Austin’s ACL Live At The Moody Theater, by Dan Radin
“You guys have a lot of energy for a Tuesday,” proclaimed Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig to the sold-out crowd at ACL’s Moody Theater.
(photos Danny Matson)
In a change of pace from their usual festival gigs, Vampire Weekend transformed the intimate theater with a feeling their fans thought they’d forgotten. Vampire Weekend hasn’t performed in Austin for 6 years, and clearly still nobody gives a f*ck about an “Oxford Comma”.
The band quickly sold out two consecutive nights at ACL before their Austin City Limits TV taping on the third evening, in support of their fourth studio album, “Father of the Bride.” They could’ve sold out a week’s worth of shows.
Koenig’s silhouette first appeared onstage wielding an accelerating guitar arpeggio, joined note-for-note in tandem by each band member that erupted into “White Sky.” The New York crew rumbled and swooned their way through two and a half hours of their signature Afro-pop, evenly representing each album of their decade-long career.
A casual Koenig, dressed in Chaco sandals and all stripes-denim and white- clothing, could have been mistaken for Michael Cera attending a beach wedding. Beneath a giant illuminated Earth above the stage, his light croon melted into the glowing fog with the boyish timbre of the very recordings that catapulted Vampire Weekend from Ivy League indie darlings to American rock mainstays.
Vampire Weekend’s distinctive fingerprint derives from their worldly instrument choices, disguising a garage orchestra flair. Reminiscent of a classically-infused “Graceland,” small percussion drove songs like “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” and “Bambina.” Harpsichord-esque parts of “M79” relived the baroque era in Brooklyn hipster form. Koenig even jumped to vocoders atop the light drums, upstaging continuity in favor of the band’s evolving sound (following the departure of former guitarist/producer Rostam Batmanglij). New singles “Harmony Hall” and “This Life” landed emphatically. VW even deviated from the setlist to take some requests, spawning “Holiday” and “Campus.”
Much to the delight of the energetic crowd, Vampire Weekend tore straight through “Diane Young,” “Cousins,” and “A-Punk,” before Koenig did some reminiscing about a previous show in Austin.
“I’m pretty sure it was the last time we played in Austin- we played this next song and someone threw their school ID on stage… and their name was the same name as this song. So shout out to that person,” cueing his bandmates into “Hannah Hunt.”
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram blew the doors off the joint to open the evening with a dazzling display of a shredded delta blues. Vampire Weekend later brought him back out to lead Neil Young’s “Vampire Blues.” Humbly sidestepping their own greatness, Vampire Weekend recognized the 20-year-old’s virtuosity and seemed hell-bent on sharing him with the world.
The band concluded their main set with the melancholy piano of “Jerusalem, New York, Berlin.” Whether or not fans caught the underlying lyrical message of the new ballad, every silent eye was locked in with the performers.
The heartstrings stretched furthest during “Step”, as 2,000 voices roared for Koenig’s pleading cry, “I feel it in my bones… I can’t do it alone.” It’s mutual Ezra. Vampire Weekend’s fans in Austin missed you.
View the photo gallery from the show at Austin 101 Magazine.
Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
One (Blake’s Got a New Face)
New Dorp. New York (SBTRKT cover)
Vampire Blues (Neil Young cover) (with Christone “Kingfish” Ingram)
Jerusalem, New York, Berlin
The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance
Holiday (By Request)
Campus (By Request)