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September 12, 2010

Review: Vampire Weekend at Merriweather Post Pavilion, Sept. 11

vampire weekend at merriweather post pavilionPreppy New Yorkers Vampire Weekend played their first concert in Maryland Saturday night at Merriweather Post Pavilion. In a brisk two-hour set where they played crowd favorites like “A-Punk” and covered Bruce Springsteen, the boys were as well-behaved as Lawrence Welk.

After local dream pop duo Beach House finished their opening set, the boys sheepishly took the stage promptly at 9:30 p.m. There was no rock star entrance here. No late arrivals, no chants from the audience screaming the band’s name in anticipation. The lights were just briefly dimmed, and the boys materialized. Where the crowd had politely received Beach House, shrieks exploded then as if Justin Bieber had been beamed in.

High school girls and suburban moms alike swooned as the band kicked off the show with “Holiday.” That's the thing about Vampire Weekend: it's-a-good-on-paper band. The kind of band you'd take home to meet your mother. They're clean dressers - big on Dockers and Adidas Sambas; went to a good school - no review of the band forgets to mention their Ivy League beginnings; and play the kind of friendly jams mom will approve of. On the Merriweather text-message JumboTron, at least one fan proposed to lead singer Ezra Koenig.

It’s easy to see their rise to the top of the charts. Parents hear their contemporaries in the band’s Peter Gabriel-Paul-Simonesque vernacular; there were a lot of moms doing the white-person-overbite shuffle last night. And young listeners hear a Dave Matthews for the aughts. With this kind of whitebread appeal, Vampire Weekend is dangerously close to becoming “that band lots of white people like.”™

[Set list after the jump.]

There were so many suburban mothers and daughters, couples and their young children, that the crowd could have easily been swapped with Bieber’s at the Maryland State Fair. The most honestly rockish moment of the night came during “A-Punk,” when the five-year-old next to me was gyrating so wildly I thought her parents might have fed her peyote buttons instead of candy corn.

Nowhere during their show did the band come near that little girl’s abandon. Is it really a rock show if there isn’t a hair out of place on the lead singer by the end of the night? If his Dockers are not sweat-stained? Yes, their playing was competent, but at the end of the day, it’s still the kind of music you’ll hear as background at Urban Outfitters; muzak for the Pitchfork set.

This was particularly clear when they covered Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m goin down,” a defensive kiss-off ballad that Vampire Weekend rendered merely moving, a song to make out to when the babysitter’s not watching.

A highlight came during "One (Blake’s got a brand new face),” when drummer Christopher Tomson whacked his sticks together and the crowd clapped along in what felt like an honest-to-god lighters in the air moment. Later, multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij -profiled in the Washington Post Saturday, by the way – took second lead on a song, revealing an understated and actually, very sweet tenor. It’s a shame he doesn’t put it to use more often.

The boys have nothing to do with this, but memo to Merriweather: $6 for a hot dog - really? are these magic wieners you're selling? Reconsider, please.

In a nutshell: Lawrence Welk for the Pitchfork set.

White Sky
Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
I Stand Corrected
(Here, I sort of lost interest)
One (Blake's Got a Brand New Face)
I'm going down
Diplomat's Son

A complete set list should be posted by fans at later

Photo: Josh Sisk/Special to The Baltimore Sun

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Posted by Erik Maza at 7:05 AM | | Comments (62)
Categories: Concert reviews


Dude - apparently you never stepped foot on the lawn - where the smell of pot wafted freely, and nary a child was to be seen. And perhaps you didn't notice that bassist Chris Baio was completely drenched by the end of the show. As to the price of hot dogs .... OPACY they're something like $5, so.... a little more expensive than usual at a venue, but hardly out of the realm. You need to get out more.

This review . . . stinks!
All the white people comments -- ignorant if you are black; self-loathing if you are white - are pathetic. You sound so caught up in trendy, you wouldn't know fun if it hit you in the head (like it should have last night). All your snide little Lawrence Welk comments, the Dave Matthews comment, the really sorry peyote comment, the competent playing comment. . . The whole set was a joy and people, yeah, white people, were making good fun on a late-summer night. So much excellent commeraderie in that MPP last night . . . and you were brooding over your hot dog. God bless the white suburban mothers you apparently would rather have stayed shuttered at home. Erik, you shouldn't be writing about music until you start to understand just basic things about life itself. For starters, get off your little high horse. Dance more, opine less. And this is coming from a fellow journalist.

Were we even at the same concert? My friends and I were in the pit and you could almost physically feel the energy those guys were giving off. By the end of the show, Ezra's whole face was covered in sweat and his hair definitely showed how hard he was playing by the end of the night.
Also, and this is just a technicality, but I think it still bears mentioning given the band's notoriety: the drummer's last name is spelled Tomson, and the song's title is "One (Blake's Got a New Face)."
Of course, you're entitled to your own opinion of the show, but I think perspective plays a definite role, and maybe yours was just a touch off.

'With this kind of whitebread appeal, Vampire Weekend is dangerously close to becoming “that band lots of white people like.”™' -- This is a racist statement, is it not? The good thing is, I saw all kinds of ethnicities there, and everyone was just cool. There was no racial tension.

"This was particularly clear when they covered Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m goin down,” a defensive kiss-off ballad that Vampire Weekend rendered merely moving, a song to make out to when the babysitter’s not watching." I'm trying to figure out what this sentence is supposed to convey and am having trouble. "merely moving"? the dictionary defines moving as "arousing or capable of arousing deep emotion". That wasn't enough for the reviewer? What more could you ask for from a band?

"If his Dockers are not sweat-stained?" I'm curious if you actually finished the show, and where you were located. I was in the front row of seats, and can say by the end of the set the band, the pit, and myself were all sweaty.

"muzak for the Pitchfork set." "Lawrence Welk for the Pitchfork set." It sounds as if the reviewer went into the show with a negative bias. It would have been a much better review if the reviewer would have challenged his preconceived notions more.

@hilary. Tomson's last name has been corrected, and so has first reference to "One." I had right on the set list, but not in the body of the review.

FYI Rostam sings plenty in his side-project band Discovery.

White suburban mother-who-knows-how-to-change-a-flat-tire here. You might be surprised to learn how many of us read this blog, Erik.

Welcome to Baltimore. Now settle in and enjoy the show :-)

Dudes like this reviewer should stick to their day jobs reviewing Bieber shows. In honor of Vampire Weekend, this reviewer is a first class A-Punk A****e.

Me and my wife - mid-40's - were in the pavilion and loved the show, great energy, standing/standing throughout much of the show.

Who eats a hot dog at a concert anyway? Are you going to do a part 2 on the bathrooms, the parking lot and the weather?

This review entertained me. The concert probably wouldn't have. So, I give it an A+!!!

I can't believe that someone just admitted that he was "in the pit" at a Vampire Weekend concert. John in d.c., how did you ever live to tell your tale!

Dave Matthews for the aughts? Don't see it.

And since you chose to inject race into the discussion, was the VW show last night not at the very least as diverse as any punk or metal show you might go to at sonar or ottobar? I sat next to a very diverse group of twenty somethings last night listening to music written by a Jewish kid from NJ and a gay Persian kid from DC. I love the USA.

There are actually some remarkably appealing subversive class commentary elements in the music of VW. Sorry you've overlooked them for cheap shots at "white" people.

Also a shame that you did not expand on the sets by Dum Dum Girls and Beach House, which handled the amphitheater surprisingly well.

Maza is too cool for school! Woo!

Look at that picture, read the review, this is obviously a really cool guy! Way cooler than people who listen to Vampire Weekend! Loser White People!! White people are soooo lame!

Hey, Ryan Graham
Check again. It wasn't me in the pit, but I will say that was more dancing than I've seen at a show in a long time. I hate it when everybody either stands there staring at the band or, worse, shoots the show with their phone. So in the moment!

Since no one talked about Dum Dum Girls or Beach House, I will. Dum Dum Girls were just way too loud. Period. They had some talent, certainly recalled '80s bands, looked tough in a plastic glamour girl way, with long legs and short black skirts, kind of like Belinda Carlisle filtered through the old Robert Palmer "Addicted to Love" girls .. They didn't exactly comfortably fit the bill, but, really, I left the pavilion and went out and chilled because they were crushing my ears and the mix wasn't good. I feared mightily for what might Beach House sound like if this was a precursor, but the Baltimore darlings were vivid, mixed beautifully and spectacular. Some of the songs came across better live than on album and the dreaminess was at a brilliant peak. The crowd was more polite than delirious but Beach House leads you to introspection, a band to luxuriate in, not shake your booty to. They were so great that it was a feat of wonder that Vampire Weekend were greater. They brought the goods as well as any band can hope for. As Erik, between bites of hot dog, put it, what a wonderful night for white people. Geez, I can't get over this review ...

"I was in the front row of seats, and can say by the end of the set the band, the pit, and myself were all sweaty."

Hahahahahaha.... Hilarious. Way to prove your point, d00d.

White people generally do have funny stereotypes, and yes, it is also funny to make fun of them.

Oh and if you haven't got something to be angry, depressed, down and out about, had a hard life, etc. -- you can't sing rock n roll, blues, or soul. Hence, this band cannot be rockin.

As a 40-year old who drove his kid to the show last night, I had to look long and hard to find someone else nearly my age. I didn't see all the moms you want to bash so hard. Maybe you were sitting behind the stage? Or maybe you watched part of the show on YouTube as you miss the mark so much that I'm not sure why I'm bothering to comment...

Looks like you stepped right into it, Erik. Way to go.

Next time, try acting like someone from a place that people around here give a crap about.

The whole Miami bed/couch/pool thing over in Canton died around two years ago...

I'm entering "z' now.

I am an older woman who went to the concert to hear the music. My kids are all growed up and aren't interested in this kind of music. They are about your age I guess Mazza, and I believe they would have the same opinion as you.
Beach House has a unique sound and good for them to be unique. But that lead singer was not engaging the audience in any way. The guitarist tried to be nice, but it was clear the dominatrix was calling the shots. In addition, the songs were pretty bland. I started to go to sleep and even the orgasmic finale seemed fake.
On the other hand, the lead singer of VW was completely engaging. He was really sweet! However, the music was..ehh, most of the time and if you looked at the keyboardist it seemed he felt the same way. There were two songs that were good, I thought. One was a rocker in the middle of the set with even the keyboardist hyped up. That was cool beans! And the other was a slow song that the lead singer sang with very pretty vocals.
I think people just aren't exposed enough to good music and they think that loud and showy is good. That is a white people problem. PS. The lead guitarist dances like Elaine from Seinfeld. He really needs to be told to stop with the leg motions.

So sure, the crowd was predominately white, but who cares? It seemed like everyone, minus yourself, enjoyed the evening. From the pit the sweat dripping down Koenig's face was glimmering, along with his matted down hair. Also, the energy was amazing, the die-hard-edness during manard roof was palpable. I thought it was an amazing show, and I've seen a hell of a lot of shows over the years. I think you, especially as a music editor, really need to broaden your expectations, and admit when something you may have not wanted to see, was actually good. You list no merits of the group, and that, is a shame.

I've heard a lot of music in my 50 years, everyone from Roy Obison to The Band to the B52s. I actually watched Lawrence Welk on TV as a kid. I thought VW was truly original and fresh. They don't come from the self-taught, garage music tradition we all have come to love but are very talented musicians. I loved the different sounds they made, the strange lyrics and the fact that they played off each other so well. Did your really miss the references to hangovers and drug addictions? Haven't we all heard this dark "edgy" crap before. Is rehab a job requirement for rock n roll? The comparison to 16-year old pop idol Justin Beiber is way off, the band leader Lawrence Welk... cut me a break! I can only guess by your comments that having a seat near an obnoxious kid threw you off (let me guess, you don't have children?) and you forgot to review the music instead of the audience. Guess what, even white suburban moms can critique an audience, now what did you think of the music?

I am a thirtysomething mama and my husband and I go to a lot of shows. This was the our 6th concert of the summer. Vampire Weekend played a solid setlist with lots of energy and spirit. I danced my ass off the whole time. This was the first time I had seen Vampire Weekend live and can't wait to see them again!

I'm sorry this reviewer had such a lousy time at such an enjoyable show--pricey hot dog to boot! It's a real shame when talented bands are given poor reviews because the reviewer obviously attends the concert with a negative bias towards the band. The show was fantastic and completely devoid of Lawrence Welk and/or Muzak!

Um Erik, did you notice your writing a two bit blog for the Baltimore Sun? tis amusing that you are such a twit.

What kind of critic goes to a rock show and feels the need to make negative comments about all of the white people in attendance? A very young, naive, inexperienced, hipper than thou racist! Baltimore does not need this kind of incendiary hate speech. Would you go to a Talib Kweli show and bemoan the fact that there were so many black people in attendance? Of course not. You, and the Sun, owe the public an apology for your insulting remarks. "White people overbite"? What kind of comment is that to publish on a major daily's website?

You betray your lack of knowledge about Baltimore by giving Beach House so little ink. Get with it man! They are FROM BALTIMORE and people would like to know how they handled the transition from smaller clubs to the Merriweather.

Please Sun editors, the people of Baltimore deserve MUCH better than this Jr. High garbage.

actually @tyrone, i did write about beach house. several times this past week, in fact, including the Live! music column for the week answering that very question:

and the white man's overbite? a joke as old as When Harry Met Sally. google it. peace.

Ugh - this isn't working at all, first you complain about somebody getting stabbed at show, like that is some big deal - now hot dog sticker shock?!

The Sun needs to get somebody from Baltimore in this spot - ASAP, I don't know how much more of this I can read

Is this critic any relation to former the NY Representative named Maza, because they're both douches. What a freakin' tool!! Please, Sessa, take this infantile Miami Vice clown out for a beer...and then fire him. Welcome to Baltimore, Erik, now go back to Miami and the "alternative weekly" which is probably still giddy that you left in the first place.

Eric, I know where the joke comes from and I know how old it is. I don't need to google it son, I saw it when it came out. I just think it is inappropriate and very disrespectful and that's why it doesn't belong here. The Sun is so sensitive to every ethnic group and would never publish any kind of ethnic joke. I wonder why they would publish this one. That kind of writing would fit in more with a free alternative weekly.

This was my first VW concert, and as much as I enjoyed it, I think the writer has a few decent points (and a few bad ones). "brisk two-hour set" seems like a compliment. It felt like they were trying to break their personal best for fastest show ever; and I was a little disappointed that Ezra didn't chat as much during the song intros.

I don't think the writer was calling the band "white" but that their music seems to appeal to many white people, which I can't disagree with. There were A LOT of white people at the show. But to say the crowd could have been swapped for a Justin Bieber show seems a bit narrow. I can't speak for everyone at the show, but my guess is that most of them probably have not been to a Justin Bieber show, and generalizing all white people are the same weakens the validity of the review. Also, the comment about being dangerously close to becoming "that band that lots of white people like" feels like a threat. VW shouldn't change their music just because a lot of white people like it.

I thought the band had a lot of energy, particularly from my perspective where I was surrounded by people who would have been happy to sit through the entire show had their view not been blocked by the folks in front.

Your comment about the Springsteen cover confirms that you just don't get it...

Wow, geesh people, take it easy on the new guy. As for the white people comment, it's in line with something you'd find on which doesn't mean it's BAD, just a funny observation of things white people generally find cool or trendy.

I want to give a shout out to the Dum Dum Girls. They started their set with a great Rolling Stones' cover that really highlighted their voices. Their harmonies were incredible, and definitely made up for some mediocre lyrics on their own songs.
I don't listen to VW a lot, but they were tight - good performers.

Always love concert reviews on Midnight Sun. They never fail to draw out any number of first-time posters, many of which take personal offense with even the slightest notion of dissatisfaction in the review.

NEWS FLASH, geniuses: A negative review of something you like isn't a personal attack. It's small-minded to get so bent out of shape over a concert review, then post your myopic discontent.

Also, I love how you Intellectual Elite get so faux-offended by "white overbite", & clearly missed the reference to Stuff White People Like. You are true Champions of Civil Rights, & your courage amidst adversity will not be forgotten.

Sam, I am sorry, please come back! I was wrong baby, you dont need to abuse me with whatever it is this cool miami independent guy is doing.

I love this review for alllll the right reasons

Let me be real clear here. I got the reference to "the stuff white people like" website. I found that site to be very funny when I first saw it a couple of years ago. I chuckled at the Billy Crystal "white guy overbite" comment many years ago as well. I get the references OK? I also find Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle to be very funny when they are making jokes about black folks. But that doesn't give me a pass to go around and repeat them n ow does it? I doubt if Erik would reference any of them in print either. As a Hispanic male I don't think he should get a pass to make racist remarks about white folks either. Just sayin'.

Another thing, I don't care what Erik thinks, or writes about VW or any other band. That's his job as a critic.

Never trust a review written by a "hipster dufus", especially one that spells Eric with a "k".

Me thinks your skinny jeans are a tad too tight.

Sam, you will be missed.

BTW -- my wife is Korean and she loves Vampire Weekend -- we had a GREAT time at the show. Then again, Korean women are something that "white people like", too -- heh?

Snotty hipster wanna-be's frome Miami happen to be something this white 40 year old doesn't like.

Well, I've been to Wu Tang concerts where the ratio of whites to minorities was about the same as VW...the only difference was that Wu Tang yelled over each other's lines and the music was mixed by a hamfisted stooge. VW was tight and did exactly what I thought they would, good sound, great pop music. I guess the reviewer wanted Brian Jonestown Massacre instead.

Wow, everybody just needs to calm down. I went to this show and didn't stay for Vampire Weekend because I'm not particularly a fan. Beach House was amazing, although I will never in my life understand what they were doing opening for a band like Vampire Weekend...not knocking them, they're just two very different bands. I was shocked at the amount of young people, I really hardly saw anyone over the age of 21 which was sort of awesome in terms of beer lines! The Yum Yum Girls [ed. Dum Dum Girls] were actually pretty good too...that Rolling Stones cover they opened with sounded really good.

The incalculable volume of Dumb in these comments boggles the mind. There are no words.

So ingenieur, when people have an opinion different from your own, you simply dismiss them as dumb? Nice.

I really don't see that much dumb in these comments. Just some differing opinions and observations. The offensive remarks in the article are another story altogether.

Erik Maza is seemingly the worst reviewer ever. Sessa needs to pull double duty, or the Midnight Sun is going to set.

The Dumb is evident in the onslaught of n00bs that quite obviously read the dissenting review, got offended, & started trolling, with humorous results. Here are some specific examples (paraphrased) from these Dumb comments:

-the reviewer is a hipster
-the reviewer is a douche
-the reviewer is an a-hole
-the reviewer is a tool
-the reviewer is a twit
-the reviewer is the worst reviewer evarrr
-the reviewer needs to go back to Miami
-OMG the reviewer referenced ethnicity in a couple of beats in the review, he raciiiist

Sounds about right to me.

Sounds about right to me.

Can't speak to the VW show....but Stockholm Syndrome a tthe 8x10 on Saturday kicked a$$. Lots of white people there too, though. Even more sweat.

Just because the reviewer isnt from around here does not make him a bad guy. He gave his honest review and thats it. It's just his review on the night, not a personal attack on any of you or an attack on Baltimore. Can some of you all be so closed minded that he has to write postive stuff if he didnt like something.

"Lawrence Welk for the Pitchfork set."
bwahahaha. that's good stuff right there. True too. Careful Erik, white people are pretty sensitive to being made fun of right now. You could attract a large group of overweight guys in graying gotees carrying flags and fat suburban women in knitted flag sweaters assembling in front of the building yelling "NO MAZZA HERE!"

Yeah... I am a huge fan of pitchfork-style snark but you really did it all wrong here, Eric. This kind of writing demands a better understanding of your audience. Unless you were trying to come off as a little snot and alienate your audience, that is.

It is fine to not like VW or have enjoyed their show. But to make fun of people who were enjoying it? Not cool. Also, many of your blanket statements are debatable.

' "I was in the front row of seats, and can say by the end of the set the band, the pit, and myself were all sweaty."

Hahahahahaha.... Hilarious. Way to prove your point, d00d. '

Can someone explain the hilarity of the above to me?

Maybe we should cut Erik some slack. He comes from Gainesville, home of the fake preacher who threatened to burn Korans. Erik looked at the crowd, saw white people, and his mind connected the anti-Islam pitchfork cult of Gainesville with the concert crowd. VW has a following that includes fans of The Daily Show and Stephen Colbert. He's moved north from Florida and needs time to catch up.

I soppose whoever hired Mr Maza was not cool enough to caught onto Mr Maza coolness.

My 17 yo loved this concert and is still raving about it. So perhaps its not that Mr. Maza is too young to appreciate VW but too old.

Ummm... what is this comment all about:

"Maybe we should cut Erik some slack. He comes from Gainesville, home of the fake preacher who threatened to burn Korans. Erik looked at the crowd, saw white people, and his mind connected the anti-Islam pitchfork cult of Gainesville with the concert crowd."


Anywho... VW are a great band and I love their music - and thought their interview on The Colbert Report was cute - but I ended up giving my tickets away to some younger fans who I felt would enjoy it more. Not once did I worry they'd get a contact high - because I agree with Erik that these are a pretty clean-cut bunch.

Don't let the haters get you down, Erik. Some day they'll figure out who/what they are really mad at. Keep the thoughtful reviews coming.

One other thing. About the "bands white people like" ...I think Erik was referring to a pop-culture joke that started with a blog by Christian Lander, that had such a following that it was made into a book. Other sites came out for other races etc etc etc. Everyone laughed at their own expense (because laughter is really the best medicine).

Just saying.

If anyone thinks this is music "to bring your mom to" or sqeeky clean pop rock or something...they're not listening.

Anyway, I was in the pit and the show was awesome.

We can take it. Good review, Erik.

Wow, looks like there's trouble in River City. What got your Dockers in a twist?

You guys are funny. I'm almost tempted to get out my WPL (White Person's Lexicon). All the impotent rage elicits fancy-pants cunning lingo like kerfuffle, hubbub, folderol and various weather disturbances in teapots.

Here's my tweetable review of VW:
Vanilla Weekend

Bam! Ka-pow! Zoinks! Gotta go now; those suede patches won't sew themselves onto my corduroy jacket.

That crowd was so white I think I saw Wayne Brady in the audience.

I like Owl Meat's micro-review of Vampire Weekend from his Music Math column (one of my faves) on some past Tipsy Tuesday:

Vampire Weekend = King Sunny Ade + Talking Heads + Blur

Has Owl Meat been in rehab? Tuesdays haven't been tipsy lately.

It's suede patches on corduroy! You ruined a perfectly good jacket!

Correction: Two perfectly good jackets!

Tell me about it! The corduroy patches on my suede jacket look terrible. I got so mad I threw my Scotch across the lawn.

this is ridiculous. it was the best night of my life and i will never ever forget it.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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