Los Campesinos! @ Us Vs. Them // Brudenell Social Club, Leeds // 03.12.16
It seems only right that Los Campesinos!, after playing the Brudenell Social Club and declaring their love for it on many occasions, eventually came to curate and headline their own all-dayer festival there. Us Vs Them, as it was dubbed, included sets from other bands with a DIY ethos, including Hookworms, Slow Club, Trust Fund and Martha. The anticipation for this event built over months and months – not just for me, but also for the band themselves – and when the clock hit 10pm that evening, it was finally time for Los Campesinos! to headline their own stage.
The seven-piece crowd onto the Brudenell’s small (by most standards) stage, and launch straight into ‘Renato Dall’Ara (2008)’, a song from their upcoming sixth offering Sick Scenes, and therefore unknown to most. The show feels like it really begins with the next track ‘I Just Sighed. I Just Sighed, Just So You Know’, and continues with massive numbers like ‘What Death Leaves Behind’, ‘Romance Is Boring’ and ‘Avocado, Baby’, along with their newest single ‘I Broke Up In Amarante’. The excitement and love in the room is palpable as everyone sings and screams each and every word.
When they play a new song, the band announces its title as ‘A Slow, Slow Death’, and you can almost feel the room-wide sentiment of “of course it is” – not in a negative manner, but with a smile. Los Campesinos!’ music isn’t known for being upbeat – admittedly, the songs might be, but the lyrics often aren’t. Perhaps the combination of melancholic and sanguine is part of their charm. Amongst the set’s liminal comments and “thank-you”s, vocalist Gareth says words along the lines of “lots of people have told me they’ve met their boyfriend or girlfriend through a Los Campesinos! Show …maybe that’s not the best foundation for a relationship”, perhaps reflecting their usual social media bio (“your ex-girlfriend’s favourite band”). They’re humble and a little self-deprecating, juxtaposed against their incredibly loyal, exalting fans.
At most shows, you can pick out a few particular songs that elicit the most rapturous responses from the crowd, but at a Los Campesinos! gig, it’s pretty much all of them. Every line is sang perfectly, even the songs with the most intricate lyrics (think the fast, winding verses in the likes of ‘We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed’, ‘Straight In At 101’ and ‘The Sea Is A Good Place To Think About The Future’). It’s not uncommon, but it’s always a wonderful thing to see a room full of individuals so passionate and united over one band.
When Los Campesinos! return to the stage for an encore, they give the audience a vote on their final two songs. We’re not allowed to cheer for any of them until Gareth has listed the four options, a rule immediately broken during the first option ‘There Is A Flag. There Is No Wind’ (the shouts and cheers to this receive the response “you’ve fucked it”). The other choices, ‘A Heat Rash In The Shape Of The Show Me State; Or, Letters From Me To Charlotte’, the classic ‘You! Me! Dancing!’ and ‘Miserabilia’ all receive equal enthusiasm, so they play all three, despite the band’s protests about ‘You! Me! Dancing!’.
They end the show with ‘Miserabilia’, which they precede with the statement that “this is a song about how each and every one of us is going to die”. Los Campesinos! are somewhat gloomy and self-effacing, yet vibrant and fun. They’re incredibly talented, unique and quirky; and you won’t find anyone else quite like them.