View photos of Los Campesinos! and Titus Andronicus in action on Friday.
On certain nights it becomes obvious that the 80 year old Memorial Union was not designed for rock concerts. As hundreds of students and a few slightly stunned members of the general public packed into Der Rathskeller on Friday night to see buzz bands Titus Andronicus, staff struggled to get tables and chairs out of the overcrowded room before the show started.
Since the room's stage is no more six inches high, only the people in the front row could actually see the bands. While some clambered up onto chairs, only to be eventually shooed off by security, the rest of the crowd didn't seem to care, dancing wherever they could.
Headliners Los Campesinos! -- "country folk" or "peasants" in Spanish -- certainly encouraged that sort of behavior by playing an immediately likeable, ridiculously catchy brand of twee, like Belle & Sebastian sponsored by Red Bull or a less funereal Arcade Fire. It shouldn't be a surprise that the Welsh group's pair of 2008 releases in the States -- Hold on Now, Youngster... and We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed, were released on Arts & Crafts, home to other such like-minded bands as Stars and Broken Social Scene.
Even when they tried to evoke a more somber tone by introducing a song as being "about how we are all going to die alone, so react in the appropriate manner," the band belied its own intentions by remaining just as poppy. Despite the insistence of lead singer Gareth Campesino (all members claim the same band-oriented surname) that they were "not long for this world" as he tried to stave off an asthma attack till the end of the show, set closers "We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed" and "Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks" certainly didn't hint at impending catastrophe.
Openers Titus Andronicus from New Jersey relied less on UK twee charm and more on good old fashioned American punk rock to get the capacity crowd going. They were less than ten minutes into their set when the first crowd surfer appeared, bobbing back and forth on extended hands before disappearing back into the sea of people, his shoes the last thing visible. The muffled sound and nearly inaudible bass drum indicated they suffered more from the chronic sound problems of the venue than Los Campesinos! did later.
As Titus ran through influences as fast as it did songs, my cousin and I found ourselves naming them off. Pogues, no wait, Dropkick Murphys. The Ramones. Forget that, the Beatles in Hamburg. Ramones again, and if this isn't a cover it sounds just like "Blitzkrieg Bop" (it was actually an original). When the band did play an actual cover, it was the very well-chosen "Roadrunner" by The Modern Lovers.
Obviously neither band was reinventing the wheel on Friday night. But who cares? The wheel works just fine, and besides, the kids love it.