Even before 9:15pm, we all knew this was going to be a special night. If you spend your free minutes flying round the Twitter realm you may have crashed into, pretty dramatically too, the news of Ellen’s departure from Los Campesinos!. Her final show with the band would be tonight in what Gareth dubbed an extended greatest hits celebration set. And with the expectant jostling for position and evident swelling even before support Among Brothers take to the stage, we're clearly not alone.
Los Campesinos! are shy and reserved, but they needn’t be. Gareth frequently encapsulates their modesty: "Los Campesinos!’ shows are a place for sadness and mourning," he says to the lovers in the crowd before 'Songs About Your Girlfriend'. On single ‘There Are Listed Buildings’ he quips: "This either means it’s a really popular song, or we released the wrong single. And I think we all know which one we’re more likely to do." We’re only endeared more, encouraged to cheer that little bit louder, dance that little more extravagantly.
We do just that. The seven-piece roar into their set with ‘Death to Los Campesinos!’, ‘Romance is Boring’ and ‘By Your Hand’ all in the first five songs, reflecting Los Camps!'s consistency to play such career spanning tunes and maintain such reciprocal energy. The floor becomes a swarm of cider-fueled adolescents hanging on every riff and every lyric: "You're pouting in your sleep, I'm waking still yawning / We're proving to each other that romance is boring" ('Romance is Boring') becomes the anthem of the youth for three minutes. We're already breathless, but thankfully Gareth steps in... or so we thought: "We’ve got to pace ourselves with this being possibly the longest set we’ve ever played." It has the opposite effect, but who are we to complain?
Songs such as ‘Knee Deep at ATP’ and ‘You! Me! Dancing!’ may provide the perfect distraction, but we can’t tip-toe around it all night. As mentioned earlier, this is of course bassist Ellen Campesinos!'s last ever gig with the band. There have been allusions throughout, tears held back, but it’s only a matter of time. For the encore, only an embarrassed looking Ellen emerges to find her "family" have deserted her. There she stands, shy and modest, not knowing what to do with herself as she’s overcome with the wave of affectionate applause that floods the lone figure on stage. A fitting tribute to a more than fitting member. If that doesn’t touch you, then her speech mid-encore most certainly will: "I never thought my life would turn out like this and for that, I’m so lucky and grateful for everything." Before she even has the chance to typically run away from the attention of the microphone to the retreat of her bass, she’s greeted by Aleks, brought back to join in the party and sing on set closers ‘We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives’ and ‘Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks’.
Although Gareth has said their shows are a place of "sadness and mourning" and you could be forgiven for thinking tonight more than any other, you would have been sorely wrong. Tonight was a celebration of Ellen’s past and future and the life of Los Campesinos! A chapter may have just closed, but according to Gareth as he leaves the stage: "Los Campesinos! will always live on." So here’s to the next!
Words by Luke Nightingale