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April 21, 2009

Vampire Weekend - Columbia University 04.18.09

You either like Vampire Weekend or deplore them. Not just dislike them, but absolutely despise them. And, I can see how people can be turned off by what the band supposedly represents: money and privilege. The VW backlash is pretty complicated, but one thing is clear to me. VW has some very enjoyable pop songs, and you’re probably lying if you say that you don’t like “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” at all.

A year after VW’s debut album release show, I voluntarily trekked my way up to Morningside Heights for Columbia’s annual Bacchanal spring concert. Some of my favorite college memories (or lack thereof) are associated with the event, and my Avenue Q blues may have convinced me to take the 1 train up to 116th Street. Whatever the real reason may be, I found myself on Low Plaza on the first beautiful day of this spring. The steps of the library were already packed at 1:45 pm, over an hour before Vampire Weekend was scheduled to hit the stage. But before we knew it, the young alumns hit the stage, swigging water out of flask-like bottles.

VW opened with “White Sky,” and went on to play every song from their debut album. They’ve had a lot of time and practice to perfect the old tunes, and they’ve gotten really good at playing them. Their Paul Simon-inspired songs were most appropriate for dancing in the afternoon sun, and the band members surprisingly looked like they were having fun, even Rostam. All the guys seemed very gracious to play their alma mater again, and Ezra even gave a shout-out to Chromeo, who remixed “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance.” While I think that VW is a fun outdoor listen, they seriously need some new songs. I’ve grown tired of listening to Ezra’s singing about a robot’s escape from Cape Cod to New Jersey and spilled kefir on keffiyehs. Ezra claimed that they’re currently working on a second album, but they weren’t ready to perform anything new. No pressure, Vampire Weekend. None at all.

In the past year or so, the VW hype has exploded to such ridiculous heights that it actually blows my mind. I couldn’t avoid them in magazines, on TV, or on the Internet, but the last place I expected to see or hear anything VW-related was during The Wrestler. But, there they were, staring me in the face. A poster for Vampire Weekend’s debut album was hanging in the living room of character Randy’s daughter. Yes, I was annoyed and sick of seeing them everywhere, but I can’t say that I hate their music. And for those of you who hate them without having heard any of their songs, you should probably try to form opinions of your own. While I have no qualms with people who objectively dislike VW’s music, it’s another thing to drink the communal haterade for the sake of riding the mainstream wave.

This leads me to two questions: Are we capable of liking music objectively? That is, can human beings evaluate bands purely based on the music and nothing else? SHOULD we judge music objectively? With the Vampire Weekend phenomenon, it seems like the answer to the former is that most of us do not blindly listen to music, especially when the band’s image is absolutely unavoidable. In the case of VW, I am simultaneously proud of VW’s success and embarrassed by their pretentiousness. They may represent a certain demographic at CU, but their world is one that my small-town Midwestern roots still do not understand, even after four years at that institution. Yet, I like their music. It's not life-changing, but it's more than listenable. Maybe I’m a VW fan because I started listening to them when they were on the cusp of MTV famedom. Whether or not I should judge them or anyone other band by their personalities and circumstances, I don’t know the answer to that one. But, let's try to focus on the music and not what they're wearing. And, yes, I do realize that I like a band that’s been on the Disney Channel.

Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa - Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend


canvas art on September 26, 2011 at 7:56 AM said...

Can you like a band but not their image? It's a hard one but most people wouldn't be put off by the fact there money grabbing or preppy?

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