Giga-Jools of Energy

About a year and a half ago, a mate sent me a message with a link, accompanied by the succinct phrase “your new favourite band”. The link was to the band Idles, and looking back, the comment was pretty much on the mark. Idles are the most exciting music discovery I’ve made in the last couple of years. They also made this video, which you should watch if you are ever in a funk. It always puts a smile on my face. Their debut album Brutalism was my album of the year last year, and this year’s follow-up, Joy as an Act of Resistance, is arguably even better.

With the recent release of the second album, and the buzz of anticipation surrounding their upcoming gig in The Button Factory, there has been much discussion about the band in my anti-social social circle. Their frenetic performance on Jools Holland last week redoubled the excitement. Raw, energetic, powerful; the sound of a band that have come from the Bristol underground and cut a swathe through the run-of-the-mill post-punk movement, and look as if they are about to conquer the world.

Jools Holland’s show has always been a goldmine of alternative music, and I’ve discovered many bands over the years through it. Idle’s recent appearance put me in mind of the now iconic performance by At the Drive-In in 2000. The out-of-tune sonic mayhem of a band on the verge of collapse still managed to be more exciting and memorable than most other bands at the time. That miserable excuse for a human being Robbie Williams was on the same show. It’s a pity the above clip doesn’t show the bit where it cut to him after the song, as he was preparing to poison our eardrums with one of his godawful nauseating ‘hits’. His face as the camera cut to him was a mix of terror and bafflement, as he no doubt realised that he was a talentless charlatan, and there was no earthly way he was going to be able to follow the chaos that had just unfolded.

Shortly after that performance, At the Drive-In broke up, and I thought for many years that I would never get to see them. Happily, they reformed and are making music and touring again, and I have seen them three times in the last few years. To conclude today, here’s what I wrote after seeing them for the first time in March 2016, the lack of phones for the majority of the gig was most notable:

  • Way back in September 2000, just before I moved to Portugal, an album called Relationship of Command was released. It was rarely out of my discman (remember them) for the next six months, and is an album that has stood the test of time that I go back to again and again. It both takes me back to that first time moving abroad, and also connects so many dots between now and then. Right now, my vinyl copy is on the turntable.Sadly, not long after that release the band broke up. After fifteen and a half years however, I finally got to see them on their reignition tour. Even with the disappointing news of Jim Ward quitting on the eve of the tour, they hit the stage in Vicar St on Saturday evening and absolutely blew the roof off the place. Expectations were so high, and they managed to surpass them. Two days later I’m still buzzing off the gig. From the opening salvo of Arcarsenal to an explosive One Armed Scissor, they rattled through most of Relationship of Command, with a pinch of In-Casino Out (Lopsided a particular highlight) and Vaya thrown in, in relentless fashion. The band were obviously having a blast, and the crowd was in full voice for the whole set (was so pleased to note that, until the closer, there was barely a smart phone to be seen – a clear sign that everyone was so into the gig that the usual annoying ubiquity of phone screens wasn’t evident). I even got to grab Cedric as he ran through the sold-out crowd during Enfilade. I’m never washing my right hand again (that’s a lie, but the only exaggeration in this post).

    An awful lot has happened in the years since my 21 year-old self bought that album. Finally getting to complete the circle by seeing them live was a cathartic experience. Almost like now is the start of a new chapter in life. Yes, At The Drive-In are THAT good live.


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