The kids are all right. Well, at least the boys and girls in the young Welsh band Los Campesinos! are. As the blogosphere continues to increase the stakes for emergent, buzzed-about bands, it becomes more important for those acts to prove they have the live chops to back up their recorded output. (See this year’s attendant debates about the speed with which such bands as Black Kids and Vampire Weekend have risen through the ranks.) If not, today’s flash in the pan can quickly become tomorrow’s forgotten footnote. Based on Los Campesinos!’s first U.S. West Coast live date — on November 27 at Los Angeles’s Echo — it doesn’t look as if that fate will befall this particular phenom group.
The show was originally scheduled for the Troubadour, but it was nudged out of that venue to make room for one of a pair of fiftieth-anniversary shows featuring James Taylor and Carlie Simon. Los Campesinos! was supposed to play at the Echo’s roomier, downstairs space, the Echoplex, but the show was moved upstairs at the last second without any explanation. The rumor that ticket sales were poor was corroborated by the Echo’s usually cramped quarters being at less than full capacity.
Toronto’s Most Serene Republic, Los Campesinos! Arts & Crafts labelmates, opened the show with a set of nondescript indie rock. A sprawling Canadian collective, it might be too easy to call the band Broken Social Scene-lite, but that’s exactly how the band came off. As the Most Serene Republic culled selections from its recently released Population, lead man Adrian Jewett tried to excite the crowd with dorky dance moves and occasional peppy trombone lines, but his efforts were to no avail.
So it was all the more important for Los Campesinos! to come out blazing, which it did. Lead man Gareth (all band members have adopted the Campesinos! surname), sporting a Casiotone for the Painfully Alone T-shirt, counted off before the band launched into a new song that featured him barking “Stick with your instincts!” and bopping around like a madman. From there, Los Campesinos! ran through songs off the Sticking Fingers into Sockets debut EP (released in July) and recent enhanced single “The International Tweexcore Underground.” Gareth, furiously hammering away at a glockenspiel, traded vocals with keyboardist Aleksandra on winning charmers like “Don’t Tell Me to do the Math(s)” and “You Throw Parties, We Throw Knives.” The band didn’t exactly handle the songs’ precision tempo and volume changes perfectly, but that only added to the kids’ immature charm.
Possible song of the year “You! Me! Dancing!” really got the crowd hyped up with participatory synchronized clapping, and the band showed some American indie love by covering Pavement’s “Frontwards.” To say the set was too short would be unfair, since Los Campesinos! doesn’t exactly have a deep back catalog to pull from. In fact, the band’s quick little flurry of twee-punk energy (no encore here) made for a near-perfect night.