My friend Grace is currently a freshman at one of my dream colleges, Columbia University. And by dream, I mean reach, because although I’m 97% sure that I’m applying, I’m also 99% sure that I wont get in. This is also part of my plan to convince myself that I wont get into any of my dream/reach schools so that when I don’t, I wont be as disappointed. Anyway, for the past few weeks she had been trying to convince me to come visit her, have a look around! I promised I would, eventually, on a weekend or something. Then she made me an offer that I tried really hard to refuse, but in the end just couldn’t because it was too good to be true. She had access to Vampire Weekend tickets…as in tickets to the sold out show at Radio City Music hall.
It wouldn’t work, it just wouldn’t. The show was on a Thursday night, meaning that I would have to go to class the next day. It was a feat that I knew I could accomplish, but that my mother wouldn’t allow. Well, the stars must have been aligned correctly or something when I asked for permission to go, because after my promise that I would get sleep and catch the right train back and not mess up my physics quiz, my mother did the unthinkable. She said yes.
Somehow, I did it. I lived up to all of my promises. I got a solid 2 1/2 hours of sleep (something that I realize college kids don’t do much of), made it to Princeton by 8:02 (with more than enough time to get to class at 8:35-the benefits of 1st period free!), and I’m pretty confident with that quiz. But my treacherous school day is not the point of this post. The point is that last night I experienced one of the best concerts I have ever attended. Worth making this the longest Friday ever? Absolutely.
“Why was this the best concert ever?” you ask me. Let’s go back to what convinced me to get this ticket in the first place-Vampire Weekend may actually be one of my favorite bands of all time. I’ve loved their music from the first time I ever heard “A-Punk”. I know every single word to every single song. They’re adorable, they’re awkward, they’re Columbia bred and fresh out the Garden State-my home. This was enough of a reason for me, but here’s another one-they’re amazing live. They put on a great show, especially the ones they do in and around New Jersey because it’s where they’re from and they don’t need to introduce all of the New Jersey references they make because the audience gets it-we’re in on the joke, and we always have been. When singing “Walcott” the crowd goes insane because it’s a song about going back to where most of the crowd came from. And when the whole crowd ecstatically points towards Mystic Seaport/Connecticut/the north, there’s a sense of collective togetherness and place that unites us. Sometimes it feels like our state is a cult that needs to be in constant defense of itself, no thanks to Jersey Shore, Jerseylicious, The Real Housewives of New Jersey and whatever other crap the reality TV world has been exploiting our land for. Vampire Weekend is a key player in that defense-well-educated rockstars making amazingly beautiful music.
That leads me to the next reason why this was the best concert ever: the music! Duh! The drums, the keyboard and the synth which got the audience dancing (yes, dancing to Vampire Weekend-a bizarre thought, but great fun), the lyrics worth whipping out the lighter for, the songs that have carried me through my adolescence. They played “I Think Ur A Contra”, which apparently they have just recently figured out how to arrange so it could be performed live, and which is also a song that I must have listened to upwards of a hundred times by now, if not more. The band plays some pretty damn good music, and on top of that they do some pretty damn good covers. I’ve posted their calypso-y version of “Ruby Soho” by Rancid, which I can never get enough of, and last night they covered a much softer version of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m Going Down”, appropriately honoring another Jersey rock legend. Even if you weren’t dancing, the show was still fully enjoyable because just listening to them is a pleasure.
This is where the concert goes from memorable to terrific-Vampire Weekend has a wicked sense of humor. (And style. Choosing which t-shirt to purchase was excruciatingly difficult. I wanted them all). They embrace the fact that they’re nerds, as evidenced by the awkward (but adorable) way they present themselves on stage-stiff and sudden movements, walking backwards or spinning around ungracefully after finishing a song-they don’t exude a rockstar persona, they seem like old friends you know well enough to laugh at when they trip or slip up. They aren’t divas-pretentious maybe, but they’ve definitely got some humility going on there. For Chrissakes, the drummer, Chris Baio, wore a too-tight NJ Nets basketball jersey that revealed his bony arms and a bit of hairy upper torso. People who can rock that in front of an audience of thousands have to be able to laugh at themselves. Rostam Batmanglij (keyboardist) resembles a shy high schooler who keeps his head down in the halls but who gets really passionate during in-class discussions-he even acts that way a bit on stage. But he’s got to know how ridiculous he looks wearing a puffy red winter vest over a sleeveless t-shirt. And as the roadies set up the stage for them, Biggie boomed through the speakers. “Dead Wrong” isn’t exactly elevator music, and I know it wasn’t Radio City Music Hall’s choice to play it. It was so unexpected that it surpassed being ironic, and was really just hilariously awesome. To add even more to the clashing of genres, when the band walked onto the stage, “All I Do Is Win” by DJ Khaled and co. started blaring, prompting the masses of drunk college students to start jumping around uncontrollably. The boys walked on quietly as the crowd roared and took their places, where they stood looking rather uncomfortable, until Lil’ John shouted “everybody’s hands go up-and they stay there!” The band did as they were told and threw their arms up into the air…and just left them there, looking a bit more uncomfortable than before, sort of hunched forward, half-mocking and half-serious about their stance. (When I describe it, it isn’t as funny as it looks, but I’m sure it’s a scene that has already found it’s way to Youtube.) I. Couldn’t. Stop. Laughing. And to top it all off, Jack McBrayer was in the house to announce the encore. I’m just going to assume that Vampire Weekend and I share a love for 30 Rock, because why else would they ask Kenneth to do those honors? And anyone who loves 30 Rock has a killer sense of humor, hands down. Maybe I’m so drawn to this band because they remind me of all my guy friends-ironic and funny but unabashedly nerdy and awkward. But that’s not the point. The point is that, when you add all of everything together; good music, favorite band, lively show that never lulled, an uncontrollable desire to dance in an environment I was completely comfortable in, and Kenneth, you get the greatest concert that I have ever attended. Zero competition.
I may fall ill from pulling an all nighter, during which I was on my feet the entire time, but nothing has ever felt so worth it before. Perhaps this feeling of ecstatic contentment will be enough of a remedy for a sleepless night.