Woe Is Me and Woe Is You and Woe Is Us, Together
When Los Campesinos! say "we are beautiful, we are doomed," they never quite get around to explaining if they're beautiful because they're doomed or doomed because they're beautiful but after seeing them at Street Scene this Saturday in San Diego, my hunch is it's a bit of both. It's sort of hard to explain my devotion to this Welsh seven-piece group, but this will be an attempt to try, one made all the more necessary because I was easily the oldest person up towards the stage (but away from the occasional mosh pit--I might have been arrested for statutory something if I got in there). And then seeing the band, live, just stressed what I can ignore when only listening to the music--I'm old enough to be everyone's dad. So does this make me real hip or really creepy (and the two might not be exclusive, sure)?
Heck, I wouldn't be the first to feed off the energy of the young, and LC has energy out the glockenspiel. They are at least partially about muchness, everything up at once, often everyone singing at once, but only the very best lines, and then live those became a crowd chant too--it's as if we all get to be Campesinos. There is a power in hundreds shouting, "We kid ourselves there's future in the fucking but there is no fucking future," or what seems like a mouthful but rolls of the tongue when sung to their raucous tune, "This is how you spell HAHAHA, I've destroyed the hopes and the dreams of a generation of faux-romantics, and I'm pleased." When you're my age, of course, those lines mean even more--I've had the chance to shout no future with someone else who seemed to mean it a whole lot more (but he's still kicking around, too, isn't he?). As for faux-romantics, I survived the age of Duran Duran. You kids know nothing.
But LC does. For that's the second part that makes all that vitality even more powerful; these damn kids can think, ever wishing and knowing at once: "I'm taking far too many chances on these less than idealistic romances" or "This sentimental movie marathon has taught us one thing: it's the opposite of true love is as follows: reality!" Yeah, it seems the quick cynicism of the clever, but it listens way better than it reads--when the whole band shouts that "reality" it's reason finding force, and funny to boot. Ain't that life.
Live they were everything I hoped. Totally together, completely up to speed from moment one, which featured Gareth running out into the crowd to start "Broken Heartbeats Sound Like Breakbeats." He even grabbed the back of one fan's head, put the mic right up to the guy's mouth, and sang right at him, almost freakily intense, but that's the point. I've always felt LC had a lot of Mekons in them, not that they fess up to it on their Myspace page, and yes, I like them so much I'll even go to Myspace. That shambling collective out-of-punk energy is exactly the same, with Harriet making a wonderful Susie Honeyman stand in on rocking violin.
It was a perfect set, too, that rarity when all your faves get played and you don't have to go off wanting. There was that great rush after each chorus when everyone bangs away in "International Tweexcore Underground" that's so emotion-raising I almost tear up hearing it--let alone getting to stand in it live. There was the nod to Pavement and a bruising cover of "Box Elder" that ended with Gareth and Aleks both at Ollie's drum kit, cymbal smashing into a roar that became that build-in to "You! Me! Dancing!" rock's essential request of us, after all.
And there was the end. This gig was Aleks' last with the band, as she's headed back to university. Pre-show one of the band's retinue put flowers out by her spot and spread little cut out hearts all over her Korg. And as the set, well, wound down is far from the right word, you could see her getting dreamy, even behind her sunglasses (it was a hot hot day, and the sun set behind the crowd as they played). Prior to the finale, "Sweet Dreams Sweet Cheeks," Gareth asked everyone to raise their glass and he said something to the effect that one poxy band didn't matter in the world but here's to best fucking friends. He wound up back in the crowd for the song's start. They played the heck out of it. We all got to join in on the anthemic end: "One blink for yes two blinks for no sweet dreams sweet cheeks we leave alone." And then Aleks was bawling, and, tiny little Welsh girl she is, bawling is a whole body affair. Everyone in the band gave her huge hugs.
Perhaps we do leave alone. Or perhaps we all get to be Campesinos, beautiful, doomed, and at least going out singing a very smart song.
(11 of 31 in the drive to 2500)