At Mercury Lounge, no one was lounging when Wales’ indie-pop Los Campesinos! exploded with a mix of pieces old and new. Hitting a few East Coast dates after rocking Lollapalooza, this seven-person Cardiff collective threw down pretty much everything from their debut EP, Sticking Fingers Into Sockets (QRO review), but they also showed off some of the material they’ve got for their upcoming 2008 LP. With an impish attitude and an overflow of get-up-and-go, Los Campesinos! wowed on Thursday, August 9th, in the first of two Mercury (QRO venue review) dates.
After an oh-so-cute group huddle before they went on, the four boys and three girls (who looked like they could all still be in high school) opened with three new songs. It was a gamble, and the starter was a little bit of a retread of Sockets, but the next two numbers showed definite growth, with first a stronger, more pressing piece, and then an explosive track that somehow managed to be even more fun than the fun, fun Sockets. The latter was also aided by a great opening ‘One-two-three-four’, with each number said by a different member of the band. The countdown was repeated a few times in rapid, perfect timing – one’s ear didn’t know where to turn.
Los Campesinos! bounced off one another all night, picking up energy with each collision (like some human version of Flubber). The most energetic had to be singer/glockenspiel-er Gareth, from his ever-changing facial expressions to saying how happy they are to be “playing traditional Peruvian pop music” to climbing atop Ollie’s bass drum, all the while looking like a younger, indie-rock version of Dominic Monaghan (Hobbit, Charlie on Lost). But on-stage, the band was book-ended by melody, with violinist/keyboardist Harriet stage right, and singer/keyboardist Alexandra to the left.
Sometimes the Mercury Lounge stage seemed almost too small for the band, as things got even crazier when they launched into Sockets songs like “Don’t Tell Me To Do The Math(s)” and the crowd favorite, “We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives”, which ended in a keyboard-slamming and -sliding boom of a breakdown. “It Started With a Mixx” really took a step-up live; it still began with, “Trying to find the perfect match / between pretentious and pop,” but it was definitely less pretension, more pop. However, it did mean that the proclaimed new “ballad”, “ATP”, was a little jarring of a transition. Another new song followed, similar to Sockets, but a little rawer, and kind of overshadowed by the subsequent “You! Me! Dancing!” (Los Campesinos!, like You Say Party! We Say Die! and !!!, is a band that loves the exclamation point – and lives up to that promise). Hips were swiveling among even those who “can’t dance a single step,” and that good will launched the band into their cover of Pavement’s “Frontwards”. Not the greatest Pavement song by any stretch of the imagination, the young Welsh septuplet gave it an added oomph over its original, ‘slacker rock’ version. New closer “Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks” showed off a little more melody, though live, that maybe took away some of the fun.
Perhaps the most hyper band since Matt & Kim, one could tell just how much fun Los Campesinos! were having at Mercury Lounge, and, for the crowd, that fun was infectious (the turn-out could have been larger, but Campesinos! were up against Daft Punk, The Hold Steady, and The Beastie Boys). Some of their new stuff could use a little bit more polish between now and ’08, but this oh-so-young band is oh-so-up-and-coming.