I am imagining most people enjoying the new Vampire Weekend with a copy of the dictionary nearby. I am imagining teenagers Googling “Richard Serra Skatepark” to find out where it is, only to discover an incredible artist they’d never heard of. I am remembering myself making horchata from a packaged mix bought from Grocery Outlet earlier tonight, and deciding to stick with the real. I am imagining offering the rest of my horchata bag to Leilani, who makes me laugh.
I am imagining kids watching Jay-Z’s new video and thinking that he invented goth. I am imagining kids watching Lil’ Wayne’s new video, or Lady Gaga videos, and thinking the same thing. I am upset at Ke$ha for jacking L’Trimm’s tip. I am scrolling down the list of songs that Nicki Minaj has guested on, and thinking “nasty,” and then seeing a picture and thinking it tenfold. I am wondering if the sample to “Bed Rock” is from anywhere or if it merely sounds familiar and perfect.
I am looking forward to new electronic releases by old dogs like Blockhead and Four Tet, new dog like Flying Lotus who I wrote off until hearing the “GNG BNG” remix with Blu, which is how I want hip-hop to sound in 2010. I am noticing a rampant use of the dancehall triplets since Arular. I am wondering if RJD2 can come back correct like he deserves. I am reminding myself of seeing him live, numerous years ago, and him not exactly blending records on beat.
I am pondering the fate of Amoeba‘s Berkeley store since hearing rumors of its possible closure. I am saddened upon visiting, last Friday, and being one of about four customers in the entire place. I am speculating that it makes the least amount of money despite being the O.G., and further that they own SF and LA but still rent Telegraph. I am confident that owning a record store next to a college is not what it used to be.
I am conflicted about the reappearance of AFI at the Phoenix this weekend, despite having long ago championed their cause. I am seeing in my mind the setlist from their show on Dec. 29, 1993, at the Phoenix, their “last show,” and remembering how we unabashedly elevated them such that they could not break up like they wanted to. I am thinking of comments in Gimme Something Better that seemed to disparage the scene from which they sprung, and thinking about stepping stones. I am missing Dave and Adam, and still awaiting the new issue of Society Suckers.
I am spinning over the elegance of Nonesuch’s deluxe vinyl pressing of Joshua Redman’s Moodswings, and over the fascinatingly remedial packaging of William S. Fischer’s Akelarre Sorta. I am excited at finding an LP by the German saxophonist Günther Klatt, and tickled that its notes read “Location: Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg. Date: July ’84. Producer: Günther Klatt. Reason: Don’t know.” I am listening to Shafiq Husayn‘s En’a-Free-Ka for the fifth time in three days.
I am hoping that raising a child gets easier like they say, and wishing that Liz and I had time to be together. I am closing my eyes and concentrating on the rain falling on the stovepipe. I am thinking of my walk downtown with Lena in the buggy tonight, at 10pm, and the sound of the wheels crackling the fallen twigs echoing off the Federal Building, and I am glad because my special order for Bjork’s Volta comes in tomorrow.
I walked into Amoeba a full hour before Vampire Weekend’s scheduled set on Friday night, only to see the first two aisles in front of the stage already filled with diehards waiting for their chance to watch, up close and personal, one of the suavest new bands of 2008.
The indie rock cognoscenti have been burbling about Vampire Weekend for months now, with descriptors like “Ivy-League Death Pop Woven With African Filament”—I mean, how can you resist?—and yet for Friday night’s hugely high-school-aged audience (ponytails, braces, and zits in abundance), it was all about the here and now. The band’s debut album, Vampire Weekend, just released, the 18+ show the night before at Popscene an unattainable dream, and twittering throng waiting anxiously between Amoeba’s Gospel and Rockabilly sections.
The rest of the store filled fast, with unknowing customers humorously caught off-guard by the commotion, and then, the big moment: in casual Harvard fashion, the band ambled out onto the stage and started their set with the first song from their album, a catchy two-minute blast called “Mansard Roof,” nailing all the high vocals, syncopated rhythms, and jaunty melodies.
After the second song, “Campus,” singer / guitarist Ezra Koenig acknowledged San Francisco—“It’s one of our very favorite cities, and we don’t just say that everywhere,” he commented, adding wryly, “Sometimes it’s very obvious that it’s not our favorite city.”
Vampire Weekend’s songs are what people call deceptively simple—both “Mansard Roof” and “Campus,” for example, rely on just a basic major scale for a riff—but the band kneads enough bizarre influences into the dough that listening to them is like deciphering a Rosetta Stone of music, from Sting to Sister Carol to Schubert to a healthy dose of Paul Simon’s Graceland. Live, the band rocks harder sans the string quartet on record, and, dispensing with collegiate reticence, Koenig passionately emphasized lines like “do you want to fuck?” from the South African-flavored “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.” In the aisles, the kids ate it up.
After “I Stand Corrected,” “A-Punk,” and “Oxford Comma,” it was all over, truncating their already-short album (it’s a refreshing 34 minutes long) into just a six-song set. For a tiny short while, the innocence of pop music and the excitement of a great new band with oodles of potential lay bare in front of a crowd of fervent admirers, and on a cold, drizzling night in San Francisco, well, it’s hard to ask for more.