Show Review: Vampire Weekend at The Town Hall Theater in Lafayette, 11/7/09

by Gordon Elgart on November 8, 2009


Vampire Weekend in a small town theater

When Vampire Weekend announced they were playing an all-California tour, and that tour would include the Town Hall Theater in Lafayette, CA, I immediately went to look up what this theater was.  What I found was that it was a 200-seat local theater company’s home venue, and I knew right away that this show would sell out fast. Well thanks to my years of typing practice, I managed to get tickets when they went on sale a couple of months back. (There’s no magical press passes tonight — we had to sweat it out like the rest of you.) Imagine my surprise when we arrived to the theater to find that it was an all-seated show. Sit down for Vampire Weekend?  Oh oh.

There was no opener tonight, and while our ticket said 9:00 PM, we never expected it to start on time. We found some seats and waited, and when the band walked on stage to raucous cheers at 9:30, everyone stayed sitting in their chairs and watched the show. They started with two new songs, “White Sky” and “Holiday,” so I thought perhaps the lack of familiarity with the music was keeping everyone still. The band itself hit the stage with fervor, lead singer Ezra Koenig dancing around like mad, as keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij started the set on guitar. (He looked happy as a clam on guitar, and when he finally settled behind the keyboard, he looked like he was wishing he still had a guitar in his hands.)

Happiest with a guitar in his hand

Happiest with a guitar in his hand

“Cape Kod Kwassa Kwassa” would surely get the people and going, right?  The cheers between songs were both loud and long, but it was still a seated show. Well, at this point a few people in the back had decided to stand up, and Ezra made some comment about how everyone was sitting, and “that’s ok.” The response came from a few rows behind me, “stand up like we’re doing in the back!” As they went into the song “Cousins” from their upcoming album, Contra, I decided that yes, the guy in the back was right, and I should stand up. So now there’s a few people dancing. Nice, but still not quite right. It sounds great, but I’m getting a little bored.

Let’s talk for a minute about what makes this band so good. Sure, there’s fun lyrics, nerdy at times, silly at others. The real secret is the kick-ass rhythm section. Chris Baio on bass is just phenomenally good. It helps that he spends most of the show playing a Rickenbacker, the all-time greatest bass guitar, but the way he and drummer Chris Thomson play together is extraordinary. I could see them communicate before many of the songs, counting out the tempo together so that they would get it just right. The drum and bass lines in songs like “I Stand Corrected” and “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” are no laughing matter. These two just kill it.

Absolutely killing it on the Rickenbacker

Absolutely killing it on the Rickenbacker

Ezra started talking about the new song he was about to play, and then he demonstrated that he was about to use live auto-tune to modulate his voice. I turned to my fellow Spinning Platters editor Marie and said “oh no.” Sure enough, this song was a bit of a WTF experience, but something great happened during the song to make it all worthwhile: a single, solitary woman wearing a hat wandered down the center aisle of the theater and began to dance. She danced alone for about a minute until she was joined by a guy who looked to be her companion. I turned back to Marie and said, “let’s go.” And as we rushed the stage, so did the entire back of the theater who had wanted everyone to stand from the beginning.

Now, rather than a bunch of people sitting in a recital hall watching a band rock out, we were finally at a rock show. Hallelujah. The band definitely reacted to this, and the energy level went up quite a bit. A singalong for “One,” syncopated chants of “A! A! A! A!” followed soon after, and after 45 minutes, the band was offstage for their encore break.

Blake's ... got a new face!

Blake's ... got a new face!

They came back on, did two more songs, and Ezra began thanking everyone for coming.  A voice came from behind me: “this better not be the last fucking song!”  Mr. Koenig explained that yes, this is the last song, but they’ll stretch it out a bit at the end. So finally, a quick hour later, the entire show was over.

The new material played tonight is foreshadowing of another great album from Vampire Weekend, and although they’ll be naysayers who are looking to tear down the success they helped create, this is a really good band made up of strong musicians writing fun songs. If you get the chance to see them on this tour (they play the Catalyst in Santa Cruz, Visalia, San Luis Obispo and Bakersfield this week, and not all of them are sold out), go ahead and do it.

Vampire Weekend set list from 11/7/2009:


Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Marie Carney November 8, 2009 at 12:57 am

Yes. The show was amazing, especially when we started dancing. It was so good I had to run to Leisure and karaoke “Oxford Comma.”
Also, it did exactly what it was supposed to, I can’t wait for the new record!


Megan November 9, 2009 at 9:56 am

ezra koenig was appropriately channeling cory feldman last night at the vampire weekend show in santa cruz. it was a full circle moment for the band whose name was inspired by “the lost boys” which takes places in fake santa cruz. i’m just bummed there were no glitter-blood special effects or saxophone playing in the set.


Joby November 9, 2009 at 3:07 pm

Love how they decorated the set list.


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