Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I See A Mansard Roof Through The Trees

concert review: Vampire Weekend, We're Marching On, The Torrent @ El Mocambo (Toronto, Ontario), December 13, 2007

Vampire Weekend at El Mocambo: photo by Michael Ligon

I like to think that I'm not easily swayed by the buzz surrounding certain new bands but when something as savorily saccharine as Brooklyn band Vampire Weekend's "Mansard Roof" is, with it's playful keyboards, lush strings, and strummed guitar, vibrant rhythm section, and delectable melodies, that was enough for me to decide to check out the band live when they came to Toronto for a show at El Mocambo last week on December 13.

Opening the show were Toronto 3-piece The Torrent, generally a guitar/drums/keyboards configuration, with some violin at times. The baritone vocals of Cameron Groves reminded me of Calvin Johnson although not as deep perhaps and the minimalist guitar/keyboards/drums arrangements had a new-wavey pop feel a la B-52's . Guitarist Michael Edward Barry was in The Hidden Cameras - his guitar playing was primitive but was more than well-suited to the music. Tara Azzopardi did double-duty energetically alternating between keyboards and drums. I think they're a new band - they're MySpace songs have barely a 100 hits as of now. They're official website indicates they're full-length is out this spring. You can also check them out live in January, first on the 11th at Silver Dollar, then on the 27th at Sneaky Dee's as part of Wavelength.

Next up were Toronto's We're Marching On, a group of young gents exhuberantly performing their brand of skewed pop music, hints of melody intermixed with quickly strummed electric guitar, added keyboards, and vocals that at their most vibrant were shouty and yelpy. Prior to the start of their set, I'd ducked out of the club only to come back to find that the club had filled in nicely(and quickly I might add) for We're Marching On's set. They were energetic, and yes even entertaining - I could imagine them bringing down the house say at The Boat or Sneaky Dee's, a few of Toronto's more indie rock oriented music venues - but the crowd at the El Mocambo, from what I recall seemed somewhat subdued. I believe the gent on keyboards is also in Ohbijou if I'm not mistaken, but then you know, all these indie rock kids start to look the same after a while.

And finally, Brooklyn four-piece Vampire Weekend. They set up their own equipment, at that time giving the audience a glimpse of their now-somewhat-known preppy wardrobe, albeit the keyboardist and drummer in particular looking like they just rolled out of bed. But for all the preconceptions of them being spoiled rich kids just because they all met while going to Ivy League school Columbia University, I couldn't give a shit. Their self-proclaimed music style of "upper west side Soweto" is interesting - I think they succeed when the Paul Simon "Graceland"-era comparisons are toned down. While the African-esque "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" on it's own merits is an entertaining melodic throwaway, part of it sounds like it came straight out of "The Lion King". During that song and a few other moments I felt their appropriation of African rhythms and instrumentation(based on my layman's knowledge of African music) felt a little unsettling(ie. how is that this Brooklyn band came to be influenced by such influences. Is this a gimmick?). Fortunately, I think the guys succeeded overall in not sounding too gimmicky. They started their set straight off with my favourite song off their MySpace, "Mansard Roof", later performing the punchy English Beat-esque pop of "APunk". The band got the audience involved with a song entitled "One(Blake’s Got A New Face)" being sure to point out that the song "One" that they would perform was not a cover of either the Metallica or U2 song, although Metallica's "One" was obviously present in part of the guitar arrangements of Vampire Weekend's "One". At a point in the song, lead vocalist Koenig got the audience to shout out the song's bracketed titled ie. "Blake's Got A New Face", which the audience did with enthusiasm. The musicianship was skillfully performed overall, more than enough proof that these guys are no flukes. Their debut album will be in stores on January 29 of the new year through XL Recordings and you can see the tracklisting here.

Check out a few of my photos from the show.

MySpace: The Torrent
MySpace: We're Marching On
MySpace: Vampire Weekend

No comments:

Post a Comment