photo of Sunday night’s show from BrooklynHeathen.com
So apparently Sunday night’s show was terrible. Shitty sound, pulverizing bass. The boys bitched about it from the stage, cut off “Fireworks” halfway through, cut off the whole set after a little more than an hour, and denied everyone an encore after a teasing ten-minute wait (the crowd whooping and stomping in anticipation), the house lights abruptly brought up to rampant, wanton boos. I received a text message to the effect that opener Tickley Feather was “stupidy bullshit.” Just a disaster all the way around, as though the show were managed by Willie Randolph.
A mere 24 hours later and the sound, relative to Webster Hall, is excellent, the boys relaxed and exuberant, the crowd honed in and zoned out. The set lasts nearly two hours, including a warmly requested encore. Unfortunately, for those still struggling to wrap their heads around this band after five-plus years of forced exposure, this is like the old game-show joke: “First prize is a week’s vacation to Cleveland. Second prize is two weeks’ vacation to Cleveland.” I understand the appeal in abstract: A relentless, childlike, repetitive, almost amelodic drone, a little kid banging on a dishpan with a soup ladle, multiplied by three dudes, multiplied by an overgrown thicket of drums and keyboard vines and oscillating loops and assertive voices that can moan like seafaring balladeers and screech like the monsters lurking beneath the waves. I sound like an idiot, and so do they, and that’s the point. Strawberry Jam is their first to finally resonate with me for whatever reason, and “Peacebone” is a gloriously blunt romp, whump whump whump whump, dotted with singsong falsetto that’s catchy as chicken pox and targeted at the overstimulated five-year-olds most likely to catch it.
Still, abstract is all there is, I fear. Twenty minutes of this is overwhelming and deeply annoying, the hypnotic repetition (fixating on one line, e.g. “I want to walk around with you,” for small eternities) curdling into monotony, Avey Tare’s neverending shrieking a shrill crutch, Panda Bear’s far preferable surfer laments underused. There is very little to hang onto here and oceans in which to drown. They get all the way through “Fireworks” this time, though, Avey indulging in a bit more nuance, wide-eyed and romantic and overwhelmed himself. But the crowd’s only truly into it when the beats gets skeletal, primal, almost violent, whump whump whump whump, like some sort of spastic, aggro Riverdance routine. I appreciate the enthusiasm, but I felt like I was watching it through bulletproof glass.
Opener was better though: Vampire Weekend, meticulous and poppy and tightly wound. Everyone’s got a favorite track, it seems. “‘A-Punk,’ that’s my shit,” raves a colleague. “Reminds me of Operation Ivy somehow.” He raises an excellent point, but I prefer “Oxford Comma”—it’s a trip to see that lead singer blurt out “Whogivesafuckaboutanoxfordcomma,” standing on his tip-toes, in stocking feet, his jeans rolled up, his bright yellow sweater concealing his cornflower-blue shirt. Jittery pop for the compulsively overdressed. Wes Anderson: The Band.