Review: Los Campesinos! At The Varsity Theater

The Cardiff Septet gave a rollicking performance at the Varsity Theater Sunday night.

Los Campesinos! perform Sunday night at the Varsity Theater in Dinkytown.

Los Campesinos! perform Sunday night at the Varsity Theater in Dinkytown.

Tony

“This is a pit of despair; not a mosh pit of despair,” Los Campesinos! frontman Gareth Campesinos! (all of the members claim to share the surname) said to a group of rowdy teens. This type of statement is typical of the Cardiff outfit, but didn’t describe Sunday night’s performance, which was an oddly celebratory affair. Los Campesinos!, even at their most depressed, are still eminently danceable, and The Varsity Theater was more than happy to dance with them.

The band opened with “By Your Hand,” the anthemic lead single from the group’s latest and one of LC!’s finest tracks to date. Gareth, looking like Jared Lewis in a Lil Wayne t-shirt, performed an endearingly awkward shuffle as he sang. The band kept their momentum with standout tracks from their previous two albums before they stopped to address the crowd.

Gareth’s lyrics have always been deeply personal, and he kept it up on Sunday, recounting the band’s previous visits to Minneapolis and how they coincided with his personal life.

“After we played at the Prince club, my girlfriend called me and asked, ‘Do you love me?’ She was always the kind of person that would ask [that] instead of saying ‘I love you,'” he said.

The crowd, mostly drunk teens, some cool dads, and Neil Gaiman (!), fell silent during these tangents, only to burst into rowdy dancing once the music started up again. It was clear that most everyone there was an LC! devotee; the whole crowd screamed along with every word, even the spoken word outro to “Straight In At 101.”

Los Campesinos! have matured significantly from the shouty twee-pop of their debut. The thick layer of noise and melodrama is still there, but there’s a precision underneath now. There were a lot of moving parts at work, but Los Campesinos! replicated the sound of their recordings while still sounding chaotic and off-the-cuff.

It’s no small feat, and one that can be attributed to the band’s recent line-up changes. Kim, Gareth’s real-life sister, joined the band in 2009, and her soft, clean vocals offer a nice contrast to Gareth’s heavily accented yowl. Newcomer Rob was the other MVP of the night, bouncing between guitar, synth, ukulele and auxiliary percussion to round out band’s complex arrangements.

The highlight came late into the evening, when the band burst into their trademark song, “You! Me! Dancing!” after an extended, vamping intro. Gareth banged on a glockenspiel, Kim led the crowd in syncopated handclaps, and there wasn’t a single person in the Varsity not living up to the song’s title.

Most of Los Campesinos’! songs are about death, vomit, and awkward sex, but you wouldn’t have guessed by watching them on stage Sunday night. The band was all smiles and awkward dance moves by the encore, as Gareth jumped off stage to hug the crowd.

Set list:

  • By Your Hand
  • Romance Is Boring
  • Death to Los Campesinos!
  • Life is a Long Time
  • Letters From Me To Charlotte
  • Songs About Your Girlfriend
  • We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed
  • There Are Listed Buildings
  • Straight In At âÄù0âÄù
  • To Tundra
  • The Black Bird, The Dark Slope
  • You! Me! Dancing!
  • The Sea is a Good Place To Think About The Future
  • Hello Sadness
  • Baby, I Got The Death Rattle

 

Encore:

  • Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks