Saturday, 5 February 2011

LIVE REVIEW: Los Campesinos! w/ Grouplove & Summer Camp @ Shepherd's Bush Empire, 2nd February

Los Campesinos! have no ordinary fans; they have some of the most fiercely loyal and terrifyingly dedicated fans around. And I am proud to be one of about one thousand, huddled in a tight knit group of merchandise-clad teenagers at the practically cavernous Shepherd's Bush Empire. Tonight's gig (the octet's biggest London show yet) is a 14+ affair which makes for a buzzing atmosphere, ultimately culminating in a lot of walking advertisements for Topman and synchronised dancing en masse. Being surrounded by people significantly (four years accounts for a lot) younger than me results in a combination of: pride that they aren't at a JLS concert, fear that I'll be suffocated by the boys' stench and jealousy that I wasn't this cool at their age. The last time I was at this venue, I was screaming at McFly that I wanted their children. Nuff said.

Kicking off this evening's indie pop proceedings are newcomers from across the pond, Grouplove. For a new band which are presumably unknown the majority of the audience, their Surfer-Blood-y, The-Drums-y rhythms are greeted to echoing whoops and cheers from every corner of the venue. The five piece themselves have a formidable stage presence with glittery masks, a long haired hippy of a bassist and a man with, quite simply the voice of an angel, holding the attention of the audience for the duration of their 30 minute set. Next up are the hotly hyped duo of Summer Camp; one part Jeremy Warmsley, one part Elizabeth Sankey. I had been anticipating this performance for a while now, having fallen head-over-heels in love with their Young EP, released in September of last year. The perfect indie couple take to the stage and glide their way through a synth-heavy collection offset by Elizabeth's chiming vocals, Washed Out and Active Child influences shining through strongly. A set highlight is the darling "Ghost Train" but, overall, their sound doesn't quite translate to this venue and I'm left feeling slightly unfulfilled.

These feelings don't last for long, however, as the lights dim once more and the excitement is palpable. I stand on tip-toes in my Docs (damn these teenage boys are gangly), seeking a peek of Los Campesinos! as they file on stage to ecstatic cheers and shouts of "Gareth I want your sperm!" (witty bunch too, this lot) The eight-piece start with third LP opener "In Medias Res", the crowd shouting every word back to Gareth from the off; "I'm leaving my body to science..." inheriting an even eerier quality when chanted by every audience member packing out the West London venue. An old favourite is next in the form of first album feature "Death to Los Campesinos!" and shit really kicks off to the sound of a vicious glockenspiel and cries of "SHUH-GAR!" The consistent brilliance of Los Campesinos! back catalogue is perfectly showcased on this rainy, February evening as tracks from the first, second and third albums sit happily side by side and are greeted by the same unfaltering enthusiasm by the crowd. The only lull in the set comes with the addition of two new songs coming soon to Heat Rash subscribers (a fair few attendees tonight, I presume) - "Four Seasons" and "The Black Bird, The Dark Slope". These newbies see the band moving away from the schizophrenic energy of "Romance Is Boring", towards a mellower sound. This is short-lived, however, as I am hurled into a heaving mass of bodies for a duo of loud and sweaty hits - "We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed" and "Romance Is Boring". Teenager angst hits its peak as I revel in the delicious hedonism of screaming "OH, WE KID OURSELVES THERE'S FUTURE IN THE FUCKING, BUT THERE IS NO FUCKING FUTURE!" Gareth is, as ever, ferociously energetic, spitting out every syllable of "Romance Is Boring" and hurling himself around the stage like a firecracker. Between-song banter is, as ever, at a minimum, the frontman only pausing to joke "This is a song about beer" before launching into Budweiser advert soundtrack, "You! Me! Dancing!". A large circle is cleared in the middle of the floor as the tension builds and the track erupts to a euphoric climax, the crowd morphing into a heaving mass of failing limbs.

The absolute, without-a-doubt highlight for me though, isn't these moments of madness but rather the one of clarity that I experience, having been spat out of the moshpit. My chest heaving, t-shirt stuck to my back, laces undone as the haunting throb of "The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future" begins. This is a moment of absolute calm, the audience joining in every word that Gareth gives them (as ever), hands swaying and even a few (okay, a lot) of tears shed on my part. The most poignant, heart-wrenching moment is the desperate shriek of "you could never kiss a Tory boy without wanting to cut off your tongue again!" echoing in the rafters. It's at this moment that I realise that Los Campesinos! are the most beautiful, brilliant band that I have ever experienced. I adore them, and so do the other 999 people in the room.

Setlist (with thanks to Rhys)
1. In Medias Res
2. Death To Los Campesinos!
3. Miserabilia
4. A Heat Rash In The Shape Of The Show Me State; Or Letters From Me To Charlotte
5. This Is How You Spell, "HAHAHA, We Destroyed The Hopes And Dreams Of A Generation Of Faux-Romantics"
6. Documented Minor Emotional Breakdown #1
7. Four Seasons
8. The Black Bird, The Dark Slope
9. Straight In At 101
10. We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed
11. Romance Is Boring
12. You! Me! Dancing!
13. The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future
14. Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks

15. Knee Deep At ATP
16. ... And We Exhale And Roll Our Eyes In Unison

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