17 Feb 2012: The Parish Austin, TX
A big part of the reason why Los Campesinos! has remained so consistently great across four albums in as many years, multiple lineup shifts, and changes in their sound is that the core characteristics of the band have remained the same. Every performance they give, whether on record or in front of their loyal and devoted fans, is infused with a kind of energy and passion that is distinctly their own. The dedication and care for their craft was readily apparent during their first of two nights at the Parish, as the group tore through a set of old standbys and new favorites with the same effortlessness and enthusiasm that have made them one of the UK’s best musical exports of the last five years.
The group could not have picked a better song to open with than “By Your Hand”, the first single off the excellent Hello Sadness. It is one of the group’s most straightforward songs to date, and it’s shout along chorus served as the perfect vehicle to loosen the audience. Each member of the band displayed an extreme amount of concentration in making sure the arrangement sounded as full as it could, a motif that carried throughout the night.
“Romance Is Boring” and early fan favorite “Death To Los Campesinos!” followed in rapid fire succession before front man Gareth fully addressed the crowd. After introducing and then playing through “A Heat Rash In The Shape of The Show Me State; or, Letters From Me To Charlotte”, he asked if there were any couples in the crowd, promptly inquiring those who responded as to what they were doing at a Los Campesinos! show. It was a valid question, considering the morose and heartbreaking sentiments of the group’s music and Gareth’s lyrics. He immediately followed the question with the statement “this song is not for lovers” as he introduced “Songs About Your Girlfriend”.
The group’s whole set list felt like an extended greatest hits collection with several soon to be classic songs thrown in. Fans shouted along to every lyric of “We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed”, “The Sea Is a Good Place to Think of the Future”, and “Hello Sadness”, and Gareth and the rest of the group kindly returned the favor by pouring everything they had into each song. The group’s first, and arguably biggest, hit “You! Me! Dancing!” was a communally euphoric experience as always, with the band beginning the song circled around Gareth as the instruments continued to build on top of one another. Meanwhile, newer songs like the slow burning “To Tundra” and “Baby I Got the Death Rattle” fit in smoothly among more familiar material.
However, the most awe-inspiring moment of the night belonged to “The Black Bird, The Dark Slope”, a cut off of Hello Sadness that serves as one of the group’s most accomplished tracks to date and one of the biggest testaments to their maturation. The song’s multiple movements, the bombast of the arrangement, and Kim Campesinos! near sublime bridge to the chorus propelled Gareth’s tale of a metaphorical black bird wanting to tear him apart into an arresting and moving experience. For a band that prides itself on delivering brutally honest and vital slices of catharsis, it is a monumental achievement that one can hope they will choose as their next single.
Few groups exhibit the sheer joy and release of performance better than Los Campesinos! The band has been a live force for several years now, but to see them continue to play at such a high level is something that one can’t help but marvel at. They are a singular group who rewards their followers with quality performance after quality performance, and they are a shining example of what being in a band should look, sound, and feel like. Los Campesinos! have done a lot of growing up in a short amount of time, but it is their vision and dedication to their core principles that has kept them humble and morphed them into a dependable and always exciting indie rock institution. May they never lose their vitality.