Vampire Weekend Brings New Grown-Up Sound to Miami
by julia ford-carther
Following its first Grammy win, New York rock band Vampire Weekend plays to an increasingly indieemphatic Miami crowd.
Lead singer Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend performing on the Pyramid Stage on the fifth day of the Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts.
And the 2014 Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album goes to… Vampire Weekend for its third album, Modern Vampires of the City. The band returns to Miami this month after four years away.
The group, after forming at Columbia in 2006, burst onto the modern rock tour scene with The Shins in 2007, even before its self-produced, self-titled debut album was released in January 2008.
Vampire Weekend immediately hit the top of the charts and ranked high among the review boards, injecting a new sound into the indie rock genre with experimental African influences, flirty guitar riffs, and fun, sing-along lyrics. Upbeat and catchy singles like “A-Punk,” “Oxford Comma,” and “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance” featured Ezra Koenig’s light, noncommittal vocals that danced on top of drummer Chris Tomson’s percussion.
Contra, the band’s second album, released in 2010, built on the group’s preppy rock-pop lean with a more electronically produced foundation as guitarist and keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij’s piano scales felt more present (“Giving Up the Gun” and “Diplomat’s Son”).
That same year, Vampire Weekend made its first trip to Miami, where concertgoers raved about the group’s energetic set, as the off-stage subdued lead Koenig let it all out on stage.
But since then, the band has grown up, and for its April 30 and May 1 shows this year, will be slowing down the tempo with tracks from Modern Vampires of the City, a clear departure from the sounds of Vampire Weekend and Contra. In this iteration, with more purposeful percussion and a nod toward deep consideration and accepted melancholy, Koenig’s haunting vocals wax poetic on life philosophies.
All three albums point to the band’s true source of inspiration: 20-something life, including the rise of immediate post-college optimism that gives way to quarter-life-crisis conflicts and eventually settles into the inevitable turn-of-a-decade reality check.
Nathan Brackett writes in his Rolling Stone review of Modern Vampires of the City, “On their third album, Ezra Koenig and the band have rid themselves, once and for all, of the precious post-collegiate references that used to be their calling card.” The industry-standard publication ranked the album as the Best Album of 2013.
This year’s Grammy win feels more like recognition for the band’s entire body of work rather than just its latest album. As a group formed on experimentalism and dedicated to constant self-progression, Vampire Weekend keeps innovating in the right direction, without forsaking the base sound that carried it to success in the first place.
And speaking of evolution, Vampire Weekend’s presence in Miami points to the city’s own shifting music landscape, one that, “say, 10 years ago, wouldn’t usually see an indie band of their stature,” according to Jason Fitzroy Jeffers, a culture writer-about-town. “There once was a sense that there wasn’t a big enough audience around here for these bands to justify the expense of taking their tours here.” Miami’s new generation of creative cool is establishing its influence on the city’s culture. Adds Jeffers, “Miamians are hungry for these acts.” Vampire Weekend will deliver a satisfying performance. That, and a “Horchata.” Vampire Weekend performs at 8 pm Wednesday, April 30, and 8 pm Thursday, May 1 , at The Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, 305-673-7300; livenation.com
photography by ANDREW COWIE/AFP/Getty Images