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If any band never needed an exclamation point, it is Los Campesinos!, the seven-piece pop band from Cardiff, Wales, whose songs seem to burst to life like an animated Eschen. Barely three years old and already prepping their third album, the Campesinos make music that is pointed and poignant, observant and obstreperous. You have to be quick to keep up, and most of the crowd Friday night at the El Rey Theatre was.
- ||| Photos by Laurie Scavo
The audience was understanding too – frontman Gareth Campesinos! (it’s not original, but all seven members carry the band’s moniker as a surname) emerged from behind the curtain before the set to explain that the El Rey show had, at the last minute, become a benefit show for a tourmate who had recently lost a parent in an automobile accident. The entreaty for the crowd to contribute at the merch table did nothing to dampen the evening. It merely revealed the Welsh band’s heart to be as big as their imagination.
Which is pretty big. The Campesinos mount their attack using multiple vocals, two glockepiels, two guitars and a violin, bass and drums. It was clear the nearly-full El Rey had spent time with the band’s two 2008 albums, “Hold On Now, Youngster …” and “We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed” – many sang along with Gareth’s heavily accented speak-singing. The frontman’s vocal counterpoint, Aleksandra, was hardly a factor, though; her lilting voice had been rendered scratchy by illness. Little matter. By the time Gareth and his guitarists made a foray into the crowd, their single “You! Me! Dancing!” had become a reality.
A modest-at-best opening set by San Francisco quartet Girls – who are four dudes – was confounded by technical problems. Frontman Christopher Owens’ next-generation hippie anthems make for wonderful stuff on the band’s forthcoming “Album” (out Sept. 22), but they got a little bit samey over 40 minutes at the El Rey. Guitarist John Anderson’s woes – including getting a nasty electrical shock while trying to fix his rig – didn’t help matters.