Here’s another review from our friend down in Florida, Drew Gerlach.
The other night I got to catch the most blogged-about band of 2008 so far, Vampire Weekend, at the recently renovated Fillmore at Jackie Gleason Theater in South Beach. The theater itself had millions of dollars of renovation with brilliant chandeliers hanging over the orchestra seating and amazing, refurbished acoustics. I thoroughly enjoyed the ambiance of this theater and will definitely not think twice before heading back. In my humble opinion, this theater is the premier venue for music in South Florida.
Vampire Weekend has toured incessantly since releasing their self-titled EP in 2007. With an appearance on SNL already underneath their belts they have shot through the musical progression (underground to blog darling to media darling to overhyped to overplayed) in hyper speed. The members met in 2006 at Columbia and started recording after graduation. Spin magazine recently proclaimed them “The Year’s Best New Band” and rewarded them with a cover shoot, all before releasing their first full album. Their riffy guitars mix evenly with simple Casio keyboards to produce a sound similar to a mix between The Strokes and Paul Simon. They produced a unique sound utilizing African pop themes, strings, and harpsichords.
Even with all this hype, I was a bit skeptical going into this show. I had concerns how this sound would transfer over to the live medium. Plus I still held a small amount of resentment because they canceled their previously scheduled performance at Langerado (last minute nonetheless) to tape SNL.
The show kicked off at about 8:45 with an opening band called The Harlem Shakes. I wasn’t too impressed with this band mostly because I didn’t like the singer’s voice. Other than poor musicianship, I rarely will dislike a band, but I just couldn’t get past his voice. I will leave it at that.
After about a twenty-five minute interlude, Vampire made their entrance under dimmed house lights onto the stage at 9:55 and to a 1,500 ecstatic filled crowd. They kicked the show off with a crisp version of “Mansard Roof” with graying hues of smoke quickly floating up past the lavish chandeliers towards the ceiling. Not to sound like an old cliché, but they had me at the first few notes met the smoke in the rafters. Their sound was crisp and blended perfectly live. Unlike some indie or punk bands, the lead singer, Ezra Koenig, could actually sing and hit the notes. Their songs’ mellow feel and lyrics mixed perfectly with the South Beach party atmosphere.
Even though they had only an hour’s worth of material, Koenig and keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij kept the crowd entertained with sincere and humble gratitude. They hit the audience with tried and true “best audience ever”. But the audience left with the feeling they actually meant it. Batmanglij was visually delighted to be in Miami Beach making funny hip-hop references through out the night. Koenig displayed his comfort with the lead role acting as a host holding court with 1,500 of his closest friends. He made small talk and gushed about the band’s love and excitement for Miami after each song while tuning his guitar. They had no roadies and zero guitar exchanges further increasing my respect for their “grounded” nature.
Highlights included a crowd sing-a-long with “One (Blake’s Got A New Face)”, everyone singing along to the first few lines of “Oxford Comma” and getting the chance to preview two new untitled songs. Before playing the second new one, Koenig made a joking reference to bloggers already naming the song “Little Giant” before the band came up with a name. Both songs were well received and seemed to stray away from the African themes and were replaced with rhythm filled, layered guitars. Even though the band rarely strayed from the sound that was developed on their LP, the band produced a show that was sonically tight and highly entertaining.
Other than playing festivals, this was one of their largest sized gigs since they began touring. If people drop the “overhyped” label, which is a tad bit unjust, you will be seeing them in larger stages real soon. Now all they need is more material to play. If you are on the fence about seeing these guys, it’s time to get off. The grass is much greener on this side.
Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
Ladies of Cambridge
Untitled New Song (White Sky)
One (Blake’s Got a New Face)
I Stand Corrected
Untitled New Song (Little Giant)
Wikipedia (basic background information)
Sun Sentinel Sean Picolo (set list)