Live Music + Gig Reviews

Los Campesinos! @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London

2 February 2011

By the time Jeremy Warmsley’s Summer Camp come on stage the bottom half of the Empire is already jam-packed. There’s just a smattering of bodies watching from upstairs, and the wide-eyed crowd below make their intentions known from the off, throwing themselves into Warmsley’s synthetic blips with an enthusiasm usually saved for the big song of the night.

For this project the prince of folktronica is joined by vocalist Elizabeth Sankey, whose bold, stage school voice rounds off perfectly their lo-fi, Postal Service-esque sound. At times it fails to translate from bedroom recordings to theatre-filling pop, but there’s a lot to like here and they hit the right note with the audience.

Los Campesinos! are equally fired up; they’ve channelled the sexual frustration and near violent energy of their most recent album, Romance Is Boring, and tonight’s show is much louder and more confident than we’ve seen before. This spikier side opens them up to a thousand contradictions; they’re twee but punk, brattish but thoughtful… and their fans? They’re wearing vintage dungarees, creating a circle pit and moshing to glockenspiels.

The songs are selected from across their three albums, with Death To Los Campesinos!, Letters From Me To Charlotte, Cease And Desist and We Are Beautiful We Are Doomed getting an airing. From the opening chord of their first song (In Medias Res), everything feels a bit harder; the drums more intense, the vocals spat with more venom, but it’s Straight In At 101 that really showcases the Los Campesinos! of the moment. Its bittersweet lyrical brilliance vocalising the hormonal rush that characterised their last album. “I think we need more post-coital and less post-rock, feels like the build up lasts forever, but you never touch my cock,” Gareth sings.

A few new songs are given an airing. We’re told they’ll be available through the band’s new DIY singles club/fanzine subscription service, Heat Rash. The songs are more downbeat and contemplative and don’t pack the punch Romance Is Boring did on its first outing this time last year. Noticing this, Gareth reassures that crowd: “Thank you for your patience – it’s going to be all hits from now on,” before launching into an anthemic rendition of Romance Is Boring.

Tapping into the punk spirit that fizzes throughout the Empire tonight, Gareth risks life and limb by announcing the presence of a merchandise stall but warning: “We have to give the venue 25% of anything we take… so please buy it from us online instead.” But before things get too anarchic they delve into their back catalogue for twee anthem You, Me, Dancing – a glock/reverb mash up that gives the band chance to finally take stock.

As the eight-piece stand, huddled together in little groups, it’s clear that tonight is special for them. It’s one of their biggest shows to date but comes a full year after their latest release and with little hype surrounding them; they’ve rightly become a classic band for kids of a certain age.

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More on Los Campesinos!
Los Campesinos! – Sick Scenes
Los Campesinos! @ Heaven, London
Los Campesinos! – No Blues
Los Campesinos! @ Islington Assembly Hall, London
Los Campesinos! – Hello Sadness