Everyone has one band who they re-arrange their entire social calendar for. Every-ruddy-one has a band that they can't get enough of, a band that they cast aside all those things that're meant to do so far outta touch that whatever it was, now seems so insignificant you can't even remember why your mum's not talking to you. Everyone has a band they plug deep into their veins at full volume for as many hours a day as humanly possible. That band, for me, at the age of 16, was Idlewild. My one main memory that sticks out like a dayglo shellsuit, is seeing them supporting Ash at the Forum. I was still living in Weymouth down in Dorset and I made the 3 hour train trip upto London - bunking something or other. Somehow managed to get hold of a bottle of vodka which was shared and drunk somewhere in the back streets of Kentish Town and then, for the third time that week, I was off to see Idlewild!
I remember that mass of innocent faces staring like lost lambs at four pale-scots making what could only be described by the uninitiated as "the noize". Water, beer, snot, sweat and other bodily fluids flew every-fucken-where. Three minutes and two songs in and a massive THUD! Didn’t think anything of it 'til my t-shirt started changing colour until it was pretty much red all over. Me, being me, thought it was someone else's blood - which is a pretty mingin' thought.
The set goes on, they ain't gonna stop for me and I'm not gonna stop for me - if you don't understand why, you don't understand being a fan! I'd travelled too far not to lose myself in the pit, surrounded by strangers with similar minds. So, I flung myself like a pancake stuck to the pan, screaming "You jus haf to beee whooo yoooo aaaaarrrgghhh" [insert head-banging here], closing my eyes to see myself stood looking from the stage, staring back at myself, staring at myself, staring back at myself, smiling.
Idlewild, looking back, were the first band I think I ‘understood,’ as in the first band that I listened to and genuinely appreciated for what was actually going on in the record. Picture the Scene: It is two months since I have started listening to Steve Lamacq’s ‘Evening Session’, and I am fiendishly trying to keep up with ‘the scene’: THE REALLY MASSIVE ALTERNATIVE SCENE… Records don’t sound ‘better’ when you're at that stage as a music fan, but they are more anthemic. I’m not sure if I was even going to like this SCENE for any period. But ‘Actually It’s Darkness’ was the record I would credit for persuading me to say ‘YES’ to the world of sweaty venues, drunken dancing, and ‘passionate rather than beautiful’ singing. There was the ‘sharp as a dart’ guitar part, and the weird structure of the song, with both the verse and chorus so delicate and cerebral, yet so ‘PUNK!’ Every second-album Idlewild had a cleansing power on my mind which had become hollowed and dented by the need to sing ‘anthems’. I do not wish to put fuel on an already burning fire, but I think anyone who is saved from a dominant musical consciousness of Oasis and the like should feel blessed. Idlewild did that for me . People have had a go at them for ‘Live In A Hiding Place’, and its leanings towards acoustica, yet it recalls the very idiosyncratic part of Idlewild, well, for me, anyway, their poignancy in even the most trudged upon emotional clichés: My favourite Idlewild song was ‘Quiet Crown’ with the lyric resonating throughout: “I wanna to fly a little to the right.” Of course, for me, like nearly all my favourite songs, it is resisting being anything other than a bit different from the crowd. This is of course, elementary in the ‘BIG IDEAS’ of poetry and poeticism, but is a lyricist not just a bit special when he chooses to use the word ‘fly’ like that- with such Quixotic vim as Roddy Woomble does? It is bizarre that I have never seen Idlewild live, but if every teen music obsessive must have a bedroom band, like all the old of metalheadz and their love of the never here Metallica (well, until this coming summer), then Idlewild accidentally on purpose, became mine.
It's late. It's dark. It's Tuesday. It's the Camden Palace innit. Oh look, there's Bob, as drunk as a marine, trying to chat up some young bird. Good on him. Rock n roll.
"Oi Bob why won't you ever play 'Theory of Achievement' live?"
"Cos it sounds like some stupid fookin' Symposium song. You cunt."
That is all that ever needs said about the 'Wild. R.I.P Bob.
A few weeks ago I witnessed my 30th Idlewild gig, despite not listening to them for months or seeing them since December I was still blown away by the gig, and it made me think of all the stupid things I've done for them. I've suffered a 10 hour train journey from Plymouth to Dundee to see a tiny one off gig, hung around bus and train stations waiting for the first train back home and spent hundreds of pounds which I could have spent on other things and all because of one band.
I kinda remember the first time I heard Idlewild on the radio, not knowing how much they would change my life: I used to listen religiously to the Evening Session, the song was 'Chandelier'. It was different but good and I couldn't find it in the record shops in Luton, nor could I find the next single, 'Satan Polaroid'. But a few months later I came across 'Captain' and with the last money I had saved from my summer working money I bought it. To be honest at first I didn't quite get it, but after a few more listens it began to grow on me and I listened to it all the time.
A few months later Idlewild were playing in Bedford supporting Warm Jets, from that moment I knew I had to go and see them and begged my parents to lend me the money. And it was money well spent, it was the most amazing live show I'd seen in years, it totally blew me away, it was so raw and loud. Ever since then I've been stuck, unable to find a fault with them.
A few months later came Glastonbury 1998, it was disgusting and I hated practically every moment of it. That was until I saw Idlewild play the New Bands Tent. I got there early to secure my place on the barrier and waited and waited and waited. 45 minutes later I heard they were stuck in the mud. I was just about ready to leave when they came bursting onto the stage and because they were so late they had to squeeze as many songs as possible into 10 minutes. Each one was blistering and blinding, full of energy and passion, and even though they had ran over time they still played until they were forced off the stage.That is how I got hooked onto the live show, and that is what I lived for; so I travelled all over the country to Glasgow, Brighton, Dundee, Exeter, London either from Luton or Plymouth.
Since then I've grown up a lot - when I was 16 I was extremely teen punk, into Symposium, Bis, Helen Love, a fanzine writer into crowd surfing and moshing. But as I grew up my tastes changed in music, I calmed down, stopped living off sweets and wearing multi coloured bracelets. And in an odd way I feel Idlewild have grown up with me. They've chilled out a little but still know how to rock out once in a while and started thinking a little more, a bit like me, though I am still a typical fan who buys all the releases on all formats.
For over six years, Idlewild have been a huge part of my life and in a way made me what I am. No matter what I've done, I know that there are still there and that they won't abandon me in my hour of need, I know that they will be there to listen to when I need cheering up or need to think about what I've done. And like at the Astoria, despite feeling older than most of the crowd and suffering from a bad cold, they made me feel young again, able to jump up and down in the mosh pit, singing along to the words.
Do you have any personal memories of Idlewild? Or is there another band that makes you feel a similar way? Post your stories and opinions below.