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Live Review: Los Campesinos! @ Black Cat — 6/18/24

In a few short weeks, Los Campesinos! release All Hell, their seventh studio album, via their own label Heart Swells. It’s a milestone for the ragtag septet, who have been achieving more and more since their 2008 debut album, Hold on Now, Youngster…, and their defining 2010 record, Romance Is Boring.

Led by fresh-faced Englishman Gareth Paisey, Los Campesinos! recently romped through the Black Cat in a return engagement that previewed some songs from the upcoming album.

On June 18, Los Campesinos! sold out the Black Cat after just doing so in August 2022. This time around, however, Gareth and company had new songs to share, and they opened and closed with two of those songs, well worth your consideration! The band opened with “A Psychic Wound,” the sophomore single from All Hell. Gareth sang the tune with his trademark boundless energy, and the crisp, slightly fuzzy number got people dancing right away at Black Cat.

Watch the official music video for “A Psychic Wound” by Los Campesinos! on YouTube:

Los Campesinos! closed their main set with “0898 Heartache,” the upcoming album’s third single. As you may guess from the title, the song lyrically is a number about rejection and in this case kinda embracing it? It has a very Gaelic character to it, and its thumping beat kept the audience moving in anticipation of the band’s encore.

One of the interesting things to me about Los Campesinos! was how well they play together despite their seemingly different approaches to the music. At Black Cat, Gareth was very affable and humble yet lively and spirited. On keyboards and vocals, his sister Kim was quite a bit more reserved yet animated in song. (Kim harmonized dreamily with Gareth for the new album’s “kms” halfway through the concert!) Guitarist Neil Turner, a founding member along with Gareth and guitarist Tom Bromley, was laser focused on rocking out all night.

Given that you have this mash of seven musicians on stage, I might anticipate the act to veer into orchestral chamber pop. But it never does. The band remained tight and played as a whole without any showboating sidesteps in dedication to its ethos. They make adventurous music together, but they do so with guitars forward. Los Campesinos! are raucous singalongs like “Romance Is Boring,” which the band played to robust cheers as the third number of the set.

Watch the official music video for “Romance Is Boring” by Los Campesinos! on YouTube:

Something that struck me as remarkable about the show was the overall youth of the audience at Black Cat — most attendees were minors, which surprised me for a band that started issuing records 16 years ago. But Gareth’s boyish grin and the band’s uptempo rhythms drew the kids into the music and kept them singing and even screeching along. There was a wonderful sense of community and self-love throughout the Black Cat.

At one point in the show, Gareth paused to chat with the audience, reflecting on the very first performance of Los Campesinos! at Black Cat — way back in 2008. Dischord duo Aquarium opened the show. Dischord main man Ian MacKaye was in attendance, Gareth recounted to the audience. After Aquarium’s set, “we were in the parking lot, and we saw Ian MacKaye driving away from the venue, and we were heartbroken.” But they saw child seats in his car. While stunned at the idea of a rock star father, the band appreciated he may have had parental duties.

Los Campesinos! surely will return soon! So, Ian MacKaye and anyone else in DC that haven’t yet caught Los Campesinos! live should have ample opportunity to do so. We recommend buying a ticket quickly, as they are sure to sell out again.

Here are some photos of Los Campesinos! performing at Black Can on June 18, 2024. All pictures by Mickey McCarter.