Billy Gray

Vampire Weekend

In Uncategorized on January 31, 2008 at 10:18 pm

I checked out a show by this endlessly buzzed-about quartet at the Bowery Ballroom on Tuesday night. A couple of worrisome signs preceded the show. Though I’m unaware of the opening act’s history, their derisive introduction of Vampire Weekend implied an understandable frustration over the endless press ink that’s been spilled over the fresh-faced band, whose members have been out of college (Columbia) for eighteen months. Then there were the four camera jockeys planted all over the venue filming the show for posterity, confirmation perhaps that Vampire has read their own, largely euphoric press and swallowed it whole. As it turns out, the band will probably end up shelving this footage. At most, they’ll look back at it nostalgically as a memento of their incipient touring days, before they cohered as a live act.

I’ve no interest on jumping on the inevitable and tired backlash bandwagon against this group. I was wholly unaware of the blogosphere having built these guys up as the Next Big Thing over the past year. And I can only shake my head at the same engine now gleefully ripping them to shreds. It’s a tired cycle: “underground” act is anointed new indie darling; group attracts fans outside of the Williamsburg-Lower East Side axis of hip; group is abandoned by blogging hipsters who have their homepages set to Pitchfork.

Their debut contains five very good-to-great songs: despite the band wearing its influences (Afro-pop, Graceland and, as they are less eager to admit, the Strokes) on its sleeve, the music is catchy and light. But all four members are undeniably green when it comes to performing. Chris Tomson threw his drumstick straight into the air a minute or so into the first song and spent much of the set hunched over and grinning maniacally when not playing. Also appearing slightly autistic was keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij who, along with frontman Ezra Koenig, busted out several spastic dance moves during the course of the gig. Such movements can actually amplify a performances (see: David Byrne in Stop Making Sense or Ian Curtis channeled by Sam Riley in Control), but came off studied and self-conscious in this instance. Ultimately, I appreciated the show as an opportunity to see a band on the cusp of what may well become major stardom and to appreciate the endearingly novice antics of a competent group still working out its kinks.

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