Los Campesinos! is one of those rare bands that successfully resists categorization and defies a ready description. As a group, they are a hot mess of contradictions that makes for one hell of a dance party. What I can share of the Campesinos! story is that it is a Welsh band founded in 2006 at Cardiff University, though none of the Campesinos! are Welsh themselves, and while they were born in the cradle of the King’s English, they chose a Spanish moniker that means “the peasants.” Every band member has even adopted Campesinos! as his and her surname, binding themselves to their musical collective as mirthful country persons. Officially, Los Campesinos! has three studio albums in its six year tenure, all of which share many important traits inherent to the band’s markedly distinctive sound – I can recognize a Los Campesinos! song anywhere, immediately – but they also represent a noticeable, progressive maturity and crystallization of Campesinos! style. To be honest, their freshman album Hold on Now, Youngster… is one of my favorite albums in general, a masterful celebration of malcontented youthfulness. This is not to say that Romance is Boring and Hello Sadness are not great in their own right because that would be damn wrong. If recent setlists are any indication of what’s to come, we should get a well-balanced blend of all the above.
The best thing about these guys and gals is that when you listen to their lyrics you get the sense that these songs have been sitting in an old notebook, one covered in crude doodles and cryptic messages of the past, for years before they were set to music. And when lead vocalist Gareth David “Campesinos!” sings his words along to the clanging and crashing guitar riffs and drum beats that populate the Los Campesinos! musical biosphere, you can feel that he wears his heart on his sleeve. Often times, as if to add further weight to his thoughts, he will stop singing and start talking in the middle of a song. Finally, I still shiver a little with pleasure when the soft sweetness of the female vocals, Gareth’s sister Kim David “Campesinos!” joins in, subtle and lush, to make the porridge just right. Personally, I’ve been a Campesinos! at heart for just over 4 years now. I can even remember the first day – July 18th, 2008 – because it was my 21st birthday when I happened to wander by a small stage at the Summercase Music Festival in Spain where a big band I knew not was making an even bigger noise. I stopped in my tracks to stand and watch as a young man singing in a British accent danced around the stage like a maniac with his shirt off in the hot, hot Spanish heat. That band was, you guessed it, Los Campesinos! and I’ve been a steady admirer of all things Campesinos! ever since then. But don’t take my word for it (you don’t know me anyway). Stop on by the Bud Light stage Friday a little after noon and kick off your ACL with an exclamation point, the way it should be, with You! Me! Dancing!