Los Campesinos! 02/02/2011 – London, Shepherd’s Bush Empire – by Kevin Lawson
I arrived at the venue a good hour and a half later than planned, meaning I had missed most of the support act’s set and wasn’t in the best of moods. The delay was the result of a meeting which had overrun, a taxi strike in Coventry and a cancelled train. I could spew reams of vitriol about each of those things but this is neither the time nor the place. The fact is I did manage to reach the venue in time to watch a performance by Los Campesinos! that left me and everyone else in the audience quaking in a raw throated stupor.
For those of you unfamiliar with their music, they are an eight piece indie pop band formed in Cardiff who write colossal sounding yet intimately articulate songs that brim with youthful energy. There is a knowing self parody in their recordings but they never sound anything less than genuine. Lyrically the band are ultra confessional, each song sounds like it was crafted from the entries of a bleak diary or from a Peep show style inner monologue that you wouldn’t dare utter aloud.
Tonight’s crowd is young enough to make me feel old (I’m 30, does that make me old?) and they all seem to have a dewy eyed loyalty to the band. This connection is more like watching friends play on stage than gawping upon them with star struck reverence. As the band takes the stage the auditorium comes alive. Choruses are roared back at the band with increasing passion, from light hearted party songs like ‘You! Me! Dancing!’ to depression filled break up anthems like ‘We are beautiful, we are doomed’. Circle pits begin to emerge that nearly reach the sound desk and lead singer Gareth is both feeding and feeding off this energy. Eventually diving into the heart of the mob, microphone in hand, before coming back unscathed. With each song being so personal you can see that the performance takes an emotional toll on him, so much so that when he reached set highlight ‘The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future’ he was visibly upset and overcome, something that was later confirmed on the bands Twitter feed:
“1,000 people shouting “you could never kiss a Tory Boy without wanting to cut off your tongue again” back at me. Brought to tears onstage.”
It was an amazing moment of catharsis that was a rubber stamp of authenticity, confirming that the bands songs are not contrived notepad fables but are true tales of life, love, loss and misery. As songwriters, they could hold back on the details of their lives and deal in generalisations. But it’s their willingness to share so many intimate details and be vulnerable to the potential opinions of their audience that creates a bond that runs deeper than most bands are able to achieve. Another album is due to be released later this year and I can’t wait to hear the next installment of their lives.