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Idles: Selling Out the Empire in Sixty Seconds

Notice: This article contains references to suicide and mental illness.

On the 9th of November, IDLES’ gig for the 1st of April at the Empire Music Hall went on general sale and within one minute had sold out.

Ever since then, Facebook has been inundated with requests for spare tickets and scammers have been preying on the demand. The Empire fantastically released a small batch of tickets at the end of February, but they can only relieve the heartbreak for so many people. For those not in the know then, you might be asking “Who even are IDLES?” or at the very least “How did they manage all that?”


Well since the post-punk band released their debut album Brutalism in March 2017, they have been showered with accolades and universal praise. Their newest album Joy as an Act of Resistance has been lauded as an “instant classic” by NME and was placed in the #1 spot of BBC Radio 6 Music’s Top 10 Albums of 2018 list.

But first of all, who are IDLES? They were founded by Bristol night club owners Joe Talbot and Adam Devonshire, frontman and bassist respectfully. Over the years they recruited guitarists Mark Bowen and Lee Kiernan, as well as drummer Jon Beavis. The band craft furious, and at times gut-wrenchingly emotional, punk music – though Talbot would prefer to be known as a protest band.

Northern Ireland is no stranger to punk, with groups like The Undertones and Stiff Little Fingers blazing the way in the 70s to the torch being carried today by the likes of The Wood Burning Savages and Touts. It’s no surprise why IDLES, a band that deals in poetically spoken anti-Tory and working class songs, would be our cup of tea.

They also have a few connections to here, with lead guitarist/ sometimes dentist Mark Bowen sporting a well-cultivated NI accent and the first thing a listener hears on their debut album being the infamous primeval shriek of “No surrender!”

But on a larger scale the band is perhaps the most relevant punk band in the UK at the minute, tackling topics such as Brexit, immigration, class inequality, toxic masculinity, divisive politics, empowering love, self-worth, and unity with a scathing edge and unstoppable motion.

It’s not hard to see why NI would love them then, a country torn and fed-up with literal and metaphorical borders. Divisive politics and intolerance being our bread and butter to the point of our current failed government. Suicide rates consistently rising in recent years, with men taking their lives over three times as often as women.

Studies point towards our history of conflict leading to trans-generational trauma and greater levels of mental illness, while traditional masculine norms chastise how men and boys express themselves emotionally and seek help. Then concern exists over the collapse of the Northern Irish Assembly and therefore its ability to tackle this ongoing mental health problem.

So one reason IDLES may be so relevant and in demand at the moment is that they do dismantle traditionally toxic masculine roles. And what this does more than anything, is provide a global platform for discussion on the negative qualities related to that. Something that can be seen in how it effects the people of our country.

It’s no wonder why people would clamber towards the anger-fuelled rhetoric of IDLES then. A band who actively denounce the “grow some balls” attitude while shouting ‘This is why you’ll never see your father cry’ on the aptly titled ‘Samaritans’. Who sing ‘If someone talked to you, the way you do to you, I’d put their teeth through. Love yourself’ on ‘Television’. Then there’s the barrier breaking lyrics of ‘Danny Nedelko’ which is at times as relevant to immigration as it is to our cross-community.

Ultimately the reason IDLES can sell out the Empire in sixty seconds is that they give the disillusioned, the lost, and the hurting an honest and powerful voice, doing it with with such vitality and open arms. On the 1st of April that energy will erupt in the Empire, into a fantastic gig that really captures the spirit of society today.

If you were unlucky enough to miss the tickets for the Empire show, or even the Vicar Street one, hope’s not lost yet though. Obviously you can keep an eye out for resales if you’re lucky, just do watch out for the scammers; but IDLES are also headlining a gig at Iveagh Gardens this Summer on the 11th of July and tickets are still going.

Whether you’re in for a fantastic time on April 1st or are thinking about taking a trip down to Iveagh Gardens, you’re in for a cathartically violent evening with one of the most sincere acts going on today.

If any of the issues in this article have affected you, please contact Samaritans via phone at 116 123 or https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help/contact-samaritan/. Local offices can be reached at +44 (0)28 9066 4422 for Northern Ireland and +353 1 6710071 for RoI.

Music man from Belfast. Playing instruments like an amateur and loving movies and games. Currently listening to: Radiohead/ Ghost/ Thee Oh Sees