(all photos by Keith Klenowski)
As I made my way toward the Bijou Theatre to see Dirty Projectors on Saturday, I noticed a few people camped out in front of the Tennessee Theatre.Â It was only 1:30, but the handful of dedicated teens were definitely in line for Vampire Weekend, who weren’t scheduled to play until seven hours later.Â Â Hopefully it paid off for them because when the doors opened, hundreds of girls literally raced down the aisles to grab seats toward the stage.
It was hard to believe that it was only in 2008 that I saw Vampire Weekend perform at the Gypsy Hut alongside a new Cincinnati band, Pomegranates.Â Now I found myself flabbergasted that in two years, the band had not only retained its status as a Pitchfork favorite, but continued to gain success with their second album, Contra.Â The album debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts and propelled them into mainstream popularity, eventually landing the band a gig performing on Saturday Night Live. So now here I was inside a 90-year theatre among 1,630 other fans, awaiting the rise of the curtain.
This time around, the stage was equipped with a giant image of the Contra album cover, five chandeliers and a fog machine – a far cry from the Gypsy Hut – so I felt a hint of skepticism.Â In fact, part of me wanted to hate the show.Â I dug both of Vampire Weekend’s albums (though I thought their debut was overhyped) but my admitted pretentiousness about mainstream popularity made me cynical. Â I’ve always been kind of hesitant to embrace a band so sickeningly adored by Pitchfork because of an irrational fear that I’ll be mistaken for someone that cares about what Pitchfork thinks, and now on top of all that, I was standing among hundreds of screaming teenage girls and their helicopter parents.
Yet I found myself not only enjoying myself during Vampire Weekend’s set, but singing along to “One (Blake’s Got A New Face)” with said screaming girls, and pumping my fist to lead singer Ezra Koenig’s chants of “Hey, hey, hey, hey!” on “A-Punk.”Â I never thought I would say this, but Vampire Weekend ended up becoming one of my favorite shows of Big Ears.Â It wasn’t just that the band sounded fantastic or that the light show really enhanced the performance.Â Â What really set the band apart was the band’s energy and the overall positive energy of the show.Â It’s hard not to dance to their songs and have a good time.Â Then there’s Koenig’s charismatic stage presence and friendly banter.Â Before playing “Run” off Contra, Koenig explained it was “a song about contemplating escape…from New York…with Kurt Russell.”Â Nice Escape from New York reference!Â Â The band’s charm combined with their great performances made for an impressive show that won me over, indie prentiousness be damned.
And no, I did not develop a crush on Ezra Koenig during the Vampire Weekend show.Â Why do you ask?