British punk-band Idles performed at Pappy and Harriet’s for two nights to close out October. But before Idles could bring the insanity, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Gustaf opened.
Blend The B-52’s at their most fun with the band Warpaint, and then add art-punk seasoning, and you have Gustaf. I recommend checking them out, especially the songs “Cruel,” “Mine” and “Best Behavior.”
In between bands, I spoke to an Idles super-fan named Emily, a person the security staff had nicknamed “Emily Viper,” perhaps because she could have been cast opposite Uma Thurman in Kill Bill: Vol. 1. She was really excited to see her favorite band. I, too, was excited, but I must admit that I’ve avoided a few punk shows at Pappy and Harriet’s lately, because I recently had some amazing cosmetic dentistry done, and I don’t want to take a crowd-surfer’s Dr. Martens to the face.
(All kidding aside, Pappy’s has installed a “crash barrier” that makes it very safe for media covering shows, and the security team is top-notch. But beer throwing is another story …)
Joe Talbot, the lead singer of Idles, made it to the center of the stage and gestured with his hand, splitting the crowd—as if dividing a future mosh pit. “Are you ready to take care of each other?” he asked, setting safety expectations to the would-be moshers in the crowd. Talbot often did a pugilistic prance around the stage, even though Idles’ music is really quite brainy, tackling issues like racism, macho culture, immigration and mental health.
Idles started off with “Colossus,” about today’s expectations of masculinity. I instantly was drenched with flying plastic cups of expensive beer. Idles followed up with “Car Crash,” a new song on Crawler, due to be released via Partisan Records on Nov. 12.
Four songs into the set, a joyous Talbot exclaimed: “I hate to interrupt the show. You are making us feel special. It’s been two fucking years. This is for you!” Next came the song “Mother,” fueling the mosh pit—which seemed oddly rectangular instead of being a traditional circle. Perhaps Talbot’s earlier instructions kept the chaos confined to the center of the outdoor-stage area.
At one point, Talbot pronounced: “I am the fucking queen!” which led to cheers, more beer-throwing and seemingly non-stop crowd-surfing.
“I love everything that you are giving us tonight! This is a new one,” Talbot said as he introduced “Never Fight a Man With a Perm,” a song about toxic masculinity.
Two-thirds through the show, both guitarists were regularly making their way into the crowd, walking on the hands of fans as they were lifted high in the air—making it as far as the soundboard.
Talbot later made a request of the production staff: “Do me a favor, light-person. Keep the lights on. I want to see these beautiful people.” As the lights got bright, he sang “Love Song.” I spotted guitarist Lee Kiernan sitting by the elevated soundboard—guitar-less, with a video camera in his hand.
There was lovable post-punk mayhem in the air as guitarist Mark Bowen sang—while being hoisted by the crowd—a medley of songs including U2’s “With or Without You,” “Wonderwall” by Oasis, and a grossly premature “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” by Mariah Carey.
Talbot thanked the crowd yet again: “What a beautiful and powerful evening you have created. … This is our last song.” He invited Gustaf to the stage for “Rottweiler,” a song about vultures and “a snake in my boot”—perfect for the high desert.
As I left, I ran into Emily Viper, and she asked me if I liked Idles. I said I indeed did—except for the beer-throwing. She replied that people always throw beer at Idles shows.
Flying-beer problems aside, I am serious when I say: Idles may be the best live punk band I have ever seen.