‘Vampire Weekend’ Fangs Radical Genius

Very few indie bands have ever had a debut release more critically lauded then Vampire Weekend, who brought their unique sound to a more than sold-out concert at the Metro on Sunday. The New York based quartet, who met at Columbia University, has won over the most harshest of music critics at the biggest old school publications, including garnering the cover of SPIN who declared them the ‘2008 Best Band Of The Year (so far)’ and Rolling Stone naming “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” as one the top 100 songs of 2007. Vampire Weekend has also become quite lauded in the GLBT community for their stance on not using stereotypical offensive lyrics.

The foursome consists of Ezra Koenig (lead vocals, guitar); Rostam Batmanglij (keyboard, guitar, vocals) Chris Tomson (drums); Chris Baio (bass guitar) who performed their entire repertoire in less than hour, which shows you just how fresh this band is. The group’s name comes from the name of a student film the boys did while in college which their song “Wolcott” outlines the plot.

Vampire Weekend‘s self produced debut recording, is very much an homage to Paul Simon’s “Graceland” with a definite Afro-reggae vibe which makes all their songs accessible to a wide range of different musical tastes. Koenig and Batmanglij, who were both music majors at Columbia, are credited for bringing the African sounds into the band; in particular what is known as soukous music, one of the styles made popular from Paul Simon’s classic album. What also distinguishes VW from others of their ilk is their preppy, Ivy League education persona coupled with satirical and biting lyrics, such as:

Who gives a fuck about an oxford comma?
I climbed to dharamsala too, I did
I met the highest lama
His accent sounded fine
To me, to me

Vampire Weekend live is one of those rare treats where the music and vocals are tighter and more powerful then on the recording. This is especially true of the drum angst unleashed by Tomson on ‘A-Punk’ and ‘One’. Koenig’s unique voice was crisp and clear and as a performer had a great humorous connection with the crowd, explaining the meaning of the New York centric song “M79”. Batmanglij’s keyboard sounds also add to the bands complexity, at times being a mix of a harpsichord, organ and flute. Biao’s bass riffs were also much more pronounced in a live concert setting and are much more intricate then one would gather just from listening to the recording.

This is probably one of the last times one will be able to see Vampire Weekend in a setting as intimate as the Metro (apparently the band played Schuba’s a few months prior) since their fame will no doubt demand a larger venue. Hopefully as their success becomes more main stream, the boys can keep independent control over their material that makes them so radically brilliant.