Thursday, January 15, 2009

Live: Los Campesinos!

When: 1/14
Where: SoundFix Records Cafe

Los Campesinos! are a Welsh pop band that made my "Best Albums of 2008" list not once but twice (placing at #15 and #2). Their songs are pretty much irresistible, with rich orchestration, bright melodies and an attitude that draws equally from punk and twee (though the music is definitely neither one).

I thought there were eight Campesinos, but it turns out there are only seven, and for the present tour, their numbers have dwindled to six - the violinist was apparently too ill to travel. Still, it's a pretty big band with pretty complicated arrangements and I wasn't expecting their live show to live up to their records in terms of detail and precision.

But it did - it even surpassed the recorded material at times! Because the members of the band are all so young, it's almost disorienting to see how well they play - they achieve a level of tightness you would expect from much more seasoned musicians. This was made possible by a rock-solid rhythm section of high-speed drums and steady, dominating bass. However, the most impressive musicianship in the band certainly came from the guitars - both guitarists delivered their complex parts with outstanding ease, reacting to the rest of the band and churning out fresh ideas without missing a note.

Los Campesinos! (photo by James Perou, from
Los Campesinos! (notice how Gareth is wearing a Bikini Kill shirt)

The band is massively fun to watch too. Drummer Ollie banged some parts out on the piano that happened to be stored next to his drumset, while singer Gareth grabbed some extra sticks and pounded on the cymbals. They were playing on the fly, having fun and still taking the performance very seriously. They stumbled a few times - mostly because they hadn't even rehearsed without violin and were just discovering new holes in their music as they went along. Things got messy at times too, but never out of the band's control, and anyway, Los Campesinos! aren't supposed to sound tidy.

The set list was killer:
1. Death to Los Campesinos!
2. My Year In Lists
3. All Your Kayfabe Friends
4. ??? (didn't know this one)
5. You! Me! Dancing!

Los Campesinos! are going on a tour all over the South and Midwest, so don't miss them if they come your way. For the New Yorkers who missed this show, don't worry - they play again on Valentines Day and the day after at Bowery Ballroom with the mindblowing Titus Andronicus. See you there!

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