Vampire Weekend and Cold War Kids at Live 105 NSSN

12/26/2008

It’s a Wednesday night, but The Mezzanine is sold-out for Live 105’s Pre-Party to Not So Silent Night. The warehouse looking club is decorated in holiday spirit with dim yellow lights illuminating large hanging snowflakes and white flowered poinsettias, creating a mellow and warm atmosphere: a perfect mood for a night of indie rock.

With record sales plummeting, and the illegal sharing of MP3s continuing to rise, the future of albums and compilations are bleak, scaring not only record labels, but artists. Now the pressure for a band’s survival rests on their ability to perform live.

If every show were perfect, the opening band would invigorate the crowd, and be followed by an even more engaging and exciting performance, eventually leading to the headlining band who’d have the crowd hot ‘n sweaty screaming for an encore. Nearing perfection, Wednesday’s performances by Audrye Sessions, Chairlift, Cold War Kids and Vampire Weekend, played like a crescendo ending in a large dance party.

San Francisco’s Audrye Sessions who began the nights’ festivities, played with a gentle sound that eased the crowd into the night. Following Sessions was Chairlift, a three piece band, lead by singer Caroline Polachek. Still relatively unknown to the crowd, Chairlift received cheers of excitement and applause as they played, “Bruises,” the group’s first hit, and featured on Itune’s 4th generation Nano ad campaign. During “Bruises,” drummer Patrick Wimberly put down his sticks and picked up the bass guitar, helping generate the most energy during the band’s set. My friend accompanying me, a casual bass player, suggested that the band lacked freedom in their music because they didn’t have a bass player to accompany the drums—a point I thought worthy to highlight.

There is a certain breath and confidence that distinguishes good bands, from great, something that was evident once Cold War Kids took the stage. The four piece band sounds more complete and dynamic than the preceding bands, as they raised the level of performance just a notch higher. Lead singer Nathan Willet’s voice is strong, and piercing with high pitch notes on tracks like “Something is Not Right With Me,” “Mexican Dogs,” and “Hang Me Up To Dry.” The band has stage presence, which was highlighted when Willet on the guitar and Matt Maus on bass faced each other, each strumming away, bending their knees with each new chord. Their performance was a show, entertaining, as well as invigorating, not just a listening session.

Vampire Weekend’s first album, released early in 2008, has created quite the stir, being labeled by Spin as “The Year’s Best New Band,” and their song “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” ranked 67th on Rolling Stone’s list of 100 Best songs of the year.

I had high expectations for Vampire Weekend, a new and growing success story, immersed in a growing fan buzz. Dressed casually, the band played stiffly, hardly moving, impressing upon me that the band seems caught up in more success than they know what to do with. Even so, their performance was sharp, with vocalist Ezra Koenig hitting every note, and the backing maintaining the levity and grace that makes listening to their entire album through and through so easy. Playing all their notable tracks, from “A-Punk,” to “Oxford Comma,” the band had the crowd jumping, twisting, head bobbing in a way the previous bands were unable to achieve. Towards the end of their set, Ezra acknowledged the dance party by stating “This is the hottest it’s been, thanks for generating the body heat,” a nerdy comment reaffirming the group’s humility and Columbia background. By the end of the show, I was left wanting more, but too much of good thing is never good—yet with several tour dates sold-out (like this show), I’m clearly not the only one.