On the Scene: Vampire Weekend's record-release show
The rise has been meteoric for Vampire Weekend, a fresh-faced indie quartet out of Brooklyn (by way of Columbia University). In the last year, the foursome has been named the band to watch in 2008 by nearly every music mag or website, even the New York Times, thanks to songs like the catchy, ska-punk track “A-Punk” (sure to be in heavy rotation soon on TRL) and “Oxford Comma,” a witty riff on India’s dark age of British industrialism that also name-checks Lil’ Jon. Released last week, their self-titled debut shot straight to the top of the iTunes album chart. At their record release party Wednesday night at New York’s Bowery Ballroom, it was apparent why.
Whether downtown hipsters or uptown preppies, fans already seemed to know the words to every ditty — from Afro-pop opener “Mansford Roof” to indie-rock follow-up “I Stand Corrected.” The Ivy Leaguers sang about Louis Vuitton and the boring nights out in Cape Cod, but their tone was void of pretense. Their so-called “Upper West Side Soweto” style had a completely different aesthetic live than when piped through earphones. Less instrumentation, more energy. Less Afro-beat, more punk-pop. As he approached the mic, frontman Ezra Koenig (second from left) seemed hesitant to let loose, his eyes darting left and right to make sure this was all real. Soon, however, the band discarded its Ivy-approved outerwear — Koenig sported a wool parka and keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij (left) a knit scarf — Batmanglij to better bang out his Casio beats, which are ofted likened to a Wes Anderson soundtrack, and Koenig likely to stop sweating so much.
Preceding VW were the tribal chants and booming drum riffs of pre-opener Aa (Big a little a). After Aa carted off their four drum sets, Philly rap group Plastic Littletook the stage. If you closed your eyes, you’d swear Beastie Boys. Ifyou opened them, you’d swear racially diverse Beastie Boys. (If you get a chance, see them.) The night belonged to VW, though. During the encore of “Walcott” (the band’s tribute to the Nobel laureate poet), with the crowd nearlyscreaming along to the hook-heavy chorus, Koenig sincerely thankedeveryone for hanging around so late on a weeknight, as if they minded.”You’ve probably got to get up early,” he said. “Unless you’ve got aschedule that allows you to sleep late.” Everyone laughed. Not reallysure why. Perhaps that’s the charm of Vampire Weekend.