Vampire Weekend packs Liberty Hall, play ridiculously fun music in Lawrence

Brandon Bills

Never judge a band by its name, especially when that band is Vampire Weekend. I remember the first time I heard a friend use the words “vampire” and “weekend” consecutively. It sounded like someone had named their band during a game of “Mad Libs.” I wrote the band off based on their name alone. But it wasn’t long before I was introduced to Vampire Weekend, hearing the single, “A-Punk” on the radio. I was skeptical at first, but after several listens, I was hooked.

As it turns out, Vampire Weekend has nothing to do with the mythical bloodsuckers, or the end of the week. Rather, the name was taken from an amateur horror film made by lead singer Ezra Koenig. The band’s music and aesthetic is actually quite the opposite of what one might expect from the name.

The New York City quartet members met while attending Columbia University and formed Vampire Weekend in 2006. Their music, a blend of African pop, classical and rock, often draws comparisons to the solo work of Paul Simon. Vampire Weekend owes its quick climb in popularity to early blogosphere buzz months before the January 2008 of its self-title debut album.

Thursday night, Vampire Weekend played to a packed house at Liberty Hall in Lawrence. The performance was top notch. It sounded just as good live as it did in the studio, if not better. Lead singer Koenig’s crisp vocal delivery was especially exuberant. Showing a large stage presence, each verse was punctuated by Koenig and bassist Chris Baio dancing and hopping around the stage. Koenig’s facial expressions alone were entertaining, though one could easily mistake them for sarcasm, especially when the lyrics touched on the concerns of Ivy Leaguer students.

It’s easy to see how one could be turned off by the music of preppy Ivy Leaguers, both by the lack of relational lyrics and the fact that they are borrowing the musical style of the world’s most impoverished continent. All criticisms aside, the secret to Vampire Weekend’s success is that their music is ridiculously fun. So what if they occasionally sing about punctuation usage (“Oxford Comma”) and architecture (“Mansard Rood”)? As long as I can dance to it.

The great thing about Vampire Weekend is that they played their entire catalog in one show. Unfortunately, their entire catalog only lasts about an hour. That’s their album, B-sides, and one new currently untitled song. When they came out for an encore, there was no mystery as to what song they would play, because “Walcott” was the only album song missing from the main set. I will definitely look forward to following Vampire Weekend in the future, both in the hope of a longer show and to see if they can successfully evolve musically while sticking to their Afro pop roots.