TEXT BY JAKE KAUFFMAN / PHOTOS BY ERIN JOY MOODY
Few bands have transformed the landscape of independent music over the course of the past decade quite like Vampire Weekend. With the release of their third studio album Modern Vampires of the City in May of last year the band has forced themselves from independent darlings firmly into the mainstream. To the surprise of no one I might add. From the very beginning it seemed the band was destined to follow in the footsteps of indie stalwarts Arcade Fire, The National, and The Shins given their early success.
Through their love of punk rock and African melodies the band has forged their own unique version of baroque pop and in the process helped redefine the hybrid sub-genre of worldbeat. This has served the band well as they have grown from being declared by Spin Magazine as “The Year’s Best New Band” in 2008 to winning the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album in 2014.
Despite the band playing at Lollapalooza last summer it seemed Chicago desperately needed an encore performance by the band dubbed by Rolling Stone as “one of the past decade’s great indie-rock success stories.”
The quartet took the UIC Pavilion stage in front of a backdrop of a classic floral wallpaper scene. The set design was complete with suspended vanity mirror and Corinthian columns illuminating the stage with light projected from their bases. Holding true to their vintage Ivy League prep style the band wasted no time rousing the audience with the lead single off Modern Vampires – “Diane Young.” They immediately followed up the crowd pleaser with old favorites “White Sky” and “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.”
Eliciting the excitement of fans both old and new, Vampire Weekend then provided a heavy dose of their latest material with performances of “Unbelievers,” “Step,” and “Finger Back.” With seemingly little effort the band took those in attendance on a journey of melodic oscillation as they naturally transitioned from song to song – from the eccentric “Horchata” to the hopeful romantic ballad “Everlasting Arms.” Energetic and optimistic the band skipped over numbers “Cousins,” “California English” and “A-Punk” the brevity of which kept their performance light and engaging.
Charging through the set front man Ezra Koenig slowed the momentum with the dynamic “Ya Hey.” Behind the ambient intricacies of multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij the atmosphere reverberated with the endearing tone that is Vampire Weekend. Retreating to songs that made them famous performances of “Oxford Comma” and “Giving Up the Gun” ensued. Seemingly preoccupied with nothing but making the audience smile Koenig beamed beneath the brilliant lights. In perfect flow they concluded the main set with “Obvious Bicycle” leaving the crowd bound to the cusp of anticipation.
Shortly after Vampire Weekend sauntered back onstage with the bravado reflective of their unconventional styling. Coming in soft with the relaxed and heart breaking “Hannah Hunt” Koenig reminisced about the hazards of love and tested faith. Having secured the audiences affection the band closed the night with the cheerful “Walcott” daring them not to dance. It seemed fitting with the arrival of summer and renewed spirit in Chicago that Vampire Weekend, a band as colorful as the backdrop behind them, would usher in the change of season – filled with hope and the promise of better days.
Photos: Erin Joy Moody – check her blog out at ErinJoyBlog.com