8/14 Los Campesinos and Girls – Emos

loscampesinos09Long have we been fans of Los Campesinos, but we hadn’t, as of yet, had the chance of seeing them transform their spasmic pop into a live setting. Fortunately, we were also able to catch a glimpse of the much-hyped, even by ourselves, Girls, just before LC took to the stage. It was the perfect billing for a Friday night of music entertainment at Emos.

When we arrived at the venue, The Smith Westerns had just taken to the stage.  A mess of hair, they galloped through their set with a number of tunes reminiscent of the Cali sun, both vocally and musically, but aside from the tunes, which recalled Brian Jonestown Massacre sans acid, their set was a little bit lackluster in regards to performance.  Sure, they jangled and twanged, but their minimal movement didn’t provide much incentive for the audience to salivate at the night’s ensuing festivities, which was a tragedy considering the sweltering heat begged to steal every ounce of energy, and sweat, from our bodies.

Girls immediately lived up to their expectations as another troupe of Cali rockers.  Combining the sound of the surf with layers of noise built up the tension for the audience just in time for them to jump into the bouncy “Laura.”  Christopher Owens has a voice that leans up against the wall of whiny, yet never seems to stay there long, much as his music never stays in the same place. From here “Ghostmouth” curled around the room, prior to the band releasing a wall of noise into the audience mid-song.

By the middle of the set, the group had hit the pinnacle, or seemingly, they reached for the climax, by playing “Hellhole Ratrace.”  Everyone in the entire audience sat quietly while the stage belonged entirely to Owens, strumming his way through one of the group’s strongest songs.  Suddenly, the band jumped in, joining Owens with walls of feedback and noise as the song drew to a close. They followed this with “Morning Light,” which recalls the urgency and pacing of Dinosaur Jr, only with a hint more of melody, although the lead guitarist jammed it out using his microphone to grind against his guitar.

As they evening grew to a close, for these boys at least, they blazed through a few quick songs.  First, they offered “Substance,” a song Owens dedicated to a dear friend from Amarillo.  Then they went into “Solitude;” it’s a country-tinged number, reminiscent of a really slow Strange Boys tune.  Finally, they ended their evening with “Lust for Life,” which is one of the standout tracks on their upcoming release Album; it’s definitely one of the songs of the year.

When the desert came in the form of Los Campesinos, you could tell that the remaining audience members were desperate for the band to let loose, encouraging the group to tear us all apart in rampant stomping pop numbers. From the opening minute, the vocals of Gareth seemed a bit more post-punk growl than I remember on the recordings. Going back, they definitely have that feel, but in the live setting it was much more pronounced.  Even more apparent was his Eddie Argos of Art Brut style of vocal delivery, which also goes for his female counterpart Aleksandra, whose vocals were excruciatingly high; she is said to be leaving the band soon.

While the sound may have sounded extremely muddled due to the band being a seven-piece, or Emos, the crowd enthusiastically ate up every single moment, especially during “You! Me! Dancing!”  Only during the playing of two darker numbers, expected on the group’s upcoming album, did the audience seem at all stunned by the performance.  For me, the highlight came during their rendition of “International Tweecore Underground,” which is probably my favorite number from the group’s catalog.

All in all, the performance went over well with the audience, which is the purpose after all, but I felt a little let down by the majority of the energy onstage, aside from Gareth. It won’t go down as one of my favorite live sets, but I think I enjoyed it as much as the next bloke.  And thus the night ended, and the week drew to a pleasant close as I watched several of my favorite bands close it all down at Emos.

Photos courtesy of Eric Uhlir.

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