Following a band on tour is an activity that rarely makes it off the bucket list.
There are tons of reasons to avoid trekking from city to city to see one of your favorite acts. Finding a car! Paying for gas to put in said car! Finding somewhere to sleep! Buying tickets before all the shows sell out! It’s a somewhat weird dream to indulge in, but that journey is just what I and an old high school pal embarked on to follow the British indie rockers Los Campesinos, March 6-10.
Los Campesinos was the perfect band to follow around on the road. The band’s latest album “Sick Scenes” almost did not come to fruition as LC had parted ways with their label and the members had largely moved on to day jobs, relegating the group to near dormancy. But thanks to funds raised from selling limited-edition soccer jerseys, the band was able to record and release their stellar new album “Sick Scenes” and embark on their first major U.S. tour in five years.
Seeing a run of shows in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Washington. was too tantalizing to pass up, especially when it was hard to predict when the band would ever be able to come back stateside.
Thankfully, my buddy’s spring break lined right up with string of shows, so we packed up my Prius and headed to Pittsburgh. The four-hour-plus drive through the truly featureless Pennsylvania landscape was a good time to discuss favorite tracks from LC’s six album discography.
I had to do some major stumping to defend my love for the band’s 2008 debut album “Hold On Now, Youngster …” to my buddy. “Knee Deep at ATP” and “We Are All Accelerated Readers” are two LC tracks that I hold near and dear for one reason or another. For my friend, 2010’s “Romance is Boring” and 2013’s “No Blues” are tops. The former is a bit on the noisy side but has some of the best LC lyrics, while the latter suffered from little formal promotion and touring, leading some to ignore just how great and cohesive the record is.
Finally, we pulled into the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Southside and scouted out the Rex Theatre, a quaint little venue situated across the street from another venue, Diesel. Quite the gang of folks was already queued up in the rain to see some metal band called Attila.
Shoutout to the guy wearing the “Satan is my homeboy” t-shirt! There was much better apparel on display amongst the LC fans once the Rex’s doors opened at 7 p.m. Plenty of fans wearing “Doomed” football shirts and sweatshirts, “Sick Scenes” t-shirts and other shirts from years past.
There was something very cathartic about finally seeing Los Campesinos live after so many years of fandom. As soon as all seven members hit the stage and the opening notes of “Lucerne/The Low” rang out, I went into full, unabashed fan-boy mode and remained there for the rest of the week.
At this point in the tour the band had played six shows in six days which is tough on anyone, let alone a band that hasn’t had a proper tour in a few years. Nonetheless, LC powered through a few songs from each of their albums, much to the delight of the small but ardent crowd. A blown amp for lead-guitarist Tom Bromley put a stop to proceedings for a bit, allowing multi-instrumentalist Rob Taylor to riff a bit with the crowd. Thanks to a true hero who had a spare in his trunk, the show could go on and end strongly with the standout track “Miserabilia” from “We Are Beautiful We Are Doomed.”
It hit me while driving back to Philly just how much driving bands have to do. I was sick of two days in the car and here some bands spend months at a time crisscrossing the country to play show after show.
After a day off, it was off to South Street’s TLA for the March 8 show. Seeing “Los Campesinos” on the marquee after all these years was something else, let me tell you. Lead singer Gareth David complimented Philadelphia as being a great “PokeCity” which got a loud whoop from a fan behind me.
The songs from “Sick Scenes” sounded even better than they had in Pittsburgh. Plus, the band debuted “Renato Dall’Ara (2008)” for the first time on the entire tour and it kicked ass. Closing with “Heart Swells/100-1/ I Just Sighed. I Just Sighed, Just So You Know” was incredible. Check out the version of that song on LC’s live album “A Good Night for a Fistfight”; it will knock your socks off.
The best part of the night came when members of band came out to the merch table to chat with fans. People lined up to talk to Gareth like he was the Godfather, and how could you not? For most, the man has penned lyrics that have both gotten them through hard times and also taught them so many soccer references through the years. I’d love to see more bands come out for a li’l’ meeting and greeting.
The next day I prepared to say “hello sadness” as my friend and I journeyed to our nation’s capital for our last show of the week. The famous 9:30 Club is a very unassuming, unmarked building that lies on the edge of some major gentrification. Inside, it’s a lovely space complete with columns and balconies and everything! The crowd was pretty full but, outside of some folks in the front, a bit on the low energy side. Gareth revealed a fun fact to the audience: the opening lines of “Baby I Got the Death Rattle” happened right there in Washington! Neat!
I’d be remiss in not mentioning the LC opening act Crying. I had listened to their debut album “Beyond the Fleeting Gales” a bit but Crying live is a whole different animal. The guitars and drums are mixed right to the forefront, reminding me quite a bit of Rush. The lead guitarist Ryan Galloway really worked some magic on his sparkly green guitar, even working in a few mini Townsend-esque windmills now and then. Singer Elaiza Santos showed off her hip hop skills on “There Was a Door” and the drummer (whose name I didn’t catch) was a real pro behind the drums, daftly flicking a wrist to hit a crash cymbal without even looking. Crying, y’all, check ‘em out!
When you see a band three times in four days, it’s the little things that you begin to notice. How the roadie carefully arranges the mic cord into a figure eight before each show. How Gareth will go right up against guitarist Neil Turner and scream the lyrics of “Knee Deep in ATP” along with him. How drummer Jason Adelinia goes for a big, theatrical drumstick toss during the intro to “You! Me! Dancing!” How Gareth and sister Kim David go totally bonkers during the last chorus of “For Flotsam.” How Taylor dutifully plays the cowbells during “Avocado Baby” and the lullaby-sounding synthesizer during “The Fall of Home.” How the crowd joins in on the call and response lyrics and big ol’ whole band choruses to great effect. All these little things add up to create a one-of-a-kind concert experience.
If you couldn’t tell by the word count, I feel very strongly about the music of Los Campesinos It’s a feeling shared by the majority of their fan base, especially those who have been there since the beginning. But it’s even better to see how many people were seeing the band for the very first time on this tour. Thanks to “Sick Scenes” and the success of this tour, hopefully we won’t have to wait another five years to see LC again.