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Vampire Weekend brings the Hollywood Bowl to life

Vampire Weekend brings the Hollywood Bowl to life
Vampire Weekend brings the Hollywood Bowl to life


The evening began with a pilgrimage as indie fans of all ages walked down Highland Avenue toward the Hollywood Bowl. Fans dressed in striped rugby polos and low-cut Dr. Martens walked the vendor-lined road, while people hawked bacon-wrapped hot dogs, half-price BuzzBallz and contraband from the curb cramped.

On Wednesday, June 12, Vampire Weekend brought out all varieties of Los Angeles indie. From farmers' market regulars and natural wine drinkers to old-school independents and Tumblr enthusiasts, they all came together for a one-of-a-kind, sold-out show.

As singer and guitarist Ezra Koenig would later announce, it was Ska Night at the Hollywood Bowl. This unique sect of Jamaican pop is what he considers one of the 17 secret ingredients that make up [Vampire Weekends] his owner. Echoing through the nightly festivities, ska veterans Voodoo Glow Skulls and The English Beat filled the hills with spunky basslines and high-energy grooves.

Fans poured in until not a single seat was left empty among the endless rows of the venue. Finally, after sunset, it was time for the main event.

A giant VAMPIRE WEEKEND banner took up most of the stage, except for the three monochromely dressed men standing in front of it. Three of the band's four founding members fronted the crowd, led by Koenig, with Chris Baio on drums and Chris Tomson on bass. What began between these friends at Columbia University became a definition of a generation in the making, as the literate lyricism and razor-sharp melodies produced on their early albums quickly became a cultural touchpoint for the sounds of the university experience.

I just love how I got to grow up with them, said Tumblr-era fan Sydney Jenner. Their music really takes me back to certain periods of my life.

Paying homage to their roots, the band opened with the exciting Contra throwbacks Holiday and Cousins, followed by the touring debut of Ladies of Cambridge, the fan-favorite B-side to their very first single, Mansard Roof.

Left alone on stage, Koenig sang through the opening notes of Only God Was Above Us' opening track, Ice Cream Piano, and as his instrument swelled, the banner fell to reveal an expanded band. Accompanied by a second drummer, a keyboardist and two multi-instrumentalists, the seven-piece burst into a distorted din of galloping drums and saturated feedback. Behind them, lights burst from the depths of a New York subway tunnel. The scenography is undoubtedly a tribute to the photographs of Steven Siegel which inspired the group's fifth album and a nod to the city where it was born.

The Only God Was Above Us tour truly brings the album to life, with its expansive compositions and intricate production style. After a stunning performance by The Surfer, the band welcomed the album's co-producer, Ariel Rechtshaid, to the stage for performances by Capricorn and Gen-X Cops. Rechtshaid produced Vampire Weekend's last three albums, and as a Los Angeles native and former ska band member, he fits in perfectly.

Although the new record takes up the majority of the 29-song setlist, Vampire Weekend has doled out an even sampling of each of its first four albums. With bouts of nostalgia, the band delighted longtime fans with early VW tracks like Diane Young and Oxford Comma. The jam-driven grooves of Father of the Bride unfolded in real time with the '70s vivacity of This Life and the in-the-pocket precision of Sympathy.

In true Ska Night spirit, Vampire Weekend has even released a selection of skaified versions of Vampire Weekend classics, including Skaflower (Sunflower), Skattoman (Ottoman) and Giving Up the Skun (Giving Up the Gun).

Towards the end of the set, no one was prepared for the jolt of excitement that ran through the air at the sound of a very familiar opening chord combination. Like a musical defibrillator, A-Punk electrified the thousands in attendance with an immediate spark of unprecedented joy. For two minutes, not a soul remained still. The thousands in attendance wholeheartedly banged out every Oh and Ey, ey, ey, ey, dancing to the infectious shuffle songs.

You bring incredible energy for a Wednesday night, Koenig said.

And you know what, it's just our first week of real touring, so being here in Los Angeles, our second home, so many people that we love, 17,000 people sitting outside on a beautiful night, there's no better than that. .

Preparing to unofficially close out their set, the band gave the crowd some breathing space with the stripped-down rhythm of tracks like Hannah Hunt and Harmony Hall. Towards the end of the eight-minute farewell with Hope, one by one, the seven band members entered the disco ball-lit subway tunnel, blasting away the instrumentals until the stage was left empty.

In an unpredictable turn of events, the band returned for the encore performing Dangerous Knife (the Night is a Knife). Written for the Netflix series I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson, they briefly hosted the series' creator, comedian Tim Robinson, on stage.

Responding to requests from fans on site, the band released gibberish-filled covers of Steely Dans Peg, Grateful Deads Touch of Gray and The B-52s Rock Lobster. A breathtaking finale, Vampire Weekend ended the evening with the show's traditional closing act, Walcott, sounding his final notes just before the Bowls cut off at 11 p.m.

Vampire Weekends' performance is a testament to their musicianship. Live shows usually have a certain kind of grit to them, but after playing together for 18 years, the band sounded as close as ever.

Managing to simultaneously display their mature sound while tapping into their signature college prep side, the band allows the music to grow alongside them. Vampire Weekend have perfected their craft, exploring new facets of inspiration while remaining true to the band's identity.

I really loved the spectacle of it all, said Audrey Serrano, a rising junior studying journalism as well as law, history and culture and a newbie at the Hollywood Bowl. [Its] such a famous place and I have lived in Los Angeles for two years and still [hadnt] gone, so I would say Vampire Weekend made it so special. It was truly magical.




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