What do Vampire Weekend do when they come to Minneapolis? They go looking for Bob Dylan’s apartment. “We found a pasta bar,” reported frontman Ezra Koenig. “Is that right?” Indeed it was. (Dylan used to live above what is now the Loring Pasta Bar in Dinkytown.) All else was right Thursday night at the Triple Rock Social Club—at least onstage.
After a frenetic opening set by Yacht (Jona Bechtolt)—who pranced across the stage and into the audience like Mick Jagger on ecstasy—Vampire Weekend played a brief but tight set encompassing their eponymous debut album (including a b-side) and one new song, in performances that recreated the recorded arrangements precisely but with an engaging energy. Offstage, however, the inexplicably impassive audience seemed to be waiting for the show to end.
It was puzzling. The show had been sold out for weeks, the intimate Triple Rock being a small venue for one of the country’s most buzzed-about bands. Photographed for a Spin cover before they’d even released an album, Columbia University college band Vampire Weekend has vaulted to national fame over the past year through the savvy online marketing of their burbling blend of indie rock and Afropop. Their local debut was one of the spring’s most anticipated shows.
Maybe the downside of such hype is that people turn out to see the event rather than to enjoy the music. The packed house of patrons cheered gamely as the band took the stage clad in appropriately preppy garb (yes, Koenig’s collar was popped), then largely proceeded to stand stock still as the band rocketed through muscular performances of favorites like “Mansard Roof” and “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.” When even the perkily poignant “Oxford Comma”—perhaps the best single of 2007—failed to stir the crowd, I was left wondering exactly what they were waiting for. For the lights to rise so they could all go home and blog about it, I guess. They must have been pleased that the band spared them the chore of standing through an encore.
Jay Gabler is the Daily Planet’s arts editor.