I got into Los Campesinos! a few weeks before the festival began. I listened to them on record back in 2010 when they were announced that year and decided that I wasn’t a fan, but I gave them another chance this year, and to my surprise I found I was drawn in. Their feel-good ethos and twinkling intricacy on record is enough to warm the coldest of hearts, they sound fun, uplifting and energetic. However, this was not the case in a live environment.
Opening the Main Stage on the Saturday, they had the unfortunate task of following Green Day’s surprise set, in which the NME tent got so packed that it was shown on the screens on the main. About four lines into Basket Case, the screens are cut off, much to the annoyance of an crowd who were already peeved due to the fact that they couldn’t get into the NME tent. Subsequently, the swathes of annoyed fans exited the field of the main stage, leaving an incredibly diminished crowd for Los Campesinos! To suddenly leap from a cohort that filled the main stage all the way back, to a gathering of about 250 people (maybe I exaggerate) around the front. We were able to walk straight to about 5 rows back (not exaggerating about this) with no people to stop us.
They appeared on stage to “boos” from unfairly angry fans, but they tried to press on from the Green Day hangover. They played an assortment of equally dreary songs, all bland, quiet and languor-inducing, only made worse by that grotty Saturday-morning Reading feel. The band actually looked bored to be on stage at points, it was like they were Shoegazing without the irony. In what was probably the most boring set of the weekend, they attempted to redeem themselves with the very popular ‘You! Me! Dancing!’. Apart from about three seconds of jumping in unison from the crowd, this did nothing but follow suit. I rarely feel so disappointed by a set, but I have to say that this is wasn’t one of my favourite 40 minutes spent at Reading Festival. One thing that did surprise me however was overhearing someone (yeah, I eavesdrop – it’s a habit) later in the day saying how brilliant Los Campesinos! were, and I couldn’t help wondering whether I was watching the same thing. I can usually accept that a band’s performance may depend on many different things, whether in the band’s control or not, but there was something about this one that was clearly objectively wrong, and unfortunately for Los Campesinos!, Reading 2012 shouldn’t be looked on as one of the musical highlights of their careers. Jack Alexander