Friday, February 1, 2008

Vampire Weekend at the Bowery Ballroom 1/30/08

How a band like Vampire Weekend has become as big and popular as they have remains a bit of a mystery to me. When The Strokes and Interpol broke there was a certain logic to it, as their style of rook and roll was rooted in a 70's sound (Television, Joy Division, etc.) that never ceases to be uncool. Vampire Weekend, however, reminds everyone most notably of Paul Simon's Graceland, a much-loved if not exactly hipsterish album. The two biggest reasons I can think of are this:

1. The indie world is starved for accessible pop bands. Beyond, say, The New Pornographers, Sufjan Stevens, and maybe Jens Lekman, there just aren't a lot of easily accessible pop artists that have gained widespread acclaim in the indie sphere in the last couple of years. Thus, when a band comes along that can be liked by obsessives and non-obsessives alike, the press tends to get all out of proportion and a pretty good or even really good band gets touted like a great one.

2. The album is one of the great "college" albums I can remember hearing. If this doesn't become a hit album in college towns I'll be stunned. Songs like "Campus," "M79," and "Ladies of Cambridge" do a pretty good job of idealizing early twenties life and college-town life in particular. Considering that most people, including me, remember college with an extreme (similarly out of proportion) fondness, it's easy to see the way this record could connect with people. Also, as fun as it is to hear it now, I bet it's even more fun when you're still in school. I remember being obsessed with the first Modern Lovers record (another great "collge" album) for almost a year in college-it was so fun to hear young life described in a way that seemed to mirror my own experience so well.

Thanks to the generosity of my friend Dana, I was able to catch Vampire Weekend at the Bowery Ballroom on Wednesday. As I expected, the crowd skewed pretty young, though thankfully not in an extreme or annoying way. Plastic Little, the "License to Ill" style rap group, put on a sensational opening performance and almost stole the show.

After maybe a 20 minute break, Vampire Weekend set took the stage. In what was surely a self-aware gesture and acknowledgement of their "preppy" aesthetic, the band came out decked in sweaters and scarves. They proceeded to put on a friendly, fun, but somewhat unspectacular show, clocking in at just about an hour. Although it was a pretty short show, I can't really blame them for this-with one album to your name, how much can you really do? Their smart, African-flavored songs held up well on stage, and their songs are packed with lines and chorused that are a lot of fun to shout along to. Further, a was happy to hear them play an excellent new song as well as give off the same friendly, just-happy-to-be-playing vibe that I felt when I saw the Strokes play shortly after their first record came out.

They also seemed really young, even more than I assumed they would. As my friend Todd pointed out last week, going to shows becomes a little stranger the older you get. Still, it was a good, enthusiastic crowd and I was happy to be a part of it. When the popular "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" was played, everyone sang along like it was an old standard-certainly a testament to the new era in which "cd release parties" (which Tuesday and Wednesday's shows ostensibly were) commemorate records that everyone has already owned for months. Still, I was happy to spend some money to support the band and I'm optimistic that they'll survive the hype and stick around for a while.

(please note: the concert photos above were taken from the Vampire Weekend website. Eventually, I will actually have a digital camera of my own)

1 comment:

Todd said...

I'm similarly perplexed by the popularity of VW. To me, they're just "really nice." They make refreshing, effortless, upscale pop songs, but nothing particularly great. The level of love poured on this band is way out of proportion for the quality of their songs; just as I'm sure the level of hate directed at them for the inevitable backlash will go way out of proportion.

Oh - and don't bother bringing a camera to concerts in the future. I've tried that before, and it's not worth it. Just enjoy the show - borrowing is what the internet is all about.