Ten years ago tonight, it was a Friday and I was leaning up against the house-left wall of the Triple Rock Social Club, the holder of a much-coveted spot at the first Minnesota performance by a young band out of New York City. I’d discovered the group in 2007, when their single “Oxford Comma” made the music-blog rounds and quickly became an essential feature of my mix CDs.
Their debut album was just a few months old by the time of that show, but they were already way too big for the Triple Rock. The show was seriously sold-out, and I was ready to dance with some fellow superfans. I came away, though, thinking that most of my fellow attendees were there more for the hype than the music.
In the Twin Cities Daily Planet, I wrote:
Vampire Weekend played a brief but tight set encompassing their eponymous debut album (including a b-side) and one new song, in performances that recreated the recorded arrangements precisely but with an engaging energy. Offstage, however, the inexplicably impassive audience seemed to be waiting for the show to end.
It was puzzling. The show had been sold out for weeks, the intimate Triple Rock being a small venue for one of the country’s most buzzed-about bands. Photographed for a Spincover before they’d even released an album, Columbia University college band Vampire Weekend has vaulted to national fame over the past year through the savvy online marketing of their burbling blend of indie rock and Afropop. Their local debut was one of the spring’s most anticipated shows.
Maybe the downside of such hype is that people turn out to see the event rather than to enjoy the music. The packed house of patrons cheered gamely as the band took the stage clad in appropriately preppy garb (yes, Koenig’s collar was popped), then largely proceeded to stand stock still as the band rocketed through muscular performances of favorites like “Mansard Roof” and “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.” When even the perkily poignant “Oxford Comma” — perhaps the best single of 2007 — failed to stir the crowd, I was left wondering exactly what they were waiting for. For the lights to rise so they could all go home and blog about it, I guess. They must have been pleased that the band spared them the chore of standing through an encore.
Writing in the Star Tribune, Chris Riemenschneider was more focused on the music than the movement (or lack thereof). “Looking pink-cheeked and clean-cut enough to star in a J. Crew ad,” he wrote the next day, “the bouncing baby band ricocheted through the 11 songs on its eponymous debut album and only played two extra tunes on top of that.” He mused that “at some point, these guys could very well land big radio hits.”
(Page-one headlines that Vampy Weeks fans woke up to that Saturday included “Paul Douglas loses job as storm clouds roll in at CBS,” “Playoff fever spreading like Wildfire,” and “Clintons’ 2007 income: $20.4 million.”)
Both Riemenschneider and I noted Ezra Koenig’s anecdote about the band going in search of Bob Dylan’s Dinkytown apartment. “We found a pasta bar,” said Koenig. “Is that right?” I also took note of the “frenetic opening set” by Yacht, then a Jona Bechtolt solo act.
There’s not much more online evidence of Vampire Weekend’s local debut, although you can peep a poster that local photographer Leslie Plesser hung in her baby’s room. Much more attention accrued to the band’s later shows, starting with a 2010 booking at First Avenue. (In town for that gig, the band recorded an in-studio performance at The Current.)
Opening his review of that 2010 show, Riemenschneider quoted a “bonehead” braggart he overheard in the crowd: “Yeah, it was good…but I thought they were better at the Triple Rock.”