If you see a guitar pick on the floor of a concert venue, grab it even you have no idea who threw it.
Picking up items off a sticky concert hall floor might not be the most sanitary practice, but it does sometimes lead to a cool story you can share with friends… Or at least on your website.
There’s no band I listen to more at then moment than IDLES. The British rock band fuses elements of punk, hardcore and indie rock with lyrics that tackle toxic masculinity, mental health and fascism.
Along with a slot on the festival’s main stage, IDLES were also booked for a Lollapalooza aftershow at Chicago’s Metro on July 28. Aftershows typically start around 11 pm after Lollapalooza shuts down for the day.
IDLES were playing their first show in the US since their stint at Coachella back in April. The band mostly pulled from 2018’s “Joy As An Act Of Resistance” and last year’s “Crawler” for the late night setlist.
It was the predictable unpredictability of an IDLES show that included both of the band’s guitarists finding their way into the crowd.
About halfway into the set, Lee Kiernan went deep into the general admission crowd before sitting on the floor with his guitar. Those around him followed his lead coming to rest on the floor before exploding into the air as the band ramped up “I’m Scum.”
The show wrapped a little after 1 a.m. with the set-closing staple, “Rottweiler.” The houselights were brought back up as IDLES exited the stage.
The typical post-concert collection of beer cups, water bottles and Ventra tickets were scattered across Metro’s floor. A line formed near the rail at the front of the stage with those hoping to snag a printed copy of the band’s setlist.
While most of the leftover crowd locked their eyes on the two crew members sweeping away IDLES’s equipment, I was probably the only one looking down at the floor.
Maybe I was smart enough to do a quick scan of what was left behind, or maybe I was just sapped of any energy that could be used to navigate my way to the front of the pack.
Either way, I was lucky enough to spot a guitar pick slightly wedged in the outer edge of the steel security barrier. I discretely slipped it into my pocket and exited Metro.
I can’t remember the last time I had seen 1 a.m. prior to that night. It was likely sometime around the arrival of our daughter into this world almost two years ago.
Staying awake for the drive back was top of mind. I actually didn’t even remember grabbing the pick until a couple days later when I pulled it from my pocket on laundry day.
I tossed it on my desk where it sat for a couple more days until an afternoon when I had a break between work calls. It was time to reach out to the AF Gang for some help.
The AF Gang is a dedicated group of IDLES fans whose love of the band nearly equals their love of each other. A segment of the 2020 documentary, “Don’t Go Gentle: A Film About IDLES,” documents the band’s bond with the AF Gang.
The majority of my experience with the AF Gang has been via their official Facebook group, All Is Love: AF Gang (IDLES Community).
It’s a welcoming group that shares stories of seeing IDLES live, running into band members and even an occasional craft project emblazoned with a favorite lyric. It’s also a group of people who have proved to be a resource for those struggling with mental health or those in needing words of encouragement before a big job interview.
In other words, the AF Gang are good people and truly embody the band’s “love each other” sentiment.
I reached out to the Facebook group hoping to learn more about the guitar pick I brought back from the Metro show. What transpired in the comments of the post far surpassed my expectations for this fact-finding social media mission.
The comments section quickly ballooned with photos from other IDLES fans who had found guitar picks similar to purple Dunlop Tortex model I uncovered in Chicago. Other photos confirmed that both Kiernan and fellow guitarist Mark Bowen routinely use the same pick.
I accepted this as a win. It was all but confirmed the pick was indeed from the IDLES show.
Then, I received notification of an interesting new comment on the photo I posted in the Facebook group. Bowen himself had been following the conversation and decided to provide insider knowledge on how to tell who used the guitar pick during the show.
Bowen took my original photo and highlighted areas to look at for signs of wear and tear on the pick in order to determine its original owner.
Amazing. A simple Facebook question turned into an education on guitar techniques from someone who knows best.
Bowen chiming in on the post further illustrates the band’s strong bond and appreciation for their fans. It also shows the community built among those in the AF Gang.
A quick examination of my guitar pick revealed worn patterns in the upper corners. It indeed came from Bowen who was stationed in front of me on stage for most the night.
The IDLES show is the best I’ve seen this year, and likely cemented near the top of my all-time list.
It certainly did provide me with my favorite concert story and a newfound appreciation for a band who has developed a special bond with its fanbase.