Live: Los Campesinos/Summer Camp/Group Love, Shepherds Bush Empire 2/2/11 (NME Awards Show)
Arriving at the quarter-full/three-quarters empty (depending on how you look at it) Shepherds Bush Empire at a rather timely 7.32pm, we find ourselves promptly treated to a highly-anticipated performance from the much-buzzed Grouplove, who kick off proceedings at tonight’s latest instalment of the NME Awards Show series. Somewhat in situ with their recent video for the most excellent track Colours, we are greeted by the multi-national five piece, composite of a hippy; a señorita; a greased-up 70’s major league baseball player; an American civil war soldier (repping the North, of course); and…a drummer. Easing into a mixture of songs from their Chess Club Records’ EP and some as-of-yet unreleased material, the band have the sparsely populated yet densely packed crowd eating out of their numerous hands by the time the third song of their set drops, which in itself is hair-standing-on-end magic. They seem to have hit the nail on the head with the ability to take all the very best bits of Mystery Jets and Black Kids (well, the latter’s only best bit) and mixing them up with the warm breeze on a gloriously sunny Californian beach. We were certainly not disappointed and cannot wait to see them again.
Our second band stepping up to the plate this evening are native Londoners Summer Camp, who seem genuinely surprised to be here on tonight’s bill – to the degree that they have to tell us that several times, lest their bewildered looks as they load their minimalist gear and a projector plus screen onto the comparitively gigantic stage leave us guessing otherwise. Being the darlings of the NME for the last 18 months, it seems the band are aware, carries some negative connotations with it, and the boy-girl duo are quick to dive into what they describe as the “warmest reception” they’ve experienced in a live context for some time – in our open admission, having read a lot but seen very little from the pair, the performance is far better than we were expecting. Having expected stoic, bland lo-fi recession-music, we are instead treated to mildly upbeat, yet moody summery pop. The crowd are likewise taken in by some light-hearted onstage banter about drinking second hand water bottles and dog-speak. As much as a revelation all this is, Summer Camp stop just shy of making a total breakthrough, which perhaps can be attributed to being lesser in numbers compared to the other two acts they are sandwiched between, or possibly the initial nerves just stuck with them. However, there is no doubt that given more time and less pressure from the mainstream music press, this could blossum into something rather special.
Los Campesinos waste little time in sonically kicking the shit out of any remaining lethargy instilled by the crappy London weather currently moping about outside; arriving onstage in an orderly fashion, yet fully in the knowledge that the vast majorty of tonight’s audience, which has noticeably increased in size just prior to the Cardiff multi-piece’s entrance, are here for them and them alone. It is fitting that, given this is the band’s Everest in terms of capacity-based London shows, Los Campesinos play as if were the last show they were ever going to perform. We are treated to an up-to-date “greatest hits” set comprised of songs drawn from latest Long Player effort Romance Is Boring to old-er (we forget momentarily that the band only formed just over four years ago) fan favourites such as You! Me! Dancing! in rapid-fire style, save for the odd technical hitch courtesy of a faulty guitar pedal board – although so electric is the atmosphere brought on by such a band giving it their all, we like to believe the puny electrical system of the venue simply couldn’t handle the awesome pop-rock power of this evening’s heroes. Hundreds of smiling faces sing powerful lyrics right back to the band as if they made up a reflective satellite dish; this feels like one massive celebration that everyone present feels a personal part of.
Words: Achal Dhillon
Pictures: Harriet Pulford
Special thanks to Bruce Hay @ Get Involved