Academy 3 in the heights of Manchester University’s Student Union is notoriously sweaty at the best of times, but add to that an uncommonly hot Spring’s day and lots of excitable young merrymakers, and you’ve got yourself a pretty sudoric affair.
Boasting 7 members, Los Campesinos! along with all their gear just about crammed themselves on the stage and somehow, commendably, managed to not melt in the clammy conditions. “It’s going to be a sweaty one - you’re already smelling delicious” was how lead singer Gareth chose to address the situation. Very apt.
My knowledge of the Cardiff band was fairly minimal. I had an idea that they were a jaunty, slightly melancholic band that don’t hold back lyrically, but that was about it. Despite them having been on the scene six years now, I’ve only ever caught a couple of songs at various festivals and wasn’t necessarily compos mentis enough to make an informed decision. My main reason in wanting to see them was due to my love for Gareth’s tweeting; always witty and achingly sarcastic, I was intrigued to see him in all his front man glory.
Having recently sold out every night on their American tour and the vast majority of their dates in the UK too, there’s no denying Los Campesinos! have their fans, but I’m not sure I’m going to be one of them - something just didn’t work. I found it all too much, too frenetic.
Maybe I’m getting old? Granted it was a Monday night too, and my thoughts were more centred around the working week ahead as opposed to fully involving myself in the revelry, so that may have played a part.
By the looks of the crowd I was evidently in the minority with this opinion though - everyone was fully immersed and audible, with the devout mosh pit lasting from start ‘til finish. This definitely suggesting that it was more me than it was them.
It was a definite case of sensory overload, and I found myself wanting to escape the room to recover some sort of semenance. With seven members they’re bound to make a big old sound, but it just didn’t do anything for me - at times appearing too erratic with no real definition. The raw and feisty vocals, stuttering drums, thundering guitar and percussion were indeed bursting walls of sound, but at intervals came across as a bit of a poor mash-up.
On the positive side, I was indeed impressed by Gareth as a front man. Gesticulating stage centre, he has a touch of Jarvis Cocker about him with hand gestures aplenty. His delivery, more like he’s giving a speech than singing, no doubt fuels the band's popularity with angsty youngsters. A passionate young man, he commandeered his way through the set that included songs about spite, break up, heartbreak, rage and indeed depression. Gaps between songs were filled by many a quip and concern for the safety of the frenzied crowd at the front - “Are you all looking after eachother?”
With four albums to their name, Los Campesinos! have a rather hefty back catalogue. Tonight saw favourites ‘Romance is Boring’, ‘Death to Los Campesinos!’ and ‘We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed’ mixed in with the newer material ‘Songs About Your Girlfriend’ and ‘Hello Sadness’. ‘That’ song from the Budweiser advert ‘You! Me! Dancing’ also made an appearance, along with emphatic xylophone thumping.
Their - at times - intense, emotional, dark lyrics showcased in the likes of ’Miserabilia’ and ‘The Sea is a Good Place to Think About the Future’ are indeed what appears to have won them so many loyal fans over the years. The despair and melodrama is offset with upbeat melodies and as set closer ‘Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks’ proves, you can evoke delirium when singing a song about physically beating someone to death. Who knew.
A somewhat bittersweet night, I got to see the man behind the tweets but wasn’t enamoured by his and his band's musical offerings. That said, anyone who admits to suffering with depression and then writes a song about it deserves high praise indeed and in that respect I admire Los Campesinos! greatly. I like that they’re ballsy, unafraid and outspoken, I’m just not sure they need to be quite so chaotic. I understand that they appeal to the younger generation in their rebellious terms but I feel their real talent could well lie in their rawness.
Not so much ‘Hello Sadness’ but ‘Hello Slight Disappointment’ for me, sorry.
Words: Michelle Lloyd