LIVE REVIEW: IDER + Art School Girlfriend at Band on the Wall, Manchester

Meg Markwick and Lily Somerville met at University in the early 2010s, it was there that pair formed a kindred alliance that would later transpire into a musical project called IDER. Soulful sensations of R&B and electronic pop serpentine to create a scintillating burst of new wave pop, contemporary and current but also reminiscent of ’90s-’00s glory days. After a breakthrough 12 months, the duo arrive at the tail end of a tour celebrating their debut album, Emotional Education. Sold out shows seem to happen frequently during an IDER touring spell, and this show in Manchester proved no exception to the rule (their second headliner in the city and once more, a sell out—we see a pattern starting to emerge).

Kicking off the new decade with a melange of headline shows in the USA, off the back of last year’s prominent placing opening for Norwegian wunderkind, Sigrid, across the globe, it has given IDER invaluable facetime with new audiences and a grander stage to showcase their wares. Focussing on the current UK tour, the venues are continuing to get bigger and busier, while the band’s set prospers with a lengthier runtime and a suitably accomplished presence to boot.

First to take the stage is Art School Girlfriend, the brainchild of producer/songwriter Polly Mackey. This time it is a solo performance, often Mackey is accompanied by a group of three additional musicians, but regardless the privilege is watching Mackey hold a crowd independently—and it’s impactful. The songs provide great contrast to IDER’s sparkling brand of sensuality, Art School Girlfriend rather prefers to yield haunting, darker tones of equally sultry conception but the method of conveyance is attributed to a smoky slow burn rather than a collaborative uplift, akin to that of a pared back The xx. Mackey’s songs have a weight to them that speak of an emotionally wrecked sense of turmoil, pensive and personal all at once. It’s the perfect soundtrack for the eve residing Storm Ciara, coined ‘storm of the century‘ due to the high levels of turbulent gusts making their way inbound across the country.

An early stage time sees IDER on before 9pm, and as soon as the band strides across the boards of the live room floor the atmosphere turns into a swelling feeling of community spirit: an exuberance of joyfulness splurges from face-to-face-to-face, giddiness of woops and howls abound and as quickly as the vocal hook of ‘King Ruby’ kicks in, there’s not one single person not participating. Like the free flowing energy rooted in the song’s bubbling Eastern-inspired electronics, the duo soar on stage, joined by Mike Park on drums (who is also shown much love throughout the night, enough to inspire a heckle urging Mike to “take [his] top off”). 

The set is filled with memorable moments, invigorating instrumentation, well orchestrated staging and candid back-and-forths, Meg and Lily talk openly about their music and inspirations on-stage and off, engaging a mutual bond with their audience similar to one you would share with a best friend. As recognition of IDER continues to build and the live shows upscale their trajectory into larger venues, this is an element that would set them apart from their contemporaries, hopefully they’ll manage to work out a happy medium between the scope of 1000+ capacity rooms whilst retaining the one-on-one connections they so effortlessly evoke in the smaller spaces.

Interspersing tracks from the band’s early days alongside cuts from 2019’s debut album, the set already feels streamlined and versatile. Songs like ‘Body Love’ and ‘You’ve Got Your Whole Life Ahead of You Baby’ symbolise the pervading anxieties and struggles facing this generation’s youth, while written from a solitary standpoint, the takeaway is universal. The way in which Meg and Lily channel their thoughts and life experiences into bolstering messages of self-love, empowerment and perseverance is probably one of the integral reasons why IDER’s music has resonated so strongly and so earnestly amongst its listeners, so that when the songs air in a live format the result is something profound and transformative. Additionally, there’s a boldness which breaks through in ‘Mirror’ and ‘Wu Baby’ that takes the performance to further heights, not just in terms of lyrical content but also driven by the striking instrumental parts, it’s a collective power that starts on stage and translates into a mass catharsis. 

Aligned with the same sense of companionship and solidarity they convey in their lyrics, Meg and Lily quite remarkably have an ease of performing that just takes the breath away. Magnetic, bewitching, playful harmonies adds to the allure of their symphony, a duel vocal combination of aural spectacle and intrigue. There are moments on stage where they highlight this by uniting together centre stage, or otherwise, in collaboration, then there are times where the two cross paths and glances on an exchange from one side of the stage to the other before resuming their shared duties. The show is always moving; there’s never a point where it becomes routine or predictable, which is one of the most appealing traits for repeat attendance. Quite simply after experiencing an IDER show, you get the sense that you’re walking away stronger and more fulfilled because of it.

IDER’s debut album, Emotional Education is out now on Glassnote Records.

For more information on IDER, visit their Website.

Charlotte Holroyd
Editor, Creator and Founder of Bitter Sweet Symphonies. A lover of music and cinema, who's constantly attending gigs and in search of a great experience.

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