ACL Fest: Idles frontman Joe Talbot sang Adele and dressed like Beto O’Rourke
It was a downright presidential stump. Sporting black work pants and a button-down, rolled-up blue shirt, Talbot’s Bristol, United Kingdom outfit preached empathy and inclusion. He sang about immigrants, healthcare for all, toxic masculinity, bullying, sexual violence, and against the “racist” and “right-wing press.”
It was punk! Stuffed with battery drums, siren guitars, and pub chants, songs like “I’m Scum” and “Never Fight a Man With a Perm” inspired expressive mosh pits. But in 2019, the noise is just half the battle, and Idles offered more thoughtful and inclusive onstage candor.
As a front line of apparent Cardi B and Lizzo campers, many young people of color, were initially alarmed by the crowd-surfing and chaos behind them, Talbot nipped it in the bud. He asked the “rambunctious young men” to “please look after your neighbors”—especially those who didn’t want to mosh.
He prefaced “Samaritans” as a song about men “expressing their feelings” and before the cathartic, post-Brexit anthem “Danny Nadelko,” a song about a real-life friend who is a fellow musician and Ukrainian immigrant, he dropped a “Viva Mexico.” He said “1049 Gotho” was about his friend with depression.
Saturday night at the Mohawk in an official Austin City Limits side show, Idles enjoyed a distinct home crowd. A punk band in a sold-out punk club. This was a road game—one that seemed to succeed on two levels: inspiring critical thinking from riled-up youngsters and also sustaining energy outside in oppressive heat.
In both shows, guitarists Mark Bowen and Lee Kiernan logged many minutes multitasking—playing and passing around the microphone for anyone to yell from out in the crowd. At the Mohawk show, Talbot even invited a guy he said he’d just met and who bought the band beers, whom he called his “Mexican brother,” to play drums for a song.
When you can get everyone to chant “I love myself and I want to try,” there are few things more punk.