May 22nd, Wednesday night, Los Angeles was shaken with an immeasurable, staggering force. The epicenter: The Fonda Theatre. But, unlike most storms, there was no calm to precede it. Instead, it began with the calculated chaos of Fontaines D.C., a couple of young Dublin punks that somehow have found a comfortable balance between Britpop-sensibilities and post-punk. I’m unashamed to admit how many hours of my high-school years I’ve sunk into scouring Youtube videos for live footage of Joy Division – and with Fontaines D.C., I feel like those film reels have come to life. The dynamic of lead singer Grian Chatten and guitarist Conor Curley evoke a similar chemistry to the interplay of Bernard Sumner’s chugging guitars and Ian Curtis’ frantic vocal performances in all the clubs that would host Joy Division. Though they may not be the as well-known as they deserve to be, in their own words, “my childhood was small, but I’m gonna be big.”
If Fontaines D.C. were there to reel in the crowd’s energy, IDLES were there to wreck it in the kindest way possible. Bristol-based punk band IDLES has taken over the scene by storm in the past two years with the one-two punch of their albums Brutalism and Joy as an Act of Resistance. From the lone bass notes of “Colossus” that opened their set to the uncontrolled noise of “Rottweiler” that bookended it, the crowd was slamming bodies into one another without end. It’s hard to argue that there isn’t hedonism somewhere in IDLES’ live performances but they’re the type of band that keeps it in check. Their music embraces vulnerability in the most aggressive ways imaginable, from the violent chants of “Never Fight a Man With a Perm” to critiques of toxic masculinity like “Samaritans.”
The band pulled no punches, either. Even in their older material off of Brutalism, on songs like “Mother,” “1049 Gotho,” and “Benzocaine,” the crowd was always singing along and channeling energy like a bunch of rowdy roughhousers.
Amidst the ruckus, there was a certain kind of solidarity in hearing lead singer Joe Talbot step back on songs such as “Danny Nedelko,” an anti-xenophobic anthem that celebrates the community and unity of all people, especially immigrants. As the song reached the point where it spells out the message “Danny Nedelko Community, so fuck you,” guitarist Mark Bowen, donning tights of the stars and stripes, surfed the crowd to amplify the message. The highlight of the night, however, was arguably their brief a cappella rendition of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” after a fan in the crowd said that it was their birthday.
Overall, the show was nothing short of excellent, as to be expected from IDLES. Each time they come to town, I’m sure to be at their show. I’m already on the edge of my seat to see them return once more on October 8th at The Wiltern.