Despite the threat of a lurking thunderstorm, Vampire Weekend along with openers Dum Dum Girls and Beach House were able to draw in a wide variety of Toronto concertgoers. Tweens, teens, hipsters and even a surprising number of baby-boomers braved the grey sky for a chance to see some of the most buzzed about indie bands on the scene today.
Opening the show was the Dum Dum Girls. Giving Jay-Z a run for his money in their “all black everything”, the Dum Dum Girls laid down some broody, drum heavy tunes to a relatively small crowd. The Girls opened with a choice cover of “Play With Fire” by The Doors, a perfect fit for this neo-psychedelic group who elegantly juxtapose their dark, down-tuned rock with beautiful three part harmonies. While they no doubt opened strong, the Dum Dum Girls’ original songs all seemed to follow very similar themes. Even though the band sounded tight, each song blurred into the next due to a lack a variety in strong structure.
Next up was Pitchfork favourites Beach House. There was much discussion about how their dreamy, synth-heavy sound would translate to a huge outdoor stadium. Word was that their last performance at the Toronto Island was sub-par, and I think Beach House knew it and was ready to change some minds. The duo of Victoria Legrand (lead vocals/keys) and Alex Scally (guitar/keys) were rounded out with drums and a guitarist for the entirety of their performance. It’s easy to fall victim to Beach House’s mellow and hypnotic sound as it ranges from lush and swirling to trance-y and rocking. Legrand’s powerful voice was in fine form and her reverb laced “oohs and aaahs” acted as introductions and backdrops to most of the band’s songs. The presence of a full, four-piece band and the huge crowd was enough for Beach House to pull out a very strong performance that was sure to leave a good impression.
Finally it was time for the evening’s main act. The lights went down and Vampire Weekend emerged onto the stage while, get this, DJ Khaled’s summer banger “All I Do Is Win” blasted over the P.A. Drummer Chris Tomson joined in for a few bars, teasing fans that may have been expecting the group’s first hip-hop cover since singer/guitarist Ezra Koenig’s departure from his old rap group. Rather, the group launched into “Holiday” off of the new release, Contra. Vampire Weekend sounded just as they always do. Bright and poppy with a little bit of punk rock thrown in for good measure. All over the Ampitheatre fans could be seen belting out each and every lyric while the group laid down their unique take on African rhythm-meets-prepster lyrics and sensibilities. A particularly chatty Ezra Koenig treated us to a brief auto-tuned speech about condominiums in Toronto before the band blasted into “California English”. Tomson (who was arguably the star of the night) hit us with a full-fledged drum assault during “Cousins” which gave many fans an excuse to crowd surf to the band’s infectious pop sounds. The true highlight of the night came mid-set as the band performed a tight cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m Going Down”. This might have been the only song of the night that was not a sing-a-long, but nobody seemed to mind. While the group’s performance was largely a success, the evening’s pace was certainly hindered by the four-and-a-half minute snorer that is “I Think Ur A Contra”. Ezra prefaced the song by saying the band used to be too nervous to play the song live, and perhaps it should remain shelved. Vampire Weekend ended strong however with a fast-paced, three-song encore that included “Horchata”, “Mansard Roof”, and “Walcott”. Twenty-one songs and ninety minutes later, the show was over. Vampire Weekend delivered a fantastic, high-energy show and audience members took home another great memory as the summer quickly fades away.
Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
I Stand Corrected
One (Blake's Got a New Face)
I'm Goin' Down (Bruce Springsteen cover)
I Think Ur A Contra
Giving Up The Gun
Watch Vampire Weekend perform "Mansard Roof" (Note: The band's chandeliers were taken away at customs so they instructed us to raise our hands and wiggle our fingers like sea anemones)
Photo credits: Pete Nema at Sticky Magazine