The Vampire Weekends at the Variety Playhouse 6/11/08


“So Whit,” you say “Why are you calling the band ‘The Vampire Weekends?'”

Because old people always put a “the” at the beginning of a band name and an “s” at the end, and at this show I was OLD.

The opener was called The Harlem Shakes (that was actually their name, with the “the” and the “s”). They were very appropriate as an opener, since they sounded a lot like Vampire Weekend, only not as good. They looked loosely preppy too, the singer was wearing a t-shirt and a blazer. The rest of them got a little lazy with “the look” though, and just wore t-shirts that looked like they had slept in them. Their bass player also looked kind of like a grown up version of “wormser” from Revenge of the Nerds. He kept having to push his glasses back up his nose, but what did he expect – the glasses looked like they weighed two pounds with their huge metal frames. Also, they referred to all of their songs either “Jams” or “Tunes.” Sounded like they were trying a little too hard to be hip.

Vampire Weekend came on at 9:55 PM. The opened with Mansard Roof (the opening track from the album). If you saw them on SNL, they look pretty much the same, except the keyboard player who was wearing a douchebag-looking scarf at the time instead opted for retarded-looking huge round white sunglasses which he just wore as an accessory on his head the whole show. The band sounded good, and pretty tight. I’ll go on record and say that I think the drummer is a huge part of why this band has a good sound and I don’t think they had him quite loud enough in the mix. But maybe that’s just me being snobby.

Still, I have to say with all the hype that this band has generated, I was curious if they were going to put on a performance that demonstrated real “Star Power.” I can’t say that they did. They played all of the songs they’ve released (including “Ladies of Cambridge” off of the first EP) EXCEPT my favorite “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance” which it seems they never play live. They also graced us with one new song that was pretty good. It sounded a lot like you would expect, with the one difference that it featured a little more vocal  harmony during the verse (which was pretty well done).

If I put on my grumpy old man hat (since I felt a decade older than most of the crowd), there were a few things that kept the show from being really great:

1) It clocked in at 50 minutes. I kind of expected this, but still. Really? 50 Minutes? “Why, when I was your age bands played for at least 90 minutes if they wanted to get paid.” I understand that they only have one album of material, but I have some suggestions for them: a) play my favorite song, you bastards! b) Learn one or two covers – surely you have some influences, no? Put a cool VW flair on a tune you like. I’d actually be really curious to hear how you could interpret a cover and I bet it would be really spiffy.

2) The banter was lacking. They didn’t talk to the crowd enough, and when they did, they didn’t have a whole lot to say. A little improvement in this area would help them as performers and would also help with problem #1.

3) The songs sounded exactly like the album. They didn’t draw out any parts or change any parts beyond a 2-second guitar flourish or drum fill. It’s impressive to be able to recreate the album, but a little variety helps remind people they’re seeing you live.

Still, I don’t mean to be too grumpy. The show was good and a lot of fun. I hope they continue to develop as a band because I like their sound and I like their songs. I must commend them for putting a big finish on the show. They came back out to encore with Wlcott, and about 2/3 of the way through the song they started letting folks up onto the stage. At first it looked like they were letting 1-2 people up there, but then the floodgates opened. It actually made for a very festive finale.

Vamp Encore

I’d say to check them out (with the above disclaimers) if you get the chance. For perspective though, I’m hoping to go to the Austin City Limits festival later this year and I know they’re playing. I’ll probably check someone else out at that time slot, ’cause I feel like I’ve already seen what they have to offer at this point.

2 Responses to “The Vampire Weekends at the Variety Playhouse 6/11/08”

  1. Peter says:

    What, no Patriotownsum! And I thought that this was going to be a band I could really like, F them.

  2. Whit says:

    Actually, they did give several shout-outs to Atlanta. They talked about how this was their third time playing here, and they really liked the town. Even these neophyte performers know to go after that low-hanging fruit.