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Gustaf Establishes Themselves at IDLES Concert in Austin

todayOctober 28, 2021 100 5

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By Jared Dudley
Music Journalist

If you are familiar with IDLES, then you probably know what to expect from their live shows. The British punk rock band is well known for their ability to fill a crowd with surging energy. Their combination of engine-like rhythms and positively progressive lyrics make many of their songs sound like they were tailor-made to be heard in a mosh pit, where the individual movements of many blend together to create a sense of unity.

Few bands can match the level of raw excitement one can expect from an IDLES concert. It was business as usual for the group when they performed at the Waller Creek Amphitheater in Austin on Oct. 25th, but many in the audience still got a surprise thanks to the opening act.

A few minutes after doors opened, I overheard a conversation between event staff and a woman while waiting in line to buy a bottle of water. The staff member mentioned the opener, a band named Gustaf that he and the woman were both unfamiliar with. “They were killer at soundcheck. They sounded kinda whack, but I mean that in the best way possible.”

Gustaf, based out of Brooklyn, has been steadily gaining popularity over the past two years as one of New York’s most fun bands. Hot off the release of their first album earlier this month, Audio Drag for Evil Slobs, they’ve been on tour as the opener for IDLES. Gustaf’s danceable, art-punk sound pairs well with the cavalcade of rock that is the headlining band. As the sun went down in Austin, they took the stage with a carefree swagger while lead singer Lydia Gammill introduced the band. “We’re Gustaf from New York City. Let’s get playing!”

Their set was made up of all the songs from their first album, allowing the band to jump between the variety of tones you would expect on a complete record. The melancholic track “Liquid Frown,” which included a flute solo from Gammill, was played early on and served as a comparably mellow opener for the rest of the night. The most striking element of Gustaf’s sound is thanks to the inclusion of Tarra Thiessen, the second vocalist and percussionist of the group. Her part frequently utilizes voice modulation to lower her pitch, acting as a vocal bass line of sorts.

Even more fun is Thiessen’s role as sound effects master. Gustaf’s performance of “Dog” saw her sporadically barking into the microphone and proudly blowing a whistle as the music swelled. While Gammill brought intensity and attitude, Thiessen seemed to radiate joy.

The danceability of Gustaf comes mainly from the coordination between guitarist Vram Kherlopian, bassist Tine Hill, and drummer Melissa Lucciola. The perfectly steady bass lines of “Book” and “Package” are accompanied by a punchy guitar, which maintains its presence throughout the songs but never overwhelms the overall sound.

As they played, Gammill poked fun at her more reserved bandmates, which added to the overall playful sense of whimsy. Gustaf ended the show with “The Motions,” a track which lyrics involved direct commands like “watch, breathe, think, see.” It’s an understated song, with short bursts of hectic energy.

Gustaf opened for the main event, but you would not know it from their performance. They owned the stage every second they were playing. It was telling how much the crowd fell in love with the band when, at the end of the IDLES show, they invited Gustaf back on stage to join them in the last song of the night. After two hours of relentless punk rock, the crowd still had enough energy to scream their hearts out when Gustaf reappeared, causing one of the biggest reactions of the event. The song, a classic IDLES closer called “Rottweiler,” lasted for over ten minutes.

Gustaf came to the Austin show as an unknown group but left as the talk of the night. With the release of Audio Drag for Evil Slobs and a tour with IDLES under their belt, they’ve established themselves as an essential band to keep a close eye on.

Featured Image by Jared Dudley

Written by: ktsw899

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The Austin City Limits logo (solid orange background with white letters, and circles of yellow, green and blue around the words) next to the Levitation logo (white background with a fuzzy black circle in the middle with white lettering spelling Levitation).

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