Cardiff Tramshed

They made the album which shut down toxic masculinity, mindless racists and your local neighbourhood roiders. They’re IDLES and now everyone and their mothers are fighting for tickets to their live shows. 2018’s worldwide album tour shredded through available tickets at breakneck speed; with their 2019 tour, breakneck just doesn’t cut it. As I’m writing this only a spatter of shows out of the near 50 date tour remain unfilled. So when R*E*P*E*A*T called and asked if I would like to cover the event, I jumped at the chance. Two buses and a train later and I was on my way to AF Gang Mecca; that is wherever IDLES may be – Tonight it was Cardiff.

Entering the venue, I noticed an anomaly in my gig going days. As with many a band IDLES attract people of all ages, these are your teenage rebels gone 40, the veterans of the mosh pit who now bear the burden of back pain. Often you find them head banging on the outskirts or by the bar but no, not here. For IDLES draw the superhuman, the special few who say 'fuck you' to going down a peg, made pit invincible by the promise of unrivalled sound and high octane performance, they were here for a show and they weren’t going to watch it between the heads of the fresh faced. Hands firmly grasped around the iron bars of the barrier, they stayed fixtures of the front as the hall packed out behind them. No one could’ve made them move an inch.

Pic : Dali Mia Poulsom

After a brooding set of growling bass from touring support Crows, we were ready. Or at least we thought we were. For the second time that night the music stopped from the speakers and was replaced by the screams of adoring fans. A tribal rhythm begun. It was Colossus, the bass began to grumble and gradually the rest of the gang took their places, contributing to the slow swelling of noise and tension, frontman, Joe Talbot’s voice becoming more impassioned with every lyric sung. They whirled, glided and gyrated across the stage, like a mad gang of tribal warriors in ritual song. It rises to a crescendo, every sound that’s being emit hitting peak emotion, power, glory. It drops away. Nothing but a gentle hiss of a cymbal and a few drawn out snarls from the bass remain. Silence... It lasts forever, electricity filling a room primed and loaded to explode, we knew what was coming, we just didn’t know when – ‘WHAT’S UP!!’. Talbot Screams and my ribs turn to dust as the crowd launch into a hurricane of bodies. Chaos extends to the stage: they’re twisting and swinging in maniacal ecstasy all whilst screaming a wicked cacophony from mic and guitar. Talbot stares into the crowd his face a fiery red, veins fit to burst, for someone so terrifying it's impossible not to stand jaw dropped. The pace was set and it wasn’t going to slip.

The set was split pretty evenly between tracks from their past two albums including a reappearance of a personal favourite of mine ‘Stendhal Syndrome’. A reappearance that was only enhanced by Joe trying to remember the lyrics on the fly, getting no help from the rest of the gang. ‘When I say what’s the next bit? it means I can’t remember the fucking next bit!’. I feel you Joe.

Pic : Dali Mia Poulsom

‘He’s made of you; he’s made of me. Unity!’ Smash single Danny Nedelko was a clear fans' favourite; if the perfectly echoed lyrics didn’t tell you that, then the masses of hands in the air with thumbs pressed to index fingers did. Never had I felt more united with strangers. We were all dancing to the same song and if a love for that song was the only thing that connected any of us, then that was enough. AF Gang and proud.

Grab the ticket and take the ride, it seems that IDLES threw us on a rollercoaster that only got bigger, faster and more exhilarating. Guitarists were disappearing into the crowd, tethered by amp lead, Talbot was throwing shapes so out of place it couldn’t have been more fitting. An assault on the senses from all angles - bedlam has never been done better.

As the show went on I began to wonder how you could possibly close a show that never dipped below eleven – where was there to go once you’d already pushed beyond the limits? It seems like IDLES have one thing to say about limits and that’s fuck em. Shit got wild. Exeter’s considerably upbeat intro comes in and the crowd groove out as they had been all night, a fun time yet still riding that same flow we’d been riding all night.


That changed soon, Lee comes to the barrier, telecaster in hand, two girls grab it and join him on stage – it was a stage invasion - I think ‘bugger, I wish that was me’. But wait, Bowen’s in-front of me, ‘Can you play?!’ – Yes I fucking can! Swoosh and I'm hoisted over the bar, herded to the stage and plonked with a battle damaged Strat on the IDLES stage with eight other lucky gig goers. From there you could see everything, O.K hand signs up in the air, Talbot dancing with fans, Bowen mounting colossal speakers and screaming into the crowd; It was like being thrust into the centre of a storm of adrenaline fresh from a daydream. The song ends, security point to the barrier, I dish a quick thank you and hop round to the back of the crowd just in time to hear Rottweiler kick into gear. The room erupts, anyone on the fringes gets sucked into the vortex of the crowd and cannonballed around the floor. I end up back at the barrier for a brief reunion before getting sent back to the riptide of the crowd for another whirl. The last chord rings out and the show’s over. Through a haze of sweat and panting, a final applause is given.

You Tube Screen Grab

I learnt many a thing from IDLES that night. I learnt that Joe Talbot is a scary dude; to thank God for ribs that withstand a gig barrier; but most of all I learnt why IDLES are so special as performers. They understand that performance is the one dimension a meet and greet or record can never bring, they understand it's about persona and translating the sound to movement.

Maybe that’s why their tours get sold out.

Maybe they're just fucking cool.

Dom Waters

Thanks to Rob @ Sonic and James @ Prescription for sorting this out