Monday, May 13, 2019

IDLES Played Brooklyn Steel with Fontaines D.C., 5/11/19

IDLES at Brooklyn Steel

Joy as an Act of Resistance.

I wanted to write this up sooner, but Saturday was taken up with a plumbing project and a bat mitzvah. Yesterday was Mother's Day, so here we are.


I often do this thing where I get myself into a frenzy of excitement over a band or a festival or something. I search out upcoming shows and excitedly buy tickets way in advance. Then, I kinda forget I have them until right before the show.

Last summer, British band IDLES released their sophomore LP, Joy as an Act of Resistance. I came to the record late in the year. I got slightly obsessed with it; and, at some point, I snapped up tickets to IDLES' May Brooklyn Steel show, a show that eventually sold out. Then, I forgot I had them.

Fast-forward to April 2019. Dublin's Fontaines D.C. released their debut album, Dogrel. They were the band from SXSW 2019 that had left, probably, the biggest impression on me; and Dogrel immediately went into heavy rotation. I did my thing where I searched out their upcoming dates (I'd already missed a show at Market Hotel because I was out of town or something), and I noticed they would be playing Brooklyn Steel in May. With IDLES. Wait a minute...

I'll often buy two tickets under the spurious assumption that I'll be able to find someone to accompany me to shows. I knew my buddy Alex was into IDLES, so I asked him if he wanted to be my +1; and I had the rare experience of having a companion. We headed up to Brooklyn together. No camera this time. My plan was to hang in back to just enjoy the show in relative calm.

Aside: Over the years, it's gotten to the point where I just use show reviews here as an excuse to post a few pictures. That's a departure from how things started at CoolDad Music, I think. The very first post here was a show review with no pictures at all. I've been going through a bit of a site (and a mental) reset lately if you haven't already noticed; and I may go back to focusing a little less on the pictures and more on just taking in the show.

Brooklyn Steel has a capacity of around 1800 but feels somehow bigger. Alex and I walked into the cavernous space before it really started to fill up. This was a big show, so we spotted a few friends and chatted a bit. Mostly, though, we just staked out a space by the soundboard.

By the time Fontaines D.C. took the stage, the place was already pretty packed out. They opened with "Chequeless Reckless" and barreled through a set consisting of every song off of Dogrel except for the traditionally Irish sounding "Dublin City Sky." Lead singer Grian Chatten was just as I remembered him from Austin -- tense and jittery between songs, laser-focused as he sang. His voice rang loud and clear throughout the space, thick with its Dublin accent. At times, on "Television Screens" for example, his bellow reminded me a bit of Billy Bragg. The rest of the band combines post-punk and garage rock into a sound that is 1000 times more relevant and vital than what my admittedly lame description would suggest.

Fontaines D.C.

Great set. But...

Then IDLES came on.

The Bristol five-piece took the stage to the ominous sounds of Joy... opener, "Colossus." Vocalist Joe Talbot spooled the first verse out deliberately, forebodingly before the song careened off at full speed. Talbot was flanked on either side by guitarists Mark Bowen (shirtless in American flag tights) and Lee Kiernan who were basically going apeshit for the entire show, making for a striking visual. Kiernan made his way down into the crowd a couple of times. All we could see from our vantage point was his guitar cable snaking its way through a sea of writhing bodies.

Talbot engaged the crowd between songs throughout the show. The audience screamed and shouted along in all the right places on songs like "I'm Scum," "Television," and the appropriately timed "Mother." Talbot repeatedly and genuinely thanked everyone who worked at the venue and thanked the entire crowd for coming out to make the band "feel special." He shouted out Brooklyn band Bambara as well as "Irish scamps" Fontaines D.C. The music is aggressive, angry. The crowd is, shall we say, animated. But the good vibes flowing around the venue are real.

IDLES closed with "Rottweiler." During the extended outro, as the band walked off stage, Bowen got behind the drum set recently vacated by drummer Jon Beavis and chanted, "Long live the open-minded." Fists and hearts pumped vigorously.

I had a pretty good view from my place in the back; and, with the exception of my curmudgeonly annoyance at the river of people that had to walk back and forth from place to place throughout the show, I was able to take it all in. Alex described it well when he said to me later that it was like watching a great movie unfold on a screen. And that doesn't imply any kind of detachment. Instead, it was one of the most engrossing shows I've seen in a while.

I used to think that I had to be up front with people climbing up my back to feel like I was part of the show, but hanging back and taking it all in felt pretty good, too. That's a credit to Brooklyn Steel, its sight lines, and the sound as well as to IDLES and Fontaines D.C. for being able to draw the entire huge space into their orbit.

Sometimes, I regret acting rashly, pouncing on tickets, paying fees when I'm not even sure what I'll be up to 1 or 3 or 6 months in the future. This time my teenage-like enthusiasm paid off. Easily one of the best nights of live music I've experienced in a long time.

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