Last Night: Vampire Weekend at the Independent

Categories: Last Night

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(Vampire Weekend photo by Chrissy Loader)

I’d hate to live in New York. Writer friends who live out there bitch about hyped bands that are “over” by their third show, and by the time the full-length comes out, the vultures are tearing up the scraps of popularity a fledgling band once enjoyed. Here in S.F., breaking acts play our stages early in their career, so we get a first taste as it were, but generally we don’t get their music and their bios rammed down our throats. They get a little time to mature.
Case in point: Vampire Weekend. These boys have a pretty big critical following for a young act with only an EP to their name (the full length comes out early next year). Last night the group played its first headlining show at San Francisco at the Independent and the crowd was definitely into it.

Young ladies lined the stage, shouted to the sweater- and loafer- clad singer that there was a birthday in the house, and they waited around afterward for the bassist to scribble his autograph on Vampire Weekend posters. Men in their 40s bopped along to the band’s indie-afrobeat-ska-pop concoction, and the overall mood of the crowd was excited and supportive (with the exception, perhaps, of a half-joking comment from a pal of mine who wondered if the drummer’s Phish shirt was being worn in irony or sincerity.)

There’s been a lot of ink spilled on the academic background of these Vampires, including an article in this here paper. After seeing the group bounce around, infecting the audience with upbeat pop tunes tinged with a bit of Peter Gabriel-meets-Paul Simon wordliness (I love their indie radio hit, "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa"), I have to say the academically lyrical and highly educational background of these dudes matters not one bit -- to me, or to the crowd. The music is made for dancing and grinning. The personalities of the band members connect well with their fans: Singer Ezra Koenig told stories of a buddy from Palo Alto working late in his chemistry lab that night so he had to miss a song named in his honor ("One (Blake's Got a New Face)". And the group showcased some new tunes, including a song namechecking Thrasher magazine and California.

If you missed shoehorning a space at the Independent last night, Vampire Weekend returns in January for a show at Popscene (where, I’m sure, you’ll be shoehorning yourself in even tigher). Let’s hope by then the tide on the band hasn’t turned bitter just yet. There’s too much hope in Keonig’s strong, youthful voice and in the balmy ditties his band creates. – Jennifer Maerz

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