Last Night: Los Campesinos! and Titus Andronicus at Club Dada

Los Campesinos!, Titus Andronicus
Club Dada
Saturday, January 31, 2009

Better than: Staying home with eager anticipation for this weekend's fairly bland Super Bowl lineup (Bruce Springsteen's halftime performance notwithstanding).

Download: Photographer Mattie Stafford trolled the grounds of Dada to bring us photos for our slideshow here.

Toward the tail end of Los Campesinos' rousing, playful set at Club Dada last night, frontman Gareth Campesinos (who, like each of his bandmates, uses the band's name as his own faux surname) joked with the audience about some tricks he and his six fellow band members had learned about winning crowds over here in the States. For instance, he said, namedropping the city his band's performing in is a sure-fire way to win over an audience. So he did just that, and the crowd cheered.

But Gareth employed a few other devices as well: During a later aside to the audience, he lauded Texans for the kindness with which they'd treated his band on this tour, and, in doing so, he shared an anecdote from his band's Friday night stop in Austin--like how the noted Broken Social Scene fans in Los Campesinos were surprised to see a few Broken Social Scene members in the audience at that show when that band had canceled its Dallas show on the same night because one of its members had fallen ill.

"Basically," Gareth continued, with a sly smile on his face, "what I'm saying is that Broken Social Scene let you down, and we didn't."

The crowd, again, cheered emphatically.

"Actually," Gareth added, "that's quite presumptuous of me. Maybe we're letting you down, too."

"Well," his fellow vocalist Aleksandra Campesinos quipped, "we did show up."

Again: applause. Los Campesinos! weren't letting anyone down on this night.

Parlor tricks aside, Los Campesinos! did far more than just show up on Saturday night at Club Dada.

Its performance was impressively tight and true to its on-record sound (it helps that the band brought its own sound board engineer with it on tour), and, as such, the hour-long set was an energetic, joyous romp; the fact that the seven members of the band were squeezed onto Club Dada's small-ish stage seemed more a strength than a hindrance, even if, at times, the excessive amounts of instruments on stage (including Gareth's up-front standalone cymbal) got in the way of the crowd's visual lines.

Regardless, the crowd--which seemed a healthy mix of excited, dedicated fans (a few of which were thanked on-stage by Gareth for generously contributing DVDs and a Nerf soccer ball to the band's tour van toy-chest) and a few curious tag-alongs--loudly expressed its appreciation of the performance during the breaks between set highlights like "You! Me! Dancing!", "Death to Los Campesinos!" "All Your Keyfabe Friends", "We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed" and set-closer "Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks", and it danced, smiled and sang along cheerily during each.

Of course, it helps that Titus Andronicus was there to warm things up. The lo-fi '60s pop-influenced garage rock outfit from New Jersey, whose set was substantially less poppy and dancey--and palpably more gritty and rocked out--than Los Campesinos! appeased the venue's early arrivers with its self-depricating, dark humored takes on young life.

Though the sound of each outfit varies, it's in those subtly dark lyrics that the two bands performing on this night share a lot of similarities. (Though there was initially word that there'd be a local opener--either El Gato or I Love Math--none showed.) Still, at this show, the audiences and the bands seemed content to simply pay attention to the upbeat side of things.

Ended up being a fine, entertaining evening as a result.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
As noted in this week's podcast, I'm a big fan of Los Campesinos! and its two 2008 releases. I'm less familiar with Titus Andronicus--just haven't listened to its 2008 release as much as LC!'s--but I like them just fine, too. So I was pretty excited about this show. Luckily, it didn't disappoint.

By The Way: Unlike at the previous night's concert at Dada, the venue moved its chairs and tables out of the stage side of the venue for this show. As a result, the crowd size at Saturday's show was more manageable. Although, if I had to guess, I'd say the draws were about the same in size, with maybe a slight tilt in Friday night's show's favor. Granted, the Saturday show seemed to draw in a slightly younger crowd.

Random Note: Titus Andronicus last played Dallas in September, when it played the Lounge. According to Parade of Flesh's John Iskander, who booked that show, there were only maybe 20 people at that gig. Opening for LC!, Titus Andronicus had at least five times that many people intently watching its show.

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