Los Campesinos at the Empty Bottle

I’m not sure that Los Campesinos truly deserves the exclamation point that it puts at the end of its name. How many bands would? Sure, I suppose that exclamation point is ironic, but in one way it does seem like a fitting punctuation mark for Los Campesinsos: The alternating male-female vocals sometimes sound like a shouting match. Not necessarily in a bad way. Listening to Los Campesinos on record it occurred to me that they often turn the old Pixies formula (soft verses, loud choruses) on its head, playing loud verses with big guitar chords and shrill cries with soft, tinkly choruses. At least, I think that’s what they’re doing, though it isn’t always easy to tell what’s a chorus and what’s a verse. Los Campesinos (who, despite their Latino-sounding moniker, are from Cardiff, Wales) is punk one second, twee the next.

I do like their album, Hold on Now, Youngster…, but Los Campesinos strikes me as one of those small-doses bands – bands best enjoyed a few songs at a time. A whole record of this stuff can wear you down. The band’s thin repertoire (one album, plus an EP, plus a Pavement cover) seemed about the perfect length for a live show, however. Playing Monday (May 26) at the Empty Bottle, Los Campesinos put on a fun and rousing show. There was a lot of wild dancing on the floor in front of the stage. The Welsh kids on the stage weren’t quite as wild, but they did seem to be having fun, too. See my photos of Los Campesinos.

The opening act, Jeffrey Lewis, is truly an odd duck. I saw him doing a solo opening set at the recent Super Furry Animals show, and now he was back with a three-piece band, the Jitters playing behind him. I’d say he’s considerably better with the band. The little bits of instrumental jamming offer some much-needed relief between Lewis’ torrents of words. He’s definitely a love him or hate him kind of guy. I’m starting to love his music after seeing two shows, though I know other people who are hating it. That nonstop spiel about seeing Will Oldham on a subway is an amazing piece of work, and Lewis’ “movies” (narrative songs that he illustrates by flipping the pages of his hand-drawn picture books) are charming… charming in a very odd way. See my photos of Jeffrey Lewis and the Jitters.

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