03 June 2007

Vampire Weekend Live @ Bowery Ballroom 6.02.07

Blog posts on this band are beginning to accumulate and I have a feeling that they're only going to increase as the summer progresses. Playing Bowery is "movin' on up" in this city and the buzz continues to build...So I went to last night's show in order to check out White Rabbits, but it was the set before theirs that's truly worth noting. I saw Vampire Weekend a few months ago when they played a party for The Deli along with Apollo Sunshine. I was working the door, but I went in to check them out and I was thoroughly impressed. After the show they gave me their demo (Blue CD-R). The songs are catchy beyond belief and I was so impressed that I told some friends how they were the next big thing (despite the name; peep the Arctic Monkeys). In February I wrote that "with elements of Paul Simon's Graceland and vibes like an indie-rock version of Jimmy Buffet, the band brings a tangible comprehension of influence and will appeal to fans of Nick Diamonds' (er, Thorburn) projects, whether with Islands or the Unicorns." Turns out everyone with ears picked up on the Graceland homage and it turns out the boys (all Columbia grads) have a penchant for world music, specifically African guitar, but mostly I just hear Islands if they tried to make more "island"-sounding songs instead of expanding their band to 6 people and writing 9-minute epics.

After write-ups in Under the Radar, Rolling Stone and a few blogs with great foresight (Good Weather..., Stereogum, etc.) the group played Bowery for the first time last night. The show solidified everything you think about this band on first listen:
1) "This is ridiculously catchy. My little sister is going to love this but so is the guy at Other Music."
2) "Why in the fuck aren't these kids signed and being bled dry by a label that wants them to be the next Fall Out Boy. If 3rd wave emo can go plat, why can't world music?"
3) "I bet everyone will pogo up and down like idiots during 'Walcott' like it's 'Sk8er Boi'."The other thing last night's show reminded me of is how fickle people really are in this age where a new band 'breaks' onto the scene (read: Internet) every 20 minutes. The backlash on Vampire Weekend is going to be monumental. First, they play up the preppy, upper Manhattan vibe too much. It's in every interview/write-up and lead singer Ezra Koenig hams it up on-stage with his slim brown belt and white Dockers shorts to just above the knee. They're quirky and cutesy from their playful riffs to lyrics about Lil' Jon and reggaeton to Koenig's hiccuped high-notes. He somehow even managed to drop Duke University into between song banter. A bunch of Ivy Leaguers fetishizing African pop just isn't going to fly very long with the Brooklyn set, and I'm just surprised things are tranquil right now. Brace for impact, guys.

BUT, to be fair (and honest) there was absolutely zero of this at Bowery last night. Everyone was eating out of their hands with plenty of sing-a-longs, the biggest crowd of the night (dwarfing the headliners) and I overheard quite a few admittances of "Damn, these guys are pretty good," throughout the set. Their fans(& friends) are loyal, collected across the front rows for hand-claps, inside jokes and birthday cheers for a mutual friend. Each song shined (especially "Walcott" and "Oxford Comma") and if it wasn't a done deal before last night, these guys just hit the jackpot and should be announcing a very lucky label any day now.

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