While on a recent tour opening up for the scorching British punk band, A Place to Bury Strangers’ Lia Braswell got to experience the awesome power of the drummer on a nightly basis. Here she reports that his energy is fed by his bandmates’ sincere respect for one another, allegiance to their fans, and hunger for unexpected magical moments on the road.
If there’s one thing that Brighton, England’s Idles is renowned for, it’s a commitment to community. The band takes pride in their reputation for bringing audience members onstage to dance with them, jumping into the crowd with their instruments (and in their underpants), and selling their own merch as soon as a show’s ended.
The bandmembers have been doing anything but relaxing since their debut album, Brutalism, came out in 2017. For the past year and a half they’ve been on the road nonstop behind their sophomore album, Joy as an Act of Resistance, during which they found themselves either driving from city to city or squeezing in studio time on their days off. Now their third album, A Beautiful Thing: Idles Live at Le Bataclan, has just dropped, a raging document of a band in complete simpatico that gives credence to their insistence that keeping each other company around the world has been one of the most gratifying aspects of their career choice.
Jon Beavis has been playing with Idles for eleven years now, providing some of the most riveting and idiosyncratic drum beats on the scene. Beavis’s style and intensity are truly captivating—not even a venue in Brisbane in the middle of an Australian summer—without a working air conditioner—could stop him from bringing his full force to the show.
Between performances, when the band has the opportunity to wander around whatever city they’re in, Beavis says that they make sure that their time is well spent, whether getting drinks in Reykjavik (“Don’t buy alcohol there,” he advises, “because it’s crazy expensive”), trying out different deep-dish pizzas in Chicago, or going on a strictly ramen diet during their visit to Tokyo. One particularly memorable meal in Japan’s capital city was at a restaurant that clearly shared the band’s sense of community and civilized courtesy. “We had to knock on the first door to get in,” Beavis recalls, “then you have to crawl through an Alice in Wonderland–sized door where, again, you have to crawl on your hands and knees in order to get through to the restaurant. Then as soon as you get in, the whole restaurant cheers you and has a drink to every new person who walks in. Even when you’ve sat down and you’re having your meal, when someone walks in, you’re like, ‘Hey!’ and they’re like, ‘Hey!’”
Fans seem to feed off the band’s attitude. A handful of them attend as many shows as they can, keeping in touch with each other and reconnecting at various venues. One fan has made it to nearly every Idles show. “I don’t understand how he does it,” says Beavis, “but everyone in the crowd now knows him, and they all share their stories, which is great.”
There’s something admirable about musicians who not only share their vulnerabilities with their fans but with one another. Being with the same people “nearly 80 percent of the year” is potentially exhausting, but Beavis insists that they’ve learned how to maintain a healthy amount of space, communication, and party time on tour. While Jon likes to spend their brief breaks taking short walks around the venue, he strives to have quality experiences with each of his bandmates. “There are five of us,” he says, “and we bounce in between people during the tours. That’s definitely helped. I’ll hang out with someone for the first week and then with a different person the next week. Everyone is very understanding of mental awareness. If you’re not feeling [like] yourself, before you even have a chance to say it, somebody will already ask if you’re feeling okay.”
This sense of commitment exists both on and off stage. Whether enduring a hectic schedule—like fitting four festival shows in two days, followed by an international flight to start another tour— resolving car troubles, or catching a few hours of sleep whenever possible, they never miss a gig. And according to Beavis, the mutual appreciation between band and audience was heightened when Idles played Glastonbury Festival last year. “I remember seeing people’s faces. They were reacting to music how I reacted to music when I was thirteen, when I didn’t think about what people would think of me. It was such a warm reaction. Grown men and women smiling—proper grin smiling—or they were having a little sob over a song. To just look out and see these people going, I’m enjoying this, I’m going to let my emotions overcome me, that’s such a nice thing.”
Jon Beavis uses a Yamaha Live Custom Hybrid Oak kit, 6.5×14 Yamaha Recording Custom Aluminum and Ludwig Hammered Brass snare drums, a Yamaha FP9500 series bass drum pedal, Zildjian cymbals (14″ Mastersound hi-hats, 18″ and 20″ K Dark Thin crashes, 21″ K crash ride), Vater Extended Play 5B sticks, Gibraltar hardware, and Protection Racket cases.