Friday, March 14, 2008

Vampire Weekend on a Weekday

By Evan Rytlewski
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SXSW is pretty easy when you have a media badge. By and large, you’ll be let into any show you want. But there are a few hyped shows where press credentials aren’t enough, and perhaps the most hyped of all was yesterday’s from Vampire Weekend, the preppy Afro-popsters who were compiling binders of New York Times and Spin press clippings before they even put out an album (their ascension has only continued since the album finally dropped.)

A fortuitous (and much appreciated) connection put me on the “must get in list” for the show, which despite the name, he told me, only gave me just a slight chance of getting in. And sure enough, the crowd was already well over capacity when I arrived. Two long lines waited; one for people who were on the list to get in (not all of whom would be so lucky), and an even longer one for those who stood absolutely no chance of getting in. I eventually made the cut in time to see opener Bon Iver, the indie-folk outfit which sounded as beautiful live as on record. When Justin Vernon rode his long, blissful falsetto, the audience closed their eyes contently.

Perhaps improbably, Vampire Weekend also lived up to their considerably greater hype. They had the crowd singing along, stomping and dancing through their entire set. I still think that they risk a massive backlash once their novelty wears offthey also risk becoming a parody of themselves as their casual, preppy wear begins to look more and more like staged costumes (their keyboardist draped a white sweater over his collared shirt)but their songs are durable enough to stick around a while, and the band exudes natural showmanship. Every week, these guys prove themselves more Arcade Fire and less Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.

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