Music

The Return Of Vampire Weekend, The Band Of The Internet Era

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Forming in 2006, Vampire Weekend are exactly the same age as Twitter. Other internet phenomena, such as the widespread use of Facebook, Snapchat, Hipster Runoff, memes, gifs, and Instagram filters have all fit snuggly within the band’s reign, placing their music squarely as the soundtrack to this particular era of internet as a culture, when we all learned how to express ourselves in 140 characters and six second video clips. With wi-fi accessible devices in our pockets, on our planes, and generally impacting every aspect of our daily lives, maybe no other band has felt both a product of the era and in tune with it, without directly writing songs about wi-fi passwords and hotspots. Vampire Weekend, over the course of three untouchable albums, have crafted timeless music made specifically for these times.

Over the weekend, the Ivy-league bred group performed their first proper concerts in four years at Libbey Park in the secluded artist community town of Ojai, California, and it didn’t long for the presence of the web to be felt. Just outside the venue, in proper bootleg merch fashion, was a single t-shirt salesperson offering up @Seinfeld2000 tie-dyed short-sleeves, reading “8 Minute Cape Cod.” Just below the handmade sign announcing the shirt’s price points was the clarification that the person selling the shirts was, in fact, not @Seinfeld2000, the writer of a brilliant parody account that encapsulates a “weird Twitter” aesthetic that has not gone out of style. @Seinfeld2000 even had a gig writing a column for Noisey for a few years, with their first article being an interview with VW leader Ezra Koenig. Likewise, @Seinfeld2000 has made multiple appearances on Ezra’s Beats 1 show Time Crisis.

It didn’t take long for news of the t-shirts to spread on social media, with people who couldn’t be in attendance begging those that were to buy them a shirt. For a show that was billed as a weekend — a second performance at the Libbey Bowl was scheduled for Sunday morning to celebrate Father’s Day, and tickets were sold for the performances individually and as weekend passes — this was only the first indication that the show was going to be a capital-E Event. There was the celebrity attendees factor — including the likes of Jonah Hill, Jason Segel, and Mark Ronson — and the booking of Richard Pictures as the opener, a band that Koenig described as the best Grateful Dead cover band in Southern California. There was the charitable aspect, with money from merch and matched donations being made to the local community that had just dealt with devastating fires. And there was the fact that the shows sold out in literally one minute, with eager diehards enthusiastic at the possibility of hearing new Vampy Weeks tunes for the first time.

The last of these didn’t really happen on Saturday, with the band instead opting for the complete opposite. Without any formal announcement, Vampire Weekend opened their set with a performance of their breakthrough self-titled debut from start to finish. The ten-year-old album is another relic of an internet era that appears to be wrapping up, when a band’s music would leak onto the internet long before its release and earn it enough buzz to make stars out of people without a catalog. The band famously appeared on the cover of Spin Magazine based almost solely on internet hype, the first band to ever land a cover on that magazine before releasing an album. They personified a time when blogs had real, tangible power. With marginal radio support at best and long before streaming was a thing, they moved 27,000 copies of their debut album in its first week. Along with artists like Arcade Fire, The National, Grimes, and Bon Iver, Vampire Weekend took the ball the internet gave them and ran with it far enough that they could survive indie rock’s eventual recession from blog influence.

Despite the highs that the band has had with their subsequent releases, which includes the universally adored 2010 follow up Contra and the Grammy-winning, 2013 stone-cold classic Modern Vampires Of The City, there is a unifying aspect to that first album that could be felt at the concert. It’s the same way we can look back at 2008 with an air of innocence when hope could be plastered above the face of a president and make perfect sense. Their three albums find complexity seeping in slowly, complicated emotions eventually taking hold over the breeziness of it all. But on Saturday night, hitting the stage at sunset for a small outdoor summer concert, positivity and optimism could still be felt. If you squinted just right, you might even forget that the band was performing without one of its crucial members, Rostam Batmanglij.

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