Photos by Anna Moneymaker
Three nights after Flaming Lips brought their awe-inspiring presence to D.C., confetti was still falling down from the ceiling onto Los Campesinos! band members at the 9:30 Club.
Thursday’s Los Campesinos! performance was the first in the District since 2014. They returned to the 9:30 Club with a liveliness, touring off the recent release of their album, Sick Scenes.
Infinity Crush, the prolific Caroline White’s musical project, was up first. The tracks of White’s solo set were introspective and confessional, resembling Elliot Smith’s bumpy, but fit-together way of singing, particularly with the placement of line changes and rhythm. Her open and random stage banter allowed her to quickly become familiar to the crowd and resist emotional vulnerability. The crowd of out-of-towners, traveling to see a somewhat rare Los Campesinos! set, grew to admire Infinity Crush. They danced to each lush ballad and laughed at her impression of Sufjan Steven.
“Any senators in the house?” White asked the crowd, “Yeah, senators love me. They’re always coming to my shows.”
New York City’s Crying was up next, filling the venue with ‘80s rock and synthesizer-heavy tracks. Frontwoman Elaiza Santos dragged the microphone around, as her vocals cried out with angst, enveloped in bouncy drums and chromatic guitar riffs. The band’s unique music–pairing loops, effects and pure talent together in a sensational package–is worthy of recognition.
After an intermission, the room went dark and a track played loud and clear through speakers. As the anticipation built up, the crowd grew antsy. But, after a few minutes, the seven Los Campesinos! members came out. Multi-instrumentalist Rob Campesinos! played the dripping, sun-kissed synth track for “As Lucerne/The Low,” the audience barely waiting to start clapping out a rhythm. Vocalist Gareth Campesinos! came in, roaring as a dramatic drum line transformed the room’s intensity.
“Romance is Boring” opened up slow, with a lo-fi guitar riff, Rob accentuating the chords with his tambourine. The crowd jumped to the chorus as Gareth and Kim Campesinos! had a back-and-forth duet. Bassist Matt Campesinos! played drifted chords, up and down scales, tying the piece together while Neil Campesinos! and Tom Campesinos! shredded on their guitars. At the bridge, Gareth took the mic off the stand and stood overhead of the audience, screaming over the smooth clashes while emphasizing the lyrics with his impassioned, tight-hand gestures.
On “What Death Leaves Behind,” Matt flung his bass with each plucked note. With the last chorus, Gareth grabbed the mic, jumping along to the vibrating bass and howling. Even if Gareth wanted to, he would not be able to play an instrument and sing at once in the artful, focused and powerful way he does in performances. His Morrissey-esque delivery makes the performance seem more poetry, dramatic and heartfelt.
Los Campesinos! moved about wildly as they danced and played. Evidently, as they have racked up years as a band, they have not lost their enthusiasm for music or any of their momentum. They have gained more perspective and ability to communicate their struggles.
The light, ethereal intro loop of “For Flotsam” began, Rob playing acoustic guitar while Kim vocalized gently in the background. In the chorus, the bass rumbled the room as Kim played a melody on keyboard and drummer Jason Campesinos! put a constant, foundational beat down for Neil to experiment on top of. The layered instrumentals of Los Campesinos! complemented each other well. Gareth came in yelling over the bridge, jumping around. He threw the mic over his shoulder and sang along with the crowd, head-banging for a few moments before returning with the mic.
Kim sang with Gareth on “Knee Deep at ATP.” As the tempo became faster, the crowd bounced and threw their hands in the air, pointing at the band with each line. The guitarists, including Rob, rapidly strummed. Powerful drum beats permeated in the room as Gareth held his arm up and air strummed Neil’s full, resonating chords. Kim grabbed the mic off the stand to join Gareth for the raucous ending, hugging him and swaying back and forth. They went straight into “My Year in Lists,” the audience yelling along and counting off each resolution with the band.
“Avocado, Baby” rang in with Rob’s synth and wood block, a nicely arranged guitar riff shining through. Kim’s cryptic keyboard line worked well with the stage’s red lighting. The crowd clapped and jumped along as Gareth sang to the crowd and Jason played fervently on his drum kit. The track’s false ending was not misleading to the loyal crowd who saw it coming and put their hands up, yelling. The drums rolled every which way while a cacophony of instrumentals ended the piece. The fun mood of the previous track was a stark contrast to darker “The Sea Is A Good Place To Think About The Future.” Drum beats created a more serious mood and Gareth yelled, “But, what did you expect?” Kim’s vocal harmonies were key to the track and Rob’s synthesizer melodies were transmitted straight into the mind.
The band played “Baby, I Got the Death Rattle” and left, returning for a three-song encore. Los Campesinos! played “You! Me! Dancing!” with sliding guitar chords and Gareth’s cymbal roll on Jason’s kit. Fans crowdsurfed to the awesome half-time chorus. The band gave the fans a choice to vote between “Miserabilia” or “I Just Sighed. I Just Sighed, Just So You Know” for the last song.
“We’ll prove that democracy can still work,” said Gareth.
The fans decided on “Miserabilia.” Remaining strands of confetti still falling, Los Campesinos! went out with a bang.