Vampire Weekend Bring Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa to Long Beach Movie Theater

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Vampire Weekend’s self titled debut marked the first time in recent memory that my Album of the Year was decided in January. After nearly two years of missing the band in NY (even having to give away a ticket to go to a company Christmas party), I managed my way to Long Beach last night for the kick off of their California Mini-Tour (stopping in one Starbucks towns like Pioneertown, Lomita, and Visalia) in promotion of their upcoming sophomore, Contra. The Art Theater of Long Beach had been converted into an unconventional music venue, with first come first serve seating and some limited standing area by the stage.

In front of a crowd of about 200, the young New York City band wasted no time getting into new material, opening with long-time live staple, “White Sky,” which will appear on Contra. Other new tracks included “Holiday,” “California English,” “Run,” and “Cousins,” which is heavy on the surf guitar and quickly becoming my new favorite. The new single, “Horchata” (’dedicated to Lola’s across the street,’ where they apparently have really good horchata), sounded particularly tight for a new addition.

The small crowd was extremely easy to interact with, evident when keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij started talking about Bradley Nowell and asked if anyone had seen Sublime back in the day (someone actually raised their hand, but, you know, those people are always lying). Lead singer Ezra Koenig addressed almost everything shouted out at him, including incessant demands for “Horchata” and handshakes.

Musically, the band pulls off their fast-paced, intricately recorded tracks extremely well, though many of the more challenging songs were obviously slowed down for easier playing (“Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” for its lead guitar lick, especially). The keyboards were, on occasion, a lackluster substitute for the string sections on the self titled record (“M79″ comes to mind), but Batmanglij still makes it work.

The best moment of the show came during “A-Punk,” when the small handful of people who could fit in the standing area started dancing after being asked very politely by Koenig to “move a little.” It was kind of odd to see less than 30 people dancing at a show to a song that was charting on the Billboards not too long ago. The extremely intimate setting made it seem more like a house party than a concert, and a band that’s used to headlining festivals of late had an overwhelming command of the small stage. Overall, it was a solid, energetic 14 song set that included almost exactly half of each album.

VW continues their tiny venue California run on Thursday at Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace (and I wasn’t exaggerating about the one Starbucks thing, I just checked Google maps). Contra is due January 12, and also threatens to be another early Album of the Year choice. Vampire Weekend make blogging easy.

Elizabeth Stolfi
www.mypoproks.com

HEADS UP
Vampire Weekend @ Pappy and Harriet’s, Pioneertown Thu Nov 5
Vampire Weekend + ??? @ Lomita VFW Hall Post 1622 Sat Nov 14

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