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Vampire Weekend proves more than preppy at Chicago concert

Courtney Cox | Thursday, September 9, 2010


Sunday night may not be the best time for a concert two hours away, especially when the day before was the season opener of the beloved Notre Dame football team. All of that didn’t matter whatsoever when I found out there was a Vampire Weekend concert at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago.

The Dum Dum Girls opened, and I was surprised by how much I liked them based only on a live first impression. Dressed in tight black minidresses and fishnet tights, they definitely give off an alpha female vibe and a no-nonsense attitude with their catchy pop rock.

The second opener was Beach House. Having seen them this summer at Pitchfork, I was excited to see them again. Their borderline ethereal repertoire of songs was pleasantly matched with a light show that made it look as if the entire venue was under water. They also took the opportunity to use the disco ball located in the center of the ceiling above the crowd. It created the illusion of tiny stars glittering on the ceiling painted as the night sky. The lights were by no means the reason Beach House was incredible, however. They were just as good live as they were on their latest album, “Teen Dream” — not to be confused with Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream.” “Norway” was more breathy when played live, which enhanced the otherworldly sense that already comes from the track. They were a perfect opener for the insanity that was about to begin.

For some reason, I am a fan of bands that come out to a crazy pump up song, and Vampire Weekend didn’t disappoint. At approximately 9:25 p.m., Vampire Weekend rushed on the stage to DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win.” The crowd went crazy and the energy didn’t ever slow down from that point. Drummer Chris Tomson came to play for Chicago dressed in a Ben Gordon Bulls jersey. All of the band members were enthusiastic and seemed to be enjoying themselves, but Tomson especially brought the energy that made the show so great.

The band started with “Holiday” from their sophomore album “Contra,” and it was fantastic, but the reaction to “Holiday” was clearly dwarfed by the reaction from the crowd upon hearing the second song of the night, “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.”

Ezra Koenig’s calm singing was juxtaposed entirely by the crowd of people practically screaming the lyrics back at him. The rest of the concert can be described in the same way, a lot of screaming, singing, and quite a bit of dancing.

The first single off of “Contra,” “Cousins,” was one of the highlights of the show. The short song was packed with such intensity that it took me by surprise. While the song had always been fast paced, it seemed more so live than it did on the album. It was almost as if they were feeding off the crowd, and the frenetic energy made the song much more condensed and fast-paced.

Vampire Weekend is so often associated with a collegiate, preppy image, and the pairing of “Oxford Comma” and “Campus” near the end of the show brought out that image in a way that showed they know why they’re perceived that way, and they embrace it to some extent. The two songs are a much edgier and cooler representation of preppy than say, a mom’s cable knit sweater.

After they announced their last song, the band left the stage and during the wait for an encore, the entire crowd seemed unable to handle the anticipation. At first, I was concerned the entire floor seemed to be shaking, but it turned out to be my fellow concert-goers stomping their feet rapidly on the ground, trying to keep up their energy for Vampire Weekend’s final moments onstage.

The show ended with “a song about a boy leaving Cape Cod” as Koenig stated. “Walcott” was more rousing than the rest of the songs in the set, in part because it was the final song, but also in part because it’s about movement. It’s about leaving the boundaries of tradition as witnessed at the Cape, and in many ways that’s what Vampire Weekend does. They break the accepted norms of indie rock aesthetic and they break the stereotypes about how Ivy Leaguers should act.