Vampire Weekend rocks packed Greylock

For those ignorant of the indie music scene lately, the flyers advertising Vampire Weekend might have seemed more like an ominous prediction of an infestation of supernatural beings and ghoulish festivities than an ad for the eagerly anticipated concert of an up-and-coming band.

Although not quite as paranormal, Vampire Weekend brought everything and more than was expected of them – an indie-funk fused with classical sounds mixed with African beats. Too bad all of the events and circumstances surrounding their show were almost unbearable.

The opening act, Sam Rosen, did not immediately meet the eager audience’s demands. What was intriguing was the potential this band had when they started. The drums were amazing and surely worth bobbing your head to – a hard rock jam feel with a dance beat, but the vocals didn’t match this promise.

Granted, Greylock certainly does not have the best acoustics in the world, but his whiny, emo-laden moan-singing put a real damper on the general electric mood that had been building up in the crowded dining hall. A few songs did show some promise, leaning towards a sound of heavier Tool mixed with early Dashboard Confessional. Nonetheless, it’s never a good sign when the only time the crowd really cheers is when a band announces its last song.

However, when Vampire Weekend took the stage, starting off with “Mansard Roof,” the first track on their self-titled debut album, they immediately turned the night around and kicked off a wave of dancing, jumping, fist-pumping and lyric-screaming.

The attraction to Vampire Weekend, who met and formed at Columbia University, is the unique fusion of their sound, influenced by both African popular music and Western classical music. They describe their genre as “Upper West Side Soweto,” which is evident in such songs as “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” which references Congolese soukous or African rumba music. The mix of traditional drumming, smart lyrics and a strong chorus that mentions Peter Gabriel makes this song irresistible and recently earned it a spot as No. 67 on Rolling Stone’s “100 Best Songs of 2007.”

The obvious fan favorite of the night by far was “A-Punk,” the band’s single that has exploded all over the airwaves. Lead singer Ezra Koenig announced: “This next song is a fun one to dance to,” and the funky guitar and fun repetitive lyrics (‘Ey! ‘Ey! ‘Ey! ‘Ey! ‘Ey!) made it impossible not to bounce around.

Another especially crowd-pleasing selection was “One (Blake’s Got a New Face)” mainly because of its call-and-answer format. There’s no better way to get a crowd going than by letting them in on the fun of making the music they’re moving to.

A personal favorite of mine was “The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance,” which features clever lyrics about the youth of today in a dog-eat-dog world, as well as the celestial sounds of string instruments. This song was especially coincidental on Friday night, since the audience didn’t stand a chance of being able to see the band.

Never have I heard a band beg so relentlessly for just a little more space. Poor guys – we all know how hot and uncomfortable it can get in Greylock when a couple hundred drunk, high-strung students looking to relieve some stress from the week are crammed in like sardines. It’s hard to believe they even managed to perform so well without access to any air or even a fan.

Couldn’t the College have at least provided some sort of stage for the band to give them their own space? Even some risers would have helped. It’s almost embarrassing to host a live show in a dining hall when we have perfectly respectable spaces for concerts such as the Lasell gymnasium, Paresky or the Towne Field House.

But despite the disappointing venue, the concert was a hit. As Vampire Weekend’s popularity is beginning to soar as their album quickly climbs the charts, it won’t be long until those who missed the show are going to regret it. Their classical background and funky beats are undeniably refreshing in a time when club music, Brit pop and stars made on television seem to be taking over. Anyway, everybody loves the weekend.

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