Rock Roundup

Everyone Loves Vampire Weekend

And if they don’t, the week also features Tony Bennett, Holy Wave and Sandra Bernhard.

By - Jun 2nd, 2014 04:36 pm
Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend

Top Show: Vampire Weekend at BMO Harris Pavilion Wednesday, June $

The cycle of overenthusiasm, backlash, counter-reaction and renewed appreciation surrounding Vampire Weekend proves one thing: near-instant and near-constant access to the internet allows music consumers to expose their most ill-considered thoughts within seconds.

Besides, the four Columbia University students (later grads) who formed the band were not trying to fool anybody. The self-titled Vampire Weekend debut LP, which came out in 2008, made references both lyrical and musical to dilettante global-sound explorers, like Peter Gabriel and Paul Simon, from whom it drew tips and tricks.

It should be added that a song like “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” announced, by its very title, the quartet’s awareness of its potential for pretentiousness and its efforts to keep things light and multicultural.

Nevertheless, after the carbonated indie-rock pleasures of that debut went flat (for some), one could almost hear the metaphorical knives being sharpened, and the 2010 follow-up, Contra, got stabbed, punctured and slashed for not being different enough from the predecessor, for being different in the wrong ways (such as via the use of Auto-Tune) and maybe even for featuring a cover photo of an attractive blonde woman in preppie clothing.

Last year, Vampire Weekend released Modern Vampires of the City (thus defying the general prescience of the late Milwaukee band Dis-, which called its own third LP The Historically Troubled Third Album). And the group has become less jumpy and less willfully eclectic.

That doesn’t mean it’s become dour or darker a la most superhero movies from the Modern era. Instead, Vampire Weekend has thoughtfully narrowed its focus and made the band’s good-natured humor—from Ezra Koenig’s vocal poses as punk sneer-monger or Elvis impersonator to an overall grin-inducing crazy-quilt use of influences and elements—unavoidable.

Thus, as the wheel turns, Vampire Weekend has regained acceptance and picked up a Grammy, although it’s not popular enough to land heavy rotation on a rock station in, say, south-central Missouri. It is popular enough, apparently, to be this summer season’s inaugural outdoor show in Milwaukee.

Shake your hips. Do it:

Thursday, June 5: Lindsey Stirling at Riverside Theater

If you grew up during the 1980s or have habitually sent your fingers flipping through crates of records at rummage sales and thrift stores after the 1980s, you have probably encountered Hooked on Classics, a series of records on which enterprising producers put then-contemporary, mostly dance-ready beats behind relatively famous classical music.

America’s Got Talent contestant, Brigham Young University graduate, dancer and violinist Lindsey Stirling hasn’t quite updated Hooked on Classics: she prefers her own compositions and beats drawn from EDM subgenres like dubstep. Nevertheless, her second LP, this year’s Shatter Me, should, like this performance, bring a delighted smile to those who relish the clash of high, middle and low cultures.

Here, Halestorm’s Lzzy Hale (that’s how she spells it) joins the fray with pop-metal attitude:


Friday, June 6: Tony Bennett at Riverside Theater

While Nick Hornby wasn’t wrong when he suggested, in the novel High Fidelity, that people’s decency or goodness cannot be measured by their tastes in cultural entertainment or art, I do get the urge to countermand his judgment in the case of Tony Bennett.

In other words (as the old song has it), I think anyone those can’t find something to worship and adore about one of the greatest popular American singers of all time, still touring at the age of 87 and still a class act…should be shunned until they realize the obvious, glaring error of their ways.

If you still don’t dig the man after watching this next clip, I have no time for you:


Saturday, June 7: Holy Wave at Cactus Club

Oh, Texas, with your highways that go on forever, your attempts to honor cowboy values as if they are practical to modern America, your belief that you’re somehow a nation unto yourselves. And then there’s your capital city, Austin, which must at times feel like the equivalent of West Berlin.

Holy Wave, an Austin band, creates music that recalls the Cold War period when hipsters and hippies gobbled psychedelic drugs and dove into pools of swirling sounds that turned the garage, backyard or van into a comfortably hallucinatory realm. HW’s latest disc, Relax, came out earlier in 2014 and, fortunately, doesn’t entirely fulfill its title.

In Texas, the grooves are the same size as they are everywhere else:


Sunday, June 8

Sandra Bernhard at PrideFest, Henry Maier Festival Grounds

From anecdotal evidence, I have surmised that a lot of educated people would like to marginalize Sandra Bernhard because disliking her outright would look intolerant. Bigoted, ignorant folks, on the other hand, hate her and won’t pretend otherwise.

Me, I am almost required by law to credit her long career as actress, musician, activist and comedian who, not unlike the Iggy Pop of yore, has taken spiteful pleasure in public behavior—playing an open lesbian on Roseanne, posing quite nude in Playboy, hanging out with Madonna, etc.—that tests everyone’s limits. I do not, however, think the 58-year-old will shock many at PrideFest.

Slightly entitled but typically scabrous chatting with Tom Green:

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