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The last (and first) time I saw Los Campesinos! prior to their Brooklyn Bowl performance was at Great American Music Hall in San Francisco in 2007. Although they had already toured with Broken Social Scene and signed to Wichita Recordings, they still retained their youthful shout-along, do-it-yourself charm, making their show at this fairly classy venue still seem like a birthday party, or a sing-along at summer camp. The band, who met at university, seemed like friends first and serious musicians second, their main draw, for me at least, was their down-home, pretentiousless guile which was reflected in their songs, generally self-deprecating ditties about “feeling sorry for yourself about dumb things, and then hating yourself for doing it”.
Of course, there is a fine line between self-deprecating and self-indulgence, and as Los Campesinos! became more famous, their songs began to sound less like Heavenly and more like run-of-the-mill pop-punk, and this attitude-shift was reflected at their 2012 show. The band sounded much tighter and more put-together, which enhanced the quality of their songs but deprived them of a much missed rough edge.
Despite the pop sheen that covered the Brooklyn Bowl show, seeing Los Campesinos! was still a refreshing breath of enthusiasm. So many shows in New York are opportunities to be seen, populated by superbly-dressed scene queens with their carefully manicured facial expressions, but Los Campesinos!, even as they have become more and more established, have managed to evade the curse of “cool”. The audience sang along at the top of their lungs, danced like idiots, and generally provided the type of concert experience that I haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing in some time.
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