On Sunday I saw my favorite punk band of the century in concert, IDLES. The show was remarkable with the band offering a playful spirit to their often-serious, justice-oriented messages. The crowd was as much a part of the show as the band, with a camaraderie of singing, stage diving, and moshing that felt like 1983. The latest IDLES album came out at the end of August, yet everyone at the concert seemed to know every word.
One of the great surprises of the concert was the opening band, Bambara. Opening bands usually have a thankless act of warming up a crowd that is paying little attention. However, Bambara caught our attention. In between acts, the crowd talked about how good Bambara was. One woman compared the lead singer to a punk Jim Morrison. I think Jim Morrison was punk rock and Bambara almost seems in on the comparison.
Bambara’s aptly titled 2018 album, “Shadow on Everything,” lays a foundation of depth from the opening song “Dark Circles”. Bambara’s music builds layers upon layers, complimented with a powerful beat. By the second song, “Doe-eyed girl” the album moves to full throttle, accelerating further on my favorite song “Monument” and continuing with “Wild Fires”. These songs would provide great adrenaline for a speed workout or the soundtrack for a 5K PR. As I listened to the album for the first time today, I was only trying to remain stretched out for a 50K on Saturday and had to practice unusual restraint.
Throughout the album, Bambara contrasts post-punk music with long, dark vocals. An album full of liminal space holds in tension songs fast and slow, clear vocals and mumbled words, and male and female vocals that play off each other in “Backyard”. These combinations are enchanting as the album slowly discloses the underside of life in a small town. Join Bambara for a dark journey that will move your feet, mind, and soul.