Princeton, Grand Ole Party and Vampire Weekend at the Echo on December 3, 2007

Princeton”s Jesse Kivel

Irresistible band(s) alert! Vampire Weekend may have been the much-anticipated main event Monday night at the Echo – even warranting a rare pre-set introduction from KCRW”s Dan Wilcox, who said we were in for a “major treat” – but the two opening acts were so endearing as to be tiny treat pellets that might grow into full-blown treats all their own someday soon.

I know for a fact that several people (Hi Sara, Kevin and Guy Visiting From Berlin!) were at the Echo just to see local band Princeton, who must have been playing to their biggest audience yet Monday. Singer Jesse Kivel made multiple references to the band”s nervousness at the size of the crowd. He even joked that they”re “used to playing in front of two and a half people … average, not half a person,” and I have to wonder if that meant Sara, Kevin and guy who”s usually in Berlin. Kivel later paused between songs to mention how distracting some french fries being eaten downstage were, and then accepted a fry but saved it until after the set. Only truly nervous people will entertain the thought of eating a cold fry. All this aside, musically, the lads of Princeton have nothing to worry about. Their unassuming light, poppy sound seems destined for greatness.

Grand Ole Party
Grand Ole Party”s Kristin Gundred

Grand Ole Party continued the lovefest as a group of five guys in front of the stage mentioned they have been following the San Diego trio religiously and, coincidentally, think they “might have seen Vampire Weekend” at the show GOP played at the Troubadour over the summer. It”s true: The very hyped VW opened for the Party back then in a well-attended ASCAP showcase. But tragedy almost befell the band Monday night as singer-drummer Kristin Gundred explained early on that she was losing her voice and had to sip what appeared to be whiskey between songs. She clearly was destroying her voice as she achieved a nice raspy version of her full-bodied soulful wail, but not once did any of GOP”s songs suffer because of it. You gotta hand it to the woman. At one point, she said her voice box might actually fall out if she continued, to which one of the devotees in front said, “I”ll sell it on eBay.” See? Already their body parts are coveted for auction. That”s a great start.

Vampire Weekend
Vampire Weekend (L-R): Rostam Batmanglij, Chris Tomson, Ezra Koenig and Chris Baio

New York”s Vampire Weekend – who, to keep it simple, write music that”s like a crash of 10 genres into something you”d never expect, just go listen to it – continue to impress. They powered through a 45-minute set of largely East Coast-themed songs and sounded phenomenal despite singer Ezra Koenig”s similarly-afflicted vocal cords, which he said were partially healed by a shawoman the previous night in San Diego (yes, that”s right). This was just one of many opportunities to praise California despite their roots; later he cited The Lost Boys and Annie Hall as the band”s further geographic touchstones. (“We don”t buy into that Woody Allen thing.”) Koenig also told a story about his East Coast mom and aunt looking exactly alike except that his aunt, who lived in California, had blonde hair – and that left a nice California-shaped impression on him. We get it, they heart Cali. But something tells me they don”t have to work so hard (and diss the bespectacled embodiment of N.Y. neuroses) to get us to love them back. Their first album is due at the end of January on XL Recordings, and here”s hoping it rakes in a huge pile of money so they can record a lot more terrific songs, including a new one that turned out to be an ode to the Golden State that sounded infused with something entirely different (Sunshine?) Keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij DID call it “some next-level shit.” More bonus points for emerging from the longest pre-encore pause of recent memory after deciding that they did indeed have another song they could play: “Ladies of Cambridge,” the B-side to their first single.

Photos by the author. See also Karen”s previous piece on VW”s first time in Los Angeles this past summer.