Vampire Weekend: Show Review (The Casbah, San Diego)

    What can be said about Yacht that can’t be better understood by watching him writhe on the ground, dripping in sweat, while he repetitively and loudly says, “Everything is fucked/ So what we gonna do?”


    On the first date of the Vampire Weekend tour, on March 19 at the Casbah, in San Diego, Yacht’s Jona Bechtolt literally — and for most of his set — brought his spastic dance-pop into the capacity crowd (somewhere around two hundred). He spent as much time showing off his rather impressive, if reckless, dance moves amid the crowd as he did on stage. His enthusiasm, though, was tempered by the monotony of his music, and it seemed he enjoyed himself more than anyone else did.


    What can be said about Vampire Weekend, however, is that their live show makes good on all the hype. During their eighty-minute set, Vampire Weekend played their West Africa-via-Upper West Side Afro-indie-pop with contagious, inclusive enthusiasm, and the excitement of a band that knows they’re onto something very good. “Mansard Roof,” “M79” and “One (Blake’s Got a New Face”) — the weaker songs on their self-titled debut (XL) — were given new life by the band’s infectious on stage energy (especially of bassist Chris Baio and drummer Chris Tomson). That same vitality on favorites “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” “Oxford Comma,” and “Campus” proved that the interesting polyrhythms and a continent-spanning palette of influences aren’t just a hype-building gimmick. Vampire Weekend only gains momentum in translation from stereo to stage.


    There wasn’t a ton of banter with the crowd, but keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij mentioned the band had recorded a reggaeton remix of “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” for a local radio station. He called it “pure gold,” and though it was said in jest, the statement held some interesting meaning for the future of the band. The strongest songs, the ones the crowd responded to the most, weren’t straightforward songs like “A-Punk,” but ones more directly exhibiting their rhythmic, African influences. Maybe they won’t pursue their idea, which he joked about, to do an eleven-minute reggaeton song on their next album. But if new song “Little Giant” is any indication, Vampire Weekend has the desire, and obviously the talent, to break further away from conventional indie-rock and into a realm where they still satisfy themselves while keeping the crowd captivated.


    When I saw Vampire Weekend a few months ago at the same venue, they were static on stage. Frontman Ezra Koenig credited it to being sick, which was true, but it seemed as if their distance and lack of emotion was meant to showcase only the intellectual bent of the music. This time, headlining a sold-out show, with a mass of people anticipating all the words — even to the new songs — the band had as much fun as the crowd did.



    Set list:


    “Mansard Roof”

    “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa”


    “I Stand Corrected”


    “Boston” (new)


    “One (Blake’s Got a New Face)”

    “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance”

    “Little Giant” (new)


    “Oxford Comma”