This is a bit of a bucket list item for me. Ever since I was in high school, I noticed that some of my favorite bands would always make it a point to stop and play at some venue named Pappy & Harriet’s out in the middle of the desert. With no license at the time or a way to get myself out there, I always dreamed of the day that I would finally be able to visit. When IDLES announced that they would be playing two shows at the famous venue as part of their Beauty From Ashes US tour, I knew that my time had come. Before I get to my review of the show, a little history lesson is in order.
Pioneertown is a small community about 200 km outside of Los Angeles in the high desert. The town was originally created in 1946 to act as a functioning 1880’s themed old west town for film and television. All of the structures in town were fully functioning businesses that included saloons, grocers, a local gazette and an ice cream parlor to name a few. One of the town’s local watering holes would go on to be a biker bar known as the Cantina before eventually becoming the more family friendly Pappy & Harriet’s in 1982.
Live music has always been part of Pappy & Harriet’s DNA. However, for the longest time the live acts included local acts as well as the actual Pappy and Harriet along with their granddaughter. It wasn’t until the early aughts that the venue became a must-do stop for acts that have included the likes of Paul McCartney, Arctic Monkeys, Little Dragon and Simian Mobile Disco among many other over the years. Pappy & Harriet’s is truly a one-of-a-kind venue. Day-to-day it operates as a Tex-Mex / BBQ restaurant that offers some of the best ribs and mac and cheese that I’ve ever had. Out back, there is a stage in what is essentially a dirt backyard that can somehow accommodate a maximum capacity of 850 people. At first glance it may not look like much, but it truly makes for a very intimate and unique environment to see some of your favorite artists. Now on to the show.
Joining IDLES on this tour was New York art-punk outfit Gustaf. Having previously not been on my radar, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect or whether I would enjoy them. Boy, was I wrong! Musically, Gustaf remind me of a mix between 80’s funk-rock band ESG, what with their lively, groove infused sound, and Laurie Anderson’s From the Air. In addition to the band’s overall energy level and carefree attitude, one of the things that stood out was vocalist / percussionist Tarra Thiessen’s reliance on an effects pedal that twists her voice into something that could best be described as sounding like Jabba the Hutt, very reminiscent of The Knife.
With the second show of the two-day stop at Pappy & Harriet’s falling on Halloween, the five-piece band took to the stage dressed as the members from IDLES an announced themselves as The False IDLES. In addition to her exquisitely drawn-on beard, frontwoman Lydia Gammil went so far as to try and mimic Joe Talbot’s deep, gruff voice throughout the set. While I was never too sure when she was or was not putting on this front, the songs sounded amazing and not at all out of place, which says a lot. On stage, each band member looked like they were enjoying life to the fullest, producing an energy that was palpable to the crowd. Despite the fact that most of the songs were unfamiliar to both the crowd and myself, we found ourselves dancing around and enjoying ourselves along with the band. I would highly recommend going out to see Gustaf the next time they are in your city.
Idles has been on my list of must-see bands since they made my list for one of the best albums of 2020. I was most curious to see how the band’s energy and in your face attitude would translate in a live setting. Tonight did not disappoint to say the least and the band’s performance definitely lived up to all the hype. I do not think I have had this much of an exciting visceral experience since I saw SadGirl almost 2 and half years ago. The band took to the stage fully embracing the fact that it was Halloween. Singer Joe Talbot was dressed as a giant hot dog while the rest of the band was dressed as Orville Peck (bassist Adam Devonshire), 90’s Madonna in her iconic Jean Paul Gaultier cone bra (lead guitarist Mark Bowen), Riddler (rhythm guitarist Lee Kiernan) and Woody from Toy Story (guitarist drummer Jon Beavis).
The band kicked off their set with Colossus, the opening track off their sophomore album Joy as an Act of Resistance. The track starts out slowly with Bowen’s drumming then adds in Devonshire’s thundering bass as Talbot aggressively paces back and forth across the stage. The tension and energy slowly build throughout the course of the song until the band abruptly stops and goes quiet. Talbot leans into the crowd, politely asking us to split down the middle just before the band explodes back into life as the two halves of the crowd rush toward each other Braveheart style, erupting in a huge mosh pit for the conclusion of the song. The next song, Car Crash, is a new one off the band’s upcoming album Crawler. Talbot cheekily announces the fact that we can buy the album at Walmart along with a gun.
For the uninitiated, Idles is not just about aggression and rage. The band truly has a soft side and cares about the community that is its fanbase. The band has a bit of a sweet tooth in its love for chocolate milk. At the front of the crowd there was a woman who had been holding a gallon of chocolate milk and waving it in the air throughout the first few songs of set. During one of the interludes, Talbot asked the woman for her name and proclaimed that, “You’re going to open that, you’re going to crowd surf and drink the whole fucking thing. Lets go!” The young woman then took a big swig from the jug before offering it up to Talbot, stating that it was the best chocolate milk in the area. Talbot politely declined and said that he would conclude the debate with her after the show at the bar.
The band would go on to power through a full 2 hour plus set that covered their full discography, including Crawler, among some impromptu Madonna covers (led by Bowen obviously), Aladdin’s A Whole New World and Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You. To be honest, I completely lost track of time and the specifics of the set list as I was too busy jumping around and being pushed back and forth through the crowd as I screamed at the top of my lungs with the rest of the crowd as we sang along in unison with Talbot. From the outside, the mosh pit may have looked like a chaotic free for all, but there was definitely a strong sense of love and community contained within it. There is no way around it, the likelihood of losing your balance or getting knocked over is highly likely. However, the second this would happen the crowd would immediately stop, and a group of people would rush to help you up before continuing. The band eventually finished their set with Talbot proclaiming that, “We don’t do encores. We hate lying to our fans.” He would go on to thank the crowd for a magical night and for making the band feel welcomed in our home and country.