On Saturday afternoon, my wife and I thought it would be a good idea to catch the free Vampire Weekend concert at Central Park’s Summerstage (New York City). Since there were two supporting acts and the weather was a little muggy, we thought arriving an hour beforehand would do the trick–boy were we wrong. When we approached the band shell it took us a good half-mile walk to reach the back of the line. Since I was calculating the math in my head with the number of people the Summerstage holds, I deducted that–just like at SXSW earlier this year–I was going to get stuck outside in line missing yet another Vampire Weekend performance.
Maybe I wasn’t meant to see them live?
(right: The half-mile line to get into Vampire Weekend’s free show.)
After waiting in the back of the line for fifteen minutes and not moving an inch, I told my wife that we were going to go through the press entrance. The following conversation ensued:
“Are you on the list?”
“What are you going to tell them?”
“That I need to get into the show so I can blog about it on Monday.”
“Do you have your IFC I.D.?”
“No, I don’t even own an IFC I.D.”
“Well, what are you going to do?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“You better not lie.”
Running a ‘zine for many years has helped give me the tools of sneaking into concerts for free. Though it’s been a while since I’ve used these skills, how hard could it be to get into a free concert for free? My wife did put some limitations on me, “no lying” and I had to “tell to the truth” no matter what.
I decided to resort to the oldest concert trick in the book: If you look like you belong, you belong. I put my cell phone to my ear, pretended like I was having a power conversation with someone important, and walked right through the front gate. When someone questioned my wife, I gave the nonchalant, “She’s with me.” That easy, we were in.
Hosting the afternoon’s festivities was none other than Mr. Party Hard himself, Andrew W.K. (who was supposedly handpicked by Vampire Weekend to emcee the free concert). He brought out the first band, Born Ruffians (Toronto), and as soon as they began their first song, the sun disappeared and the rain began to fall. My wife looked over at me and said, “God’s punishing you.”
(Born Ruffians left to right: Mitch DeRosier, Luke LaLonde, Steve Hamelin)
Born Ruffians are definitely in the same musical family as Vampire Weekend–lots of jangly guitar played high on the fret board. Drummer, Steve Hamelin, provided some extra oomph with his barky-backing-vocals, and bassist, Mitch DeRosier kept the show fun by bouncing along to each tune. Guitarist’s, Luke LaLonde’s, Dylan-like vocal delivery sounded better when we sang actual lyrics–opposed to when he would break off into his warbley-indie-scat. After just a few tunes, DeRosier broke the E String on his bass. LaLonde called out to the side of the stage to see if anyone had a spare, but A.) no one heard him, or B.) they pretended not to. Born Ruffians played two more songs, ending with “I Need a Life” (what I would consider to be their current hit), and called it an afternoon. After the set I bumped into DeRosier and asked, “How did you play with a broken bass string.” He shrugged his shoulders and replied, “I just kind of made things up.”
(right: This friendly stranger helped shield people from the rain with her dollar store picnic table cover. Best $1.00 spent all day long).
Because Born Ruffians’ set was so short it appeared that the Summersatge folks were running a tight and efficient ship. As they left the stage, the heaven’s opened up some more. Maybe God was punishing me? The rain came down so hard it felt like someone was standing over me with an industrial strength garden hose (a fire hose would be stretching the truth a bit). Thunder and lightning came next, and I felt like I was knee-deep in a story straight from the Old Testament.
Curiously, Andrew W.K., nor the next scheduled performer, Kid Sister, ever appeared on stage. No one from Central Park said a word. Was the concert cancelled? Should we run for the hills? What the hell’s going on here? After forty minutes of getting dumped on, someone finally came out and said, “The storm should clear in twenty minutes, hold tight.” Throughout the hour of rain, many people had left the concert. Maybe feeling a bit guilty I turned to my wife and said, “See, we would have gotten in anyway.”
(left: “Cut it out.” My sentiments exactly.)
Next up was Kid Sister (or so I thought). Her DJ, 8-Track (who also shares turntable duties with Kanye West), said she was running 10 minutes late, but told everyone he’d play some party tracks in the meantime.
Wait, what did he say? Kid Sister’s running 10 minutes late? We just got poured on for over an hour and she’s still not here?
Kid Sister, welcome to my shit-list#@!
When Kid Sister finally did take the stage, the joy that I had an hour previously was filled with anger and disgust. Her fuzzy yellow-and-purple back-up dancers–who would have been cute 60 minutes prior–made me even more furious, especially since they were as dry as brand-new plush toys sealed in a bubble-pack. What made matters worse was Kid Sister’s monotonous, lateral stage movement, was causing her to run out of breath during certain songs. Then DJ 8-track had the nerve to say, “C’mon people, make some noise for Kid Sister!” Yo, how ’bout making some noise for all the people that just got poured on for an hour?! On this particular afternoon, Kid Sister couldn’t leave the stage soon enough. Peace out.
Vampire Weekend took the stage next, ending one of my soggiest concert experiences ever. Amazingly, despite water beads covering most of their instruments, the Columbia-foursome sounded crisp and tight. I appreciated the fact that the group’s two Chrises, drummer Chirs Tomson and bassist Chris Baio, were wearing shorts (usually a no-no in indie rock). Unlike Kid Sister, lead singer Ezra Koenig, sounded sincere when thanking the audience for staying through the rain.
Later in the set, Koenig, who sounds incredibly poised for such a young frontman, mentioned how cool it was to be playing Summerstage, adding that most of Vampire Weekend’s songs were written not too far from Central Park. The live versions of “Oxford Comma,” and “One (Blake’s Got a New Face)” sounded even better with crowd sing-a-longs, and “A-Punk” sounded perfectly right for the wet occasion with shirtless guys and drenched females singing, “Look outside the raincoats gone, say oh, oh!”
(above: Wait a second, is that Andrew W.K. playing with Vampire Weekend?)
At times I felt bad for keyboardist Rostam Batmanclij. Earlier in the set he mentioned how he bought one of his keyboards across the river in Jersey at a yard sale years ago. Because of the rain, he frantically had to wipe down his instrument in between each song. I kept thinking to myself, “That would really suck if his little yard sale gem got ruined today.” Fortunately, I don’t think it did (whew).
Despite the storm, Vampire Weekend and the remaining rain-delay-holdouts seemed to be having a joyous time (myself included). The harder it rained, the louder the crowd got. In a day filled random weather patterns, it almost seemed fitting that the concert ended with Andrew W.K. teaming up with Vampire Weekend to play a cover of Tom Petty’s “Don’t Come Around Here No More” followed by “Walcott.”
Vampire Weekend’s nautically-themed songs took on a whole new meaning on Saturday afternoon, and I learned an important lesson: If you don’t listen to your wife, God will punish you just like he did to the people who didn’t listen to Noah.
(below: My sneakers still haven’t dried.)