Vampire Weekend – [Live]

Monday, 10 December 2007

“Is that a cardigan?” I had to ask my attractive, female neighbor when Vampire Weekend first appeared on stage Wednesday at The Independent in San Francisco. Laughing, she confirmed that the sweater in question was not of the pullover variety, therefore verifying my suspicions about this garment that adorned the band’s lead singer. However, before the night would progress to this question and answer session, there were a few other acts that needed to show off their wears.

First, the circus that is Still Flyin’ lit up the stage with their 12-member band. Although I’m still not sure why they needed so many members, the madness that resulted from such a crowded stage was enjoying to watch. Lead singer Sean Rawls was fused with a natural energy that would rival dynamite’s, from which his bandmates fed off as they danced around like silly children. I only wish that more people could have been there for this group, as the small crowd assembling easily grooved to their sounds. As pointed out by Rawls, who took a peek at the set list before coming on stage, “Grand Ole Party, Still Flyin’” does indeed make a good sentence.

Hitting the stage next, the three-person act of Grand Ole Party, led by the mighty voice of singer/drummer, Kristin Gundred, played songs that seemed to exceed the limitations of the three basic rock instruments (lead guitar, bass and drums). I wouldn’t call their sounds similar, but Grand Ole Party reminded me a lot of Heart, with the combination of a powerful female lead and strong guitar playing. This trio was all business, as they comfortably ripped into songs that would make a weaker soul sweat. Stopping every couple of songs to merely say thanks, Gundred and her two guitarists held a passionate jam session as the small venue began to reach capacity.

Alas, Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig shed the aforementioned sweater while informing the intrigued audience that it was passed down through his mother by a Portuguese fisherman. Even before the topic of this piece of clothing was discussed, I could tell that I was watching no ordinary group of musicians. They did not seem like the kind of gents that would tackle the various dark themes that your normal indie rock band would, having an air of privileged backgrounds about them. True to their Ivy League diplomas, this foursome had a really polished sound and their African-influenced beats laid the backdrop for Koenig’s well-pronounced voice, as every song seemed like a tale being read by a great storyteller. I wanted to see him to take out a tobacco pipe, light it with a match and puff off it with his elbow held out to a 90-degree angle, but maybe that’s just me. Playing a song off of their initial EP release, "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa," bled of a Paul Simon influence and led folks such as me to tap their toes and snap their fingers. At this point, Koenig didn’t need to get the crowd involved to command their attention, but he did anyway with a foolish little tale about his friend Rex, who “got a new face.” And, for the next 5 minutes, every person in that audience was more than happy to shout about Rex’s new look at each refrain.

The strangest thing about Vampire Weekend was that their whole act is so obviously genius, I had to wonder why it hadn’t been done before. Here you’ve got four really smart and talented guys, and it’s like nothing I’ve heard in a long time. At the end of their show, I had one of those “Why didn’t I think of this?” moments. Suffice to say, if this is what happens when Ivy Leaguers step out from behind their legitimate desk jobs, then bring on the Preppie rock!

More on Vampire Weekend here:

More on Still Flyin’ here:

More on Grand Ole Party here:

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