Vampire Weekend – 03.21.08

The El Rey Theater – Los Angeles
Full gallery of photos – HERE

I stepped outside for a smoke during Yacht’s set. Striking up a conversation with a stranger is something I love to do at shows, to probe people a bit, find out why they’re at the show. I spoke briefly with a local screenwriter after borrowing his matches. When the conversation got to the “where are you from” portion (a prerequisite in the city of transplants that is LA) he mentioned first off that he was from Zimbabwe. Until he was 17, he lived in South Africa and from there he moved on to Massachusetts. I’d imagine that at any indie rock show other than Vampire Weekend, the South African pride wouldn’t have shone quite as brightly.

For a sold out show, I was moderately unimpressed by the density of the crowd. Given the Craigslist frenzy that was taking place at 5:00 PM that evening, I had seen some indie-opportunists ready to gouge – $250 per ticket online, but I watched a nice couple who had just moved here from Chicago get their tickets at just about $10 over face value.

As the quartet got to the stage, you could feel the fresh spilling off them. They’re glaringly young and clean looking, almost to a bizarre fault. As they opened with “Mansard Roof”, the crowd happily obliged, joyously jumping to the beat. The angular, afro-pop derived indie rock is almost overly sweet; their sound’s exuberance exploding in tandem with their general youth as performers. The songs whip by, pop tune after pop tune and given that they have a brief cannon to pull from it was almost scary to watch as they sped through their set. I felt like they’d run out of rails before they got to the end of their line.

There were a lot of smiles during their set; the lanky drummer’s big toothed grin as he mashed away at the poly-rythmic fills. The bassist too would often bust out in a more restrained smirk while playing. I tilted my head and realized that those kind of smiles can only come from a genuine joy. Now, I usually frown upon that kind of joy…mostly because I’m a cranky person at heart, but also because I gravitate towards darker, slower music. But, put yourself in their shoes and yeah, you’d be grinning from time to time as well. As for me, I had to wander home and puke up some rainbows before I felt like myself again, but I won’t deny that “Mansard Roof” followed me around for the better part of the next day.

There were moments that felt like the dream sequences from the recent film Charlie Bartlett. Not to invest time in a metaphor about a movie that tanked at the box office, but the young lead envisions himself performing to an arena of adoring fans. Snapped back to reality, by his mother or psychiatrist to be sadly grounded in a boring upper class life. There’s a similarity to the exuberant and decidedly innocent vibe that both Charlie Bartlett and Vampire Weekend’s ivy league vibe had on the stage…both fresh faced and a bit outmoded with the genuine cheer to their music. Gripes aside, it is infectious and irresistible music. They’re obviously cribbing more than a handful of notes from Paul Simon’s Graceland but they’re cool enough to mention him by name in “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa”. Toward the end of their set, they book-ended a speedy rendition of that tune with two new tracks, probably something necessary for a band with hardly a full set of material to show. The new tracks strayed little from the set Vampire Weekend sound, the first deviating slightly to incorporate a sampled loop of produced claps and dreamy synths into the mix. The song floated in between a spacier bridge that culminated with a less than charming yelped chorus. The second new track was a polyrythmic East Coast ode to Cali, which got the expected response, as it was played in an LA venue.

Barely clocking at an hour (encore included), the set was over in a flash. The band had whipped through their entire catalog, throwing in the two new songs for filler. Just as quickly, the crowd funneled out into the street underneath the retro neon glow of the El Rey marquee, digesting the sugary goodness of Vampire Weekend

orignally published at Loose Record

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