Los Campesinos! are now almost a decade removed from their breakthrough debut EP, Sticking Fingers Into Sockets (QRO review) and follow-up debut LP Hold On Now, Youngster… (QRO review). Their youthful energy easily could have sputtered out long ago, now that they’re no longer the ‘next big thing’ and only three of the original members, singer Gareth Campesinos (QRO interview) and guitarist Neil (QRO interview) & Tom Campesinos (QRO interview), remain in the band. Their live show could just be thirty-something fans reliving being twenty-somethings, only excited about the old songs. But it couldn’t have been further from the case when they played both old & new material at Brooklyn’s Warsaw on Friday, March 10th.
It was a freezing night outside, but the main area in Warsaw (QRO venue review) got really hot, even muggy, as the evening went on. The large space was packed, with Gareth noting that, after asking who had seen the band before & who were first-timers, it was the new folks up front, older ones in the back. Yes, there were millennials dancing up a storm up front (at one point Gareth broke into “Straight In At 101” to admonish a fan, the band behind him pausing for a moment and picking up again without missing a beat), but Los Campesinos! had that kind of energy as well, like it was 2007 (QRO live review in 2007) all over again.
Touring behind this year’s Sick Scenes (QRO review), there was a good deal of newer material, from it and the preceding No Blues (QRO review), weighted towards the front half of the show. Yes, fans did shout out requests for old favorites, but as Gareth noted, “I find that everyone who shouts requests between songs has never had to write a set list…” And the newer stuff did not disappoint, like Sick’s “Here’s To the Fourth Time!”, a song about starting a band way back when, or Blues’ “Cemetery Gaits”.
But there were also old songs. “Knee Deep at ATP” was introduced as, “The feel-good hit from summer of 2006” – and if that didn’t let you know how old it was, its references to a film camera, not to mention taking place at a U.K. festival that is no more (QRO 2010 recap), let you know. Gareth even noted midway through the evening that, after looking at the set list, “It’s solid from here on out.” Yet the crowd wasn’t over-familiar with the old songs – there were still people shouting “Four!” at the wrong time during “My Year In Lists” (to be fair, the countdown in the song skips a beat, presumably so it can end on “Five! Five! Five!”, and not, “Six! Six! Six!”).
When Los Campesinos! returned for an encore, Gareth said that they were going to do four songs, “Two for us – so bear with us – and two for you.” After Sick Scenes’ “Renato Dall’Ara (2008)” and slow “The Fall of Home”, it was classics “You! Me! Dancing!” and the show ended with “Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks” – just as it has been for so many years now. Gareth even went into the crowd to sing, but his mike cord broke, not that that slowed things down. And the whole band ended by once again climbing atop whatever they could find to sing the repeated title chorus line with the crowd.
So many bands that rise on youthful energy fall on that same energy when they’re no longer youthful. Los Campesinos! may be older, but you wouldn’t know it on stage – even when Gareth and singer/keyboardist (and his actual sister) Kim Campesinos! would turn their backs to the crowd when not singing, they were still dancing. LC! still have their exclamation mark.