Photos by Neil Van.
Los Campesinos had a lot of explaining to do. After aggressively touring and recording since 2006, they’d been absent for over three years. Judging by the throng of human sardines at Velvet Underground, this hiatus was keenly felt. “It’s been about five years since we last performed in Toronto” admitted Los Campesinos frontman Gareth Campesinos. “Sorry about that.” As if to make up for it, the band wasted no time showing the crowd exactly what they’d been missing.
Despite the hiatus, the band was tight as ever. The seven piece ensemble created an all-encompassing sound. Twee synths and heavy distortion melded seamlessly with subtle harmonies and erratic tempo shifts. The band’s signature sonic left turns and punchy chants felt at home amongst slow builds and anthemic choruses. A couple of tracks in, Gareth addressed the elephant in the room. “Unfortunately we have to play some stuff off our new album” he said sheepishly. “It’s only nine days old. You may not know a lot of it yet, but that was your job anyway.” If anyone minded, they did a poor job of showing it. For all the self-deprecation heaped on the new material, it hit hard and found its home amongst the crowd.
Still, we hadn’t been waiting five or more years (try nine, just sayin’) to hear the new album in full and they knew it. “Enough of that” quipped Gareth “it’s time for the solid gold.” Turning back the years, they delved into a selection of hits and gems from their first five albums. Enthusiasm hit a fever pitch with their sophomore record’s eponymous track, “We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed.” A song that (recorded) features crowd chants, was buoyed by very literal ones. The energy carried through right to the set’s close with a three song encore of “one song for us, one for you and one of the crowd’s choice” damn near shook the club’s foundations to rubble.
A lyrically dense and romantically fatalistic band, the fans’ personal connection was all too apparent. These were bedroom anthems manifested live. As if words feverishly scrawled into notebooks suddenly leapt off the page and out of their mouths. Bleeding hearts were proudly displayed on sleeves. These may sound like empty proclamations, but it was pretty clear to see. How? BECAUSE EVERYONE KNEW ALL OF THE FUCKING WORDS. With a career spanning six albums, this was no small feat. Being in a crowd that passionate was infectious. I’d be surprised to hear anyone leaving with vocal chords fully intact. Pity, ‘cause with the band hanging out at the merch table post-gig, it would’ve been a shame not to say hi.