Sunday, April 20, 2008

Los Campesinos! were wonderful. I'm sure you're getting tired of my proclaiming that every concert I go to is great, but I like to think that it's a combination of my great taste in music (heh) and the fact that the bands here really are just that talented.

Anyway, the night didn't start off too fantastically. Doors opened at 10 pm, so I got there promptly, thinking that, surely, the band would start around 11 pm, play for less than an hour (given that tickets were £5 after all) and then those who wanted to party on could stay while the rest of us could catch the tube home.

As it turns out, I was wrong.

Instead, those queuing were divided into two queues: male and female. I kid you not. All of us were astounded, but the reasoning was that they wanted to search our bags, and, hence, there had to be two different lines. I'm not sure why given that no other club I've come across implements this policy (the segregation, not the bag searching. That's normal) but it definitely did not make for happy clubbers, as those who were in a mixed group (and there were many) had to be separated, with no guarantee that the entire group would be able to get in at the same time.

To make things worse, they kept all of us waiting out in the cold for over half an hour. I'm used to having to wait, but that night was very cold, and I'm sure the other clubbers felt it more keenly than I did, given that I was wearing enough clothing to combat the cold.

Anyway, so when the doors finally opened to let us in, the men's queue - predictably - moved faster than the ladies' queue, something along the lines of three males to every female. It's not something the ladies were particularly pleased about given that the Quad does have capacity constraints (of about 1,000, if it hasn't changed from when I was in uni).

It wasn't the ideal start to an eagerly anticipated gig. I'm sure you get the idea.

It should also be obvious that I did manage to get in, and, once I was in, all the bad vibes I'd gotten from having been subject to a rather stupid queueing policy vanished. This might have been helped by the fact that drinks were half-price, much to my amazement. In fact, given the bars I'd been to lately, the drinks were more than half-price (A Corona was £1.40 vs. £3.30 at 93 Feet East), so I was well chuffed. The guy in front of me was as well; he turned round just as I queued up behind him and yelled, "Half-price drinks! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" Heh.

I didn't really take advantage of this promotion though. I was by myself, and in spite of my seemingly alcoholic tendencies, I don't drink much when I'm by myself, which has pretty much meant I haven't drunk that much at all since I arrived in London.

Los Campesinos!

So. Anyway. Los Campesinos! came on after half an hour after I got in. An indie pop septet hailing from Cardiff who describe themselves as "the second-most punk rock band in Britain", they seemed rather overwhelmed by the enthusiastic reception they got from the crowd the moment they appeared. Lead singer Gareth thanked the audience for being so wonderful after every single song. I kind of got the sense that he couldn't quite believe this was all happening. It was all rather endearing.

Los Campesinos! played through pretty much their entire catalogue of songs, including their hits, We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives, The International Tweexcore Underground, Drop It Doe Eyes and, of course, You! Me! Dancing! There is a lot going on in every song they perform. But of course, with seven people in the band, you'd expect there to be. Each performance was fast-paced, full of beats and energy and definitely lots of instruments (with the glockenspiel and violin featuring in quite a few of the songs).


Gareth is definitely lacking in the singing ability that most other lead singers would possess but the songs that the band have put out so far don't really require great singers. I can't quite describe the style of singing, but it kind of reminds me of Jarvis Cocker in Common People without well, quite getting to the level where you'd call it singing. In any case, his voice is distinctive, and I'm conscious of the fact that not every one seems to be able to take it. He does make up for it with his rather geeky style of dancing though. Aleksandra, the female singer, does not suffer from the same problem that Gareth does. She, however, does not feature in all of the band's songs.

But no one really listens to Los Campesinos purely for the singing anyway. They listen because their songs are irrepressibly cheerful, their lyrics are intelligent, strange and wacky all at once (We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives starts off with "When you play pass the parcel with human body parts / Somebody might get head but somebody will get hurt" and the infectious chorus "There's red stains all over the place / They're not blood, they're cherryade" in and "And every sentence that I spoke began and ended in ellip...sis" in Knee Deep at ATP) and every song is just full of exclamation marky goodness that it's impossible not to feel it too.

My favourite tune by the band, and more than quite a few people's tune of 2007, is You! Me! Dancing!. It has all the ingredients of a great tune: one heck of a build-up, twinkly glockenspiel, hand claps, a great chorus, a memorable guitar riff and loads of energy. What's not to like? When Gareth and Aleks sing, almost plaintively, "If there's one thing I can never confess / It's that I can't dance a single step," before shouting, "It's you! It's me! And there's dancing!" how could one resist? How could one not want to dance awkwardly and geekily along with Gareth? Why on earth would one want to dance with anyone else?

Happy moshy people

The band ended off the night with Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks. Midway through the song, Gareth just dived off the stage into the crowd. The security guard just lunged after him and kept his hand on Gareth's t-shirt, preventing him from getting too far. The crowd which had already been moshing like mad through the night just went mad. After several verses, he got back on stage and he mouthed to someone "you're buying me a drink, yeah?" so I'd definitely like to know who that person was and what happened for sure. It was definitely a good song to end off the set. It's not as high-powered as the other songs in their repertoire, but it was definitely a crowd favourite as it's an unreleased tune which helped the band achieve Internet fame. And so, with "Sweet dreams, sweet cheeks / Oh tomorrow, oh tomorrow..." Los Campesinos! thanked the crowd once again and were off.

Related Links:
Los Campesinos! (Official Web Site) - The band's beautifully quirkily illustrated web site features a blog, a mechandise store (with cute t-shirts of the cover art from Hold On Now, Youngster) and free downloads of We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives and Don't Tell Me To Do The Math(s).
Los Campesinos! - Live in Concert (February 25, 2008) - FabChannel - Features their famous cover of Pavement's Frontwards, done with typical Los Campesinos! energy.
Wichita Records - Los Campesinos!'s record label and also the label of Simian Mobile Disco and Those Dancing Days.

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