Vampire Weekend - February 6th, 2008 - RnRH $10
The long-awaited live performance of VW came and went through capital city this past week. A sold out, Sold Out, SOLD OUT (there are no more tickets!) ten dollar show at the Rock n Roll Hotel brought the kids out en mass for the Columbia Univ. quartet. But to be honest, there was anxiety/worry/suspicion in the air as RC drove in circles around H Street looking for a place to park Wednesday night.
First, and almost as predicted, the roof seemed to be falling in on me after having secured tickets for this show back in mid December. On Monday night, with the show just two nights away, I was stricken with what the Italians might call "the influence," aka, the flu. Awesome. Nothing like calypso up tempo world beats when you can barely stand up straight. But this wasn't the only reason to be leery of the night's performance. As it was pointed out in pre-show debate, 1. These guys went to Columbia (strike 1?). 2. They follow a similar enough thread spun by WOXY pop favs Juke Box The Ghost (dork rock? strike 2?). 3. The aforementioned World Music label has been lightly applied to VW (that sounds bad. what is world music anyway?). It left doubt in my fevered mind, and others' too.
I had downloaded 4 VW tracks from emusic.com last year without any real knowledge about them, and I liked what I heard. But with the release of their self-titled full length album only hours old, I hadn't memorized all of the lyrics to their entire catalog (though some fanatics at the show clearly had). The point being, this could have been another instance where you get hooked on a couple tracks only to later realize this is not the band you thought they were. Remember the Spin Doctors? Hmm? They played the DC Chili Cookoff 12 years ago - for free. There's a reason for that.
After 6 beers and a ginger ale upstairs, RC made its way downstairs to enter a steamy and highly populated RnRH main floor. It was uncomfortably crowded, and I was beginning to feel like I was back in college, but not in the good way - more like the "not this again" way. But within minutes, Vampire Weekend took the stage and started hammering it out and I started sweating. I thought my flu was coming back to put an end to my night once and for all, but I looked around, and it wasn't just me. For some reason, the RnRH didn't turn the air on until the 5th song of their set. I couldn't have been happier to have it. Likewise for keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij, I'm sure. He was wearing a puffy vest and a massive scarf. Bad idea. And he's from DC? Man shouldaknownbetta. As the room cooled, VW heated up. They got better as their set progressed, and after having heard APunk, Mansard Roof, Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa, and Oxford Coma plenty of times, I was most definitely ready for something new. And despite earlier concerns, Vampire Weekend delivered. It was actually nice to see the occasional onstage mishap met with unabashed laughter from drummer Chris Tomson and a similar response from bassist Chris Baio (I want to call him Chachi, can I call him Chachi?).
Now, Jimbromski and sacklunch suffered in the back with the masses and just as the penultimate song was about to begin, Jimbromski texted that he was going home to watch the USA v Mexico game. "Too crowded." Here's his insight into the overcrowding situation:
About 40 min into the show I left my spot way in the back of the bar to go outside for a smoke. I was surprised by how crowded it was even that far back in the room, it took me a little bit to wiggle my way out. There were also a bunch of people standing [in] the lobby as well b/c they had tickets but couldn't fit in the room. Anyway, I was outside and overhead the doormen talking and one of them said that VW put 40 people on their guest list, which somewhat explained why there were 20 people in the lobby with tickets who couldn't get in the room. Also, I figured at this point that it would be too much effort to try to make my way back to my original spot so I bagged it and went home to watch USA/Mexico.Vampire Weekend played short pop songs and were done. They played their catalog, and except for a short break to set up the unnecessary encore, there was no dicking around. This is the kind of band you want to play at your party in July. Like steel drums, they put people in the right frame of mind. They could definitely set things up for you, were you hoping to hook up with a new friend.
Worth the hype so far, but like Sufjan Stevens, I'll bet that at some point soon enough VW will get tiresome and require a fallow season before reemerging on your playlist. But an excellent concert experience nonetheless. I wish them well.