A tension constricted the sold-out crowd at Minneapolis' Triple Rock Social Club last night as they nervously anticipated the arrival of the New York-based band Vampire Weekend. Dominated by college-aged males with the tails of their button-down shirts peeking out from below their sweaters, the crowd wasn’t just waiting to see the band. They were waiting to see the next big thing. The feeling jittering through the room could best be described as “hype.”
“By now everyone is familiar with the hype cycle,” the editors write in the post-hipster thought journal, n+1 (article not available online). It begins with early adopters latching on to a new or undervalued band, author, or artist before the general populous catches on. This phase of the hype cycle is exemplified by the sentiment, “I was listening to Fraz Liszt before Pitchfork ever even mentioned them,” write the editors of n+1. The initial excitement inevitably leads to a backlash, where the art is stamped with the label of overrated. The next step is the “backlash-to-the-backlash” eloquently expressed by n+1 as “Why’s everybody hatin’ on the [insert band here].”
Vampire Weekend is undoubtedly a beneficiary and victim of this fickle hype cycle. Formed barely two years ago in a Columbia dorm room, the African-influenced pop group now holds the dubious honor of being “the first band ever to be shot for a Spin cover before they'd even released an album,” the magazine's Andy Greenwald wrote proudly. The quartet went from playing sparse crowds, as seen in the August 2007 photo on the right, to being one of the most-talked about bands in music today.
I experienced the backlash before the show began, when a bartender at the venue down the street told me, “Vampire Weekend? They’re overrated.” He had seen them at South by Southwest in Austin and didn’t feel their performance had lived up to the hype. Step three of the cycle came midway through the show, when a friend of mine said, “I’m definitely part of the backlash-to-the-backlash. I mean, they’re so cute!”
Google searches for “Vampire Weekend” over time. Source: Google Trends.
Of course, popularity doesn’t translate to musical prowess, but I doubt that anyone in the crowd was disappointed by the band’s performance last night. Everyone knew what they were getting into. The guys played every song on their self-titled, 34.2-minute album almost exactly as they had recorded it in the studio. Lead singer and guitarist Ezra Koenig worked hard to capture the vocal octave jumps originally recorded, as he banged out the pop guitar riffs the crowd knew and loved. For good measure, the band played one new song that was nearly as catchy as the rest of their repertoire.
Then, minutes before the end of the show, the band announced that they had run out of music. And who can blame them? Two years is not a lot of time to come up with new material. Koenig explained that they were working on a cover of Tom Petty’s "American Girl," but the song wasn't quite ready. After that, they played the final song on the album, politely said thank you, and left the stage with no encore.
You can hear the song "Mansard Roof" by Vampire Weekend below.