Positive Energies: Parcels and IDLES (Best Concerts of Sziget 2019 Part Four)

If you’re looking for a grand design as to why Parcels and IDLES ended up in the same article, well, there isn’t any. Perhaps the fact that I was familiar with one song each from both bands: for IDLES, it was obviously Danny Nedelko. For Parcels, my ignorance goes deeper: I only realized I knew one of their songs when I heard it during the gig, and for a while I couldn’t figure out its trajectory into my life, until it dawned on me that it’s part of my Colors playlist.  As it updates itself automatically each week, I end up in this strange world where I am very familiar with songs of which I do not know the author or title. Aiming for a less ignorant reason, I could say that although their genres are quite dissimilar, both bands had a kind of overflowing enthusiasm for playing music and sharing the experience with their fans.

Parcels, hailing form Australia but currently based in Berlin, look more like a bunch of matchstick thin extras from a series set in 1970s California, complete with a George Harrison lookalike. Signed to French cult label Kitsuné, they’ve attracted the kind attentions of none else than Daft Punk- this intel hit me from the screen of my phone as I was waiting for the concert to start, so I concluded that they may well be pretty slick, as anything that piques the interest of Daft Punk tends to be.

I was however not prepared for the whirlwind of unadulterated joy that radiated from the stage. There was a rapturous delight in each chord, an incessant energy that enveloped the crowd with the sounds of their solar, funk infused electro pop. Pardon my stereotyping, especially since they’ve now landed in the gloomy north, but their music is exactly as I imagine a summer’s day on an Australian beach (minus the sharks). It’s carefree, good humoured, but not without a note of sophistication, just enough to lift it above your run-of-the-mill feel good tunes yet it does not make it snobbish.  

They released their debut album last year, previously they’d only had a couple of EPs, so you could worry that they do not have enough material to keep up the insane intensity of the show. Yet the eponymous Parcels is so tightly packed with great tunes that they could probably play it start to finish and to an uninitiated it would sound like a best of collection. You even forgive them for the slightly art school gimmick of having the title songs as one long word (Lightenup, IknowhowIfeel, the last one being a particularly confusing read), as it somehow conveys the giddy flow of their music. On their Instagram profile they professed love and admiration for Sziget, of which they’d heard rumours of ‘grandeur size and splendour’ and promised to be back. The feeling is very much mutual.

The fact that IDLES, in spite of all contrary appearances, are a bunch of lovely lads became evident on the evening preceding their own show when they lent their guitars to Maribou State, whose instruments had been lost by ‘an airline’. That’s very diplomatically British of them, by the way, we demand to know which airline it was to forever avoid its rotten services. (I myself never travel with a guitar, of course, but who knows what items dear to me they would send on the wrong connection to Bermuda). There is nothing diplomatically British about IDLES, though, who burst onto stage like a spit and sweat covered hurricane of elation and anger. They ride the wave of exactly where these two feelings meet yet lead singer Joe Talbot strongly rejects the label of punk, which becomes amusingly problematic in the context of many people hailing them as the resurrectors or saviours of punk.

They released two albums in quick fire, Brutalism in 2017 and Joy as an Act of Resistance in 2018, when talking of the latter Talbot mentioned that it was inspired by personal experiences such as the loss of his stillborn daughter and his general feelings and thoughts on topics such as Brexit, toxic masculinity or the tabloid press. IDLES are therefore, as befits a punk band that is not a punk band, very political: during the Sziget set, Talbot dedicates a song the workers of the NHS and another to immigrants, ‘who make all our countries a better place’, a radical and timely gesture both in a British and Hungarian context. Their greatest hit to date, the already mentioned Danny Nedelko, is of course the story of a Ukrainian immigrant, a close friend of the band. While Talbot, sporting a citrus themed tropical shirt (unavoidable side note based on completely empirical data: tropical shirts seem to be the go to clothing item of young British men these days), wreaks havoc mostly on stage, lead guitarist Mark Bowen, sporting nothing but a pair of glorified underpants often shares the band’s enthusiasm with the crowd, in which moments I cannot stop myself from thinking that crowd surfing in such flimsy gear might provide unexpected sensations on both sides. And here I was gearing up for a grand finale in which I would unleash my Importance of Being IDLES pun on the world, only to discover that, of course, it was used plentifully before so I will simply mention that if you have the opportunity to catch IDLES live don’t you dare miss it. And bring your kids to the show too, you can never start too early with good music. 

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