joy As An Act of Resistance (or JAAAOR for coolsies)
Suddenly they were telling us stuff that we already knew, or at least should know, that we, we, weeeeee the collective aren’t wrong, we aren’t weak and we shouldn’t let anyone tell us otherwise. It’s a reminder, a gut-wrenching, fist-clenching reminded that we’re fucking awesome and for as long as we are awesome together the awesomeness can only serve to get stronger and spread.
Something I love in particular is how there’s nothing more required in their tunes – something one of my all time favourite bands The Monks accomplished back in the 60s – this is a remark I made before ever hearing The Idles Chant which only served to bolster my insanely awesome observation. All impact is amplified by the absolute lack of filler, tracks can be as sparse as they are full, roomy and vacant at the same time, focus can be drawn to different areas at different times, sometimes you’ll focus on the guitar and I find that if you do it long enough it’s all you hear and it’ll blow your mind, you can do this with each component and, here’s the kicker you can listen to it all at the same time, the complete engine – with the tenacious and unstoppable force of Sgt. Nicholas Angel. Justice will be met in the end, surrender is not an option.
Idles have merely stirred the pot within thousands and thousands of people around the world who listening to the album and suddenly realised ‘holy fuck, I’m epic’. Everything from that point has come as a bi-product of what these down to earth, good time, gentle nod in the right direction musicians have laid down at the beginning. They’re a universal language and I’ll back this up by having sat in a garden on two separate occasions with either one of my parents who have sat with me and listened to all of Idles in total silence – apart from the occasional ‘fuck’ or ‘yes’ of approval.
Idles mania is now in full swing, the catalyst has done its job and now it’s up to the amazing, kind-hearted, warm and generous fans of this band to spread the message that unity and love is fine but you don’t have to take a beating on the way, stand your ground and if someone is a cunt you let them know.
I honestly don’t think that they ever thought that their music would have such an immense and profound impact on so many people, the band are a humble bunch of friendly and inviting guys who are always happy to spend time with their fans – these efforts go a long way as the band and what they stand for means so much to so many and it’s wonderful, dare I say pure that they haven’t created an ‘us and them’ divide between band and fans. The cup has runneth over and the magic is spreading.
The Oxford gig was not only an opportunity to see the band perform live (something which is absolutely incredible) but also to immerse myself in the community. I arrived strangely on time to the meeting place and sat down in the corner, cradling my half an orange juice. I sat awkwardly for twenty minutes or so until a chap by the name of Andy came across and introduced himself. It then transpired that at least four of us had been there for a considerable length of time, all together but alone, too anxious and weird to introduce ourselves but once the cycle had been initiated by a delightful guy who had traveled alone from St. Austel to Oxford since 430am things were in full swing. More and more people arrived until eventually the entire venue was one AFGang party, a mass of introductions, where are you froms, I’ve spoken to you onlines and so on and so forth. It was incredible and nothing like I have ever experienced with any other band… or any other thing for that matter.
The gig itself was immense, with Heavy Lungs supporting (I’m not going to talk about them until I’ve seen them play at The Louisiana in January) prior to ‘the boys’ coming on stage and compelling everyone to sing / shout along and become overwhelmed in feelings of love, warmth and being somehow happily annoyed with the state of the world. Everyone was looking out for each other and the atmosphere was great. The O2 in Oxford is substantially better than the one in Bristol, for a start it didn’t have security akin to an international airport and the staff were lovely, Joe even remarked on how welcome and safe the security there had made them feel which in this day and age is something worth noting.
Each and every track they performed they performed with as much zest and enthusiasm as ever, despite doing some heavy touring over the last year. Every track was dedicated to someone who mattered, be it friends of the band, or even a dedication to Connie who had managed to make every single gig so far on the tour – it proved that people no matter who matter to the these guys and it was a solid reminder to us all that people DO matter.
Of course there was a stage invasion and it was beautiful, particularly as I think that they were maybe told not to allow it to happen, but they did it anyway… ‘cos it’s the right thing to do!
It was a beautiful evening and with the knowledge that they’re coming to play Cardiff in March it’s something that I know will happen again – there’s a movement happening and the best thing to do is be part of it and help it spread, use the music for momentum, use the message for strength and use your voice for reason and amplification of this beautiful collective realisation.
And above all…
P.S – Joe Talbot, if you happen to read this your dad taught my mum A-level art in evening school (She used to take me along and give me clay to make ashtrays) she used to make him mix CDs, ask him about when he played Obscene & Pornographic Art to his sixth form students, that was her doing!