Live: Los Campesinos! Earn the “!” at Music Hall of Williamsburg

10/18/2010 12:03 PM |

You! Me! Dancing! (hence the shoddy pic)
  • You! Me! Dancing! (hence the shoddy pic)

Los Campesinos!
Live at Music Hall of Williamsburg
Saturday, October 16, 2010

In reaction to the mass of sweaty teens ramming their bodies into each other in front of the stage, head Campesino, Gareth (all members go by the surname “Campesino”), says in a heavy Welsh accent, “Please don’t let anybody get hurt in there. Thank You.” This is followed by, “Here’s a song about how we’re all going to die alone.” With a name that translates into “The Peasants,” Los Campesinos! are somewhat of a dichotomy. Their songs exude enough gleeful exuberance, not to mention sheer volume, to make kids jump up and down, hoist their bodies above the crowd, and throw cups of beer (Pepsi?) into the air. Lyrically, they’re feisty, white-knuckled tirades, sung by a 24-year-old who may already be nearing the end of his rope. To top it off, there’s a violin, keyboard, bass, two guitars, two drum kits, interspersed glockenspiel and for tonight, the occasional trumpet. It’s loud and chaotic and really pretty wonderful.

When they were in town this spring promoting their then-new album Romance Is Boring, they played Irving Plaza, making this, the second of back-to-back nights at the considerably smaller Music Hall of Williamsbug (who lowered the entry age to 16), one for the diehards. The crowd knows all the words, and there sure are a lot of words — enough to justify song titles like “This Is How You Spell ‘HAHAHA, We Destroyed the Hopes and Dreams of a Generation of Faux-Romantics'” — each shouted at breakneck speeds by Gareth. The kids beat him to the punch a few times, singing the final line of “Straight in at 101″ before he manages to get to it. Still, nothing compares to the free for all of “You! Me! Dancing!” The strums of a twangy guitar are met with hoots and hollers, followed by a long pause — they’re totally milking this intro. By the time the extended drum roll melts into feedback, there’s already crowd surfing. Eventually it breaks into the rebellious, larger-than-life pop song it is on record: “I can’t dance a single step,” barks Gareth. It clearly doesn’t matter.

Resembling a young Conan O’Brien with a faux hawk, he’s the focal point throughout. Whether he’s handling the mic like a drunk, slapping a glockenspiel without looking to see what key he’s hitting, or turning his back to the audience to dance, he carries the stage in the palm of his hand. With him, it’s 100 percent all the time, and there’s little patience for subtly or nuance in his vocals, causing keyboardist/lil’ sis Kim’s harmonies to get lost in the shuffle. For the encore, he’s made his way halfway into the crowd. No surprise there. Next comes the guitarist. Into the crowd he goes. Back on stage minutes later, the band ends the show gathered around the mics, arms around each other, chanting the end of “Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks.” Hey, if we’re going down, we might as well go down together, swinging the whole way, right?

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