Los Campesinos!/Parenthetical Girls; January 28, 2012; The Sett, Union South
I always say that I don’t trust lead singers who don’t play, but tonight at the new Union South I came up with an exception to that rule- cartoonishly effeminate singers don’t need a guitar, it would only get in the way of their prancing. The lead singer of Parenthetical Girls was just that, and he camped his way through their opening set like he was the female Morrissey. Their music reflected that influence and bore the imprint of Brit-pop. It was just as catchy as the Smiths, but it was much more light-hearted. Even though the group of students next to me was enthusiastic about them and rushed off to buy a CD after their set, much of the tightly packed crowd wasn’t as passionate and chatted through their set. He did get their attention on several occasions by jumping into the crowd and snaking through it, serenading the unsuspecting on the way. I had to laugh when I saw their T-shirts which boldly proclaimed “The more I get to know men, the better I like Parenthetical Girls.”
On second thought, there were actually two exceptions to the rule tonight. When there are seven people in the band, the lead singer doesn’t need to play simply because there is no need. There was plenty of joyful noise going on even when Los Campesinos’ singer Gareth Campesinos! (in Ramones-like tradition they all have the same band-centric last name) wasn’t playing keyboards or glockenspiel. The last time I saw them it was several years ago at a miserably packed Rathskellar on assignment for the Isthmus. Despite the fact that I hadn’t listened to the CD I bought that night, We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed, more than a handful of times since I wrote the review, or heard their last couple releases, many of tonight’s songs were familiar, and they were all inescapably infectious. Their popularity hasn’t waned since then, nor have they skyrocketed to stardom on the heels of the Arcade Fire who made the large band and all that shout/sing so popular. I stayed clear of the first couple rows, which turned into a good natured mosh pit, and even found myself backing up as latecomers tried to wiggle closer, and found myself continuing to back up as the set went on. Not that it mattered, I enjoyed them just as much from there.
This was my first visit to the Sett, the new Union South’s large music venue, and I was impressed. It’s immediately obviously the venue doesn’t suffer from the chronic sound problems its predecessor Club 770 did, it was a cafeteria after all, and they also thankfully dropped that venue’s alcohol-free policy. In its place we have a good-sounding, large, well laid-out room with fast-moving beer lines at the back. I ventured into the balcony to see what the view was like from there. Terrific if you got a table along the rail, non-existent if you got there later. Though it doesn’t have the Rathskellar’s charm, it certainly sounds better, and I look forward to seeing more shows there.