This past Wednesday night, a handful of New York’s concertgoers ventured out in the post-blizzard weather to Irving Plaza to catch Los Campesinos! on the tail end of the “No Blues” Tour. Although many were too cheap for the coat check and bundled up in fortresses of heavy-layered clothing, that didn’t stop the crowd members from showing off their iconic awkward concert dance moves to the mixture of upbeat melodies and pessimistic lyrics.
Los Campesinos! at Irving Plaza in NYC
Before the Welsh septet of indie pop musicians took the stage, the crowd was entertained by the distortion-loving, garage rock set of Speedy Ortiz. Although I arrived in time only to catch “Tiger Tank” (the closing song of the relatively short set), just hearing their debut album’s lead single live was enough to get a good feel of the band’s performance aesthetic. Lead vocalist Sadie Dupuis alternated between moaning the song’s verses in an almost inaudibly low register, and bellowing the chorus in good garage-rock-angst fashion. Backing the vocals were the slow, dirty riffs, drawn-out by the band members practically attacking their instruments, and thereby getting the crowd buzzed and begging for more (and honestly, who can blame them with such a short 35 minute set).
After the lengthy setup of all seven musicians’ instruments, the venues’ gigantic upcoming events advertisement screen began its ascent to the ceiling, revealing the headlining act, saturated in pink and blue lighting. Without introduction, lead vocalist Gareth Paisey headed straight into his melodic wailing of “As Lucerne/The Low” off the recently released No Blues. The song seemed to be an odd choice for an opener; rather than feeding off the crowd’s energy from Speedy Ortiz, the grandiose vocals and instrumental melodies mesmerized the crowd into a depressive lull that matched the grimacing look across Paisey’s face. Fortunately, the barnburner feeling didn’t last long, as the fan favorite “By Your Hand” broke the crowd’s silence. Many fans found themselves already singing at the top of their lungs to the bittersweet lyrics
Throughout the show, the band managed to keep the crowd’s energy up with a setlist catering to fan favorites of both new and old. A roar of approval came about upon hearing the sugary synth melody of “What Death Leaves Behind,” stirring in many fans that inexplicable desire to dance and flail any body parts in several possible ways. Fans surprisingly, and possibly accidentally, initiated the beginnings of a “mosh pit” during the more upbeat tracks, like “You! Me! Dancing!” and the infamous “Avocado, Baby.”
Those caught in kinetic frenzy could be seen with bright smiles plastered across their sweat-drenched faces as they crashed into one another, and arm-in-arm fans belted out the lyrics together while jumping ecstatically. Later on during “Heart Swells/100-1,” one fan even came up to me asking, “Is it crazy that I want to crowd surf right now?” Crazy or not, she managed to accomplish her desire, and upon falling to the ground rather gracefully, picked herself up and kept on dancing.
Although Paisey appeared stoic for the majority of the songs, during the breaks between songs, he engaged quite frequently with the crowd. Akin to the band’s musical style, he enjoyed taking a self-deprecating jab at himself by admitting that he blanked out during the song “Glue Me.” However, he proved to be quite the antithesis of your stereotypical frontman by taking his time thanking everyone and anyone on his list, and also introducing the crowd to the newest Campesinos! member: bass player Matt.
After the band closed with the solemn “The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future,” the crowd was far from sated from the performance. “Let’s go Los Camps!” echoed from the mouths of the fans from beginning of the break until the end. “How very American of you guys,” Paisey joked as the band reemerged for the two-song encore. Unfortunately for the performance, Los Campesinos!’ drummer Jason Adelinia had rocked out so hard that he managed to break the kick pedal, and was forced to rely on Speedy Ortiz’ less-broken kick pedal, and thus only slower songs were possible. Luckily the crowd seemed pretty exhausted from the predominantly upbeat set and was happy to merely sway along to cacophonous melodies of “Heart Swells/Pacific Day Time” and “In Media Res.” As Paisey’s vocals faded to silence, he gave a sheepish thumbs-up good-bye as he and the band exited the stage to go hang out with the crowd after the show.
Article by Matthew Levine