Tag Archives: Vampire Weekend


Hamilton Leithauser Returns Home to Play Brooklyn Steel

November 2nd, 2017

Hamilton Leithauser – Brooklyn Steel – November 1, 2017

Out of all of the musicians who had made a splash in the turn-of-the-century New York City rock scene you could argue that Hamilton Leithauser has aged more gracefully than the rest of the pack. Once the fiery-eyed frontman of the beloved indie-rock band the Walkmen, he’s made the transition toward more of a classic crooner as a solo artist. After the band went on hiatus in 2013, he released his elegant debut solo album, Black Hours, which owed as much to balladeers from the early ’60s as it did to the Walkmen’s post-punk and garage-rock roots. Things really began to gel on his most recent release, a collaborative album written with former Vampire Weekend multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij called I Had a Dream That You Were Mine. Every song is a winner and mixes Hamilton’s influences with Rostam’s orchestration and production work effortlessly. Initially, Leithauser’s voice was one of the things that set apart the Walkmen from all of the other indie rock bands of their day. It was a force to reckon with at a packed Brooklyn Steel last night, with fans eager to hear him in all of his ragged power.

There’s a part in the documentary Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)? when Monty Python’s Eric Idle compares the late singer’s vocal stylings to the routine of trapeze artists. Nilsson would reach for these death-defying notes and you never knew if he was going to pull them off or fail miserably. When watching Leithauser sing, you can’t help but see him in a similar way. Only with Leithauser, a daredevil jumping a motorcycle over row of burning cars is a more fitting metaphor. When he’s about to belt out some of those death-defying notes, a part of you thinks it might go horribly wrong but he always seems to stick the landing.

Leithauser proved this over and over again on Wednesday. He and his band ran through all of I Had a Dream That You Were Mine and also treated the crowd to a few songs from Black Hours. On the majority of the material, Leithauser would bang out chords on his 12-string acoustic or delicately pick on his nylon-string guitar for the somber ballads. But he really shined when putting them aside in order to play the role of frontman, thanks to his distinct stage presence. Squeezing the microphone like the leader of a hardcore band, head tilted facing the sky, with his other hand either flung back or punching emphatically into the air. Opener Courtney Marie Andrews came out to duet on two songs, I Had a Dream’s beautiful fever dream of a closer, “1959,” and the newly released duet with Angel Olsen, “Heartstruck (Wild Hunger).” Their voices harmonized beautifully, and it was absolutely breathtaking when she took the lead on the latter number.

Leithauser was thankful to be back in Brooklyn and was conversational with the adoring hometown crowd. He treated the room to the piano ballad “Proud Irene,” off of a limited vinyl-only release, Dear God, which Leithauser would personally hand-deliver to people in the neighborhood. As he introduced the song and explained the release, you could tell there were a few people in the front row who had purchased it. For the encore, the band played through his first-ever collaboration with Rostam, “I Retired,” off of Black Hours, which Leithauser claimed was the best recording he’s ever been a part of. The performance ended with I Had a Dream’s “Peaceful Morning” and then a solo cover of Palace Music’s “Trudy Dies.” He then left the cheering crowd with a wave, joyfully exclaiming, “I’m Hamilton Leithauser. I live down the street.” —Pat King | @MrPatKing





Rostam Brings Debut Solo Album to Music Hall of Williamsburg

September 25th, 2017

The story of Rostam Batmanglij is one of continuation and staying on his creative toes. With an open mind and an open heart he’s thrown himself into each expression and partnership without getting bogged down. There was some level of redefinition in order when the instant but unsustainable starburst of his former band, Vampire Weekend, leveled out a bit, at least beyond their base following. But it was inevitable that he’d forge his own path. With inherent musical proclivity, it was just a matter of discovering new outlets. And he’s certainly found them. Along with lending his enlivening sense of melody and world rhythm to the production of acts including Frank Ocean, Charli XCX and Carly Rae Jepsen—and oh, by the way, writing original music for the reprise of Kenneth Lonergan’s classic Broadway play This Is Our Youth—Rostam struck collaborative gold last year when he buddied up with Walkmen frontman Hamilton Leithauser to gift us with the rollicking resplendence of I Had a Dream That You Were Mine (stream it below).

The volume of his work keeping him limber, he was prime to really hit a graceful, ground-covering stride on his first proper solo affair, Half-Light (stream it below). Just released this month, the effort carries that extraspecial glow and pop of every fifth firework. From the moment his Panda Bear–esque vocals sail into the album entrance of “Sumer,” a feeling of bright-eyed anticipation of what follows keeps afloat like an air-blasted ping pong ball. A youthful blend of vulnerability and moxie suspend in a seasoned weave of production that takes cues from all directions. There are even melodic allusions to the coiled-spring bop of Vampire Weekend, yet they’re shrewdly integrated, as in “Wood,” with cleanly bowed strings jumping into the gaps formed from the seductive Eastern percussion. When hearing the melodious, uplifting cheer of what can be construed as Rostam’s prideful retort to the chirping birds comes through his cry of “Please don’t let it get to you/ Even if you don’t realize it/ It’s still all up to you,” you’ll feel like running out buck naked to take on the world. He’s arrived at that point of confident eloquence, tightly embracing what made him and what moves him—and letting the tracks fall where they may.

Rostam once said that he’s interested in inclusion rather than exclusion, that his goal is to make music that can move anybody. His solo album easily surpasses this goal, and when performed live, the vibe pulses through the crowd. There’s that inestimable moment in time when a beloved honorary New Yorker who has contributed richly to this city’s music scene returns to play under a spotlight that is all his. That rare moment comes Wednesday at Music Hall of Williamsburg. You’ll be able to reach up and touch the electricity in the atmosphere on the night. Among the devoted and adoring Vampire Weekenders and newly blossomed fans of his duet album with Hamilton Leithauser, others, picked up along his musical path where the scenery has never been dull, will join in on the anticipation of a prolific artist, who many leap at the chance to work alongside, finally having his own moment in the spotlight. —Charles Steinberg | @Challyolly


Former Vampire Weekend Member Rostam Plays The Bowery Ballroom

May 2nd, 2017

Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij first burst onto the music scene as the guitarist-keyboardist for Vampire Weekend—he also produced the band’s first two albums. Batmanglji amicably left the group early last year to launch a solo career as Rostam. I Had a Dream That You Were Mine (stream it below), a collaborative effort with former Walkmen frontman Hamilton Leithauser, arrived last September. “Leithauser and Rostam take their flair for reimagining classic sounds with postmodern glee to new levels,” said AllMusic. And with a full-length solo album due later this year, Rostam (above, the video for his brand-new single, “Gwan”) plays The Bowery Ballroom on Wednesday. Former Dirty Projectors bassist, keyboardist and vocalist Deradoorian opens the show.


Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears at Music Hall of Williamsburg

February 21st, 2017

Joe Lewis (guitar and vocals) was working in an Austin, Texas, pawnshop when he first picked up a guitar. He began playing around-town gigs as part of a blues trio, but, inspired by the likes of Lightnin’ Hopkins and Iggy Pop, his interests also included, rock, soul and R&B. So Lewis branched out musically and eventually started playing with different people. Then things clicked: Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears—rounded out by Bill Stevenson (drums), Jason Frey (tenor sax), Derek Phelps (trumpet), Joseph Woullard (baritone sax) and Eduardo Torres (drums)—have a big, full sound, and so even the songs that are straight to the point, like “I’m Broke” or “Big Booty Woman,” will keep you moving. The Honeybears have earned comparisons to Stax Records groups—although keeping it local, they don’t sound too dissimilar from the Dap-Kings—and with his big, shouted vocals, Lewis’s name is mentioned alongside Wilson Pickett’s. After a four-year break, Lewis and Co. (above, performing “PTP” for KEXP FM) returned with their fifth album, Backlash (stream it below), two weeks ago. “There aren’t many acts out there throwing down with this kind of high-energy trashy intensity,” says American Songwriter. “For those unafraid to get the neighbors calling the cops during their next party, Lewis and his growling Honeybears bring the dangerous, hard-charging soul goods to tear the roof off the sucker.” See them do it live, tomorrow night at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Vampire Weekend drummer Chris Tomson’s Dams of the West open the show.


Local Natives Make a Triumphant Return to Terminal 5

October 26th, 2016

Local Natives – Terminal 5 – October 25, 2016

Local Natives – Terminal 5 – October 25, 2016

(Local Natives play Terminal 5 again tonight.)

It’s been close to seven years since Gorilla Manor stamped Local Natives’ name into the indie-rock stratosphere with comparisons to Vampire Weekend and Arcade Fire. Earlier this fall, they returned with their third studio full-length, Sunlit Youth. And as with previous albums, the songwriting was honed by the original trio of guitarist Taylor Rice, guitarist-keyboardist Kelcey Ayer and multi-instrumentalist Ryan Hahn, but drummer Matt Frazier and bassist Nik Ewing also brought forward ideas. What formed was the cohesive record they featured at their show on Tuesday, the first of two nights at Terminal 5.

Rice, rocking a man bun, crooned on “Past Lives”—off the band’s latest—and the crowd really erupted for old fave “Wide Eyes,” the core trio’s vocals harmonizing in unison. Noting how long it had been since they’d been back in New York City, the band reminisced about their first local show at Pianos in 2009. Fans were starved for the West Coasters and Local Natives delivered, including past gem “Airplanes” as the room chanted the telling lyrics “I want you back.” Adding to the treasure trove, they dusted off “Camera Talk,” about which Rice confessed they “haven’t played in years.”

Although Nina Persson (the Cardigans) recorded “Dark Days” with the quintet, opener Charlotte Day Wilson happily filled in for her. Ayer and Rice remained alone onstage each haloed by a spotlight as they traded verses on the heartbreaking “Columbia.” With two weeks until Election Day, Rice offered hope in the midst of the chaos and encouraged attendees to vote, a perfect setup for “Fountain of Youth” and the uproarious cheers for the lyrics “I have waited so long, Mrs. President.” The evening concluded with the unraveling of Rice’s hair and a final descent into the crowd for “Sun Hands.” —Sharlene Chiu

Photos courtesy of Mina J


Extend the Weekend with Beaty Heart at Mercury Lounge on Sunday

June 24th, 2016

Deftly mixing world music and electronic pop, London’s Beaty Heart—Josh Mitchell (vocals, guitars and electronics), Charlie Rotberg (drums and electronics), James Moruzzi (drums, vocals and electronics) and Thomas Gunning (drums, electronics and vocals)—have been making their own cool take on Afrobeat since forming in college as an audio-visual art collective six years ago. Their debut full-length, Mixed Blessings (stream it below), which earned them comparisons to Talking Heads, Vampire Weekend and Graceland-era Paul Simon, arrived in 2014 to a fair amount of acclaim. AllMusic called it “an arty, psychedelic pastiche of world music, Afro-pop and indie-electronic sounds.” And furthermore, “Beaty Heart make music that’s all neon colors, bubbling percussion, stitched-together sampled sounds, peppy backing vocals, snapping fingers, whistles and very light guitar.” It’s a happy noise. Find out how it all comes together when Beaty Heart (above, performing some of their new tunes), who have a new album coming out next month, play Mercury Lounge on Sunday night. Matt Koenig’s the Undercover Lovers open the show.


Colony House and COIN at Mercury Lounge and Rough Trade NYC

October 1st, 2015

Caleb Chapman (vocals and guitar), Will Chapman (drums) and Scott Mills (guitar) have been doing business as Colony House (above, performing “Second Guessing Games” for Audiotree TV) since forming six years ago in Nashville. After self-releasing several EPs, influenced by the likes of U2 and Cold War Kids, the optimistic trio put out their debut full-length, When I Was Younger (stream it below), last year, impressing the folks at Paste magazine: “Once you have hit play a few times, the songs open up and reveal more about themselves. They’re authentic, but just like authenticity isn’t something instantly seen, these songs hold up well over time and prove themselves again and again.”

Upbeat Nashville four-piece COIN (above, doing “Fingers Crossed” for Hype Machine)— Chase Lawrence (vocals and keys), Joe Memmel (guitar and vocals), Ryan Winnen (drums) and Zachary Dyke (bass)—released their self-titled debut full-length (stream it below) a few months back. AllMusic makes comparisons to Vampire Weekend, the Strokes and the Killers, and declares, “At ten songs and 35 minutes, COIN is brief in the fashion of any classic LP but that also feels like a coincidence, a happy accident from a band raised in an era when everything old is always new and nothing ever goes away.”

Double your pleasure with two nights of Colony House and COIN, tomorrow night at Mercury Lounge and then again on Saturday night at Rough Trade NYC.


Cayucas Shower The Bowery Ballroom with Sunny Pop on Friday Night

August 3rd, 2015

Cayucas – The Bowery Ballroom – July 31, 2015

Two years ago, I had the pleasure of seeing the Southern California band Cayucas play their very first New York City gig at Mercury Lounge. It’s funny how these boys from the sunny West Coast appropriately turn up to provide the perfect seasonal soundtrack. Following a well-received debut, Bigfoot, they returned this year with a sophomore album, Dancing at the Blue Lagoon, which expands on their familiar surf-rock sound and infuses Afropop touches reminiscent of Vampire Weekend and fellow L.A. cohorts Fool’s Gold and Foreign Born. An orchestration of classical crescendos welcomed twins Zach and Ben Yudin—who brought along bassist Spencer Zahn and drummer Dave Scalia for this tour— to The Bowery Ballroom stage.

Rocking noticeably longer locks, Zach, the lead singer, began the evening with a trio of new songs, “Moony Eyed Walrus,” “Hella” and “Champion,” before crowd favorite and alarmingly Footloose-sounding “Cayucos”  beckoned the legion of Friday night revelers to dance. Ben’s falsetto backing vocals harkened back to the Beach Boys, another familial Californian band. Surprisingly, instead of offering newer material, the set was largely comprised of songs from the first album, not that anyone was complaining. Of course, there’s an art to balancing the old tried and true with the newer, lesser known material.

For Cayucas, dedicating “East Coast Girl” to the local ladies was a nice touch and offering favorites from Bigfoot was exactly what fans craved. Not to say new tracks weren’t enjoyed, their latest’s title track was gobbled up, and folks danced just as joyfully. Zach playfully remarked that they’d have to write more songs as they exited the stage upon completion of “Bigfoot.” The twins and the rest of the group returned for one more, a “new one,” encoring with “A Shadow in the Dark.” Barely a minute into the song, Ben’s guitar strap fell off, so the band had to reboot the song, perhaps a sign that the newer material was a bit more tentative than older tunes. Needless to say the evening was full of sunny pop leaving all who attended happier for it. —Sharlene Chiu



Dan Croll Plays Music Hall of Williamsburg on Sunday Night

June 13th, 2014

He may be young, but there’s no doubting 23-year-old Dan Croll’s talent. The English singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist mashes together folk sensibilities, electronic beats, sweet melodies, African rhythyms and a healthy dose of guitar hooks to make his own brand of smart synth pop, featured prominently on Croll’s debut album, the vibrant Sweet Disarray (stream it below), which came out earlier this year. The LP has earned him comparisons to Paul Simon and Vampire Weekend, and AllMusic hails Croll (above, doing “From Nowhere” on Jimmy Kimmel Live!) for his songwriting chops and “forward-looking experimentalism.” See him perform live on Sunday at Music Hall of Williamsburg as part of Northside Festival. I Am Oak open the show.


Matthew Houck Keeps It Simple at Solo Phosphorescent Show

December 19th, 2013

Phosphorescent – Music Hall of Williamsburg – December 18, 2013

(Photo: Dusdin Condren)

Julianna Barwick and Phosphorescent each performed mesmerizing solo sets last night at a sold-out Music Hall of Williamsburg. Both impressed with masterful vocal looping and the sheer will it takes to perform alone. Live, Julianna Barwick’s songs seamlessly melt into one another. She has an impressive knack for exploring every nook and cranny of her vocal range and manipulating them to create a full chorus-like effect. Her unique mix of angelic and melancholic sounds slowly crept up, holding audience members tightly. Barwick played several songs from her newest album, Nepenthe, and her clear voice, low-slung synths and the help of a guitarist made her set gracefully haunting and dramatic.

There was an extensive stage change involving dozens of candles and flower vases before Phosphorescent appeared. As “Sun Arise! (An Invocation, an Introduction)” boomed through the sound system, Matthew Houck crept onstage in a candlelit glow, arranging objects as if he were in his own living room. With just a guitar and his voice, Houck played songs from all across his repertoire. “Terror in the Canyons (The Wounded Master),” “The Quotidian Beasts” and “Wolves” kicked off the set. “I can’t tell you how good it is to be back in Brooklyn. Thanks for being here with me,” he said gratefully before performing a stripped-down version of “A Picture of Our Torn Up Praise.”

The audience sang along as Houck played a quiet version of “Song for Zula” rather than doing the tune’s normal orchestral arrangement. “Muchacho’s Tune” followed along with a whispery folk version of Vampire Weekend’s “Ya Hey.” “Cocaine Lights” concluded the set, and Houck looped his own howling to create a chorus of primal screams. The encore had a sweet, nostalgic feel to it with “My Dove, My Lamb,” “Ms. Juliette Low” and the honky-tonk “Los Angeles.” Members of Phosphorescent slid onstage to join him in singing the last number, providing a preview of the full-band shows at Music Hall tonight, tomorrow and Saturday. But last night, Matthew Houck owned the stage and celebrated the value of keeping it simple. —Schuyler Rooth




Brazos Close Tour with Ski Lodge Tonight at Mercury Lounge

December 17th, 2013

What began as a home recording project for singer-songwriter Martin Crane in Austin, Texas, has become, with the help of drummer Ian Chang and bassist Spenzer Zahn, the Brooklyn-based alt-rock trio Brazos. Crane’s debut full-length, Phosphorescent Blues, out in 2009, led to opening for big-name bands like Vampire Weekend, the National and Grizzly Bear. But he opted to expand his group’s sound with the addition of Chang and Zahn for the second LP, the more ambitious Saltwater (stream it below). The Austin Chronicle glowingly calls it “emboldened and expansive, torn between childlike wonder and quarter-life introspection.” Brazos (above, performing “Charm” live at Braund Sound) have been on the road with Brooklyn jangly pop four-piece Ski Lodge all month, and their tour comes to a close tonight at Mercury Lounge.


Ra Ra Riot Play Terminal 5 Tomorrow Night

October 8th, 2013

Ra Ra Riot originally came together in 2006 to play house parties around Syracuse University, which the band’s members attended. From the outset, they had a unique sound, deftly combining indie-rock sensibilities with chamber pop, even employing a violin. They’d relocated to New York City by the time their debut LP, The Rhumb Line, arrived in 2008 to a fair amount of acclaim. According to Rolling Stone, the group combined “Arcade Fire’s orchestral reveries with Vampire Weekend’s pop sensibility for an album that’s both effervescent and heartbreaking.” On their third full-length, this year’s Beta Love (stream it below), frontman Wes Miles, drummer Kenny Bernard, guitarist Milo Bonacci, bassist Mathieu Santos and violinist Rebecca Zeller moved in a slightly different direction, making a more electronic, synths-heavy album, about which Consequence of Sound reports: “Ra Ra Riot is ready to dance. Really dance.” And you can dance, too, when you catch Ra Ra Riot (above, performing “Beta Love” at Music Hall of Williamsburg for The Bowery Presents Live) tomorrow night at Terminal 5.


Poised for Bigger Things

September 26th, 2013

Grouplove – The Bowery Ballroom – September 25, 2013

Less than a year since their last big performance in town, the L.A. indie pop-rock band Grouplove returned with a bevy of new songs—and a bit of a new attitude and sound—that showed off a newer sound last night at The Bowery Ballroom. Playing to a packed venue, the quintet threw the kind of joyous dance party that’s often reserved for the city’s bigger rooms. And they got things started with the opening track of their week-old new album, Spreading Rumours, “I’m With You.” This song immediately showed, as it does on the record, Grouplove’s new direction: something more brash than just the sweet, electronic-tinged music they had debuted with on their first album, Never Trust a Happy Song.

The tune began with a quick beat, sparse guitar and bass, and ended in a full-band breakdown, all while relying heavily on the group’s voices. This same sort of style evolution appeared in most of the new material, like “Borderlines and Aliens,” which had an almost Primus-like bassline that turned into a blissful, straight rock chorus, while lead singer Christian Zucconi skewed Eddie Vedder on the vocals and keyboardist Hannah Hooper articulated the cheeky “Arri- Arri- Arri- gato!” shout in the prechorus.

Deeper in the set, Grouplove’s use of hip-hop beats against Vampire Weekend guitars (and even a sample of a steel drum) during “Shark Attack” proved their willingness to experiment with sounds mid-song, all while they wrapped the intentional chaos in a sweet and catchy chorus and kept the crowd dancing. It also didn’t hurt that Hooper’s and Zucconi’s stellar voices could carry just about any song, regardless of genre. The hits from the first album were there, too, like “Colours” and “Tongue Tied.” But if last night’s set is any indication, Grouplove have adjusted their course by mixing genres and adding bold, new material to an already breathtakingly fun live show, and as a result, they’re poised to get even bigger. —Sean O’Kane

Photos courtesy of Sean O’Kane | seanokanephoto.com


Vampire Weekend Continue to Rise

September 23rd, 2013

Vampire Weekend – Barclays Center – September 20, 2013

In 1965, the Beatles made a horde of shrieking girls convulse and fall apart at Shea Stadium. In the process, the Fab Four kicked off an era of arena rock that saw bands like Led Zeppelin and the Who touring the country and making gobs of money, all the while pouring out their hearts onstage. That time has since dissipated for rock bands over the past few decades—aside from occasional reunion tours, there are only a handful of groups from that era still packing big venues.

But a new generation of rockers, like Vampire Weekend on Friday night at Barclays Center, is now playing arenas. Of course, the local quartet is a far cry from the anthemic rock of ’70s—their success stems from the fact that their songs are so different from something like “Stairway to Heaven”—but with their constantly evolving style and deep catalog, they’re now able to fill increasingly bigger rooms.

All the familiar markers of a great arena-rock show were there on Friday night, with thousands of fans screaming as they recognized songs like “Oxford Comma” and “Cousins,” band-induced crowd participation and a theatrical, engaging light show. Drummer Chris Tomson even changed costumes throughout the night, wearing three different versions of Nets jerseys, by my count. And frontman Ezra Koenig’s focused intensity anchored the incredibly tight band as they played through their catalog, which will no doubt be considered classic in time. It was a night that proved that Vampire Weekend will soon take their place near the top of the musical totem pole. —Alex Kapelman

Photos courtesy of Dana Kandic | www.danakandic.com


Two Big Local Bands Take the Stage at Barclays Center

September 19th, 2013

Earlier this year, art-punk trio Yeah Yeah Yeahs—frontwoman Karen O, drummer Brian Chase and guitarist Nick Zinner—released their fourth full-length, Mosquito (stream it below). The album includes production work from LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy and TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek among others, and in praising it, the A.V. Club says the album “takes a much more open-ended, and less studied, approach to Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ electric eccentricity.” Of course, Yeah Yeah Yeahs (above, performing “Sacrilege” on Late Show with David Letterman) are most known for the fiery live performances, and you can see these hometown musical heroes tonight at Barclays Center. But do yourself a favor and get there early enough to see Har Mar Superstar.

Another big local band, Vampire Weekend—college buddies Ezra Koenig (vocals and guitar), Chris Baio (bass and vocals), Rostam Batmanglij (keys and vocals) and Chris Tomson (drums)—also put out an acclaimed new album this year, Modern Vampires of the City (stream it below). The band’s much-praised third LP is a bit of a departure, abandoning the post-college themes of their previous work, but gaining plaudits in the process, with Rolling Stone winningly comparing the quartet’s new tunes to Paul Simon and Tom Petty. But, like Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Vampire Weekend (above, doing “Diane Young” on Saturday Night Live) are best experienced live. And alongside Solange and Sky Ferreira, they play Barclays Center tomorrow night.