Los Campesinos! | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com
All These Sick Scenes: Los Campesinos! at the TLA
“Enjoy this night, because I know for a fact that we’re not likely to be invited back.” It seems impossible that it’s been six whole years since hearing those words, the last time Los Campesinos! played in Philadelphia. At one of the first ever shows at the newly inagurated Union Transfer, the Welsh post-twee band celebrated the same thing they always have been — that the present is the only thing we’re ever guaranteed, even as bleak as it may seem. It’s a common theme in the band’s work, and existence as a whole. Even while remaining prominent cult favorites, eleven years into their so-called career, the future band has never been assured. At the TLA on Wednesday night, they approached the end of an impossible US tour and proved that there’s a certain kind of charming nostalgia hidden within bitter nihilism.
The evening started off with a brief set from Crying — the rock/chiptune kitbash crew on Run For Cover Records. While singer Elaiza Santos and her bandmates seemed understandably tired from several weeks on the road, they put on an impressively brash and energetic set, mixng poppier tunes from their recent release Beyond the Fleeting Gales with crunchier cuts off of 2014’s Get Olde/Second Wind. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Crying tread these boards before. Santos mentioned that 2014 visit to the TLA as part of a big punk-ish themed tour featuring Foxing and Modern Baseball. The band has really tightened up it’s live game — which wasn’t shabby to begin with — and gave the unsuspecting audience a real treat.
With a show six years in the making, and the band’s first US tour since 2014, the audience was more than ready for Los Campesinos! to hit the stage. As the lights went down and the comically large projector screen in front of the TLA’s stage rose up, the crowd was whipped into a whooping frenzy by the mere thought of the band playing. Six records in, the members are living each day like it’s their last together — and the fans respond in kind. Each rare opportunity to see them is cherished and reveled in, for good measure. There’s a sort of “Shut up and play the hits mentality” when it comes to this band, with a lot of fans, but even across such a large discography, even the deepest of cuts are known by heart. Too twee-pop for the dour emo kids and too sad for the pop kids, LC! fans are in a league of their own, for better and for worse. So when the set starts with the unbelievably campy wailed line “There is no blues that can sound quite as heartfelt as mi-i-i-i-ine,” with the whole audience crooning back, you know it’s real. The band pulled no punches, stacking the deck with the classic, manic ode to amoroisity, “Romance Is Boring,” sending the audience into further frenzy.
Even as the band dipped into cuts from freshly released sixth record Sick Scenes, the audience met them right there. At one point between rippers, frontman Gareth David expressed surprise and chagrined surprise that the new record was already known by fans. “Really, there’s no reason for anyone, anywhere to know our band and our songs, let alone here, in the States. Thank you.” With day jobs waiting for them back in the UK, the band is clearly making the utmost of the ability to still do what they love, eleven years on, and never taking a minute of it for granted.
The six-song run up to the encore was one of the most intense that I’ve ever seen at a show. One of the most incredible things about the way Los Campesinos! approaches writing songs is the ability to both poke fun at the terribly serious moments in life while also pulling the rug out from you emotionally, at the same time. So you can rest assured that an anthemic chorus that goes “A heart of stone, rind so tough it’s crazy/that’s why they call me the Avocado, baby!” is not only cheesy — but crushing, as well. Stringing together some of their most cherished tracks had the audience laughing, crying, screaming; sometimes all within the span of one or two lines of verse.
For just a moment on Wednesday night, I was 19 again; angsty as all hell and blissfully unaware of the the fact that everything in my life would ultimately, likely, turn out just fine. Indulging myself in the major/minor tragedies of everyday life and just trying to get by. As insignificant as they seem, sometimes the dumbest, smallest hangups in our lives are turning points — axiom that things won’t always be this way.
Los Campesinos! Setlist, 03/08/2017:
- As Lucerne/The Low
- Romance Is Boring
- I Broke Up in Amarante
- What Death Leaves Behind
- By Your Hand
- 5 Flucloxacillin
- For Flotsam
- Here’s to the Fourth Time!
- Cemetery Gaits
- Knee Deep at ATP
- My Year in Lists
- A Slow, Slow Death
- Straight In at 101
- Hello Sadness
- We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed
- Avocado, Baby
- The Sea Is a Good Place to Think of the Future
- Baby I Got the Death Rattle
- Renato Dall’Ara (2008)
- You! Me! Dancing!
- Heart Swells / 100-1
- I Just Sighed. I Just Sighed, Just So You Know