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Concert Review: Los Campesinos!

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Cardiff’s Los Campesinos! are a group of young twenty-somethings who have been relentlessly touring for several years now. A small following has boiled over to solid indie buzz and recognition and their talent has been noticed in various mediums, as evidenced by their inclusion in Kieran Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s seminal music comic Phonogram: The Singles Club. The band has developed a loyal following and critical acclaim, and their latest, Romance is Boring, is a brutally witty and catchy record that is sure to score them even more credibility in the arena of professional and public opinion. This particular evening at the San Diego Women’s Club, they surely established that while romance may be boring, the band wasn’t letting it get them down.

At first, the venue choice of the San Diego Women’s Club seemed an unusual one, perhaps even unsuitable, but despite their large size the band has a genuine intimacy when they perform, not just with each other, but with their fans. There wasn’t even an opener- at 8:30 sharp they took the stage, introduced themselves and immediately launched into their setlist.

Beyond the music, the band also showed a knack for banter and camaraderie. Normally at shows when a group carries on with audience it can take away from the music, but on this evening, by their admission, they were feeling a bit loose. They talked amongst themselves, but more so to the audience, enveloping them with their charm and wit.

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This particular night happened to be Election Night in Britain, and the band made their distaste for new Prime Minister David Cameron known with a blistering rendition of “The Sea Is a Good Place to Think of the Future,” which appears to be one of the more personal and dreary songs Gareth Campesinos! has ever penned. Earlier in the evening he introduced “Miserabilia” by saying, “This is a song about how we’re all going to die alone,” and proceeded to create an elegiac, somber bond with the audience. “Straight in at 101,” a witty song that was 10 years too late for the High Fidelity soundtrack, features a spoken word finale that truly resonated in the moderately sized ballroom of the SDWC. Surely there’s been heartbreak on the floor before, but the band’s rendition dredged up its spirit in the room. Despite being run ragged from touring, the band’s energy was staggering. Gareth leaped into the crowd during “Who Fell Asleep In” and almost nailed several young concertgoers with his erratic writhing.

The group kept up smiling faces and the intensity of their instrument playing the whole night through, with Gareth being the most maniacal- at one point he started on drums, switched to xylophones, went to the keyboards, all without missing a beat of his lyrics. They closed the evening with “Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks” and blew kisses while taking off. The audience response was frighteningly demanding, so “Broken Hearts Sound Like Breakbeats” was laid out as an encore. Prefacing this by saying, “Fuck it, let’s do this and I’ll sleep the whole way back,” the entire band (minus the drummer and keyboardist) jumped into the audience and danced themselves apart.

The entire show lasted a shade over 60 minutes, but its effect was considerably more penetrating. The merch table was small, and it took me 15 minutes to get my “Romance is Boring” mug and matching CD, but it was worthwhile- this was a performance I would hold onto for a long while. As David Kohl says in Phonogram: The Singles Club, “They’re never going to be Big big. But they’re going to be big to some people.” Next time they’re in your city, be one of them.

by Rafael Gaitan

[Photos: www.konzerttagebuch.de]
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